Celebrating Valentine's Day without romantic love and lust

Illustration by Shelsey Braswell

Everyone wants someone to love this Valentine’s Day — or maybe they do not. In a society that is gradually becoming more open and representative of different sexualities, there are still some groups that are not discussed enough. Asexual and aromantic people illustrate that love and lust do not have to go hand-in-hand. Society may want to cuddle up to the idea that sexuality is different for everyone and heteronormativity needs to make like last week’s flowers and die so that new ideologies can bloom.

Valentine’s Day inspires many people to buy cheap chocolates, expensive lingerie and to prepare for a special night with friends or a partner. While all of this can be fun and exciting, Valentine’s Day does not have to be limited to a sexual or romantic love to still be fun.

According to Merriam-Webster, a definition for asexuality is not having a sexual desire for other people and a definition for aromantic is the act of experiencing no romantic attraction toward others. While these definitions give a basic summary of the sexualities, these identities are more complicated and vary between each person.

Freshman Asher Robinson identifies as asexual. While Robinson still feels romantic feelings, he does not feel any sexual attraction to people. Robinson said Valentine’s Day is cool because it is a day to feel special for those who may not always have the chance to. He said he uses it for friends and platonic activities. Robinson said he is a bi-romantic asexual, so he is interested in all genders, just not sexually.

“Asexual can mean a lot of different things,” Robinson said. “Asexuality is a spectrum just like any other sexuality. You can have some but you don’t have to have all of it, like demisexual where you only feel attraction after you have a connection with people. Some people can be more sex-positive, it doesn’t mean that you don’t have sex, it means that you don’t have sexual attraction.

Robinson said it can be hard to tell the difference between a platonic crush and a romantic crush at the beginning of a new connection because it is based on their personality and not physical attraction. He said that everyone experiences their own sexualities differently and that all are valid.

Asexuality and aromanticism are two forms of sexuality that are just gaining representation in the media, but are underrepresented in general. Characters who are asexual make appearances in Netflix shows such as “Sex Education” and “Bojack Horseman,” but there are little to no aromantic characters, and both identities in the media are few and far between.

Meredith Heller, NAU lecturer and undergraduate program coordinator for women’s and gender studies, said that some shows use queerbaiting, a tactic to pull in queer audiences without actually confirming a character is queer. This can happen a lot with characters showing signs of asexuality, but still not representing that identity. Heller said that even a bad representation can have power, and there are currently no representatives for aces — those who identify as asexual.

“I don’t think bad representation is great. But seeing yourself, and others, and knowing that you are not alone and that others exist around you is really important,” Heller said. “I think that is why it is really important to represent ace communities more so we don’t just say these people are frigid, or these people need to have more sex, but we say this is real and you exist. I think it is very hard for people to say I exist and I am here. It is something that people have had to do in minority categories again and again, so while it continues to be a hard fight, it is not a new fight.”

This is a concept many people in the LGBTQ+ community agree with, including Marian Griffin, the adviser for the People Respecting Individuals and Sexual Minorities organization (PRISM) and the LGBTQ+ student services adviser in the Office of Inclusion. Griffin said a lot of parents’ reactions when their child comes out is to question how they would know because they have not been with anyone yet. She said that being heterosexual is the expectation and the norm in society.

“There is an assumption that if you’re asexual you don’t want to have any close romantic relationships, but you can be asexual and still be in romantic relationships,” Griffin said. “There are different ways to be attracted to people, and if we look at it and if we look at ourselves, we can feel it to varying degrees. The only way to express love and the only way to express that kind of care is not just through sex. There are romantic relationships, friendships and aromantic folks as well.”

Heteronormativity is not going anywhere for a long time but the more society accepts all gender preferences and sexual identities, the more society can move toward an inclusive future.

Valentine’s Day can be commercialized, it can be overly sexual and it can be exclusionary to a lot of parties. One’s way of looking at it can make all the difference though. Valentine’s Day can be about love, it can be about close friends and it can be about sex. If one wants Valentine’s Day to be about lounging around in underwear and eating pizza, so be it. The heart wants what it wants.