A visual representation of romantic and sexual orientation using a modified Kinsey scale.

Romantic Orientation is a romantic parallel to the concept of sexual orientation, most commonly used in aromantic and asexual communities. Typically, romantic orientation identity labels are derived through the use of a prefix term combined with the suffix "-romantic." For example, aromantic, biromantic, and heteroromantic are all examples of romantic orientation labels. More common and less specific labels, such as gay and lesbian, can also be used in a romantic way or to describe one's romantic orientation.

Romantic orientation as an identity concept remains very popular in the aromantic and asexual communities, but its prevalence has sometimes veered into being treated as compulsory. For this reason, the quoiromantic identity emerged among aces in the early 2010s.

Similarly, because those who use a romantic orientation label are commonly expected to label their sexual orientation, some members of the aromantic community have had to push back on this expectation with labels such as aro neu and quoisexual.

History[edit | edit source]

Early predecessors to the concept of romantic orientation date back over a hundred years. For example, in 1879, Karl Heinrich Ulrichs classified bisexuality into two types: conjunctive and disjunctive bisexuality.[1] The first is described as one who has both "tender" and "passionate" feelings for both men and women. The second is one who has "tender" feelings for the same gender, but "passionate" feelings for the opposite gender.

Later, in 1979, the psychologist Dorothy Tennov published Love and Limerence: The Experience of Being in Love, which described "limerence" (or being "in love") as something distinct from sexuality.[2]

Sometime in the 1980s, the term "affectional orientation" started becoming more common, though the exact origins are unknown. For example, the term was used by J.W. Wells in 1989.[3] Prior to that, it was used in 1959 by the American Bar Association.[4] In its contemporary form, the concept of romantic orientation was popularized by the online asexual community in the early 2000s. For example, it became common for asexuals to identify as gay, bi, or straight to express a partnership preference, and the term "aromantic" entered circulation in asexual spaces around the year 2005.[5]

Criticism[edit | edit source]

The concept of romantic orientation and different attraction types came under fire on Tumblr in 2015. There its critics coined the term "split attraction model" as their own way to talk about the concepts.[6] Since then the term has spread as many people don't fully understand its origins.

References[edit | edit source]

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