Valentine’s day is the ultimate celebration of romantic love; flowers, chocolate and overt displays of affection. For some people, this day of love is insignificant; for some others who do buy into the holiday spirit, heteronormativity prevents them from basking in the full glory of the day.
However, romance and relationships mean different things to different individuals as their varying lifestyles lead to multiple ways to perceive and experience things like love and romance differently.
For Valentine’s Day, Document Women spoke to two people on their perception of romantic love and relationships to explore non-traditional ideologies on love and romance.
22-year-old Ayo is asexual and, her opinion on Valentine? “Don’t love it, disinterested. The whole romance thing doesn’t agree with me; I like the chocolate though.”
The term asexuality describes someone who has never had sexual attraction for others. This is related to aromanticism, which refers to a person who does not experience any romantic attraction. Approximately 70 million people identify as asexual, about 1.7 per cent of the world’s population.
Ayo does not care for romantic love and believes that the overemphasis on it is damaging and diminishes non-romantic love.
‘”As an ace person not interested in dating/romance, the world’s messaging that the only valid relationships are sexual/romantic is extremely alienating. For the longest time; before discovering asexuality, I thought that something was wrong. Even now, I’m not as comfortable in my identity because of how much romance, specifically heteronormative romance, is pushed. There’s still way too much of the attitude that not desiring sexual/romantic relationships is weird or wrong.”
Friendships aren’t valued as much as romantic relationships and they are seen as less intimate even when that is often not the case.
“When the only love that’s seen as valid is romantic, it leads to platonic love being seen as lesser, as a “stepping stone” to romance. See the “friendzone” concept for example, like friendship in itself, isn’t valuable.”
The expectation that platonic intimacy should lead to romance or be doomed into staying in a “lesser” relationship, re: friendzone is arbitrary.
Temi is 19-years-old, polyamorous and queer and; they believe that their perspective on romantic love and sexual attraction as a queer person is vastly different from that of a non-queer person as well as their polyamorous perspective.
“I think romantic love is beautiful, amazing and can be many things to many people. I think it is also overrated. People think romantic love is the best love there is; the height of love, but I don’t think so. Romantic love does not rank higher than any of the other forms of love I have experienced.”
Temi does not believe that sexual attraction is an integral part of romantic relationships; they believe that relationships can do without it. They also do not believe that romantic love must compulsorily be between two people in a monogamous, exclusive relationship.
“Most people think of romantic love as a singular experience but as a polyamorous person, I express and experience romantic love in streams and I can pursue relationships with multiple people at the same time. People tend to conflate sexual attraction with romantic love but I believe they are very separate from one another and they do not always come together. Sexual attraction is not necessary and does not make romantic love any more fulfilling for me.”
Polyamorists experience romantic and sexual love with more than one partner. However, the narrative of romantic love has led to the depiction of those who practise polyamory in a less than favourable light. They tend to be considered promiscuous, and dissatisfied.
We subconsciously look at love, sex and romance through the lenses of patriarchal, heteronormative ideals, society’s default setting. We must realise, however, that there is no default setting for romantic expressions and relationships and that romantic love is not the height of all love.