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What is the meaning of amorous versus romantic?

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Aug 18, 2023

What is the meaning of amorous versus romantic?
  • You may have heard of being polyamorous or the lesser known monoamorous, but have you ever considered the meaning of that root word, “amorous”? 

    Being or feeling amorous isn’t just an afterthought of gushy affection and attraction. It’s not only an effort to seem well-read, more committed, or a lurvvv professional. In the vast spectrum of how people (and queers) love, connect with, and pleasure each other, feeling and being amorous is a (relevant and valid) world in itself. 

    Let’s explore the meaning of amorous, how amorous connections may look on dating apps and beyond, and where amorous affection has already shown up in pop culture. Onwards! 

    The true definition of amorous 

    Amorous queer wlw nuzzling foreheads at a fancy dinner

    Source: Pride

    According to Merriam-Webster, “amorous” means “strongly moved by love and especially sexual love” or “being in love” (as in, enamored). Varying slightly, defines it as “inclined or disposed to love” or “showing or expressing love.” 

    Doesn’t sound so surprising or special, right? I sat puzzling on it for a few minutes myself, but here’s what I’ve come up with. 

    Consider how there are stages of a relationship, however long or short, happy or disastrous. Not even the world’s army of lesbians, sapphos, and wlw come rushing into domesticity, achieving perfect marital harmony and bliss on the second date (no matter how hard we try). We all begin somewhere, along stretches where romantic commitments and sexual interests vary, and our feelings follow their gorgeous path to bloom.

    “Amorous” doesn’t reflect certain sexual activity (ace connections can also be amorous) or a declaration of being a nympho. It’s not strictly the beginning of a bonafide relationship or the dating period just before you reach “girlfriend” status. 

    It is any connection or any expression where you get butterflies or feel all the feels hearing your magic words. It is the experience of having a crush or of being super flirty and physically intimate with your lover. It is excitement in the face of a pending or continuing romance.

    Diving deeper into amorous?

    The word “amorous” comes from the Latin root “amor,” which means love, but the Greeks had a very explicit way of referencing this essential human experience. 

    Basically, “love” isn’t the same across the range of connections we may feel. Some love can be equated to feelings during sexy time, some love is shared between close friends, and still other love is the classic romance between happy long-term partners.

    All that is to say, what do you want to say when you’re referencing something or someone as “loving”? If you’re wanting to use “amorous” in that sentence, think more in the direction of passionate, sensual, and sexual rather than romantic, to be most specific.

    Then, what is the difference between amorous and romantic? 

    “Amorous” and “romantic” are often used interchangeably, but as I just said, there is a distinction between the two if you want to be precise in how you express your affection. 

    “Amorous” signifies intense desires and attractions, sometimes sexual, shaping romantic and non—romantic relationships. On the other hand, “romantic” pertains to affection with a strong emotional bond, which can include physical intimacy. In romantic relationships, the focus leans heavily on emotions, differentiating from amorous connections.

    “Amorous” and “romantic” aren’t mutually exclusive. Couples who share romance can also be amorous in how they feel about each other or express their affections, and someone can be as much amorous in how they relate with people and future partners as they are romantic when someone’s stolen their heart. 

    Dating as an amorous queer

    Amorous queer women with a deep connection embracing and sharing a tender moment

    Source: Dancing With Her

    You may be wondering how all this practically relates to you. You’re just looking for a hot makeout sesh, an adorable date, or a snuggly partner; you are good vibes only and love being loving. 

    Well, that’s the thing. Even if you don’t explicitly use “amorous” in your arsenal of labels, all of the above desires and interests (and much more!) fall under that category. If you describe yourself as a romantic, passionate lover, dreamer, or even slut, “amorous” might also be a good adjective for you. 

    How could that play out in practice? You log into HER, start swiping through, and 4-5 cuties catch your eye. They each excite and inspire you for different reasons – because of their prowess with Nietsche, their love of Battlestar Galactica, their apparent fine taste in 1928 blues music, and the way their hair falls over their shoulders in every picture.

    Your feelings are a mosaic; you tell them truthfully, ardently, and enthusiastically. You haven’t decided where a relationship will go, but you want to move one forward nonetheless. Most find your candor flattering and charming; one finds you a little overbearing and politely moves on. 

    You start sending links and gifs as you chat because you think they’d enjoy them based on your conversations. When you meet, you’re primarily attentive to being respectful and consensual. Still, after they confirm their openness, you become a little more physical on the second date – a light brush on their arm, a firm touch on their shoulder, a cheeky trace along their lower thigh. 

    Maybe you do, or maybe you don’t fall wildly in love forever, but what’s clear is that you walk this path with attentive, kind, and sensual affection firmly in your heart.

    Expressions of amorous love in media

    Amorous lesbian couple in The Fosters talking and lounging affectionately in bed

    Source: The New York Times

    Amorous expression, affection, and influence show up worldwide, from that one devoted movie character who moves heaven and earth to support their beloved to the relationship-obsessed teenager trope complete with daily locker love notes.  

    Our culture is moved by amorous love, and here are just a few examples where it shows up: 

    • Amorous – Four young people escape the city chaos of London to find a new way of collaborative and authentic living, one open, passionate, and freely sexual among them. During the movie, they experiment with their sexuality and let their amorous feelings guide their way forward.
    • Vicky Cristina Barcelona – This classic movie (of my own virginal and pre-polyam days) portrays the over-the-top rises and ravaging falls of amorous feelings left, apparently, unchecked. It covers all the steamy basics – threesomes, polyamory, bi-discovery, amorous Spanish fire – and takes us on a ridiculous and sensual train wreck of the protagonists’ lives from start to finish.
    • You Me Her – This Netflix show is a personal favorite of mine (season 1 was the best), following the story of a suburban couple-turned-throuple when the amorous Izzy enters their lives. What begins as an attempt to spice up their sex life escalates into an abundance of feelings so thick no one can think (or function) clearly. A humorous take on the push-and-pull between amorous and romantic. 
    • Amorous” by Brides of Funkenstein – This song is the funkiest, most melodic, and clearest definition of “amorous” you could ask for. Check out the lyrics as you groove with this retro tune.  

    Amorous, romantic, whatever you call yourself – the point is that you love to love, and you’re probably a respectably wonderful lover. And… we all know that with great power comes great responsibility. Go on, share your gifts – we’re all waiting for you 😉 

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    Jillian Gogel is a writer and editor living her queer futchy dream life in Berlin. When not writing for clients, she is sharing her poetry and building intimate, creative, queer-celebrating community on her Joy Journeys Substack publication (@jillianjoy). She cares about dogs, yoga, sexual liberation, and holding space for exploring self-intimacy in all ways.

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