426: Relationship Orientation

Do you differentiate sexual orientation and relationship orientation?

Show notes and links:

Full episode script

Around the early 2000s, an idea started emerging that among the differentiation of personal identities, sexual orientation and romantic — or relationship — orientation were two distinct and different things. When I first asked this question, relationship orientation was one of the terms I had heard more often. Since then, I’ve done quite a bit of research and realized that this question could have been worded more accurately.

Quoting from both Wikipedia and the asexual wiki:

Romantic orientation, also called affectional orientation, indicates the sex or gender with which a person is most likely to have a romantic relationship or fall in love. It is used both alternatively and side-by-side with the term sexual orientation, and is based on the perspective that sexual attraction is but a single component of a larger dynamic.

There is extensive debate both in and out of the queer theory community about this differentiation. It becomes especially important to provide this differentiation when considering sexual orientations such as asexuality, when romantic and relationship orientation become central.

Then again, it also throws into question the idea that sex and relationships are inexorably tied together. Which I don’t necessarily think is a bad thing. As Gwendolyn Wilkins wrote in Offbeat Bride about her marriage as a person who is asexual:

No, we’re not the most romantic couple in the world. We don’t tell each other “I wub you!” every moment of every day. But when people see us together they can see our connection, our ease and comfort in each other’s presence. It’s not sexual love that binds us together — it’s something else… I hesitate to say “deeper,” but that’s what it feels like.

This script may vary from the actual episode transcript.