Ace and Aro: Understanding Differences in Romantic Attractions Among Persons Identifying as Asexual

Arch Sex Behav. 2020 Jul;49(5):1615-1630. doi: 10.1007/s10508-019-01600-1. Epub 2020 Feb 24.


First characterized by Kinsey in 1948, asexuality can be broadly defined as an absence of sexual attraction, with approximately 1% of the population identifying as asexual. While asexuality research has flourished recently, very few papers have investigated the unique mechanism of romantic attraction in asexual people, notably that some experience romantic attraction (romantic asexual) while others do not (aromantic asexual). This study compared romantic and aromantic asexual individuals through secondary data analysis on demographic, behavioral, psychological, and physiological measures as the primary objective and compared asexual people to allosexual people on some measures as a secondary aim. After combining data from seven previous asexuality studies (n = 4032 total), we found that 74.0% of asexual people reported experiencing romantic attraction. No significant difference was found in distribution of men and women between the aromantic and romantic asexual groups, though the asexual group showed higher proportions of women and non-binary genders compared to the allosexual comparison group. Romantic asexual participants reported a diverse range of romantic orientations, with only 36.0% reporting a heteroromantic orientation, compared to 76.2% of allosexual participants. As predicted, romantic asexual individuals were more likely to have been in a relationship when completing the survey, reported more past romantic and sexual partners and more frequent kissing than aromantic asexual people, and experienced more partner-oriented sexual desire than the aromantic asexual group. There were also differences in personality as romantic asexual people were less cold, more nurturant, and more intrusive than the aromantic asexual group. No difference was seen between romantic and aromantic asexual individuals in demographic characteristics, likelihood of having children, solitary sexual desire, physiological sexual functioning, frequencies of masturbation and sexual fantasy, or depression. These similarities and differences between romantic and aromantic asexual people highlight the diversity within the asexual community.

Keywords: Aro/ace; Aromantic; Asexuality; Romantic attraction; Sexual attraction.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Female
  • Gender Identity*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Sexual Behavior / psychology*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires