Aro Fandom

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See also: Queer Fandom, Queerplatonic, Ace Fandom
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Aromantic (shortened form: Aro; umbrella: Arospec) is a romantic orientation in which the person feels little or no romantic attraction. In fandom, aro fans or allies often cluster around aromantic canon characters, or at least those which can be headcanoned as aromantic. This page also covers responses to arospec characters and aro fans perceptions of common fandom tropes.

Canon Representation

Canon representation of aromantic characters in media, particularly mainstream media, is generally lacking. However, there are a few examples of canonically aromantic characters. Some examples include:


Fanon & Headcanons

There are also characters that are commonly headcanoned by fans as aromantic. Examples include:

Emphasis on Shipping

Aromantic fans often have a complicated relationship with shipping, and can both enjoy and dislike shipping--one fan can even feel both ways depending on the situation.

The emphasis on shipping in fandom culture is considered alienating by many aro fans, especially those who are romance repulsed. Many aro fans have expressed confusion or frustration at the ways that (mainly alloromantic) fans center shipping as their primary fandom activity, or frustration at the intensity that fans can engage with their ships:

Aro culture is seeing 90% of shipping as "pointless" and being super uncomfortable when people ship two characters "pointlessly" and obsess over ships in general [1]

Aro culture is loving a fictional friendship only to learn that everyone else in the fandom ships them romantically. This is especially annoying when other fandom people get mad at you for not shipping them. [2]

amatonormativity absolutely influences the mentality that characters need to be in a relationship to be happy, and the main benefit of enjoying and creating media is to synthesize romantic and/or sexual relationships. combined with loneliness, hyperfixation or obsession, leads to people who only consume media for shipping purposes, struggle to interpret anything outside of a shipping lense, and will reject or even become hostile towards anything that goes against their ship/s (like people harassing creators to make ships canon, ruining careers of people that don’t make ships canon, shipping irl people including minors, “shipping discourse” leading to harassment campaigns, violently rejecting non-romantic interpretations of a relationship, even accusing real life people of “queer baiting” for not being out/in a relationship. it goes on and on). Not saying all shipping is bad or goes that far, but its core it’s absolutely saturated with unchecked amatonormativity, and unfortunately most people are unwilling to hear any criticism of fandom, especially when it involves examining its own toxicity. this has definitely led to many aspecs abandoning fandom, or only engaging in it within the aspec community. [3]

TL;DR – I made a vent post to talk about how people’s putting shipping on a pedestal makes me feel excluded from fandom. And hundreds of people, at the most conservative estimate, took that as a sign that I deserve to be excluded from their vision of fandom. Something is really wrong there, and I hope we can all have some productive conversations about how to fix it. [4]

However, other aro fans enjoy shipping, for a variety of reasons. This can be because they are romance-favorable, because it is a common fandom activity, or because exploring concepts of romance in fiction is a way for them to explore their aromantic identity.

Aro culture is living your ‘romantic life’ vicariously through ships and hating the thoughts of you yourself in a romantic relationship [5]

Aromantic does not automatically mean asexual, so aromantic fans may also enjoy fic that portrays characters in sexual relationships without an emphasis on romance, such as PWP or friends with benefits scenarios.

Shipping aromantic characters is a contentious topic. There are very few canonically aromantic characters, and some have expressed frustration that they are still shipped with other characters by other fans. One aro fan writes:

I want alloros to realize that for a lot of aros, we do not get to see ourselves represented often. I can actually count on like one hand how many popular canon aro characters there are, and on the whole, none of their identities are respected. people constantly try to weasel their way out of actually writing aro characters, or they just ignore or deny their identity outright. [6]

Another aro tumblr user expressing frustration about fan reactions to canon aro characters:

Creator: *makes a character canonically aro*

Allos: *cry about it* *argue about how their ship is more important than rep* *argue about how that specific character being in love is somehow better rep for something else than aro rep* *erases their aro identity* *ships them anyway, specifically stating they know the character is aro but wish to ignore it* *get mad over aros getting upset about all of this* [7]

Queerplatonic Relationships

Specific Tropes

There are some specific tropes that many aro fans find objectionable, often because they reinforce amatonormative beliefs and ideals.

Soulmate AUs

Aromantic people often strongly dislike soulmate AUs because they reinforce the idea that love (especially romantic love) is necessary to be happy. As one tumblr user describes:

tbh the amount of arophobia that can be seen in soulmate aus is frankly concerning. Common tropes include:
  • ‘fixing’ an aro-coded/soulmate-less character with romantic love,
  • demonising those without soulmates as less than human/evil,
  • often graphic depictions of aro-coded/soulmate-less characters’ suffering through depression & low self esteem (a feeling which is then either never addressed or even justified by the narrative - ie. they are meant to be a pitiable character and nothing more),
  • and just… general amatonormative beliefs about the magical all healing power of romantic love (ie. once you find your soulmate you’ve found all you need to be happy ever again) [8]

Another tumblr user writes:

[...]I take issue with the fact that soulmate AUs fundamentally alter human biology in some way to make them incomplete on their own. In the real world, all pressure to pair with another person and have a soulmate is entirely societal, and the human body is entirely complete on its own. You are allowed to be alone in our world. In a soulmate AU, whether it be words on skin or fucking timers, you are ALWAYS carrying part of another person around with you and you DO NOT have a choice in the matter. You are not entirely you, there is a reminder of the fact that you are thus far ‘incomplete’ imbedded into your skin. I take issue with the fact that soulmate AUs modify human biology and autonomy in order to turn a societal construct into a biological one. I do not take issue with the fact that people have fun while reading soulmate AUs, or even the point some of you are going on about with regards to ‘what if your soulmate is across the ocean/an asshole’. Please just consider the idea that love is not everything and does not need to be a part of the body considered as fundamental as the lungs and heart.[9]

Similarly, many aro fans dislike platonic soulmates, arguing that it continues to emphasize love as an ideal, and is alienating to loveless aromantic people. Particular criticized is the harm to nonpartnering aros:

A striking amount of popular soulmate AUs are defined by a lack of something, or by tragedy should someone not have a soulmate. You stop aging until you meet your soulmate; you’re colorblind until you meet your soulmate; you die if you don’t meet your soulmate within a certain amount of time, etc. These ideas are created under the impression that everyone wants, has, or needs a soulmate in any form. Many of these ideas spell disaster for aros, particularly nonamorous folks. The nonamorous aro lives forever or dies young. The nonamorous aro misses out. The nonamorous aro is left behind. The nonamorous aro is dysfunctional. The nonamorous aro is destroyed. The nonamorous aro is outed simply by not possessing the traits or markings of someone society views as less broken. Amatonormativity is so prevalent in tumblr’s soulmate culture that even platonically, aros are expected to form life-long, committed partnerships with Someone Special, and the consequences for not measuring up to that expectation are often damaging.

Nonamory as Curse: Aromanticism and Amatonormativity in Tumblr Soulmate Culture[10]

Hanahaki Disease

Many aromantic fans strongly dislike Hanahaki Disease, and unlike soulmate AUs, there are not non-traditional or subverted versions of the trope that are preferred by parts of the community.

The fundamental premise of Hanahaki disease, of unrequited love causing harm or death to another person, is considered deeply hurtful to aromantic people, as they cannot return this affection. It is regarded as victim-blaming, and reinforces ideas that rejecting someone romantically makes someone a bad person.

The one who can’t love back is portrayed as evil, as lacking, as cruel to let someone else suffer and die over something they cannot change or help. Apart from that being absolutely fucked up on its own, aro-specs are very, very vulnerable to guilt tripping when it comes to feelings we cannot return.

Many struggle for years with the fact that they’ll never be able to love someone back or might not always be able to, at least not the same way. We have to face unfair accusations of being heartless and cruel for not experiencing something, for not breaking ourselves to try and fit into something that isn’t ours or forcing ourselves in relationships. [11]

Challenges & Events


Meta and Discussion

Resources & External Links