Remodeling: on the Reclamation of the Term “Split Attraction Model”

This is a post about the ace and aro communities’ reclamation of the term “split attraction model” from the most recent anti-ace online harassment wave, picking back up on the discussion from here. A quick recap of that post: romantic orientation & differentiating types of attraction are not the same thing, and “split attraction model” is an anti-ace-derived piece of terminology that lumps the two of them together. For that reason, I’m here referring to ace & aro use of the phrase as a type of reclamation, in that it was imposed on us from the outside and now some have adopted it.

In this post, I do some more thinking out loud about the semantic work that the phrase “split attraction model” does and does not accomplish. The post has roughly three main parts. First, I share some of my understanding of why the term surfaced in the first place, in order to contextualize how it’s been reclaimed and is used now in the present. Second, as a response to that, I’ve present five narratives to complicate the resulting binary. Third, I’ve got some tentative suggestions for finding a way forward.

Here’s a rough timeline to explain my understanding of why the phrase exists:

  • Most of the asexual community hails from Western nations where, generally speaking, “orientation” is used interchangeably with “sexual orientation;” there is only the one orientation, and this (sexual) orientation is generally presumed to be a supercategory over an individual’s romantic interests. Note that this is not how it works everywhere in Japan, for instance, the word for “same-sex love” is closer to our ideas of romance than of sexuality.
  • When the contemporary asexual community formed around the late 90s/early 00s, however, some aces discussed how this formulation did not work for them. That is, some of them did experience crushes and want to date — making their romantic interest category larger than their sexuality, so to speak. And so, although not the first to do this, they resolved this apparent contradiction when they came up with their own language for the idea of “romantic orientation.” “Romantic orientation” could explain how some but not all aces could be “aromantic” and others could have more familiar orientations in conjunction with asexuality (such as gay, bi, hetero, etc.). This also eventually caused its own problems when every ace started getting presumed to have a romantic orientation, leading to the creation of the wtfromantic umbrella in response.
  • Tumblr started getting popular, for reasons I’ll leave to somebody else to explain.
  • 2011 happened.
  • 2011… kept happening. 2011 never stopped happening. A bunch of tumblrite baby aces were never even told that these waves had been happening since 2011, and also the names for it got lousier.
  • As a part of the 2015 iteration, as I talked about in the previous post, anti-ace tumblr antagonists (and this was initially, before they had seemed to even notice aros) gradually formulated the term “split attraction model” to talk about their objections to ace language. “Split attraction model” does not appear to have ever been granted a formal definition. Its primary purpose was to say “you’re saying [insert ace concept here — and there were several] applies to everyone.” That universalizing factor was, yes, an original, baked-in part of the definition of “split attraction model;” some antagonists even made a distinction between “split attraction” (which was fine) and “the split attraction model” (which conceived of “split attraction” as universal).
  • Based on what’s happened since and how the phrase has proliferated, I have to infer there was a step in between early 2015 and today: that some contingent of tumblr aces and/or aros must have responded to the attacks by accepting the phrase “split attraction model” and simply saying, “no, it doesn’t apply to everyone, just some of us.”
  • This means that, as a consequence of that rhetorical move, now you’ve got a situation where folks have accepted a model that sorts aces and aros according to “those who use the SAM” and those who “find the SAM doesn’t work for them.” That is, people (especially people who use tumblr) are using “SAM” and “non-SAM” as identifiers for a corresponding category of people.

This would be fine if “split attraction model” were ever a coherent idea in the first place, but it wasn’t. This would still also be fine if it had been thoroughly redefined into a coherent idea for classification purposes, but I’m not convinced it’s done that either. I’ve talked before in the previous post about how “SAM or non-SAM” has been imposed on me, and so some of my irritation here is personal.

With that said, I understand better now from talking to others that the term has stuck around for another reason besides just inertia. “Non-SAM” (moreso than “SAM”) is performing certain semantic work. I’ve come around to the perspective that that work is important. My hangup is this: I’m not convinced that the phrase, itself, is a good tool for that work. Or in other words, I think the reclamation process and how we choose to repurpose these ideas needs to be reassessed and then remodeled accordingly. “SAM” and “non-SAM,” themselves, as they are currently being used, are not yet sufficient — which is to say, as they are currently being used, the definitions involve too much conflation for the binary itself to remain coherent.

Here are five narratives to complicate the “SAM”/”non-SAM” binary. Note that in this post I’m using “orientation” to refer to a way of conceptualizing and describing raw experience, not the raw experience itself. Read through the list and see if you can determine who out of these hypothetical narratives would belong in which category.

  1. Flint experiences multiple kinds of attraction and labels ixself in terms of one orientation. Ix orientation is gray-asexual, and ix does not think of ixself as having any other orientations than that. Flint finds it useful to differentiate among types of physical attraction — such as aesthetic, sensual, and sexual — as distinct experiences, and ix places a high importance on the language necessary to make this distinction. However, ix does not use multiple sets of orientation labels to go with every type of attraction ix does or does not experience. Ix soley self-describes as gray-asexual.
  2. Ven experiences multiple kinds of attraction and and has multiple labels for what he prefers to think of as one orientation. He is gray-asexual, and he also self-describes as grayromantic. He understands these to be a part of one singular, integrated orientation, rather than simply a “matched set” of two different ones, because for him that is how it is experienced. This makes it uncomfortable to him that the two communities are split accordingly, and in that context, he would prefer to have language to express that for him, his orientation is felt as all one singular whole. While he does experience aesthetic attraction which he recognizes as distinct from romantic or sexual feelings, he strongly feels that romance & sexuality are not separate for him.
  3. Alex experiences one kind of attraction and self-describes with three different orientation labels. Their romantic orientation is aromantic, their sexual orientation is asexual, and their sensual orientation is demisensual. They experience these as three distinct identities and find aromantic the most salient of the three, although they also find sensual orientation language to be very important to them. The one type of attraction that they experience is sensual attraction, not differentiated from anything else in their own experience (because it is the only kind they actually feel) but nonetheless distinguished from how their society generally talks about attraction, which tends to be alienating to them as an aro ace.
  4. Luna experiences one type of attraction and self-describes in terms of one orientation. For Luna, the concepts of “romance” and “sexuality” are too frustrating to apply to herself one way or another, and so, if pressed, she’ll self-label as both quoisexual and quoiromantic to express that she does not find romantic or sexual orientation to be useful ideas. The one type of attraction she is sure she experiences and relates to in a useful way is some type of maybe-platonic-maybe-not emotional attraction. She is interested in exploring labels such as biplatonic or bialterous, and while she hasn’t settled on a particular label just yet, this is what she thinks of as being her orientation. Making sure that people are clear on & understand the differences between this orientation and a romantic or sexual orientation is what’s most important to her about conveying this aspect of her experience.
  5. Mal experiences no attraction and describes their orientation with two different labels, as a way of expressing a connection to two communities. They identify primarily as asexual, but in the past they also identified more with bisexuality, and they continue to do so today. Although they do not have a romantic orientation and do not identify as anything “-romantic,” they continue to feel like a part of the bi community and relate to “bisexual” as an important part of their identity for expressing their openness to & personal history of partnering with people of more than one gender. For them, this does not describe two different “types” of orientation, along distinct romantic/sexual axes. Rather, for them this counts as “one” orientational identity — an identity they think of as being “beyond the gay/straight binary” — and they simply have two names for it.

Which of these people are “SAM” and “non-SAM”?

Is it the ones with a romantic orientation vs. the ones without? Is it the ones who experience more than one type of attraction vs. the ones who don’t? Is it the ones with more than one type of orientation label vs. the ones with just one? Is it the ones who view romance & sexuality as distinct for themselves vs. the ones who don’t? Is it the ones who experience some type of nonromantic attraction vs. the ones who don’t or the ones who experience some type of nonsexual attraction vs. the ones who don’t or–

I don’t think people usually bother with all this detail. It’s been my impression — from how I’ve seen people deploy it on Tumblr, Arocalypse, and AVEN — that people mostly just use “split attraction model” to mean romantic orientation. Yet this would imply that the idea of “differentiating types of attraction” is only relevant for aces with a romantic orientation, or that romantic orientation is the only kind of orientation derived from “splitting” attraction, or that aces who have a “matched” romantic-sexual orientation necessarily don’t experience more than one type of attraction, and any number of other things you could pull out here from the conflation of concepts. It’s a mess. It was never intended to be anything less than a mess, because the entire idea from the beginning was that “split attraction model” was supposed to name something overreaching and absurdly reductive.

The “split attraction model” was not coined, theorized, or designed to address all the variations in experiences I described in the five narratives above. It was coined to criticize aces. It was coined to give a sweeping label to ace language, condensing it all into one bunch, and defined in universalizing terms so that it could be rejected as such.

For the record, though, I don’t think it makes talking about any of the above narratives too complicated or impossible. These narratives aren’t unworkably complex, and you don’t need the words “split attraction model” to talk about them. We’ve been using our own language for some of these ideas before 2015, after all. We just need to go back to the parts that actually worked and add onto them from more solid foundations than “SAM and non-SAM” can provide.

We can say things like: for some people, it makes more sense to say that they have more than one type of orientation. In addition to or even instead of “sexual orientation,” some people use other orientation labels. One of the more common of these is “romantic orientation,” although it is not the only one. There are also people who don’t find those to be useful ideas, and there are people who experience their orientation more as an integrated, singular thing. The suffix of an orientational identity label doesn’t even necessarily correspond strictly to one specific type of attraction.

We can say things like: there are multiple names for different types of attraction. Some people find using the more specific names useful, and some people experience attraction in ways that they prefer more general names for or experience in close conjunction with each other. You can also experience a type of attraction without thinking of it in terms of an orientation. Some of the names for attraction types that people use are sexual, sensual, physical, aesthetic, emotional, romantic, and more. Just because you use some of those names doesn’t mean you have to use all the others.

We don’t need the phrase “split attraction model” for any of that.

To the extent that the term “split attraction model” itself has served a purpose, its purpose has been to talk about a dynamic around the idea of “romantic orientation” as first formulated by the early ace community. Not only have aces presumed that all aces have a “romantic orientation,” but also, they started talking about “romantic orientation” and “sexual orientation” as separable for everyone. This is a niche particular community norm. It needs to be addressed and shut down as a community norm. But just as the perpetuation of the “romantic orientation” norm for aces continues to make quoiromanticism relevant, the continued existence of this “split”-orientation community norm makes salient a need to mark its inapplicability.

That is, “split attraction model” may have started out as an anti-ace measure, and that’s what’s shaped my impression of the term the most, but I’ve also heard from greys and aroaces who need a way to express that cohesion to their orientation as not something made of such distinctly separate parts.

So let’s talk about some different ways about talking these issues. I’m taking a page from Queenie’s 2014 post on prioritizing identity as a source of inspiration here — which you can think of as a kind of precursor to this post, in that it was responding to some very similar dynamics circulating the year just before the term “split attraction model” took root.

Here are at least 5 different norms & relationships to those norms to think about [updated 3/28]:

1) ORIENTATION LANGUAGE: This is the norm of using the word “orientation” as a part of how to talk and think about particular ways of desiring, connecting, and relating to other people. Not everyone uses or wants to use orientation language at all. And even among those who do, they don’t all use the same models, definitions, types, or categories; using orientation language for one thing or in one way doesn’t necessarily entail using it for every conceivable experience of interpersonal desire or attraction. The degree to which orientation language feels right or applicable to different people for different feelings will vary. And again, some people may prefer to stay away from using it at all. 

2) COMPOSITE SEXUAL ORIENTATION: This is the Western composite norm of thinking of “orientation” in the singular, where “sexual orientation” is synonymous/interchangeable with “orientation” in general, where romance & sexuality are intertwined, and where one’s pool of romantic interests is integrated with one’s sexuality. One’s relationship to this norm can be thought of as a scale ranging from “convergent” to “divergent.” The more you prefer this way of modeling your orientation, the more you could say your relationship to this norm is more convergent. The more you feel alienated from this norm or want to distance yourself from it, the more you could say your relationship to this norm is more divergent. Those are just the extremes, though; think of this as a sliding scale.

3) ROMANTIC ORIENTATION/SEXUAL ORIENTATION DYAD: This is the aro & ace communities’ norm of talking about “romantic orientation” and “sexual orientation” (RO SO) as two things that aros and aces have. In other words, we are expected to have a “romantic orientation” box and a “sexual orientation” box, and we are expected to apply labels to or some how fit our experiences into those boxes, making ourselves legible under this framework. The more you relate to this norm (RO SO) as an applicable and useful framework for yourself, the more you could describe your identity as “rosol.” The more you feel alienated from this norm or want to distance yourself from it, the more you could describe your identity as more out of alignment with this dyad, or “non-rosol.” Think of this as a sliding scale with plenty of room in between for those whose relationship to this norm is ambivalent or apathetic.

4) ONLY ONE OR TWO TYPES OF ORIENTATION: This is the norm of thinking and speaking of “orientation” language as something that only, strictly pertains to either sex, romance, or both. One’s relationship to this norm is strong when you think of all your orientations as making reference to romance and/or sex in some fashion. One’s relationship to this norm is more alienated or distant the less you think of your orientation (or one of your orientational identities) as being “about” the canon categories (of sex or romance). With reference to this norm, we might think of romantic and sexual orientations as the more “orthodox” types, and we might think of other kinds of orientation (like sensual, aesthetic, affectionate, etc.) as more “unorthodox.”

5) ORIENTATIONS BY AXIS: This is the norm especially prevalent in the ace & aro communities that all orientations must be specified along a specific axis, such as romanticism, sexuality, sensuality, platonism, alterity, and so on. Under this norm we are expected to “map” every orientation label along a specific axis on a grid. One’s relationship to this norm is stronger the more that all of your orientations align with a specific axis (or bundle of axes) and the more you feel comfortable with this way of sorting and defining your orientational identities. These are identities that we might describe as more “axial.” One’s relationship to this norm is more alienated or more distant the more you do not subscribe to this framework. The less you bind or map your identity to this norm, the more you might describe that identity as “non-axial.” Again, think of this as a sliding scale.

These different relationships to labeling norms may not perfectly describe everybody. What they do accomplish, I think, is getting away from the SAM/Non-SAM dichotomy, which is good because of the problems with it I hinted at in the five narratives above: its conflation of attraction with orientation plus its centering of romantic & sexual as the only important kinds of attraction being “split” from each other. The drawing of these four scales, on the other hand, makes space to acknowledge more than two types of orientations, and it doesn’t presume that anyone who “splits” romantic & sexual orientation necessarily does so in order to have one of each.

Right now I am still thinking of these ideas as a work in progress. So in that spirit, you are invited to further its progress. Do you see yourself as fitting anywhere among these scales? Do you spot any problems with how I have described them? Me, I’m only saying one thing for sure, and that’s that I’m sick of people over-extrapolating inapplicable specific narratives about what it means to not have a romantic orientation.


74 responses to “Remodeling: on the Reclamation of the Term “Split Attraction Model”

  • epochryphal

    This definitely reminds me how much I relate to other people like you and Elizabeth writing about being “grey; just- grey” as a kinda holistic feeling. Which I thiiink is your group 1?

    Also I finally searched my blog and yeah didn’t find anything on the SAM until August 2015, when I posted a Clarification To Mutuals which means I was seeing shit on my dash, and I explained the terms vari-oriented and peri-oriented, which thus must’ve already existed, which is fascinating to me as the post you linked is from May 2015.

    Relatedly, I’m super interested in talking about the usefulness / inapplicability / etc of vari- and peri-oriented. I certainly think peri-oriented might connote experiencing them as semi-separate-but-matching, but idk if that’s a broad feeling or not.

    • Coyote

      That could fit group one, yes. I don’t want to make it sound too prescriptive, though (of “if this, then this”). I even think there could be some room for fluidity between groups one and three, depending on whether the convergent or divergent experience is more salient at any given time… but I might need to hear from more people on that.

      Re: vari-oriented and peri-oriented — that does seem like an ancestral idea, in a way. Also,… I’m realizing that I’d assumed those terms weren’t around much anymore, but then again, Tost just used them yesterday in a thread I’m in, so whaddyaknow.

      If there’s a distinction between that language and the way that I’m thinking here, it’s that the vari/peri descriptors seem to… still, presume more than one? As in, presume more than one orientation. I don’t know where you’d put me on that map as someone who has a sexual orientation but not a romantic one. Plus, this would seem to go against what Yarrow and Siggy have said about “implying a split that isn’t really there” for themselves. To the extent that I can address this, I’d like to do so without implying a “split” orientation is necessary multiple ones.

    • odannygirl7

      FWIW, re vari and peri history, I’ve got the tumblr thread it was coined on, or at least, thought about and reported on. I replied to panpuru (who’s now deactivated) in late 2013 (saying that I currently was using “the traditional model and the mixed orientation model” to describe having matched/mixed identities), and then in early 2014 here http://nethenclawpuff.tumblr.com/post/78987069814/panpuru-panpuru-ughgh-ok-we-seriously-need Nethenclawpuff reblogs with the coining, attributed to Sarah/sparebear, (but I can’t find a post on that tumblr).

      (I’m gonna be, like, forever cheesed that exclusionists were basically allowed to erase/replace existing terminology, lol)

      (also, these focused on romantic/sexual split because, from what I remember, from 2011 and onward making “orientations” out of the other attractions had pretty much been beaten out of the community. The whole “you’re not queer for having friends” deal and whatever. Romantic and Sexual attraction were viewed as the only acceptable “orientation” attractions)

  • The Apathetic Echidna

    Why do you keep putting all the big good articles here? I am probably going to answer you an Arocalypse anyway but my post there is huge enough already.

    And I know you wrote this before you read that, but as this is a ‘work in progress’ I’m going to say I have a few issues understanding when you mean ‘orientation’ to mean someone’s experience of life and when you mean ‘orientation’ to refer to the labels people use to identify themselves. In your 4 circles bolded text and I to understand ‘pieces’ to mean their internal experience of their orientation and the word ‘orientation’ to mean their label?

    as for veri-/peri-orientated, I think it deserves it’s own conversation but I am super glad that you have used divergent and convergent here. On Arocalypse there are a few older members keeping the terms alive and newer members are picking them up (when I think they should be buried and stored as un-useful historical terms)

    • Coyote

      Why do you keep putting all the big good articles here?

      Because… it’s my blog? I’m not sure how to answer this lol. I think it’s a compliment though, so… thank you?

      as this is a ‘work in progress’ I’m going to say I have a few issues understanding when you mean ‘orientation’ to mean someone’s experience of life and when you mean ‘orientation’ to refer to the labels people use to identify themselves.

      Aight. So — in this case, what I’m trying to use it to mean is the more general… outcome, of someone deciding that “orientation” language is useful and applicable in a given way. So, for instance: I’ve decided that “romantic orientation” is not an applicable concept for me to make sense of my experiences, so I don’t use it. That means I do not have a romantic orientation. Conversely, I do relate to & identify with gray-asexuality, consider it an orientation, and refer to it using orientation language. Ergo I have one orientation (and I label it gray-asexual). I think of the word “orientation” as a set of scripts and ways of processing experience. Put differently: orientation is a “social construct,” you could say.

      as for veri-/peri-orientated, I think it deserves it’s own conversation but I am super glad that you have used divergent and convergent here. On Arocalypse there are a few older members keeping the terms alive and newer members are picking them up (when I think they should be buried and stored as un-useful historical terms)

      huh. I’d wondered if that was a norm over there, once I went looking and saw it’d been used there at least a few different times recently. Do you mind saying more about what you don’t like about it? Not sure if you share the same thoughts as I mentioned above to Cor.

      But regardless – :3 thanks, I’m glad you like my word choice. I was thinking it could maybe be shortened to convergent singular/CSO, divergent singular/DSO, and divergent multiple/DMO, but I want to make sure I do some thorough hammering out of the concepts and discussing with others before anyone worries about names too much. I’ve seen way too many people jumping the gun on “I have an idea, now let’s name it” — to the point where I want to reeaally make sure the concepts themselves are getting thought through enough.

      • The Apathetic Echidna

        Yes, sorry, it was sort of a backhanded compliment. You just quoted the section that was most confusing for me on Arocalypse and all the good understandable stuff is here. I am enjoying the rest of your articles though. And I am super glad this isn’t on the Tumblr platform.

        Cool, okay. I can understand it all as outcome from experience. It was just a bit hard because ‘orientation’ seems to be able to mean a few different things depending on context and my own automatic definition can clash with that and I would understand in a way unintended and get confused. Though to make sure your specific points are getting across as intended you might still want to find a synonym in some of the cases because apparently you use ‘orientation’ 104 times!

        My problem with peri-/vari-orientated comes from the use of ‘orientation’ as a term to explain my own experience of life (rather than an orientation label I have picked) which I feel as a cohesive whole. But peri-/vari- enforces a binary I don’t feel as I don’t feel separation between my pattern of attractions, though I can identify them as distinct when they occur. I guess I could use it to explain my sexuality aspect to someone, I am asexual until I am not (which would make that vari-orientated within an orientation?). I think I might be making this whole thing more confusing. Maybe my post here will help? maybe not? https://mesotablar.dreamwidth.org/1131.html (I’ve also made this my name hotlink so you can click through from ‘The Apathetic Echidna’)

        • Coyote

          You just quoted the section that was most confusing for me on Arocalypse and all the good understandable stuff is here.

          Ohh. Sorry about that. I figured I was doing people a favor by cutting to the chase and not asking them to read a big mammoth of a post, lol. But regardless, thank you!

          But peri-/vari- enforces a binary I don’t feel as I don’t feel separation between my pattern of attractions, though I can identify them as distinct when they occur.

          I see. That’s basically what I was thinking might be the issue, too.

  • Siggy

    Something that made this confusing to read at first, is the whole “orientation” thing. I didn’t realize there was a point of contention, until I read about it in the Arocalypse thread, between orientation = “pattern of attraction” (or underlying set of experiences) vs orientation = “identity label”. I thought the second meaning was obviously correct, but I asked my husband and he thought the first meaning was obviously correct.

    My issue is that gray-A isn’t a single pattern of attraction, it’s a label that encompasses many patterns of attraction, including patterns of attraction that could be relabeled as asexual or allosexual depending on the person’s preference. That’s counterintuitive unless you think of gray-A specifically as an orientation label.

    Incidentally this also confuses me about peri- & vari-oriented, is I’m not sure if it refers to labels or not. e.g. if I’m in the convergent orientation set, and adopt only the label “gray-A”, could I call myself perioriented or is that a contradiction in terms?

    • Siggy

      I should add that pinning down what exactly “orientation” seems like a major tangent. So perhaps the better approach is to talk about it in a way that’s clear to all. Maybe that means never talking about orientation at all, and only talking about patterns of attraction and orientation labels.

      • Coyote

        Hm. That might work in some contexts, but my thought here is that that might get in the way for talking about situation’s like the Mal and Ven narratives, where they use multiple labels for one orientation.

        I’m still thinking about how to clarify, but as a step toward that: I think of applying the idea of “orientation” as kind of a small invisible step in between raw experience and the choice of labeling. So, one can “have an orientation” and have not decided on a label yet, but one can also have a raw experience and choose not to think of it in “orientation” language at all (which seems to be common with aesthetic attraction).

    • Elizabeth

      Something that made this confusing to read at first, is the whole “orientation” thing. I didn’t realize there was a point of contention, until I read about it in the Arocalypse thread, between orientation = “pattern of attraction” (or underlying set of experiences) vs orientation = “identity label”. I thought the second meaning was obviously correct, but I asked my husband and he thought the first meaning was obviously correct.

      Yeah, I didn’t expect this to be a point of contention either. It really reminds me of the early days in the ace blogosphere, when there were arguments about that going on. I think early on I was more in the “orientation = pattern of attraction” camp, but now I lean the other way more. Except, I don’t think orientation is either (just) a pattern of attraction or an identity label. It’s not that simple. I’m not coherent enough to explain that right now, but I’ll have to try to figure out how to explain it in the thread later. Which is quite a daunting task, because I don’t think I’ve ever successfully communicated my views on that. Maybe I’ll turn it into a post if it works.

      But functionally, I treat orientation as more like an identity label most of the time, because you just don’t go around policing people’s identities.

    • The Apathetic Echidna

      Your husband might be better explaining to you if he can understand why he picked that explanation (simply because in person is always easier).

      As for grey-A, I am of the school of thought that ultimately experience cannot be fully comprehended with language so we have to learn words, labels, definitions and context then determine which applies best to our experience to get the understanding across.
      I think grey-A can be a pattern of attraction, just not a single pattern. The term grey-A just has a broader meaning than some others, weak, infrequent, hard to define but discernible or ‘blink and its gone’ sexual attraction over months or years creates a pattern of attraction which informs the grey-A label someone chooses, which then defines their experience and explains it to others. The word is not the thing. Even the attraction is not wholly the thing, as it is influenced by periods of absence of attraction and possibly even other factors.

      “including patterns of attraction that could be relabeled as asexual or allosexual depending on the person’s preference.That’s counterintuitive unless you think of gray-A specifically as an orientation label.”

      I had friends go though horrible experienced being in the closet in a hostile social environment, so even though their labels may have changed over the years they always tell me their orientation/attraction has not. I think it is probably situations like this where those distinctions came from.

      (this was really really hard to write. I hope it is not too confusing, and these are just my thought on the matter)

      • Siggy

        *Nods* I think I understand.

        It’s just confusing because if I say, “I used to be asexual, now I’m gray-A, but my orientation didn’t change, just my label”, then we have the equation gray-A = orientation label != orientation. And in other contexts “gray-A” is called an orientations, from which we can prove that orientation != orientation.

        But the obvious resolution is that all these words are polysemous. Orientation sometimes refers to the label, sometimes to the thing itself; gray-A also sometimes refers to the label, sometimes to the thing itself.

        I’ll have to re-read the OP to try to figure out what exactly tripped me up. I just had an overall impression that it was hard to process.

    • Siggy

      Okay, I looked at the OP again, and I think the main thing that trips me up is the idea of counting how many orientations a person has.

      It begins with the example of “Flint” who “has one orientation”. If we interpret “orientation” as “pattern of attraction”, I’m left asking what does it mean to have one pattern of attraction vs multiple patterns? Maybe it’s like a quilt, where one part of the quilt has one pattern, and another part of the quilt has another pattern, but at the same time you could say the whole quilt has a single larger pattern. So it’s weird to have a definitive count of the number of orientations per person, as if that’s a meaningful measure.

      Alternatively, if we interpret “orientation” as “label”, that doesn’t quite work either. For one thing, that contradicts the usage of “orientation” in the later Mal narrative. I’m also left wondering if you’re trying to say that Flint doesn’t identify as queer, gay, straight, or any of those other orientation labels.

      • tost

        I don’t think OP (Coyote) meant orientation in the “pattern of attraction” sense, but closer to “identity”. But considering what Coyote said, “I think of applying the idea of “orientation” as kind of a small invisible step in between raw experience and the choice of labeling”, not exactly the same as identity/label.

        I tried to kinda sort my thoughts on this out.
        Attraction – an experience of feeling a pull towards a certain person. There are different kinds of attraction depending on what the pull makes one want to do and what kind of emotions it evokes.

        Pattern of attraction – a collection of all past attractions of a certain kind.

        Orientation – 1. equals the pattern of attraction definition, 2. is an awareness of existence of a certain pattern of attraction (this is how I understand the “small invisible step” Coyote talked about), 3. equals the identity definition.

        Identity – a label one chooses to describe themself that can be based on them applying a name to a certain pattern of attraction and/or their preferences and/or other factors.

        The orientation thing is messy… I can understand all of the three definitions, but I guess using the terms identity and pattern of attraction more could be some sort of a solution to miscommunication.

      • Coyote

        The enumeration may be a bit of an oversimplification, I suppose. The way I’m thinking of it is that “a person’s orientation(s)” equals how many “items,” so to speak, they would name if you asked them for their orientation. Alternatively, I’m thinking of it as the number of cases or axes where they would apply “orientation” language for their experience, because I don’t think that and “attraction” or anything else has to go hand in hand. For example — Siggy, you experience aesthetic attraction that’s not necessarily romantic or sexual, right? Do you consider yourself to have an aesthetic orientation? Asking in earnest here. I’ve seen some people talk about it like that, but many people seem to not.

        (Also, re: Flint, that is what I had in mind, yes.)

        • tost

          That’s a bit of a circular definition, and while I agree on the principle, we should have some actual definitions to be able to understand each other. The way you’re talking about orientation here, I’d understand it as synonymous to identity.

        • Coyote

          That’s a bit of a circular definition,

          Yes, that’s correct. I think defining orientation is going to be a bit like defining gender in that way.

        • Siggy

          I don’t know whether I count as having an aesthetic orientation, and I have no preference as to the answer. This is the kind of thing that makes counting orientations hard.

          I suppose enumerating orientations makes sense to me if we establish a more specific context, such as the context of romantic/sexual attraction. Some people have one composite orientation, some people have two distinct orientations, makes sense. Aesthetic attraction is a bit different because I just don’t care that much, so the count is unknown.

          I think most people are going to have some variety of attraction that they don’t care that much about, making a total enumeration impossible. For instance, do I have an orientation of “a-alterous”? … I guess???

        • Coyote

          That’s kind of what I mean, right there, if I’m understanding you right. For comparison: I don’t find the concept of “alterous,” as it has been named and discussed so far, personally useful. That doesn’t mean I don’t feel a desire for closeness for other people or whatever. It just means I haven’t made the choice to opt in to that kind of language for making sense of it. In some hypothetical world where having an “alterous orientation” were Central and A Big Deal (…hard to imagine, since “alterous” seems to be drawing on root words meaning “different,” so it seems like in this hypothetical world it would’ve developed a different name, but whatever) then things might be different. But as things are, they are as they are. On the flip side of that, really the only reason I ID as “quoiro” is because there’s so much discussion inside and outside of the ace community of “romance.” If the question of “romance” were less situationally salient, I wouldn’t need that label as much (or any other condensed way of saying “I don’t relate to the idea of having a romantic orientation”). In fact that particular nexus of associations & relations to concepts may be part of why I view the application of “orientation” language as a kind of choice.

          Anyway, the way that I was initially coming at it, if you don’t care about saying “yes, I have an aesthetic orientation,” then I wouldn’t have counted you as having one. …Maybe that was wrong of me, I don’t know.

          Re: your last point, though — yeah, this is part of what I mean by separating out [raw experience] + [naming a type of attraction] + [using orientation language] + [using an orientational identity label]. Or more bluntly: I don’t think experiencing-or-not-experiencing [type] attraction means you need to say you have [type] orientation.

        • Siggy

          But how much I care about a label is often context-specific. e.g. I usually don’t care about being aplatonic, but I care when listening to discussions about platonic relationships.

          But we may be getting sidetracked here. The bottom line is that when I read about Flint having one orientation I get confused about what that means, and it needs to be rephrased. You may have a specific idea of orientation in mind but if you manage to propagate this model I doubt that everyone is going to retain your specific conceptualization of orientation.

        • Coyote

          I’ll think about how to say it better. The particular narratives were just as examples to show how the SAM/non-SAM binary can break down. But still. Any tips?

        • Siggy

          Tips? Among the 4 “loose circles” at the end, I think the second is least clear. The first sentence begins by explaining exceptions to your description, before you’ve even given the description. And supposing I weren’t familiar with quoi- orientations, I don’t think I’d be able to give a single example of a reason why someone might identify with this group. There’s a lack of sample narratives.

          The first circle makes sense to me, but maybe only because I’m in that circle. There’s a lack of sample narratives here too though. I think it needs to be explained what it means for two axes of attraction to cohere. I hope you know that e.g. when I say my sexual and romantic attraction are identical, that’s an oversimplification on my part. I mean, I don’t really experience attraction of either kind, it’s just that romantic nonsexual or sexual nonromantic relationships don’t make sense to me. For other people it might mean that where one attraction goes, the other eventually follows. For aroaces, there’s probably a whole ‘nother set of narratives.

        • Coyote

          Oh — okay. I thought you were gonna give me tips about how to revise the Flint narrative. But this is good too, and probably even more important.

          Hmm… I’ll think about how to revise the second and also might bump it down to be listed third, after divergent multiple.

  • tost

    First I’m gonna criticize this part “In addition to “sexual orientation,” some people use other orientation labels. One of the more common of these is “romantic orientation,” although it is not the only one.” on behalf of the people who only have one orientation but it’s not the sexual one.

    Second, this is much better at getting your point across, so now I definitely understand more what you were discussing/getting at on the forums.

    As a side note, I think clarifying what you mean by orientation is crucial here, because otherwise a risk of miscommunication is high – I’m thinking that you mean it in terms of identity more here.

    And as for the actual argument – not because of the “sam-using” and “non-sam(-using)” ditochmoy, but more because of the different groups, the model sam has taken to explain in my experience, is not enough. So maybe terms that could explain the way that identity can intersect or not with attraction can be cool.

    • tost

      dichotomy* lol

    • Coyote

      First I’m gonna criticize this part […] on behalf of the people who only have one orientation but it’s not the sexual one.

      So, point being, that the “in addition to” makes it sound like I mean “never without”? …I can take another look at that.

      I’m glad the post was useful for making my ideas clearer. I was worried it was going to seem just too rambling and long.

      So maybe terms that could explain the way that identity can intersect or not with attraction can be cool.

      Can you say more about that?

      • tost

        Yep, I saw you added “or even instead of”, this fixes the problem 100%.

        Okay, what I see as an issue here, is not just reaming the sam, but building a model that would be better suited to the aspec experiences from the beginning and not interpreted to fit our experiences (as was the case with sam), because I can only guess some concise way of talking about the different attractions and identities was needed. With the four groups you talked about, the problems were with intersections of experiences/patterns of attractions and the identities that people chose. So my thinking is that there should be some way of describing this.

        Like The Apathetic Echidna mentioned, SAM was useful to them as a division of kinds of attractions in figuring out what she was feeling and what kind of communities she may connect with to talk about her experiences to. Now, this could just be called Types of Attraction, simple. There’s a few, you may experience them or not, have fun figuring it out. A question “What kind of attractions do you experience?” is easy to answer to. “What is the pattern of this attraction?” meaning who towards/how is immediately makes me want to use the “a/homo/hetero/bi/pan”+type of attraction word formation, which would be counterproductive… A True Mouthful would be… [who towards] + [first syllable of the type of attraction] + “ttracted”, examples: a-romttracted, bi-aesttracted, demi-sexttracted, hetero-emottracted, and so on. The problem is that those are Huge words. Another question is “Are those types of attractions you have experienced as cohesive?” and here I guess I’d fit varioriented and perioriented…? Which I don’t think right now are supposed to answer to this question, but this is where I’d fit them.

        And identity! Here the questions are “What do you identify as?” and “What is that identity influenced by?”. For the first question I’d leave all the bisexuals, homoromantics, aplatonics and all those labels. I guess a dichotomy here could be one-label identifying people, multiple-label identifying people (names for this?).
        “What is that identity influenced by?” Because of the definitions of ace and aro that are “experiences little to no sexual/romantic attraction”, there should be a way to signify that the attraction may not be the only factor in choosing an identity (I think this is what Siggy brought up already). So, either change the definitions to “little to no attraction or relates to the experience for other reasons” or start some kind of educational campaign saying identity doesn’t equal attraction. There also could be terms here that would signify the identity relation to attraction – is the id based on attraction, is it based on other factors?

        A list of all the questions:
        Attraction: What kind of attractions do you experience? What is the pattern of this attraction? Are those types attractions you have experienced as cohesive?
        Identity: What do you identify as? What is that identity influenced by (attraction/other factors)?

        • Coyote

          So, either change the definitions to “little to no attraction or relates to the experience for other reasons”

          I’m not sure that would be “changing” it, exactly. I don’t know about on aromanticism, but on asexuality, people have been writing about how broad or narrow to make the definition — and using it in slightly different ways — for a long time now. Can pull a few links on this if you’re interested.

        • Siggy

          Ditto Coyote. There is a very long history of discussion of defining asexuality not solely with respect to sexual attraction. In recent memory, the last time it became a big discussion on the blogs was around Here’s 2015, but my impression is that it comes up even more frequently on AVEN. Generally, the other criteria under discussion are “sexual desire”, “sex drive”, or “wanting sex”.

        • tost

          (I hope this will nest correctly) I don’t know a lot of the ace side (and am satisfied with you saying this isn’t as much of an issue), but the aromantic definition that’s used by the vast majority is the one that only talks about attraction.
          The rest of it…??

  • Linkspam: March 22, 2019 | The Asexual Agenda

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  • luvtheheaven

    Hey everyone. I don’t know where to put this comment. Um… when Siggy said up above:

    “My issue is that gray-A isn’t a single pattern of attraction, it’s a label that encompasses many patterns of attraction, including patterns of attraction that could be relabeled as asexual or allosexual depending on the person’s preference. That’s counterintuitive unless you think of gray-A specifically as an orientation label.”

    I think I didn’t understand it till I went back to it but it’s kinda like bisexual vs. pansexual as an orientation label, where the exact same set of attractions might end up with a different name depending on what the individual “experiencer” decides is important like the bisexual community and history or the pan prefix’s emphasis on “all genders” or other things. That’s where it’s not “just” attraction that decides what someone’s orientation might be. Pansexual and bisexual both being possible orientations. That’s how I kind of interpret it. So it’s not just an asexual community thing.

    So Siggy’s quote there though is about how the same pattern of attraction being felt by different people might have one person identifying as gay in an allosexual sense, another person identifying as asexual, and another person identifying as gray-A. Right? Siggy was that your point?

    A similar issue might be a nonbinary person who chooses to identify as a lesbian vs. a nonbinary person who prefers a term like queer or gynesexual etc. These are hypothetical nonbinary people who all might only have attraction toward femininity and femme presenting folks, maybe only toward women even. If someone is nonbinary but not afab they might feel like lesbian isn’t a term they even have “the right” to claim since they’re not a trans woman and it feels weird to them, but many nonbinary lesbians exist, and the pattern of attraction they feel might all be similar, it’s just… the person feeling the attraction and their internal experiences, history, if it does or doesn’t feel misgendering to them, etc, their history with the lesbian label before figuring out their gender identity, etc, all factor into what term they like for their orientation.

    I think that’s where orientation labels are never “just” about your pattern of sexual attraction in a vacuum, although they are a big part of it, and the polysemous nature of the word “orientation” means it both does mean “the orientation label” (orientation is just a shorter colloquial way we all say it) and also does kind of mean the pattern of attraction deep down, so that it’s possible for me to say “I was wrong when I said my romantic orientation was heteroromantic back when I first figured out my asexuality, because that implied a pattern of attraction that isn’t actually true, wasn’t accurate when I looked deeper into what it means to be alloromantic or to be hetero in any way”. I can say “my orientation has been there since puberty, I just haven’t fully understood it or labeled it until more recently”.

    If someone were to ask “What’s your sexual/romantic/other orientation?” and I were to say, “I don’t know” that could only be accurate if there is an intrinsic orientation I do have yet couldn’t hypothetically name at the moment, as a questioning LGBTQ+ type of person. Otherwise a good response is “why are you presuming I have an orientation at all” or something. Or “None, I don’t identify with any orientations”. Which both feel off to me. There is a reason we tend to presume that, and allow even aroaces to say that being aroace is in itself an orientation?

    Otherwise the answer is only whatever label I use currently, but the fact that the label “Questioning” can kind of exist as an “orientation placeholder label” at all makes clear there is something deeper we do tend to be labeling in some way, right?

    I don’t know. Just some thoughts.

    • Elizabeth

      I started working on a blog post where I said basically the same thing you just did in my draft, lol. About choosing different labels (even using the same bi vs. pan example), possibly being mistaken about identity (“straight by default” is a big one), and so on.

      That’s only half of it though, there’s a whole other thing I have to finish about a bunch of other factors that are relevant to (or part of) orientation besides attraction. I’ve got quite a list so far.

  • Coyote

    Note: new Arocalypse thread here.

  • Siggy

    I was writing up a summary of this discussion, and I see that you’ve changed the 4 buckets at the end to 5… uh, I guess they’re not buckets anymore. Should I wait a bit longer for you to settle on something? What do I call them if not buckets? Is there some particular part of the arocalypse thread I should read for this?

    • Coyote

      Oh — yep, it’s changed a lot, partly also through Discord conversations with Rowan. It’ll probably change again (ex. luvtheheaven has already pointed out a problem with “canon”), but feel free to summarize it with what you see now, with acknowledgement that it’s a work in progress. I don’t have a preference on whether you should wait or not.

      What to call them… right now I’m working with terms like “relationships between identity and norms” or (more simply) “scales” (for describing those relationships). That could change too. Who knows.

      If you don’t mind me asking, what’s the summary in the context of?

      • Siggy

        It’s a straightforward summary for TAA. The context is simply, this conversation is hard to follow, I want to make it easier to follow.

        • Coyote

          lol you wouldn’t be the first to think so.

          In that case…. I don’t know if it’s ready for that yet. But eh, it’s up to you, really.

          Anyway yeah you could say I transitioned from descriptions of buckets to descriptions of scales.

        • Siggy

          Well I’ll write a draft for now, and you can holler at me when you have updates.

          In a lot of places I’m just paraphrasing you, but I hope that I actually make this discussion clearer to more people instead of just increasing the amount that people have to read.

        • Coyote

          Gotcha.

          Oh — you asked if you should read the Arocalypse thread, and my answer was gonna be no, but there *is* one thing to come out of it that might be relevant for your purposes, actually: I’m intentional about not using the word “exclusionists” in my timeline summary here. And that’s not just because I avoid the word in general (although there’s also that). Nor is it just that that wasn’t a word in wide circulation yet (I don’t think). It’s also that some of those early users/adopters of “the model” term were not, properly speaking, “exclusionists,” and I know this because I seem to have ended up as Pillowfort mutuals with one of them.

      • Siggy

        As far as the axis names go, it’s pretty hard to think of good ones. I’d probably borrow terms from linear algebra, haha.

        For #4, I would suggest “planar”, because it means you fit along this two-dimensional plane of sexual/romantic, without implying anything about how the two dimensions mix and match.

        For #3, I would suggest “separable” or “decomposable”, the metaphor being that if attraction is a vector, then you can express the vector in terms of two components: romantic and sexual. “parallel” is already a very math-y term, but doesn’t really mean what you’re using it to mean.

        I’d call #2 “scalar” and #5 “diagonal”, but those might be pretty hard to explain, and I think the terms you currently have are better.

        • Siggy

          On second thought “separable” and “decomposable” have issues with extraneous meanings, and maybe you could just call it “vector” vs “non-vector”.

        • Coyote

          Hmm. I’ll consider planar, although that metaphor isn’t as familiar to me.

          “Separable” doesn’t really quite match what I was thinking of in reference to the romantic/sexual dyad, I… don’t think? Like — I don’t have a romantic orientation, but that’s not because I find romanticism and sexuality inseparable. Previously I’d written that part as “dyadic” vs. “nondyadic,” but…. well.

      • Siggy

        I don’t like “coupled” because of the extraneous meaning of “in a partnered relationship”. But I think it’s a promising direction. You could check a thesaurus for similar terms. Maybe something along the lines of “doublet”?

  • Elizabeth

    More thoughts on words…

    Since Arocalypse has been down and a lot of this discussion has been happening in multiple places anyway, it’s really hard to follow all the terms hat have been suggested so far. Might be worth making a public list of all the suggestions below each of the categories?

    Next…

    #3 – you already say ” The more you relate to this norm as an applicable and useful framework for yourself, the more you could describe your identity as in line with this dyad. The more you feel alienated from this norm or want to distance yourself from it, the more you could describe your identity as more out of alignment with this dyad.” So… why don’t you just say aligned and not aligned with the ROSO dyad, since you’re already using that language?

    #4 – “With reference to this norm, we might think of romantic and sexual orientations as more in line with this plane, or “planar,” and we might think of other kinds of orientation (or other bases for an orientation) as more “nonplanar.”

    But… why??? Like, why imagine this as a plane at all???

    I feel like this language really doesn’t work without a picture to go with it. It’s very hard to visualize, especially for people less familiar with mathematical terms. I’m wary of creating even more language barriers (for e.g. non-native English speakers).

    I think a better approach than trying to come up with terms that sound very academic is… just to look at the language you’re already using in your descriptions, and try to come up with something that matches what you’re already saying, you know? Instead of confusing things by bringing in another aspect/dimension to the description.

    So here’s what #4 says right now:

    4) ONLY ONE OR TWO TYPES OF ORIENTATION: This is the norm of thinking and speaking of “orientation” language as something that only, strictly pertains to either sex, romance, or both. One’s relationship to this norm is strong when you think of all your orientations as making reference to romance and/or sex in some fashion. One’s relationship to this norm is more alienated or distant the less you think of your orientation (or one of your orientational identities) as being “about” the canon categories (of sex or romance). With reference to this norm, we might think of romantic and sexual orientations as more in line with this plane, or “planar,” and we might think of other kinds of orientation (or other bases for an orientation) as more “nonplanar.”

    The “in line” part sort of conflicts with #3, if you’re trying to come up with something unique to each category here.

    I see language of exclusivity and strictness, of something being traditional or non-traditional. You make reference to a “canon” but don’t give any examples of what might be considered “non-canon” here, so I’d recommend expanding on that. Some words that are similar to the ones you used might be orthodox/unorthodox. Maybe limited vs. expanded range of orientational… categories? I’m not sure what to call the “types of orientation” here.

    • Siggy

      The issue with calling it “aligned” vs “unaligned”, is that those terms could describe any of the five spectra. Each of the spectra is a question of whether you’re aligned or unaligned with a particular norm. You could give it a longer name like “aligned with the ROSO dyad”, but it’s not very snappy. And if it’s not snappy, my worry is that people will either just stick to “SAM”, or else they’ll just come up with another abbreviation, and it won’t be any better than what we think up.

      I think a better approach than trying to come up with terms that sound very academic is… just to look at the language you’re already using in your descriptions, and try to come up with something that matches what you’re already saying, you know?

      I think Coyote already tried that, by referring to #2 as “dyadic” vs “non-dyadic”, but that overlaps with intersex terminology. Perhaps another route is to call it the “RO/SO couple”, and then “coupled” makes sense.

      I suggested the “planar” terminology, and I’m a math geek so I can’t speak to how understandable the concept is to non-math people. But I mean… the metaphor is maybe not as complicated as it sounds. The Storms model is a plane, it has two dimensions of “attraction to men” and “attraction to women”, and people are within the Storms model plane if their orientation consists of any combination of those two things. So here we’re talking about two “dimensions” of romantic and sexual. And if your orientation consists of any combination of those two things, then you’re in the plane. If your orientation includes some other stuff, like a platonic orientation, then you’re not in the plane.

      • Elizabeth

        Okay, but then aren’t we sort of presuming that people have familiarity with the Storms model/something like it?

        I think a lot of people are simply not used to seeing these kinds of models anymore. They used to be common, and now they’re not so much. And so I still think it would require a picture to go with it, if we go with that sort of language.

        What I have trouble visualizing is… what about what’s off the plane? How would that be represented?

        And… why wouldn’t people simply visualize multiple planes, a la Storms model? One for sexual orientation, one for romantic orientation, one for platonic orientation, one for sensual orientation, or whatever else you want to come up with? I feel like in some ways this is what people already do, with labels like “bisensual” etc. I mean, they might not literally visualize it, but it could be mapped the same way. So suggesting that people with those labels are “non-planar” really conflicts with that.

        • Siggy

          No, I was just presuming that you were familiar with the Storms model, because I was writing an explanation for you.

          A plane is an inherently visual metaphor, and will be easy to illustrate once we get to that step. It’s the other four spectra that I’d be more worried about visualizing.

    • Coyote

      Since Arocalypse has been down and a lot of this discussion has been happening in multiple places anyway, it’s really hard to follow all the terms hat have been suggested so far. Might be worth making a public list of all the suggestions below each of the categories?

      Hm. Maybe. …Fool that I am, I didn’t actually expect “naming things” to be one of the hardest parts. >> I *have* been thinking of posting some kind of “here’s some iterations this went through” type of post though, since WP saves copies of revisions.

      So… why don’t you just say aligned and not aligned with the ROSO dyad, since you’re already using that language?

      …Could do that. “ROSO-aligned” and “ROSO-unaligned”? Works conceptually, I think, but might strike some people as too long (not that it would bother me, but… tumblr culture reminds me of Californian transplants to Central Texas in terms of their penchant for shortening things to as few syllables as possible). I also thought about trying to make it into its own adjective — “rosol” — but…. dunno if that idea is tolerable to anyone but me.

      But… why??? Like, why imagine this as a plane at all???

      Blame Siggy for that one lol. I’m kinda just cycling through suggestions and seeing how they sound.

      You make reference to a “canon” but don’t give any examples of what might be considered “non-canon” here, so I’d recommend expanding on that. Some words that are similar to the ones you used might be orthodox/unorthodox.

      Good point. And I like your suggestion of “orthodox”! That seems like a good fit.

  • Coyote

    Note: just to make things extra confusing, I’ve also posted the remodeling chunk from this over at Pillowfort.

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  • raavenb2619

    I like how orientation language shows/can show how the Western monolithic ideas of “attraction” and ”orientation” can be deconstructed into multiple components, but forcing everyone to deconstruct in the same way (or deconstruct at all) would be harmful and no better than the SAM. Maybe instead of thinking of the SAM as “you have a sexual and a romantic orientation”, we should think of the SAM as an optional theoretical framework/tool people can use to describe or understand themself and how they do or don’t experience attraction (ie you can use whatever labels you want to describe whatever kinda of attraction you want).

    • Coyote

      No, I thought I expressed this here, but I see no reason to keep building on “SAM” as a term or keep making efforts to reclaim and redefine it. Even the name “split attraction” itself is suspect. Why is the word “split” in there? When I talk about different types of attraction I experience, I’m not “splitting” anything. I’ve made this comparison before, but that’s like saying apples and oranges are “split fruit.” Nothing’s being “split,” they’re just different things. The phrase “split attraction” itself is still deliberately centering certain norms as the default, and I’m dismayed at how few people are questioning that.

      So instead of continuing to try and build on or salvage this “SAM” term specifically, I’d be relieved (& tbh much less personally invalidated) if people would extend a willingness to remodel how they talk about these things, and instead try for a way that has actually sensible, tenable foundations. In the last third of this post, I have suggested some possibilities. Non-rosol, for instance, is a term I’m using here to specifically refer to identities that don’t include both a romantic orientation and a sexual orientation. I think this is sometimes what people intend to get at with the word “non-SAM,” although not always. Clearly having a non-rosol identity *is* compatible with experiencing multiple kinds of attraction and/or having a divergent orientation (i.e. not an orientation convergent with the composite-singular-orientation model). For this and other related reasons, you’ve now got people feeling ambivalent over the whole “SAM”/”non-SAM” binary and trying to patch up the tension there with terms like “semi-SAM,” which I believe is ultimately a misguided effort because it’s not actually addressing the underlying problems. I mean, I’m glad at least some folks are recognizing that a strict binary between the two doesn’t make sense, but “split attraction model” is itself a ridiculous string of words and always has been. It’s high time to give it up. We have better options.

      • raavenb2619

        “We can say things like: there are multiple names for different types of attraction. Some people find using the more specific names useful, and some people experience attraction in ways that they prefer more general names for or experience in close conjunction with each other. You can also experience a type of attraction without thinking of it in terms of an orientation. Some of the names for attraction types that people use are sexual, sensual, physical, aesthetic, emotional, romantic, and more. Just because you use some of those names doesn’t mean you have to use all the others.”
        I completely agree with this, and that’s what I was trying to communicate in my comment. The thing is, this is different from how society generally thinks about attraction, so we need a name for this new school of thought. I always interpreted the split attraction model to refer to this; split, not in the sense of dividing attraction in two, but in allowing people to talk about and distinguish between different types of attraction. But I can see the issues you have with the word split. Perhaps this school of thought could be called the Multi-Typed Attraction Model instead?

        • Coyote

          Oh, I see. Thank you for explaining more.

          Hmm. I think I’m still not on board with your conclusions, though. You say that “this is different from how society generally thinks about attraction, so we need a name for this new school of thought.” But I’m not so sure about that, on two counts.

          One, it’s…. *sorta* different from “how society generally thinks,” but while I might have said that in the past, that’s not really how I would have said it today. I don’t think “aesthetic attraction” is that much of a jump from something even a lot of straight people will readily acknowledge if you phrase it right, and there’s already plenty of people using the word “attractive” flexibly to mean things other than “sexually attractive.” Economists using the phrase “financially attractive” comes to mind. So I don’t think it’s really that unique or that much of a break with “what society thinks” (which… probably isn’t that much of a monolith to begin with either). The only thing that makes this language special or contentious is where it combines with asexuality or aromanticism, specifically, because you bring those up and suddenly people are very eager to look for ways to crunch us back into systems of identity and orientation that they’re more familiar with.

          Two… *do* we need a name for this new school of thought? The ace community had been around for 15 years getting by just fine without one. Nobody was like “oh dang, it’s getting complicated to form sentences here, we need one specific name to cover these things.” That *only* happened once enough scrutinizing outsiders got involved, specifically to give a name to *the inappropriate universalization of* that language, not necessarily subtyping language in general (although tbh they were inconsistent on this point). And to me that long stretch of time without aces naming it anything really says something, given how trigger-happy aces tend to be with naming things.

          With that said, I could be content with a name like “Multi-Typed Attraction Model,” although it’s not really a “model.” “Subtyping attraction” also works, and “differentiating types of attraction” is what I’ve been calling it since 2013.

        • raavenb2619

          With regards to your first point, you say “I don’t think ‘aesthetic attraction’ is that much of a jump from something even a lot of straight people will readily acknowledge _if you phrase it right_” [emphasis mine]. And yet, lots of straight people are confused by the fact that aces can think someone looks pretty, as well as the fact that aces might want to engage in sensual but non-sexual acts with another person. Of course, if we explain ourselves in the right way, allos will understand what we’re talking about. But I think that the fact that we have to explain ourselves at all, instead of being immediately understood without question, is part of why this is different from how society generally thinks.

          When I was younger and I listened to my allo friends talk about attraction, they never qualified anything, lumping everything together and calling it all Attraction (TM). And that’s totally fine, they can use the kinds of language they want to use, they don’t have to deconstruct and analyze what they’re feeling, even if they could distinguish between different types of attraction. But their lumping always confused me, in part because of how they were all working under the implicit assumption of a homogenous, shared notion of attraction that I couldn’t connect with. That’s another part why this is different from how society thinks.

          “Need” might be too strong of a word, but I do think having a name for this new school of thought would do a lot of good. It’s an important part of aspec culture, since a lot (though not all) aspec people feel disconnected from societal notions of attraction, and come to better understand how society thinks about attraction once they know about and can apply this deconstructionist framework. Furthermore, I think that having a name (even better, a fairly clear and easily googleable name) would do a lot towards broadening aspec awareness. I probably would have had an easier time figuring out my own identity if I had seen more discussion about different types of attraction.

          That’s a good point, it’s not really a model. Personally, I lean away from a gerund like “subtyping” or “differentiating” because I find them hard to fit smoothly into phrases like “One important part of aspec culture is ___”, so maybe “subtyped” or “differentiated”? (The ing forms still work fine for section headers, imo). I’m curious, what do you think about “deconstructed”? It’s something I definitely gravitated towards a lot when I was figuring stuff out, but I’m not sure if it’s sufficiently different from “split”.

        • Coyote

          This is talking a little abstractly for me, sorry. While I absolutely believe what you’re telling me about your experiences with your friends, there’s a big jump in between that specific anecdote and concluding that’s “what society thinks.” Since that doesn’t exactly match my impression or my own experiences, I think we’d need a lot more data to analyze in order to model some patterns there. But I’m also okay with not doing that.

          Re: words — Differentiation is a noun. A bit multisyllabic and nonspecific on its own though. I mean, I probably wouldn’t have set up the sentence that way in the first place (or even used the word “aspec” for that matter), since I would have just said “Some people find it useful to talk about attraction in terms of different types, and that’s big in our community,” but if you really really want a short form, then DTA (differentiating types of attraction) is what I would nominate there.

          Deconstructed… well, if you want my opinion, it reminds me of Derrida and certain academic practices too much for me to want to go for that one.

        • raavenb2619

          Thanks for letting me know about deconstruction, I was vaguely aware that it had a meaning in academia but never bothered to actually investigate it.
          “Some people find it useful to talk about attraction in terms of different types, and that’s big in our community” Alright if I steal that? ;)

        • Coyote

          You are welcome and invited to steal it! Thanks for talking with me.

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