Friday, June 16, 2017

Better or Worse?

Most people have probably heard of the It Gets Better project, designed to give hope to LGBT youth by telling them that 'it gets better'. And for many, this is true. LGB adults have more freedom to seek romantic partners regardless of gender, and are less likely to depend on homophobic people for their safety and survival. And transgender adults are more likely to be able to access medical transition tools, as well as less likely to depend on transphobic people.

But the same is not true for aromantic and/or asexual people. For these people, it frequently gets worse as we get older.

In our teens, we're often seen as just a 'late bloomer' or 'not ready yet' - even if we try to come out. It's frustrating and hurtful to get dismissed when you try to say something important about your identity, but at least we're not likely to get attacked or kicked out unless we're perceived as also being LGB or trans. Acting aro/ace in adolescence often looks like you're 'saving yourself for marriage' or just immature, both of which are generally accepted ways for teens to act, especially by adults.

But when aros and aces reach adulthood, we start to look more unusual, and get more prejudice.

In my experience, as I got visibly more adult in appearance, straight cis guys have gotten pushier about their romantic/sexual advances. Many guys who wouldn't dream of trying to pressure a teenage girl into something sexual or romantic are quite willing to pressure a woman in her twenties. All female-presenting people get this to a certain extent, but aro/ace women are seen as having less of an 'excuse' - we're not taken, and we're not gay. From what I've heard, this is especially true for aro/ace women of color, who are often dealing with racist fetishization and stereotypes of sexual permissiveness in addition to misogyny and aphobia.

For male-presenting aros and aces, the pressure often comes from other men, who see being a single man or especially a male virgin as shameful and a sign of incompetence and unmanliness.

Aces in relationships are faced with the most pressure to have sex. Sexual incompatibility is a valid reason for a relationship to fail, but societal pressure makes it harder for new partners to discuss sexual compatibility, and leads many aces to try to pressure themselves into being more sexually available to their partners. Allo partners may feel inadequate for not being able to make their partner attracted to them, or may become hostile because they feel like their partner has betrayed or tricked them by dating while asexual, especially if they didn't initially understand their feelings around sex. One of the common contexts for asexual corrective rape is being raped by a romantic partner, especially for female-presenting aces involved with men.

Aros who want strong platonic bonds find such bonds becoming less and less available as they get older. Preteen girls often pledge to be 'best friends forever', and from what I understand boys are less demonstrative but still very close to their 'bros'. In adolescence, many alloro teens maintain a balance between platonic and romantic bonds, and if they abandon their friends for their romantic partners, it's expected that their friends will feel hurt about this. But in adulthood, strong platonic bonds are considered less important, and friends start to drift apart, leaving romantic bonds as the primary bonds in most adults' lives. Aromantic adults often find themselves alone and lonely, with few or no close bonds of any kind - especially if they don't have good familial support.

So for aros and aces, it doesn't get better. Very often, it gets worse instead.


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