We’ve seen the movies: two people lock eyes and have an instant, electric chemistry, and in the next scene, they’re tumbling into bed together. It’s not all Hollywood magic – most people might look at a hot stranger and immediately feel sexually attracted to them. Meanwhile, others might want to be emotionally close to them instead of physically.
Are they just big flirts? No, they are simply people whose sexual identity differs from their romantic orientation.
In this article, we’ll discuss panromantic asexuality, the difference between romantic and sexual attraction, and what it means to identify as someone who loves love but doesn’t necessarily crave sex.
What Does It Mean To Be A Panromantic Asexual?
“Sexual attraction and romantic attraction are seen as being so intrinsically linked in our culture that it’s assumed that you can’t experience one without the other,” says asexuality activist Yasmin Benoit. “[That] isn’t the case.”
A panromantic asexual is just one example of someone whose romantic and sexual orientations differ. Asexual people can still be romantically attracted to any gender or sexuality. Meanwhile, panromantics feel romantically attracted to people regardless of their sexualities or gender identities.
Let’s break it down one word at a time.
What Is Panromantic?
You are probably already familiar with the term “pansexual”; panromantic is similar in that they both share the prefix “pan” which is Greek for “all.” The LGBT Foundation defines both as a person who feels “a sexual or romantic attraction not limited by gender, or gender identity.”
While panromantics experience romantic attraction to binary and nonbinary partners, that doesn’t mean they’re attracted to just anyone. Panromantics care about nurturing emotional intimacy with a partner they’re romantically drawn to, regardless of their gender. It’s different, and deeper, than just being close friends.
Panromantic vs Biromantic
It’s a common misconception that bisexuality is limited to the gender binary and excludes those who are nonbinary. In fact, biromantic people can experience romantic attraction to two or more genders but not necessarily all. Another definition is that biromantic people are attracted romantically to multiple genders.
The Bisexual Resource Center also asserts: “Pansexual and bisexual are identities that overlap and have nuanced differences, and someone who is attracted to all genders or regardless of gender might also identify as bisexual.”
Identifying as biromantic or panromantic is ultimately about how each label fits you and your experiences.
What Is Asexuality?
Did you know that the A in LGBTQIA+ means asexual, aromantic, and agender – not “ally”?
The Asexual Visibility and Education Network (AVEN) defines an asexual as someone who “does not experience sexual attraction – they are not drawn to people sexually and do not desire to act upon attraction to others in a sexual way.” Unlike someone who is aromantic (“aro” for short), an asexual person (or “ace”) can still experience romantic attraction to others. Meanwhile, a person who experiences sexual attraction is called an allosexual.
Asexuality is different from celibacy, which is the decision to abstain from sex usually for religious reasons. It’s a sexual orientation just like any other in the LGBTQIA+ spectrum.
The Asexuality Spectrum
Most people may be surprised to know there’s a wide variety of identities that fall along the asexuality spectrum (or a-spec)! Since we’ve already covered asexuality, which is also an umbrella term, here are a few more to learn about:
- Graysexual: People who experience sexual attraction rarely and/or at a low intensity.
- Demisexual: People who feel sexually attracted only after they’ve formed a deep, emotional connection. A desire for physical intimacy is based on secondary attraction (getting to know someone over time), not primary attraction (first impressions).
- Reciprosexual: People who don’t experience sexual attraction unless it’s reciprocated.
- Akiosexual: People whose sexual attraction fades if reciprocated.
- Aceflux: People whose sexual attraction fluctuates between asexual and allosexual but generally stays within the asexual spectrum.
Sexual Attraction vs Romantic Attraction
People conflate sexual and romantic attraction as one and the same and for some, they do overlap. But did you know a person’s sexual orientation and romantic orientation can be two different things?
Split Attraction Model
The Split Attraction Model (SAM) was created by aromantic and asexual people to help describe their identities to themselves and others. While SAM isn’t a perfect model, many in the LGBTQIA+ community have found it helpful to better articulate and understand their identities.
Sometimes who you want to date and who you want to have sex with can differ! People can desire a sexual relationship without romance (like a casual hook-up) while others, like an asexual panromantic, might desire emotional, rather than physical, intimacy.
Someone who is aromantic can identify as heterosexual. Someone can identify as a biromantic asexual or homoromantic demisexual. One identity does not invalidate the other.
What Does Being A Panromantic Asexual Mean For Relationships?
Sex isn’t the only difference between romantic relationships and friends! Panromantic asexuals may seek love and an emotional bond just like anyone else who wants a romantic relationship. Because only roughly 1% of the population identifies as asexual, a panromantic ace is likely to find an allosexual romantic partner.
Communication and trust are always important but especially so in mixed-orientation relationships that may require compromise. However, asexual panromantics can fall in love, get married, and have kids if they want! So long as each partners’ needs are considered and respected, they can share a very happy life together.
“To me, love doesn’t culminate in passionate kisses and the heated feel of skin against skin,” writes panromantic asexual journalist Malvika Padin. “Rather, it’s about a lifetime of warm companionship, kisses on the cheek, and comforting hugs. And it doesn’t matter who it came from.”
But What About The Sex?
It’s a common misconception that all asexuals are sex-repulsed. Some can be sex-positive while others are simply sex-neutral. After all, asexuality is about a lack of sexual attraction, not a lack of sex drive.
Asexual people can and do experience arousal (and many enjoy masturbation, too). There are several reasons why an asexual person might engage in sexual activity, such as:
- A desire to bond and feel close with their partner
- To relax
- Because it feels good (for their partner, for them)
- To conceive
- Because they’re curious
However, some aces might only want sex sometimes, under specific circumstances, or not at all. Angela Chen, author of the bestselling book Ace: What Asexuality Reveals About Desire, Society, and the Meaning of Sex, writes: “If someone never wants to have sex, that is okay forever. For people who do decide to have sex, it is a choice each time, not a set of ossified obligations that are impossible to challenge or change.”
What is always key with physical affection, especially with asexuals, is consent without pressure or guilt. And remember: having sex does not mean a person is no longer asexual!
The Panromantic Asexual Flag
While there are several versions on social media, the most common panromantic asexual flag features a heart in pansexual pride colors centered on the ace flag. Each stripe of color has a different meaning, so let’s break it down!
The pan pride flag has been in use since the 2010s and was created by Jasper V. It consists of three horizontal bars of color representing attraction to multiple genders:
- Magenta for those who identify as women
- Yellow in the middle stands for agender, genderfluid, and nonbinary people
- Cyan for those who identify as men
The ace pride flag was designed by AVEN user standup and was selected in a community vote in 2010. It features four horizontal stripes in black (asexuality), gray (gray- and demisexuality), white (allosexual partners and allies), and purple (community). There are variations on the flag design depending on where asexual people fall on the spectrum.
Here is the panromantic asexual flag too! pic.twitter.com/6fdFYMhCPZ
— Eli⁷ (@joons11thmoon) May 27, 2019
Is There A Test for Panromantic Asexuality?
Not really. While there are many unofficial quizzes online for folks who are curious about their sexual and romantic orientations, you know yourself and your experiences best.
That being said, you can read up on the signs of being asexual or panromantic to learn more. You can also try asking yourself a few questions:
- Have I felt attracted to someone before knowing their gender?
- When I imagine my ideal romantic partner, does their gender matter?
- How does identifying as panromantic make me feel vs biromantic, queer, or another label?
- Have I felt attracted to someone without feeling turned on by them?
- Do you feel alienated by or unable to relate to conversations about sex?
- When I show affection to someone I’m interested in, is sex important?
Romantic and sexual orientation can sometimes align and sometimes they don’t. Panromantic asexuality is just one example of how truly diverse romance and sexuality can be. There is so much nuance in a romantic relationship that goes beyond sex. After all, if sex without love can exist, then so can love without sex.
It’s possible to have a fulfilling romantic relationship without the need to feel sexual attraction – what’s important is communication, understanding, and consent.