A lukewarm defense of rental housing as a societal support for communal living

This post was written for the June 2022 Carnival of Aros on “House and Home

With housing prices rapidly rising across the country, I’ve gotten used to seeing dozens of thinkpieces and well-meaning articles about how home-ownership is the key to building wealth, and that continuing to rent is just draining your money away instead of building equity. While there is room to argue about whether this is always the case, that’s not what’s activating my pet peeves today. Instead, what gets my goat is the way that such articles so often position rental vs. owned housing as a matter of whether you can afford a downpayment, with little acknowledgement of some of the other factors that can affect housing choices.

In particular, rather than simple profit or cost, what keeps me in rentals is a combination of flexibility and risk – particularly the flexibility to live in larger communal settings instead of small nuclear or individual households, and without having to take on the long-term financial risks of having to hold a forced partition sale in civil court or spend hundreds of thousands to buy people out everytime someone wants to move out. 

I’m also increasingly frustrated by how much these discussions revolve on the assumption of a nuclear family household model, with discussions of the relative merits of renting vs. buying all revolving on the assumption that these decisions are being made by either individuals or married partners. As an aromantic and non-partnering person who prefers semi-formal group living with platonic friends, this just doesn’t accurately reflect my reality.

I’ve spoken previously about my current living arrangement, and how much I enjoy group living with friends (currently 5 of us total). Within that arrangement, I effectively rent a full bedroom, and a share in a bathroom/kitchen/living area/balcony, for an incredibly affordable price, thanks in part to rent control, economies of scale, and being willing to take the smallest room (for reference, I pay under ~$1500 USD; a studio or 1 bedroom in my area is more like ~$2000-3000) . And since I prefer having lots of people around and like spending time in common areas, this works out great for me!

It’s also a style and cost of living that is basically impossible to replicate in a buyer’s market built for nuclear families, as “family”-size housing for this kind of social living isn’t generally sold in fractions. 

I’ve done the math before, when looking at the cost to buy housing in my area instead of renting. If I look at the cost of say, a four bedroom in a more affordable neighborhood a few transit stops away from me, I could theoretically reasonably afford ¼ of the cost for it. Unfortunately, I can’t buy just a share of a house the way I can buy a single slice of pie, even if that’s all I’m hungry for. 

Instead, the only things I could hope to qualify for a mortgage for would be something like a studio unit in a condo tower, which due to economies of scale and differences in target markets would likely cost 3x as much as my current living arrangement (and easily 2x as much as my theoretical ¼ of a house), and outstrip what I can reasonable pay for. 

The next logical question would be, if you can afford ¼ of a house, why not find three other ¼ ers and go in together? The answer is that this entails significantly more long-term financial risk for all of us. Even if we could initially afford to all go in on a mortgage together (and find a bank will to approve this nontraditional arrangement), the risks if things go wrong are significantly higher, as each person could be find themselves held liable for up to the the entire mortgage debt if things go wrong, not just their theoretical quarter share – more than 4x the risk they’d be taking on if they made a smaller purchase individually. You might be able to mitigate some of that with careful lawyering, cohabitation contracts, and use of civil courts, but all of those come with their own additional risks, not to mention added financial and time costs (and lots of stress in the meantime). 

As much as I sometimes complain about that one recent popular tumblr post and others like it that catastrophize the risks of buying property or cohabitating without the protections of marriage (which just isn’t an available option for everyone, especially if you number more than two!), there’s a reason that almost all financial advisors start of their introductions to how to co-own property as an unmarried couple with, “we generally suggest that you consider not doing this”. While the risk might be worth it for some (I’ve seriously looked into it myself), it does still involve taking on significantly more risk; and while you can mitigate some of it with a lot of money and paperwork, you can’t get rid of it all. And that’s just for regular couples – the risks get even more complex if you’re a group of friends or a complicated polycule or extended family that wants to split a house 3 or 4 or even 5 ways. 

Instead, the general advice for cohabitating couples and friends who want to buy property is to have a single head of household purchase a more modest home in their own name and with their own funds, and then simply become the landlord themselves, bringing us practically back to where we started: you either rent from a landlord, or you yourself must become the landlord. 

Of course, even this relies on assumptions of both wealth and nuclear families. A member of a well-off couple might be able to stretch their finances enough to cover the initial mortgage for a small condo with space for two. But if you are a group of friends looking to split a 4 bedroom house? Unless you are fortunate enough to have a very wealthy friend or a particularly affordable area, it’s unlikely any single person’s savings can stretch that far. And even if they could, it’s a huge amount of liability to ask anyone to take on.

Unless, perhaps, we could give someone a small financial incentive to take on that liability from the rest of us, so that we can all live together in a style we choose? Well, that’s exactly what for-profit landlords do (assume long-term risk in return for short-term financial profits), and we’re back where we started. 

That’s not to say that this is the best solution to this situation, or that it should be – in a more ideal world, maybe people could just buy shares in a common living space. Maybe larger groups could access marital-like legal recognition and the ensuing protections to make shared ownership less risky. Maybe there would be more novel and accessible types of homes to consider buying. And there definitely could be ways for individuals to trade off profit and risk without the massive and growing power imbalance of current rental markets. 

But in the short term, I’d like it if more discussions of the pros and cons of renting vs. buying could at least break away from assumptions of romantic-sexual nuclear families and acknowledge that other shapes of households or ways of living might require very different kinds of analysis.

Carnival of Aros June 2022 Call for Submissions- “House and Home” 

For this month’s Carnival of Aros, I wanted to propose the topic of “House and Home” – whether it’s the literal structures that we currently live in, our aspirational ideal for a home, or the more philosophical concept of what makes up a home, house, or household in the first place.

Some possible prompts to consider include: 

  • What is your current living situation? Does your a/romantic identity affect the options you have available to you?
  • What is your ideal living situation? Is that also shaped by your a/romantic identity?
  • What impact do your relationship preferences have on the kind of housing you prefer and how you like to furnish your home?
  • What makes something a “home” to you?
  • How are concepts of homes and households shaped by assumptions about nuclear families and romantic relationships, and how does aromanticism disrupt that?
  • How do you define a “household” and who do you currently consider part of yours / who would you like to include?
  • Are there any particular objects or spaces inside your home that have a meaningful connection to aromanticism for you?

How to Participate

To submit your entry to the carnival, you can leave a link to your submission in the comments below, or contact me directly at sennkestra@gmail.com. If you don’t have your own blog, you can also email me your submission text and I am happy to host it here as a guest post.

Submissions are due by midnight on June 30, 2022. (But if you think you are going to be a day or two late, we’re not sticklers – we’re happy to add late submissions to the roundup retroactively)

About the Carnival Aros

The Carnival of Aros is a monthly blogging carnival centered around aromantic/aro-spec identities and experiences! For more information on this project, see its home blog here.

Each monthly carnival is hosted by a volunteer blogger, who chooses any aro-related themes of their choice and issues a call for submissions, which can include text prose, poetry, video, art, or any other format of your choice. At the end of the month, the host will collect the links to all of that month’s submissions into a single masterpost.

The carnival is also always looking for new hosts – to volunteer to host, see here!

My Friend Situation is Like a Fanfiction Trope, AMA.

This is my submission for the October 2021 Carnival of Aros, on the topic of “Friendship.”.

When it comes to aspirations about an asexual and aromantic lifestyle, I’ve come to realize over the last couple years that I’m already living the dream in many ways, with a social and cohabitation arrangement like something out of an ensemble fanfiction found family trope* – albeit it mostly by chance rather than design.

On the one hand, this is a great place to be in the moment, but it also brings with it anxiety about how long the dream can last, and if there’s anything I can do to maintain it into the future. However, I do at least have a few ideas about that.

First, before we get into speculation about causation, I think it’ll help to give a quick summary of some of the highlights of  my current friendship co-living situation:

  • I currently rent the full upper floor of a duplex with 4 other friends all from the same friend group. W’eve been living at this current apartment for over 5 years now.
  • We all know each from being part of the same college anime club almost a decade ago, and have stayed networked with other alumni from the same group via groupchat and lots of shared outings.
  • Basically ever since I moved out of my first college dorms, I have almost always been living with friends from this group in some way, although the exact cast has varied over the years as various people moved in, moved out, or changed apartments. (We regularly announce to the group anytime someone needs a room or roommate, so there’s been several group share house iterations over the years). 
  • As roommates with similar shared hobbies (anime, gaming, food), we’ll frequently have dinners together, watch new episode releases together, watch each other play games and comment, etc.
  • As the possessor of the largest living room, we also become the prime choice for hosting group events for our larger social circle, so we regularly host dinners, movie nights, and pre- and post-outing debriefs (and it turns out maintaining an active social life is way easier when you don’t have to leave the house to do it).
  • We also frequently go on joint vacations within this social circle and split hotel rooms, train fare, book tours or tickets together, road trip in someone’s car, etc. We literally spent hours a couple weeks ago nerding out about different options for potential long-distance train outings once the pandemic subsides enough.
  • While I personally didn’t go to as many of these until the pandemic, the group has several times organized several thanksgiving/christmas/other holiday get togethers for folks who didn’t plan to return home for whatever reason (family overseas and too far to travel, family doesn’t do american holidays, not close with family, etc.).

While it’s something I’ve fallen into almost entirely by accident, it’s actually pretty close to my ideal living situation, as someone who doesn’t like living alone and also prefers interacting with people in established groups over having lots of 1:1 relationships. It’s not as formal as a queerplatonic partner or life partner kinda thing, but that works fine for me since I’m not sure how willing I personally am to commit to anything more formal at this stage of my life either.

As to how I got here, it’s a mix of good and bad things, but I’d say the main factors are being in a high rent area (bad), having shared hobbies and traditions (good), and having strong group networking infrastructure (also good).

High Rent

The first factor that makes my living situation work is the fact that I live in one of the most expensive housing markets in the US, which makes having housemates an absolute necessity for many people; and still quite advantageous to have even for those with higher incomes. The fact that trying to live alone is incredibly expensive here means that living with non-partners is much more normalized, and many more people are open to living with friends than they might be if they lived elsewhere.

This kind of housing inaccessibility isn’t a good thing for society overall, but the increased social acceptance of co-living with friends is one silver lining.

However, I also need to add the caveat that I am unusually fortunate in that both I and many of my friends are lucky enough to now have the privilege of having the income and savings needed to hit the sweet spot of being able to hold out for an ideal living situation with trusted friends; unfortunately the reality of high rent markets is that many people end up stuck in unpleasant living situations out of financial desperation in the same way that lack of financial resources traps many people abusive romantic relationships as well – and there’s even fewer social scripts for dealing with abusive housemates than there are for dealing with abusive partners.

Shared Interests and Traditions

One of the more positive things that helped make this kind of friendship group work is the fact that we all have shared interests, which gave us common subjects of conversation and engagement. 

Perhaps even more importantly, we also tend to have a lot of overlap in the kinds of events we like to go to, so it’s easy to keep up contact with people when we’re all constantly going to the same movie screenings and meetups and conventions. This repeated proximity lends itself well to establishing friendships in a similar way to how it’s easy to form friendships in school when you keep seeing the same classmates day after day.

In particular, there are a few annual conventions that we all reliably travel to in a pilgrimage-like fashion, (and which also involve lots of time sitting hotels and waiting in lines together with nothing to do but talk and get to know each other) which often offers a chance to reconnect and solidify relationships even with people we might not see as often. 

Group Networking

Finally, I think the last thing that helps make things work well for us as a friend group is having a very established, very active group chat. The way it came to be was almost a fluke, involving several switches in chat group platforms for the original college anime club which eventually resulted in a chat group that consisted mostly of recent alumni from the club but which was no longer used for new incoming members or official announcements , allowing it to evolve from an official organizational server into a more casual server for lots of friends to just keep in touch and continue organizing dinners and movie nights and game streams and whatnot.

As someone who isn’t great at 1:1 interactions, having a group chat where I can drop invitations to proposed outings, or ask for advice or help with specific things makes it much easier to connect with people, especially people who I might not otherwise always think to reach out to. It also makes for a great point of contact for rebuilding connections if any of us ever drifts off for a bit (like because of a temporary out of state move or you know, a global pandemic that prevents everyone from socializing for a year or more). 

The Formula Worked Twice

Just for comparison, I’ve also found it interesting that the only friend group that I’ve really stayed in contact with from high school follows similar lines – we originally got to know each other from the anime and game clubs (shared interest), kept in touch largely because we already had traditions of meeting at several annual anime conventions, even when we all scattered to different cities, and of doing small gift exchanges whenever we were back in our hometown for the holidays (shared traditions). Eventually one person in the group set up a chat group to organize D&D sessions, and while the D&D sessions eventually petered out, the shared space has allowed us to become more involved than we had been at any point after graduation (group infrastructure).

I don’t know if this model works for everyone, as it’s focused on group relationships (which may not work for people who do prefer that 1:1 style interaction), and because my particular hobby is one that lends itself especially well to shared events, topics, and spaces, which isn’t the case for all people. It also just requires a certain amount of luck and convenient circumstances. But since this kind of social group dynamic does seem to be something that some people seem to aspire to, I figured I’d just share that it can and does happen sometimes.


*As a caveat, I don’t actually consider my current situation as a found family thing, in part because I actually already have a great relationship with my family of origin, in part because I don’t feel the need to conceptualize important friendships through a family lens, and in part because it’s more a medium-term result of circumstances than a long-term intentional relationship. But I realize that it does hit on a lot of tropes of what people like about found family tropes, especially of the ensemble fanfiction variety.

Misc. Thoughts About The Klein Grid and Why Ace Communities Weigh Attraction So Heavily

This is a submission for the October 2021 Carnival of Aces on “Attraction”. If you follow the links in the prompts, and read the other submissions from this month, you’ll see much conversation about the fixation on attraction models and why they don’t work out for many people.

Today, however, I wanted to look at the flip side of the issue: why have attraction-based models caught on so much in the first place? One thought I have – which I intend to illustrate using the Klein Grid as a reference for conventional thought about the diverse factors of sexual orientation development – is that of the many factors that can be used to determine sexual orientation, attraction-based definitions are perhaps the more accessible for people with limited sexual and relationship experience, which includes a disproportionate amount of ace people as well as younger questioning people in general.

Let’s Talk about the Klein Grid

Whenever I attend general LGBTQIA workshops on sexuality models, they frequently follow a predictable pattern, beginning with the simplest grandfather of all models, the Kinsey Scale, maybe stepping through the Storms model, and eventually working their way up with the notoriously expansive Klein Sexual Orientation Grid. In this context, it’s often framed as an example of an overly-complicated graph that gets pulled out for laughs and as a cautionary tale about what happens when you nerd out about models too much. Instead, things like the genderbread person, which distills sexuality down into twin factors of romantic/sexual attraction to men, women, or nobody in a way that resembles many of the asexual community’s own approaches to sexual orientation theory, are often presented as the more reasonable compromise. But the more I reflect on it, the more I think that we may not be giving Klein a fair shake, and that the most laughable thing in the end is the idea that the experience of human sexuality and relationships is something that could ever be simplified into a clean, numerical measure (something the ace communities own misadventures with graphs has shown us).

While it may still be up for debate whether the numeral aspect of the Klein Grid can really be useful as an actual research tool or even as a personal identity model, I do think that it’s many rows and columns do serve as a good examples of some of the many, many different factors that go into a person’s sense of their sexuality, which can include anything from sexual or emotional attraction, to fantasy, to sexual behaviours, to community affiliations, to personal and political identification, and more. Understanding that different people weigh different cells more or less heavily also helps us to understand why multiple people can take the same experiences and wind up classifying them in completely different ways.

I also think the introduction of “past”, “present”, and “ideal” (future) components – which may or may not differ – and acknowledging that they all still have an influence on our concepts of sexuality is also important. That’s because at its core, sexual orientation labels are in large part a system for taking past and present experiences and extrapolating them to make predictions (or declarations) about the future.

Consider the following definition of sexual orientation from Wikipedia (emphasis mine): “Sexual orientation is an enduring pattern of romantic or sexual attraction (or a combination of these) to persons of the opposite sex or gender, the same sex or gender, or to both sexes or more than one gender.”

In order to draw a pattern (like a line), a person must have at least a few points of past data to extrapolate from. Once that data is gathered, however, you can attempt to fit a path to it, and then use the trajectory of that path to both communicate current trends and to predict future outcomes. When doing this kind of analysis, it also makes sense to weigh recent/current experiences differently than past experiences, especially since sexuality can often evolve over time.

However, this idea of “enduring patterns” presents a challenge for many questioning asexual people: how do you fit a path when you have almost no data points to fit it to, and at what level does an absence of data become an indicator in and of itself?

Uncharted Territory

Going back to the earlier example of the Klein Grid, one of the first things that jumps out to me is how some of these factors were much more easily identifiable for me than others, especially when I was a young, potentially asexual teen really questioning my identity.

The first problem was that as someone who has never had sex, the past and present sections of the sexual behavior section were right out – no data there. On the same lines, as someone who had never dated, let alone fallen in love, I had no data to input for the past and present of the emotional preference section either. And without any experience to draw on, I had no idea how to guess what my future ideal might be either! (In retrospect, that big fat nothing that remained a big fat nothing for years would eventually be a clear sign, but it wasn’t helpful at an age when many of my later-revealed-to-be-distinctly-not-asexual friends were mostly not having any sex or even dating yet either).

As a questioning person, the self identification row was just a bunch of question marks, because that’s what I was here to try and find out! So no help there either.

Finally, as a high school student, my social habits and lifestyle at the time were largely determined by who I had been placed in high school classes and after school activities with, rather than any more insightful groupings (I did more of that in college and especially as an adult). So those factors didn’t provide much insight until I was much older and more socially independent.

That basically just left sexual attraction and fantasy as the only things left that I could easily use as determiners. Therefore, should it really be so surprising that many other young, questioning aces with little else to go on have also fixated so strongly on attraction as the factor to weigh most heavily?

Stuck Inside Our Heads

I think one of the most appealing things about attraction-centered models of sexuality, for both questioning asexual people but also for younger or more inexperienced people in general, is that they are (at least in theory) the easiest factors to test and draw conclusions about, because they both begin and end inside your own head.

When it came to other things like “what gender do you prefer to have relationships with” or “what gender do you like having sex with” or “do you even like sex or dating at all?”, I have no way to answer that, because I’ve never tried dating or having sex enough to know for sure what I do or don’t like, and I possibly never will. 

I can of course still attempt to infer what I would probably like or not like, based on how much I like adjacent things that I have tried – as a lifelong picky eater, I already do the same thing when deciding which new foods I want to try. For example, just as not liking beef steaks makes me doubt that I’ll like bison steaks and thus decline to order it, my own apathy for kissing and petting let me suspect that actual partnered sex won’t be that much more appealing. But at the same time, the drawback that arises with that picky eater analogy is that even if inference works 95% of the time, I can also still name a dozen times when my own guesses about what I will or won’t like have been wrong.

Because of that, there’s always a lurking doubt and a constant anxiety that comes from never having actually tested that inference. Now, I want to emphasize that I don’t think that actually testing out whether I could enjoy sex is necessarily a good idea, since the potential negative consequences of pursuing sex or romance that I’m not sure about are much riskier than just having to spit out a mouthful of raw oyster that I just reaffirmed that I hate. So I’m mostly content to leave it as an unknown. But at the same time, that leaves it as shaky territory that I don’t feel comfortable building a sexual identity on. If you tell me to choose a label based on that, I’d have been once again left paralyzed and unable to choose.

Attraction and fantasy, on the other hand, are things that are far easier to experiment with (at least in theory) – you either feel them, or you don’t, end of story. No inferences needed, no pressure to “just try” some external action to prove or disprove anything – all you need to do (allegedly) is think about it for a bit. This makes it far more accessible for people who have no experience with the other categories to draw on. And since ace communities are disproportionately likely to have young people who also have less experience with sex and relationships, it makes sense on some level why attraction has become such a heavily weighted factor, above and beyond other potential factors.

In practice, of course, things rarely work out so cleanly, especially when it can be impossible to even nail down a clear explanation of what attraction is even supposed to be, other than an occasional vague “you’ll know it when you feel it?”. In addition, it doesn’t necessarily explain why “attraction” became so highly valued in ace community models and definitions while other internal-feelings-factors like “fantasy” remained afterthoughts. But it definitely provides more food for thought.

(note: this has also been posted to my pillowfort here, if you’d like to follow any additional discussion there.)

Oct. 30th Ace Activism Panel Discussion: Beyond Awareness

Come and see what I’ve been up to lately!

While I haven’t been as active as I used to be in the ace scene over the last couple years, I’ve called up several people who are more involved to talk about their experiences with ace activism, including how they got here and advice for the next generation of budding ace activists.

In keeping with the 2021 Ace Week theme of “Beyond Awareness”, we’ll also discuss our thoughts on the future of ace activism, including how we can expand our efforts to move beyond just doing basic 101 awareness talks.

About this event:

Sat, October 30, 2021
11:00 AM – 12:30 PM PDT
https://www.eventbrite.com/e/ace-activism-panel-discussion-beyond-awareness-tickets-196690495567

Join us for a casual Ace Week panel discussion about the future of ace activism, and how to move “Beyond Awareness”.

Hear from members of the AVEN PT, Ace Community Survey Team, The Asexual Agenda, The Ace/Aro Scholars Support Network, Ace Los Angeles, and more.

In line with this year’s Ace Week theme of “Beyond Awareness”, we’ll be discussing the ways that ace activism can move beyond just focusing on basic 101-level awareness campaigns, including suggestions for promising avenues for future ace activism as well as areas of unmet needs that are often overlooked.

We’ll also discuss each panelist’s own experiences with ace activism over the years, and advice for new generations of aspiring ace activists on how to get started with ace community volunteering.

We will be opening up for audience questions and comments in the latter half of the panel. If you would like to submit any questions in advance, please email sennkestra@gmail.com. (You will also be able to submit questions during the panel).

More event information here: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/ace-activism-panel-discussion-beyond-awareness-tickets-196690495567

Identification For Whose Sake

This is a (slightly late) submission to the October Carnival of Aros on “Prioritization

When it comes to the issue of whether I prioritize aromantic identity – or more concretely, whether I prioritize aromantic communities ties – on a quantitative level, it probably isn’t as high a priority as some of my other community identities, but rather than getting into a quantitative comparison, I think it’s more worthwhile for me to think about for whom I have chosen to prioritize this identity anyway – because it isn’t necessarily just about me.

In particular, my relationship with aromanticism is complicated by the fact that I prioritize my aromantic identity in community and activism work largely for the sake of others, and only secondarily for myself. 

When it comes to making sense of my own experiences, I find the entire concept of differentiated attraction – and associated labels like romantic and aromantic – quite useless, actually. After all, when my main takeway is “I don’t seem to experience this “attraction” thing other people keep talking about”, splitting hairs about what type of attraction I don’t feel is not particularly helpful. And in an earlier age and space where I found that most people actually assumed that the aro ace experience was the default ace experience, just saying “I’m asexual and not interested in anyone in any way” was all I needed.

I initially started using the term aromantic on online ace forums because it seemed like clarifying whether you were aromantic or romantic was just the thing to do, and it also wasn’t inconvenient as shorthand for signaling my (lack of) interests when it came to relationship and dating discussions. However, my use of the term mostly kept to that space, and for reasons discussed later, I never got as personally attached to it. 

On the other hand, my decision to start using the word “aromantic” more publicly started out as a more deliberate way: not so much to signal what I was, so much as what I wasn’t – which was a representative of all aces. More specifically, I started emphasizing my aromantic identity in things like ace workshops, panels, and coming out conversations in order to explain that when I talked about my lack of crushes and lack of interest in dating, people should not assume that those feelings applied to all aces – basically, visibly adopting an aromantic label was something I did in order to prioritize the needs of romantic aces, especially when I was one of the loudest (or often only) voices in the room.

Over time, some of that emphasis has shifted. On the one hand, as romantic experiences have become better known in ace communities, I feel less need for heavy lifting on that distinction. On the other hand, as non-asexuals have also started picking up the aromantic label and forming new aromantic communities, I increasingly feel that as someone who has built up more years of influence and connections, I should do my part to give some more visibility to aromantic experiences and identity, and to clarifying the fact that some aro communities also stand independent of ace ones.

Not a Personal Priority

In the first half of this post, I talked about the reasons that I prioritize my aromantic identity as a way to prioritize the needs of others. However, as a bit of a followup, I also wanted to expand a little bit on why it’s not necessarily a personal priority for myself (unlike some other identities and communities). There’s two main complicating factors, one social/structural and one more internal – the external factor is my bad timing and unsatisfying experiences with aro communities past (or lack thereof), and the internal factor is my own complicated relationship to the entire concepts of romance and in turn aromanticism.

Bad Timing

One of the biggest complicating factors is probably the simple fact that when I was “coming of age” in my late teens and early twenties, there wasn’t much of an independent aromantic community to speak of (at least, not one I felt worth spending time in), so during that especially vulnerable period I was getting all of my complicated orientation needs met with either with ace people in ace venues, or with queer communities more broadly, and therefore those are the labels and community that have the strongest gut connection for me on that deeper emotional level. While I am continuously keeping involved and in touch with the growing aro communities around me today, I’m just no longer in a place in life where they can have the same kind of impact on my identity formation and sense of community that early ace and LGBTQ+ communities did.

Grey, Fuzzy Borders

However, there is also another big consideration. When I said earlier that there weren’t really any separate aromantic communities to speak of during my formative years, that wasn’t completely true – there were a few that I was peripherally aware of, in the form of some early forum attempts like aroplane, and a few themed tumblr blogs here or there. But the thing is, they tended to be low in activity and usually didn’t have many of the conversations I was interested – at least not any more than I could find elsewhere.

Because, as it turns out, I did find the conversations about aromantic(ish) experiences I needed  – but it wasn’t so much from actual aromantic communities so much as adjacent conversations among groups with a more troubled relationships to the idea of aromantic identity, including people who would later come to identify using terms like “wtfromantic,” “quoiromantic,” and “greyromantic”.

Given the fact that the experiences of these people resonate more with me than many archetypal “aromantic” community narratives today, maybe they would be more “accurate”. But the thing is that when it comes to the labels I choose to use in public discussion, I also prioritize simplicity over accuracy – I find that using the most well known umbrella term that I can stand to be more functionally useful in my day to day life than the one that might be the most technically accurate. (I grew up around a few engineers who were a fan of the “Keep it Simple, Stupid” philosophy, and I guess it stuck as the only KISS I care for). In that sense, my attachment to the word is perhaps more pragmatic than sentimental, and that may also complicate my relationship with it.

We Contain Multitudes: Asexual Community as a Coalition

When I was watching the recent HHA anniversary livestream earlier this month, the presenters highlighted an old quote from one of David Jay’s posts from the very early days of modern ace communities that really resonated with me. The quote occurred in response to an email thread about questions on how to create a universal definition for asexuality, a debate which continues to this day:

It seems like a common definition is sort of problematic. Because, in the end, we only sort of have a common identity. Asexuality means very different things to each of us, and finding a definition which is all-inclusive and still meaningful may be impossible. The reason that we’re forming a group isn’t because we have a neat, common identity but because we face a common set of issues. It seems like if we form a group it should be around those issues, not around some difficult-to-draw identity line.

– David Jay

It reminded me of a similar concept in my own local ace 101 outreach work for a while now: the idea that asexuality is not a single, unified experience, but rather a similar but varying set of experiences that have just enough in common that it makes sense for us to join in a single community – a coalition of multitudes of varied experiences.

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Remembering Aro Blogging over the years

For this month’s Carnival of Aros on “Change”, I wanted to talk about some of the changes I’ve seen in the aro community (or as close as I could get to one) in my experience over the years. It is part history, part personal reflection. It’s not really a proper history, in that it has some large gaps as I drifted in and out of engagement with discussions of aromanticism (especially around ~2014-2019, and with regards to the growth of aro tumblr); it’s also very much just my experience rather than a more objective summary, and I’m writing this at the last minute and from my own imperfect memory rather than from primary sources. Instead, think of it as an example of just one person’s perspective on aromanticism over time. There are undoubtedly some large missing perspectivEs that I’m sure other users will point out, but I think that just reflects the ways that aro writing has historically been a bit disjointed and difficult for any one person to fully track.

I’m hoping that others may be willing to ask questions or join in the comments to share their own recollections in order to help expand the narrative.

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Open Questions for Aromantic Research

In a recent paper by Antonsen et al., which primarily compared aromantic to romantic individuals within asexual response group, the author also happened to throw out one fact about their control group:

Among allosexual participants only, 13.3% reported divergent orientations.

and

We did not separate allosexual participants into romantic and aromantic groups, even though a very small proportion of the allosexual participants were likely to be aromantic, limiting our ability to compare the effects of romantic attraction between allosexual and asexual populations.

While the Antonsen group chose not to pursue this line of thought, I am curious what it would bring. How common are divergent attraction or orientation experiences common among allosexual people? How many of those might be aromantic? And what would research comparing aromantic and romantic people among the population as a  whole tell us about the human experience? Is the experience of “romance” even something we can isolate for research?

How comment are divergent orientation and differentiated attraction concepts?

The most immediately relevent question for the aromantic community might, of course, be the question of how many allosexual aromantic people there might be out there (or at least, how many people out there might have experiences that would fit with how we use that label).

However, I’d also be interested to see how that compares to the presence of divergent orientation experiences overall, and how that affects how people identify. (For example, among people with divergent patterns of attraction who use a single label, is that label more likely to be based on their romantic/emotional interests? Or their sexual/physical interests?)

I’d also be curious to see research on how common it is for people to differentiate types of attraction/interest as it applies to individual attractions, regardless of orientation. For example, according to a differentiated attraction model, someone who is only attracted to women might be mostly romantically/emotionally interested in woman A, but later might have a mostly sexual interest in woman B, and later a sexual and romantic interest in Person C, etc. What I’m curious about is how often that sort of conceptualization is used outside of just ace and aro communities.

What even is “romance”?

While many aromantic people can tell you that they don’t experience romantic attraction, or aren’t interested in romantic relationships, when it comes to nailing down what “romance” is, both us and our alloromantic counterparts are often left scratching our heads (when we’re not butting heads over differing definitions).

This, of course, can make it difficult to pursue research around things like romantic attraction (or lack thereof), when neither the researchers nor their subjects can figure out how to define their area of study!

Therefore, I’d be interested in seeing more sociological/anthropological/linguistic research into just how “romance” is conceptualized by different groups in the modern day. Do aros and aces define it differently than more general populations? What are common themes in attempting to define romance? How has the concept of romance evolved over time?


This is a submission for the August 2020 Carnival of Aros, on the theme of “Open Questions for Aromantic Research”