Are you a journalist looking to write an article explaining how you can tell if you’re allosexual? Or perhaps you’re researching to write about arosexuals, cupiosexuals, frayromantics, dreamsexuals, abrosexuals, hyposexuals, lithsexuals, or beyond?
The short version for busy journalists
In general these articles are riddled with inaccuracies, and demonstrate a lack of understanding of the context of the labels they cover. For example, “allosexual” is simply an outgroup label for people who aren’t on the asexual spectrum. When an article for general audiences tries to explain how to tell if you’re allosexual, it sounds like a deliberate role reversal, a parody.
Most of the other labels I listed are obscure at best. The asexual and aromantic spectrum communities have workshopped many ideas for identity labels, and not all of them are ready to be written by outsider journalists. Perhaps some of these words are loved by some people, and some of them will become popular in the future, I’m not ruling anything out. But I don’t think it’s correct for you to “take the mic” if you don’t have any knowledge of asexual and aromantic communities, and don’t interview anyone from those communities. It comes across as speaking over people with little voice of their own, for cynical SEO purposes.
What is an honest journalist to do? To find terms that are obscure but not too obscure, one possible source is the Ace Community Survey questionnaires (disclosure: I work for the Ace Community Survey). There isn’t a definitive cutoff for when a term is too obscure to write about, but my advice is that if you have trouble finding any information beyond a definition and a flag, then maybe you don’t have enough to write an article. I recommend asking around activist orgs such as Asexual Outreach, AVEN, AUREA, and TAAAP, or around online communities. They might provide some context on your subject or research, or they may even suggest directions that most journalists haven’t thought of.
I would advise away from medical experts, who often don’t know much about asexual/aromantic-adjacent labels. I don’t recommend the LGBTQIA+ wiki as a source, because it contains a lot of dated articles with dubious sourcing. And definitely don’t trust other clickbait-quality articles written by journalists who didn’t talk to any community members.
Story time: Unintentional parodies and unhelpful PR representatives
Part of the role of this blog is to aggregate the best articles on asexuality, so I have ways of keeping tabs on new articles that come out. Back in April I noted a curious article titled “Are You Allosexual? Here’s What It Means—and How to Tell”. It reads like it comes from a parallel universe where asexuality is the default, and questioning people wonder if just maybe they’re not asexual after all.
If you’re having difficulty determining if you feel sexual attraction, Siegel suggests asking yourself questions like these:
- Do I enjoy the thought of sex, and do I want to experience it?
- And, if I am thinking about sex with a particular person, how far am I willing to go?
I kept on looking for some indication that this article was a satire, but all signs point to its sincerity. The article doesn’t contain overt inaccuracies, but it clearly misunderstood the context of the word it’s talking about.
Later in August, I found another article that took the same idea and ran with it. “Dating Allosexuals – If You’re Ready, They are” appeared in the corporate blog of Taimi–a dating app that I absolutely cannot recommend. Like the other article, it appears to have misunderstood that allosexuality is the default. It goes even further by inaccurately characterizing allosexuality as the polar opposite of asexuality, and bizarrely contrasts allosexuals with alloromantics, even though most allosexuals are also alloromantic:
First of all, allosexuals are all about sex and sexual attraction. They are in direct contrast to alloromantics who are focused on romantic and emotional attachments.
I thought that since it was a corporate blog, they might be persuaded to take this awful article down, out of concern for their own reputation. So I actually sent a message to their PR. The PR representative politely said they would speak to the content team, and then nothing happened. The PR representative then asked me if I would like to write an article on how to date allosexuals.
As you can see, our blog is mostly dedicated to dating topics, and it was really difficult to find information on the allosexual relationships agenda. But we are open to ideas to improve the content.
The first PR representative went on vacation, so a second PR representative contacted me… to ask again if I wanted to write an article! Infuriating! Nasty content farmers, they are.
The breaking point in low quality journalism
I’ve spent many years keeping track of articles on asexuality, which includes a large number that are “Everything you need to know about [obscure label]”. These articles are pretty low quality in the best of times, but increasingly I’ve felt that they not only contain inaccuracies, but also misrepresent the context of the terms they discuss.
To use one label as an example, I can imagine a good article on frayromantics, that’s not outside the realm of possibility. In the 2020 Aro Census, 114 people identified as frayromantic, compared to 6999 who identified as aromantic/aro. In other words, it’s not a totally dead identity label, it’s just fairly uncommon. That might be worth writing articles about, especially if you can find a frayromantic person to interview.
However, low quality articles explaining frayromanticism are conveying the wrong impression to readers about what kind of word it is. Frayromantic is defined by having romantic feelings towards someone, that get weaker as you grow more connected to them. But not everyone with that experience is going to find value in the word “frayromantic”, because it’s hard to make use of an identity label that nobody else understands. So words like “frayromantic” tend to be used in relatively narrow contexts, such as in aromantic communities, where more people would be familiar with its meaning. It’s also common to copy prefixes to different suffixes, for instance “frayromantic” to “fraysexual”. In some cases, new words formed by prefix-transfer are largely theoretical, and you have to check whether they’re actually in use.
This is rather complicated, yet only the tip of the iceberg. Each of the other words has its own thing going on. I don’t want to make a blanket assertion that articles explaining [obscure label] are bad—sometimes there really is something to talk about. But if you’re a journalist with no expertise, no ability to recognize expertise, and no time for deeper investigation, you’re the wrong person to be writing that article.
When it’s an article about frayromanticism, I give it a side-eye; but when it’s an article about allosexuality, I give it howls of laughter. My interaction with Taimi’s PR representative, that was my breaking point. My faith in these journalists is at an all time low. They’re frustrated by the lack of information on “the allosexual relationships agenda”, but haven’t stopped to consider that there might be a good reason for that? These writers don’t know what they’re talking about, and they don’t care.
So that’s why this article is titled, “How to tell if you’re allosexual, if you’re a journalist”. If a journalist is doing research for an article on allosexuality, and lands on this page, that’s precisely the kind of journalist who desperately needs some course correction.
I don’t know if journalists will actually find this, or if it will only be seen by regular readers. If you are a journalist who found this in the course of your research, I’d love to hear from you!
What is abrosexuality? We asked abrosexual people to explain – Here is an example of an actually good article about one of the obscure labels. What places this article a head above the rest is that they went to the abrosexuality subreddit and asked around.
Gray Asexuality in mainstream media – Gray-asexuality gets a lot less representation in media despite being much more common than most of the other terms mentioned here. So if you’re interested in covering relatively unknown identity labels, please check your own blind spots.
Autochorissexual: A sesquipedalian examination – This is an article I wrote about a lesser-known identity label, aegosexuality aka autochorissexualism. I include plenty of historical context, and a discussion of why people choose to adopt this label.
Labels must be allowed to die – This is my article directed at activists, who have a bad habit of preserving obscure labels in permanent resources without checking whether they’re still in circulation, or providing meaningful context. I think many journalists are now inheriting these errors.