Sex, romance as experienced by aromantics, asexuals: Two students tell-all

Published by Robin Bailey on

Digital artwork provided by Kat Grammon

Queerness exists in all things: it specters every spectrum. As an umbrella term and historical slur now largely reclaimed by its community, “queer” is and can be used to refer to people who fall under the LGBTQIA+ acronym in a short and summative way.

Kat Grammon, a queer theater major on the aromantic and asexual spectrum, describes their life-before-labels as being filled with dread, apprehension and confusion as to who they really were.

“Do you want the overly-defined or simply-defined answer?” Grammon says. “I’m nonbinary and use they/them pronouns; I present myself as cupiosexual, though up until a year ago did so as demisexual; and I’m demiromantic.”

What does it mean to be aro-ace?

Aromanticness, asexuality and all other ends of the aro-ace spectrum (“asexual” can be shortened to “ace”) exist as inner queerings of sexuality. “Unlike celibacy, which is a choice, asexuality is a sexual orientation. Asexual people have the same emotional needs as everybody else and are just as capable of forming intimate relationships.”

Kat Grammon, a theater major, discusses the difficulties in getting past labels and their journey through accepting who they are.
Robin Bruns / The Mainstream

Beyond this, identities like “graysexual” (someone who experiences a varying level of sexual attraction) and their accompanying microlabels (like Grammon’s “cupiosexual”) define those who consider their sexuality falling somewhere on a spectrum between asexuality and allosexuality — the latter term describing the “norm” of experiencing sexual attraction.

“I don’t think labels are a necessary thing, but I enjoy them. I choose to use my labels; I’d still have these feelings regardless,” Grammon says.

The “a-ha” moment

A common thread sewn throughout the queer experience is the immense relief produced when one finally realizes the reason for their feelings of otherness. “Figuring out who I was — I was happy. I had answers,” Grammon says.

“I always knew something was different. For me, sex was just something I never thought I wanted to do,” Grammon says.

Helix Syn discusses its journey into discovering it was demisexual as finally clicking after feeling different for so long.
Photo provided by Helix Syn

Helix Syn, (it/its), lead organizer for the Umpqua Valley Rainbow Collective and former UCC student, shares a similar coming-of-age coming-out story. “I did have crushes growing up, but they were always emotional. When I heard the term ‘demisexual’ for the first time, everything clicked for me,” Syn says.

Demisexuality requires a person to develop some kind of intimate bond — emotional, platonic or other — before they can experience sexual attraction toward another. “I definitely felt different in terms of not understanding how you could know if you’d smash someone just by how they looked,” Syn says.

How gender often interacts with sexuality

Both Syn and Grammon are transgender and speak of their gender revelations as bridges to their sexual and/or romantic ones. “I discovered I was demi in my senior year of high school, around the same time I knew I wasn’t cis,” Syn says.

“When researching gender online, I fell down this rabbit hole into sexuality. I found ‘cupiosexual’ and thought, ‘Wow — that’s on-the-nose me. That’s a thing!’” Grammon says. Cupiosexuality is akin to demisexuality in that it generally relates to intimate bonds, however: cupios often lack the ability to “develop” sexual attraction at all.

Sex-repulsed, sex-favorable

Many cupiosexual people consider themselves to be on a spectrum of “sex-repulsion,” as Grammon does. Despite this, a cupiosexual person may still desire/participate in sex or sexual relationships in the right situation, like wanting to bond with a partner who experiences sexual attraction.

Syn, on the other hand, talks about a different relationship to sex due to its dissociative identity disorder. It has “multiple alters, or brain roommates, that are asexual or aromantic.” One of Syn’s alters is Teddy — one of Syn’s hosts, or “main” alters — who is sex-favorable despite lacking sexual attraction.

Sex-favorability is a willingness to participate in sex; sex-repulsion, also called sex-aversion, is its opposite. “I’ve realized now I, Teddy, don’t really experience sexual attraction much at all. But I love sex. I love how it feels; I’m attracted to the sensation, fun and dynamic — not the person,” Syn says.

Find support, community in the valley

Sexuality is complicated. Local organizations like the Umpqua Valley Rainbow Collective have youth and adult groups which meet weekly, offering a space for queer folks to share their experiences, strife and everyday life.

They also frequently host events, training and other queer-oriented occasions — like the upcoming 2023 Pride parade and festival, set to happen next June and July, respectively. All people open to love and learning are welcome to be a part of the Community.

Additionally, many resources exist online for those looking to learn more, like the Aces & Aros website which “acts as a hub for the ace and aro community.”On campus, students seeking help, information or comfort may speak to faculty like wellness counselor Hanna Culbertson or CARE Advocate Erin Ritchie.

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