Romantic orientation

Romantic orientation, also called affectional orientation, indicates the sex or gender with which a person is most likely to have a romantic relationship or fall in love. It is used both alternatively and side by side with the term sexual orientation, and is based on the perspective that sexual attraction is but a single component of a larger dynamic.[1] For example, although a pansexual person may feel sexually attracted to people regardless of gender, the person may experience romantic attraction and intimacy with women only.

For asexual people, romantic orientation is often considered a more useful measure of attraction than sexual orientation.[2][3]

The relationship between sexual attraction and romantic attraction is still under debate and is not fully understood.[4][5] Sexual and romantic attractions are often studied in conjunction. Even though studies of sexual and romantic spectrums are shedding light onto this underresearched subject, much is still not fully understood.[6]

Romantic identities

People may or may not engage in purely emotional romantic relationships. The main identities relating to this are:[2][3][7][8]

  • Aromantic: No romantic attraction towards anyone (aromanticism, see section below).
  • Heteroromantic (or heteromantic): Romantic attraction towards person(s) of the opposite gender (heteroromanticism).
  • Homoromantic: Romantic attraction towards person(s) of the same gender (homoromanticism).
  • Biromantic: Romantic attraction towards two or more genders, or person(s) of the same and other genders (biromanticism). Sometimes used the same way as panromantic.
  • Panromantic: Romantic attraction towards person(s) of any, every, and all genders (panromanticism).
  • Demiromantic: Romantic attraction towards any of the above but only after forming a deep emotional bond with the person(s) (demiromanticism).
  • Greyromantic: Experiencing romantic attraction rarely or only under certain circumstances (greyromanticism).

Relationship with sexual orientation and asexuality

The implications of the distinction between romantic and sexual orientations have not been fully recognized, nor have they been studied extensively.[9] It is common for sources to describe sexual orientation as including components of both sexual and romantic (or romantic equivalent) attractions.[5][9] Publications investigating the relationship between sexual orientation and romantic orientation are limited. Challenges in collecting information result from survey participants having difficulty identifying or distinguishing between sexual and romantic attractions.[5][10][11] Asexual individuals experience little to no sexual attraction (see gray asexuality); however, they may still experience romantic attraction.[12][13] Lisa M. Diamond states that a person's romantic orientation can differ from whom the person is sexually attracted to.[4] While there is limited research on the discordance between sexual attraction and romantic attraction in individuals, also known as cross orientation, the possibility of fluidity and diversity in attractions have been progressively recognized.[14][15] Researchers Bulmer and Izuma found that people who identify as aromantic often have more negative attitudes in relation to romance. While roughly 1% of the population identifies as asexual, 74% of those people reported having some form of romantic attraction. [16] The Japanese LGBT and asexual organization, the SRGM Federation, has declared that, "the confusion between sexual orientation and romance orientation is a violation of human rights."[17][18]


Aromantic flag

One of the attributes of aromantic people is that, despite feeling no romantic attraction, they may still enjoy sex.[19] Aromantic people are not incapable of feeling love; for example, they will still feel familial love, or the type of platonic love that is expressed between friends.[20] Individuals who identify as aromantic may have trouble distinguishing the affection of family and friends from that of a romantic partner.[21][22][23]

Many aromantic people are asexual,[24] but the term aromantic can be used in relation to various sexual identities, such as aromantic bisexual, aromantic heterosexual, aromantic lesbian, aromantic gay man or aromantic asexual.[25] This is because aromanticism primarily deals with romantic attraction rather than with sexuality or libido.[26]

Some publications have argued that there is an underrepresentation of asexual and aromantic people in media[27] and in research,[28] and that they are often misunderstood.[29] Aromantic people often face stigma and are stereotyped with labels such as being afraid of intimacy, heartless, or deluded.[24][30] Amatonormativity, a concept that elevates romantic relationships over non-romantic relationships, has been said to be damaging to aromantics.[31]

The antonym of aromanticism is alloromanticism, the state of experiencing romantic love or romantic attraction to others, while such a person is called an alloromantic.[32] An informal term for an aromantic person is aro.[24] In the expanded LGBT initialism LGBTQIA+, the letter A stands for asexual, aromantic and agender.[33][34][35]


  1. Crethar, H. C. & Vargas, L. A. (2007). Multicultural intricacies in professional counseling. In J. Gregoire & C. Jungers (Eds.), The counselor’s companion: What every beginning counselor needs to know. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum. ISBN 0-8058-5684-6. p.61.
  2. Richards, Christina; Barker, Meg (2013). Sexuality and Gender for Mental Health Professionals: A Practical Guide. SAGE. pp. 124–127. ISBN 978-1-4462-9313-3. Retrieved July 3, 2014.
  3. Cerankowski, Karli June; Milks, Megan (2014). Asexualities: Feminist and Queer Perspectives. Routledge. pp. 89–93. ISBN 978-1-134-69253-8. Retrieved July 3, 2014.
  4. Diamond, Lisa M. (2003). "What does sexual orientation orient? A biobehavioral model distinguishing romantic love and sexual desire". Psychological Review. 110 (1): 173–192. doi:10.1037/0033-295X.110.1.173. ISSN 1939-1471. PMID 12529061.
  5. Houdenhove, Ellen Van; Gijs, Luk; T'Sjoen, Guy; Enzlin, Paul (April 21, 2014). "Asexuality: A Multidimensional Approach". The Journal of Sex Research. 52 (6): 669–678. doi:10.1080/00224499.2014.898015. ISSN 0022-4499. PMID 24750031. S2CID 35875780.
  6. Hammack, P. L., Frost, D. M., & Hughes, S. D. (2019). Queer Intimacies: A New Paradigm for the Study of Relationship Diversity. Journal of Sex Research, 56(4/5), 556–592.
  7. "LGBTQIA Resource Center Glossary | LGBTQIA Resource Center". Retrieved August 4, 2019.
  8. "Is Being Panromantic The Same Thing As Being Pansexual?". Healthline. Retrieved August 4, 2019.
  9. Bogaert, Anthony F. (2012). Understanding Asexuality. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc. p. 14. ISBN 978-1442200999. Retrieved April 12, 2015.
  10. Savin-Williams, Ritch C.; Vrangalova, Zhana (2013). "Mostly heterosexual as a distinct sexual orientation group: A systematic review of the empirical evidence". Developmental Review. 33 (1): 58–88. doi:10.1016/j.dr.2013.01.001. ISSN 0273-2297.
  11. Priebe, Gisela; Svedin, Carl Göran (2013). "Operationalization of Three Dimensions of Sexual Orientation in a National Survey of Late Adolescents". The Journal of Sex Research. 50 (8): 727–738. doi:10.1080/00224499.2012.713147. ISSN 0022-4499. PMID 23136981. S2CID 27288714.
  12. Helm KM (2015). Hooking Up: The Psychology of Sex and Dating. ABC-CLIO. p. 32. ISBN 978-1610699518.
  13. Fischer NL, Seidman S (2016). Introducing the New Sexuality Studies. Routledge. p. 183. ISBN 978-1317449188.
  14. Lund, Emily M.; Thomas, Katie B.; Sias, Christina M.; Bradley, April R. (October 1, 2016). "Examining Concordant and Discordant Sexual and Romantic Attraction in American Adults: Implications for Counselors". Journal of LGBT Issues in Counseling. 10 (4): 211–226. doi:10.1080/15538605.2016.1233840. ISSN 1553-8605. S2CID 151856457.
  15. Weinrich, James D.; Klein, Fritz; McCutchan, J. Allen; Grant, Igor; Group, The HNRC (July 3, 2014). "Cluster Analysis of the Klein Sexual Orientation Grid in Clinical and Nonclinical Samples: When Bisexuality Is Not Bisexuality". Journal of Bisexuality. 14 (3–4): 349–372. doi:10.1080/15299716.2014.938398. ISSN 1529-9716. PMC 4267693. PMID 25530727.
  16. Antonsen, A. N., Zdaniuk, B., Yule, M., & Brotto, L. A. (2020). Ace and Aro: Understanding Differences in Romantic Attractions Among Persons Identifying as Asexual. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 49(5), 1615–1630.
  17. "【声明】性的指向と恋愛指向の混同は人権侵害である". 日本SRGM連盟. Retrieved January 7, 2021.
  18. "「性的指向と恋愛指向の混同は人権侵害」性的少数者団体が声明". 選報日本. Retrieved January 7, 2021.
  19. Antonsen, Amy; Zdaniuk, Bozena; Yule, Morag; Brotto, Lori (February 24, 2020). "Understanding Differences in Romantic Attractions Among Persons Identifying as Asexual". Archives of Sexual Behavior. 49 (5): 1615–1630. doi:10.1007/s10508-019-01600-1. PMID 32095971. S2CID 211476089.
  20. Plonski, Logan. "7 Facts You Should Know About Aromantic People". them. Retrieved February 19, 2020.
  21. Janet W. Hardy; Dossie Easton (2017). The Ethical Slut: A Practical Guide to Polyamory, Open Relationships and Other Freedoms in Sex and Love. Ten Speed Press. pp. 98–. ISBN 978-0-399-57966-0.
  22. Julie Sondra Decker (October 13, 2015). The Invisible Orientation: An Introduction to Asexuality Next Generation Indie Book Awards Winner in LGBT. Skyhorse Publishing. pp. 44–. ISBN 978-1-5107-0064-2.
  23. Dedeker Winston (February 7, 2017). The Smart Girl's Guide to Polyamory: Everything You Need to Know About Open Relationships, Non-Monogamy, and Alternative Love. Skyhorse Publishing. pp. 113–. ISBN 978-1-5107-1209-6.
  24. Josh Salisbury. "Meet the aromantics: 'I'm not cold – I just don't have any romantic feelings' | Life and style". The Guardian. Retrieved April 15, 2018.
  25. Miller SJ, ed. (2016). "Glossary of Terms: Defining a Common Queer language" (PDF). Teaching, Affirming, and Recognizing Trans and Gender Creative Youth. London: Palgrave Macmillan. pp. 299–309. doi:10.1057/978-1-137-56766-6. ISBN 978-1-137-56766-6. Retrieved April 24, 2020.
  26. Pinto, Stacy Anne (2014). "ASEXUally: On being an ally to the asexual community". Journal of LGBT Issues in Counseling. 8 (4): 331–343. doi:10.1080/15538605.2014.960130. S2CID 144192002.
  27. "How Pop Culture Denies Aromantic Asexual Existence". The Mary Sue. February 19, 2016. Retrieved April 15, 2018.
  28. Nicola Pardy. "What Is Asexual - People Share Asexuality Experiences". Retrieved April 15, 2018.
  29. Yeow Kai Chai (October 4, 2017). "Singer-songwriter Moses Sumney does not mind flying the freak flag, Entertainment News & Top Stories". The Straits Times. Retrieved April 15, 2018.
  30. Nivea Serrao (July 10, 2017). "Tash Hearts Tolstoy author on depicting asexuality in YA fiction". Retrieved April 15, 2018.
  31. Brown, Sherronda J. (December 26, 2017). "Romance is Not Universal, Nor is it Necessary". Wear Your Voice. Archived from the original on April 12, 2018. Retrieved April 15, 2018.
  32. Micomonaco, Mikayla (June 28, 2017). "I'm Tired Of My Queer Identity Being Ignored & Erased On TV". Bustle. Retrieved April 15, 2018.
  33. Mercado, Mia (June 8, 2017). "Equinox Gym's Pride Video 'The LGBTQ Alphabet' Leaves Out An Important Letter". Bustle. Retrieved April 15, 2018.
  34. Dastagir, Alia E. (June 15, 2017). "LGBTQ definitions every good ally should know". USA Today. Retrieved April 15, 2018.
  35. Finamore, Emma (April 16, 2018). "What does LGBTQIA stand for? The inclusive term which includes questioning, intersex and asexual and allied people". PinkNews. Retrieved August 4, 2019.

Further reading