OP-ED: In a world of love, the loveless are forgotten

Pop culture’s emphasis on romance and love leaves out asexuality, aromanticism and androgyny.

Much of pop culture revolves around romance. Trendy shows, hit movies, chart-climbing love songs and even everyday conversations come with the expectation that romance should be sought out and prioritized. These expectations, often pushed by media, ostracize the aromantic and the asexual communities.

Both asexuality and aromanticism are defined by a lack of attraction. Asexuality, however, is a lack of sexual attraction to others while aromanticism is considered to be a lack of willingness to enter relationships with others. The stigmatization regarding these non conformal identities are apparent in pop culture.

Representation matters. When done properly, it can educate and make different ways of life more visible. Seeing elements of oneself reflected in fictional characters or in the media can be a validating and exciting experience. Unfortunately, the limited pre-existing representation for aromantic and asexual people is often inaccurate. Individuals who identify with these communities experience little to no romantic or sexual attraction and are often either misrepresented or completely ignored by popular media. In a world so focused on romance, it can be easy for those who identify as aromantic or asexual to feel lost or excluded. Queer representation for lesbian, gay or bisexual people, has improved in recent years; however, there is still a low amount of content focusing on people who are simply not interested in romance. When culture depicts romantic relationships as a necessity for everyone, it ignores those who do not seek out romantic or sexual relationships.

Poor representation means that there are few opportunities to educate others about asexuality and aromanticism. Harmful stereotypes and assumptions thrive on ignorance. Representation in mainstream media helps different orientations to become more accepted and normalized. The more people see aromantic and asexual people properly represented in media, the more likely it is that these groups of people will be less marginalized.

Assumptions about the need for romance not only harms asexual and aromantic people but also platonic relationships in general. This is especially seen in friendships between people of opposite genders. It is far too often that platonic relationships are perceived as romantic or formed with the intent of romance. Rather than normalizing platonic friendships as an ideal, popular media frequently implies that the guy should get the girl. Too often, friendships must become romantic in order for there to be a happy ending. It is time to tell different stories with different expectations and different endings.