In 15 minutes video posted on March 20, popular YouTube host Jaiden Animations, came out as “aro-ace”, or asexual aromantic. In the video titled “Being Not Straight”, Animations briefly explains that after years of confusion, she recently discovered that she is ro-ace and while she respectfully chooses not to cross the line between personal and parasocial, Animations hopes its video will raise awareness in the community. But first, what does aro-ace mean?
What does it mean to be aromantic?
In June 2015, a user of the AVEN forum (The Asexual Visibility & Education Network) Orbit first invented the term “a romanticalong with the other labels under the aroma spectrum umbrella. Aromantic, as its own label, describes people who do not feel romantic attraction to others, regardless of gender or sexual orientation. As a term generically, aromantism covers two main labels: demi-romantic, or the ability to develop romantic feelings only after forming a deep friendship beforehand, and gray-romantic, a person who rarely experiences romantic attraction or is questioning its romantic orientation There are also several lesser-known labels such as aroflux, cupioromantic and lithromantic, among others which can be further explored on the LGBTQIA+ wiki page.
In 1977, Professor John Paul De Cecco and sex researcher Michael G. Shively published”Components of gender identityan article that explores what the authors consider to be the “four components of sexual identity” and how each plays a role in shaping an individual’s orientation. In this article, the authors introduce the idea that sexual orientation can be separated into two categories: physical preference and affective preference. Physical preference describes a person’s desire for a sexual partner of their preferred gender(s) and affective preference is similar, but for an emotional partner of their preferred gender(s). From De Cecco and Shively’s research, the concept of the “split attraction model”, or the visual representation of the separation between romantic attraction and sexual attraction, was born.
In early 2015, Tumblr user cupidisco reintroduced the concept under a new name, although this time in a negative light using the shared attraction model to to accuse those in the a-spec community of homophobia. The misuse of what the split attraction model represented found fault with those who used the model to justify their own presumed internalized homophobia and in response, the a-spec community reclaimed the model for its intended use.
What does it mean to be asexual?
Asexuality, like aromantism, is an umbrella term but as an individual label, it refers to people who do not feel sexual attraction to others, regardless of gender or romantic orientation. Under the asexual umbrella, there are two distinct orientations, demi-sexual and gray-asexual, which mirror their romantic counterparts. Demi-sexual refers to not developing sexual attraction to another person without first forming an emotional bond, and grey-asexual refers to experiencing sexual attraction to others in a range or limited capacity. Within the asexual community, there are individuals who are either repulsed, indifferent, or completely willing to experience intimacy, all for their own reasons.
Similar to “Components of Sexual Identity” by De Cecco and Shively, the author of “Sexual orientation theories“, Michael D. Stormscreated its own interpretation of attraction by developing a scale named The model of storms. Similar to the Punnett square design, the Storms model is separated into four quadrants: homosexual, bisexual, asexual and heterosexual. The y-axis of the model is labeled “homo-eroticism”, pushing vertically up the scale towards the top of the “homosexual” quadrant. The x-axis is labeled “hetero-eroticism”, placed horizontally along the scale towards the upper end of the “heterosexual” quadrant. The “asexual” quadrant is labeled in the lower left quadrant between the two axes, placing it, in Storms’ eyes, on a plane that exists outside the realm of attraction.
Despite the existence of asexuality and aromantism in history, labeling and documentation of both orientations was sparse prior to the early 2010s. within society at large, directions that are less talked about have yet to be fully explored.
The Importance of Animation Representation
In the case of Jaiden Animations, its orientation is aro-ace or asexual aromantic. Although the two are not mutually exclusive, the aro-ace, when experienced together, is even considered its own. orientation in the a-spec community.
In his “Being Not Straight” video, Jaiden Animations recalls several points in his life that, while not applicable to all aromantic or asexual people, tick off the majority of common aro/ace experiences. At the start of the video, she says, “Growing up, I never had a crush on anyone. I remember when I was in fifth grade, kids would talk about their crushes…and I felt like that was something I had to live too, because I thought that was exactly what happened.
Throughout her life, Animations noticed that at times she felt what she felt was a romantic attraction to a person. However, Animations realized that when it, in its own words, gets “tunnel vision on people that I find really cool or interesting and a bit obsessed with getting to know them or just hanging out with them”, it’s more a desire to be close to the person platonically; wondering if she felt genuinely attracted to this person, she answered with indifference.
Aromantic and asexual are terms that are just over 10 years old, and in a time when audiences are more aware of the variety of orientations that now exist, it’s interesting that Animations or others only recently learned about them. This shows that asexual and aromantic representation is limited within society and the media, and at times, is actively avoided, as with “Riverdale” character Jughead Jones (Cole Sprouse), which in the “Archie“The comic shows traits of asexuality. A number of other shows, like “MD of the house.” represent asexuality as a problem that needs to be solved rather than embraced. But on the other hand, Netflix’s animated sitcom “BoJack Riderdelves into the concept of asexuality and normalizes its existence in Season 4 episode “Hooray! Todd Episode!”, where the character Todd Chavez (Aaron Paul) proudly presents himself asexual to his friends. And in the past, other famous people also came out, for example, singer-songwriter Cavevillemexican singer Anne-Gabriel and anime voice actor Erica Mendez.
Jaiden Animations’ video has 9.9 million views 10 days after its release. Towards the end of the video, Animations comments that after finding out she was a ro-ace, she felt more empowered and capable, but also started to “feel more alone and isolated” and realizes that ‘These are tough orientations to understand, especially in a society where romance and intimacy are the #1 hot topics. With another person added to the list of “well-known as ro-as”, we hope Animations’ wish to “get more representation” for both orientations will help more people discover something new about themselves and empower others to do the same.