Panromantic and asexual are *not* synonymous — they’re two different identifiers, with two different definitions.
But, identifying as one doesn’t imply identifying as the other!
Got questions? Read on to learn more.
“Romantic orientation names who you feel a pull toward, who you desire to cuddle or make dinner with, and who you want to spend all your time with,” explains graysexual panromantic Elle Rose, founder of asexuality spectrum resource Secret Lady Spider and co-host of The Invisible Spectrum podcast.
“Someone who’s panromantic can experience romantic attraction to someone regardless of their gender,” she explains.
In a nod to the prefix ‘pan,’ some panromantic individuals identify as such because they have the potential to be romantically attracted to people of all genders, including men, women, non-binary, bigender, agender, and non-gender folks.
To be clear: All people have a romantic orientation *and* a sexual orientation.
“It may be common for people on the asexuality spectrum to name their romantic orientation, but people all across the sexuality spectrum have a sexual orientation,” says Rose.
Sometimes people’s romantic orientation and sexual orientation align. For instance, someone might be bisexual and biromantic.
And sometimes they don’t. For instance, someone may be panromantic and asexual. This is known as being ‘cross-oriented’ or ‘mix-oriented.’
“The most common definition of ‘asexual’ is someone who doesn’t experience sexual attraction,” explains Angela Chen, author of “Ace: What Asexuality Reveals About Desire, Society, and the Meaning of Sex.”
The opposite of asexual is allosexual. Allosexual folks are those who do have the capacity to experience (regular) sexual attraction.
Here’s where this can get a li’l confusing. Ready?
Sometimes people use ‘asexual’ as an umbrella term, allowing it to stand in for another non-allosexual or non-alloromantic identities.
For example, someone who’s demisexual, graysexual, or cupiosexual — all of which are terms that name sexual attraction that occurs rarely or only under certain circumstances — might identify as asexual.
Likewise, someone who’s aromantic, demiromantic, or grayromantic — all of which are terms that name romantic attraction that occurs never, rarely, or only under certain circumstances — might identify as asexual, too.
This means that you get to decide what ‘asexual’ means to you, should you decide to identify that way.
Someone who’s panromantic asexual is naming that they:
- have the capacity to experience romantic attraction to people of all genders
- experience sexual attraction never, rarely, or only under very specific circumstances
Just as there’s no single way to be lesbian and homoromantic or heterosexual and heteroromantic, there’s no single way to be panromantic and asexual.
Generally speaking, it’s common for someone who’s panromantic and asexual to:
- have a history of experiencing romantic attraction to people across the gender spectrum
- notice that gender plays no part in their romantic longings
- have never experienced sexual attraction or feel alienated by the concept
- experience love or a desire for long-term partnership
- relate to other people romantically but not sexually
- have priorities in a relationship that don’t include sex or sexual attraction
- feel like the labels ‘panromantic’ and ‘asexual’ resonate
- feel good while saying ‘panromantic’ and ‘asexual’ out loud
“It’s possible for someone who’s asexual to be in a romantic relationship,” says Chen. If you’re asexual and panromantic, it’s possible to be in a relationship with someone of any gender.
“You might choose to be with someone who’s also on the ace and asexuality spectrum OR with someone who’s allosexual,” she says.
“Of course, not all allosexual/asexual relationships will work,” she adds. “No relationship is guaranteed.” Fair point!
Also worth mentioning: Some ace folks thrive in polyamorous or open relationships, which allow them to get their romantic needs met while allowing their partner (if they’re allosexual) to get their sexual needs met elsewhere.
So it may be helpful for you to spend some time noodling on your relationship orientation and preferred relationship structure.
Just because someone can experience romantic attraction to someone, doesn’t mean they need or want to be acting on it at all times, or ever.
Think about it like this: Someone who’s heterosexual and heteromantic, for example, is absolutely allowed to be single and never desire a relationship, right? Well, same goes for panromantic and asexual folks.
Plus, romantic and sexual relationships aren’t the only kinds of worthy relationships. There are also platonic relationships, spiritual relationships, familial relationships, and intellectual relationships, to name just a few.
“Sometimes people think that they can’t identify as asexual if they’ve ever had sex,” says Rose. “This is false. Someone can absolutely identify as asexual and have had sex previously.”
In fact, someone might identify as asexual and have sex currently, she says.
There are a number of reasons outside of sexual attraction that someone who’s asexual might choose to have sex, either in a partnered or solo context.
This might include:
- to satisfy their libido
- to relieve stress or pain
- to orgasm
- to connect with a romantic partner
- to fulfill curiosity or intrigue
- to conceive
- to show or receive affection
Like other sexual and romantic orientations, someone is panromantic and asexual because they identify that way — not because they passed some panromantic asexuality quiz or checked off a prerequisite list of identifiers.
The only way for you to know if you identify as panromantic or asexual is to reflect on the way you experience romantic and sexual desire as well as when and for whom (if ever or for anyone).
Luckily, there are a number of different places you might turn to learn more about panromantic asexuality!
Some books you might read:
- “Ace: What Asexuality Reveals About Desire, Society, and the Meaning of Sex” by Angela Chen
- “The Invisible Orientation: An Introduction to Asexuality” by Julie Sondra Decker
- “How to Be Ace: A Memoir of Growing Up Asexual” by Rebecca Burgess
- “Radio Silence” by Alice Oseman
Some podcasts you might listen to:
Some online resources you might check out:
- The Asexuality Visibility and Education Network (AVEN)
- The Asexuality Handbook
- Demisexuality Resource Center
Finally, don’t snooze on the wondrous world of social media! There are some brilliant asexuality activists, influencers, and educators who post regularly. Find them by searching relevant hashtags.
Gabrielle Kassel is a New York-based sex and wellness writer and CrossFit Level 1 Trainer. She’s become a morning person, tested over 200 vibrators, and eaten, drunk, and brushed with charcoal — all in the name of journalism. In her free time, she can be found reading self-help books and romance novels, bench-pressing, or pole dancing. Follow her on Instagram.