Psychology, Asexuality and Aromanticism

Originally posted on Tumblr but reposted here for archiving. Please note that my views may have changed since this was first posted.

Alternate title: I should pay more attention in class

I had two psychology lessons today (I know; I’m blessed), and instead of thinking about what we were actually being taught, I let my mind wander to ways in which it could all be used and abused to explain aro and ace folks. There are definitely people in this community who are more knowledgeable about this sort of stuff, but I figured I’d talk about it anyway since I missed half my lesson(s) for it. Under the cut because I do love a psychological rant (like this one).

I got thinking about it first of all in Child Development. I’m currently learning about attachment in babies. Supposedly (I have some sort of innate skepticism for anything child-development related, don’t ask why), children get attached to their care-givers because this teaches them how relationships should be. They get this ‘internal working model’ of how a relationship should work by observing and living the attachment with their care-giver, and if this attachment isn’t just right, the baby has a skewed view. There’s a critical period of around three to six months where, if a baby doesn’t form an attachment, they’ll find it pretty much impossible to form healthy relationships when they get older.

My first thought was, as soon as aromanticism gets enough traction for the media to notice it, this is the first thing they’re going to attribute it to. ‘Sure, you have a lot of really close friendships, but you don’t feel romantic attraction, so your mother must not have loved you enough.’ Which obviously makes no sense, right? Romantic attraction isn’t related to your ability to form attachments to people. But it got me thinking anyways. Psychology is a complicated topic – humans are a complicated topic, and I wonder whether a lot of little things such as our parents not having a perfect bond with us, or even just the amount of TV we watch, could have an overall effect on parts of our beings.

Which brings me onto lesson two, which was about the main arguments in psychology. One of those arguments is reductionism versus holism – or, should we look at everything about a person to find a cause for things or should we focus down on one tiny thing and forget the bigger picture. Generally, psychologists break things down, simply because the big picture is just too darn big for us to learn anything from. Breaking things down doesn’t work perfectly – there’s always someone who doesn’t fit the mold, such as people who don’t seem to have high dopamine in their brain even though schizophrenia is often suggested to be caused by too much dopamine, and there’s always the worry (in personal areas such as sexual and romantic orientation, especially) that people are going to be offended by the suggestion that their lives are controlled by this specific thing. I imagine that a lot of people, like myself, feel a little bit uneasy at the idea that I’ve even suggested that attachment is in any way related to aromanticism (sorry about that, by the way). We live in an age when psychology is still relatively knew, and the idea that there’s an almost definitive cause for who we are still creeps us out.

Another main argument is nature versus nurture, which I imagine a lot of people are familiar with. I’m not as up-to-date as I would like to be with sexuality research, but I’m guessing this is the kind of area most of it is in, and why I think asexuality is so important for people to know about. Freud once suggested that (male) homosexuality was caused by not having a male role model early in life (ah yes, that’s why I dislike child-development; it’s so heavily based on psychoanalysis). That’s the only nurture explanation for sexuality that I can think of, but there are so many different biological (nature) theories for sexuality, and I think asexuality could be the defining element to help researchers find a greater understanding of sexuality as a whole. As a quick example, anything genetically based (unless there’s a lot of genes involved), can be thrown out relatively quickly because the majority of us don’t have sex and so wouldn’t pass on any asexuality gene (note: if anyone tells you that asexuality is nature’s way of sorting out over-population, tell them they’re an idiot). Homosexuality, of course, can also be used to dispute the evolutionary arguments, but asexuality gives a lot more fuel to the fire. There are a lot of studies into things such as testosterone in the womb that look super exciting, and hopefully more research into asexuality will help these theories grow (in fact, a study has already suggested that asexuals might have been subjected to similar amounts of chemicals in the womb as homsexuals [compared to straight folks]).

Tl;dr? Science. (Psychologists need to do more studies into sexuality, and asexuality could help with that. I need to stop day-dreaming about things that don’t have a scientific explanation yet because I get excited and rant).

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