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. 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.
The relationship between sexual attraction and romantic attraction is still under debate and is not fully understood. 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.
People may or may not engage in purely emotional romantic relationships. The main identities relating to this are:
- 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. It is common for sources to describe sexual orientation as including components of both sexual and romantic (or romantic equivalent) attractions. 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. Asexual individuals experience little to no sexual attraction (see gray asexuality); however, they may still experience romantic attraction. Lisa M. Diamond states that a person's romantic orientation can differ from whom the person is sexually attracted to. 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. 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. 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."
One of the attributes of aromantic people is that, despite feeling no romantic attraction, they may still enjoy sex. 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. Individuals who identify as aromantic may have trouble distinguishing the affection of family and friends from that of a romantic partner.
Many aromantic people are asexual, 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. This is because aromanticism primarily deals with romantic attraction rather than with sexuality or libido.
Some publications have argued that there is an underrepresentation of asexual and aromantic people in media and in research, and that they are often misunderstood. Aromantic people often face stigma and are stereotyped with labels such as being afraid of intimacy, heartless, or deluded. Amatonormativity, a concept that elevates romantic relationships over non-romantic relationships, has been said to be damaging to aromantics.
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. An informal term for an aromantic person is aro. In the expanded LGBT initialism LGBTQIA+, the letter A stands for asexual, aromantic and agender.
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