Friday, January 20, 2017

Do Asexuals And Aromantics Have Heterosexual Privilege?

I just came across a list of heterosexual privileges. I've heard acephobic/arophobic people claim that heterosexual aromantics, heteroromantic asexuals and aromantic asexuals have heterosexual privilege. So, let's look at the list.

Having  role  models  of  your  gender  and sexual  orientation [edit: and romantic orientation]

This definitely doesn't apply to any aromantic and/or asexual people. It's easier to find gay or bisexual role models than asexual or aromantic ones. In mainstream media, asexuality is represented by problematic fiction suggesting we can be cured or are lying, and the occasional interview with asexuals. Aromantics have even less representation - especially allosexual aromantics.

Learning  about  romance and relationships  from  fiction,  movies,  and  television

Again, not true for aromantic or asexual people. Although not all romances show the characters having sex, the vast majority imply that they eventually will want to do so. And models of how to discuss asexuality and negotiate ace/allo mixed relationships are not found in mainstream fiction at all.
And as for aromantics, while there are certainly characters who don't seek out romance, or who are in a relationship that could be interpreted as a QPR, I can't think of any work of fiction I've seen that explicitly describes a character as wanting deep personal connection without romance. And portrayals of characters who want sex without romance are frequently negative and colored by slut-shaming - especially if the character is female.

Living with  your  partner  and  doing  so openly to all 

This is probably not a big issue for hetero aces, assuming that they can actually find a suitable partner. But for aromantics, QPRs tend to confuse people, often being mistaken for romance (which is especially problematic for a romance-repulsed aromantic) or else treated as 'just' friendship.
QPRs are also more likely to involve individuals who don't have a compatible sexual orientation (so a heterosexual aromantic could easily have a same-sex QPR). And siblings can be QPRs. Lastly, many people seek out multiple QPRs. If a QPR is mistaken for romance, they could be targeted with homophobia, anti-incest sentiments or anti-polyamorous sentiments.
On the legal side, unless a QPR choose to get married, they lack the legal rights to care for each other in sickness, help their QPP immigrate, or share custody of a child.
And speaking of immigration, both romantic aces and aromantics could easily run afoul of the procedures for detecting immigration fraud marriages. A marriage that doesn't involve sex or where the partners don't have all the trappings of romance with each other (eg don't live together, don't sleep together, have sex with other people, or just generally don't have the right body language around each other) could be mistaken for a marriage purely for immigration purposes.

Talking  about  your relationship  and  the projects,  vacations,  and  family  planning steps  you  and  your  partner  are  working  on.

As an asexual, aromantic prospective single parent, I've found that my discussions of my plans for motherhood often get detailed with questions about whether I'm married, how I plan to get pregnant, and so forth. I also feel afraid to explain my situation fully with people who may be opposed to single parenthood or ART. An aromantic person who is coparenting may have difficulty explaining the nature of their relationship with the other parent(s), or why their relationship doesn't have the trappings of romance. For example if their coparent lives in another residence, or has another partner, they can either let people assume a divorce or breakup is involved or else have a lot of complicated explanation.
A heteroromantic asexual in a relationship would have a more superficially typical situation than me, but if their relationship is sexless or has very infrequent sex, this complicates family planning. They may need to do at-home artificial insemination, or have sex more often than they'd like during the female partner's fertile period. The asexual partner could suffer feelings of burnout or frustration with how frequently they are having sex. All of this issues would be very difficult to discuss without having to get into explanations about asexuality.

Expressing pain when a  relationship  ends, and  having others  notice  and  attend  to  your pain

This is a tremendous issue for aromantic people. The end of a QPR can cause grief on par with losing a romantic relationship, and yet QPRs are frequently mistaken for friendships - even by the QPPs!
The situation of one person (usually aromantic) viewing a relationship as a QPR while the other one (usually alloromantic) sees it as a typical friendship is very common, and can easily lead to hurt feelings for the one who feels more strongly about the relationship.
Many aromantics grieve when a 'friend' (who they have a one-sided QPR with) announces that they're romantically involved or getting married, because it's generally expected that a person in a romantic relationship will devote less to their friendships. Expressing this grief can lead to perceptions that they're romantically attracted to that person.

Not  having to lie  about attending  LGBTQIA social  activities,  or  having  friends  in  that community

So far I haven't heard of people getting verbally or physically attacked for their connection to the aromantic/asexual community, except by aro/acephobic LGBT people. However, more subtle discrimination probably occurs. I know of a person who had her work with asexual visibility on her resume while applying for jobs, and applied for many jobs without any offers. When she deleted mention of her advocacy work, she was hired almost immediately.

Kissing/hugging/being  affectionate  in public  without  threat  or  punishment

This is definitely an issue for people with QPRs that would be stigmatized or unacceptable romances. My brother and I are very close, and I consider us to be in a QPR, and someone at our church put in an anonymous call to the police claiming my brother was sexually abusing me. It was cleared up fairly easily, but it really frightened us. My best guess is that she took our hugging, cuddling and general comfort with touching each other as a sign that we were romantically and sexually involved. (The fact that she assumed my younger brother was a sexual perpetrator, as opposed to me being a perpetrator or us having a mutual relationship, is clearly sexism at work.)

Dating  the  person  of  the  gender  you  desire in  your  teen  years

Dating is a big challenge for both asexuals and aromantics, even if they're attracted to the opposite sex. For romantic asexuals, dating frequently involves being pressured to have sex they don't want, or feeling inadequate because their partner detects and is bothered by their lack of enthusiasm.
Many aromantics are romance-repulsed, and being in a romantic relationship makes them feel trapped or suffocated. A break-up feels relieving. Before discovering aromanticism, they often have a string of short-lived relationships, all ending because they weren't romantic enough or rejected romantic overtures from their partner.
In seeking friendships, many aromantic people described getting 'romance-zoned' when a friend gets romantically interested in them and can no longer see them as just a friend. This often leads to the end of the friendship.

Dressing  without  worrying  what  it  might represent  to  someone  else

I don't know if this is more of an ace or aro issue, but as a sex-repulsed aroace, I consciously try to pick clothing that doesn't show off my body, to reduce the likelihood that someone will be attracted to me.

Increased  possibilities  for  getting  a  job  or being  promoted

As described above, I know of a person who feels that she was hired in part because she'd removed the mention of her asexual advocacy work. I also know of a sex-repulsed ace who was fired for being unsociable to her coworkers because their constant discussion of sex made her uncomfortable. (Particularly her one coworker who liked to brag about her boyfriend's penis size.)

Receiving validation  from  your  religious community,  and  being  able  to  hold  positions in  your  religious  leadership  ranks

As I described in my post on asexuality and religious prejudice, someone who doesn't have a 'proper' sexual marriage can experience negative judgment from many Protestant conservative churches.
Aromantic allosexuals have it even worse, because they tend to prefer friends with benefits or other non-romantic sexual relationships, which are very much frowned upon by most conservative churches, especially for female aro-allos.

Adopting or foster parenting children 

Aros are more likely to be single parents if they choose to be parents at all. Single prospective parents are at a disadvantage for fostering and adoption, especially prospective single fathers. In international adoption, many countries have explicit rules against single parent adoption or single father adoption. In US and Canada there are no explicit rules against single parent adoption or fostering, but private adoption is subject to the prejudices of the birthmothers, and the foster care system appears to place greater scrutiny on single foster parents - again, especially for single foster fathers.

Being employed as a K-12  teacher without fear of  being fired for “corrupting  children”

I have not heard of aces or aros having issues with this. Please let me know if you have.

Raising children  without  threats  of  state intervention

Single fathers, especially of girls, are at a higher risk of being accused or suspected of sexual abuse. When you look at lists of signs of a pedophile, lack of interest or difficulty with dating adults is often listed as a sign. Ace or aro men are therefore more likely to be seen as potential pedophiles than het-het men.

Receiving equal  benefits  for  you  and  your partner

QPRs are not legally recognized, so aromantic people either have to get married to a non-romantic partner (if they can) or else miss out on benefits.

Legal marriage, which includes:
Public recognition and support of your relationship
Joint child custody  
Sharing insurance policies at  reduced rates Access to a hospitalized loved one 
Social expectations of longevity and stability for  your relationship 

A QPR has none of those rights, unless it can be disguised as a marriage.

So, out of 16 privileges, heteroromantic aces can access 7 of them, aromantic heterosexuals have access to 3 of them, and aromantic asexuals have only one of these privileges. So clearly, aromantic and asexual people don't have heterosexual privilege.

The biggest surprise for me was the realization that aromantic heterosexuals have it worse than heteroromantic asexuals. We tend to focus more on sexual than romantic orientation, but romantic orientation clearly makes a bigger difference to people's lives, and the prejudice they face. For an asexual person, being heteroromantic instead of aromantic nets them 6 different privileges. For an aromantic, being heterosexual nets them only two more privileges.

And this is a list intended for comparing straight people to LGB people. There may be other privileges het-het people have over aces and/or aros, which are not listed here.


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