An Actual History Of The Term “Split Attraction Model”

Once more, from the top: The term “split attraction model” came from anti-ace and anti-bi reactionaries on Tumblr. In this post, I rehash why this is relevant to explain and then link specific sources that demonstrate the nature of its origins. If you’ve been using the term unironically/without scare quotes, then I’d kindly ask for you to stop.

[Crossposted to Pillowfort. Preview image by Cement.]

Why even talk about this?

Those of you who follow my WP blog might be wondering why I’m revisiting the subject now. Last year, I already wrote three different posts on why romantic orientation and the “SAM” aren’t the same thing, some problems with “SAM”/”non-SAM” terminology (summarized by Siggy here), and a mini history of different types of attraction. I’ve since come to the conclusion that those first two could use revisions, but I want to keep them up as a record of how certain conversations unfolded.

I’m writing this here as a more tightly-focused post to address a few other things that have come up since then. Most recently, Lib has noticed that the term “SAM” has a PR problem, and I want to explain why that problem is intertwined with the term itself. Also on Twitter, the FYA account recently asserted its supposed origins, ostensibly in reference to this flawed historicallyace post. And then there’s AUREA’s post, which draws on my posts and then tries to detract from them by bringing in some questionable evidence. This is apparently the approach they prefer to just using the comment section, and their own post doesn’t have a comment section, so I’m following their lead here and responding with a new post of my own.

The term “split attraction model” comes from anti-ace, anti-bi reactionaries.

This term first emerged in 2015 in a highly specific discursive context. Many of the original posts have since been lost to deactivation, deletion, and URL changes, but a friend of mine has helpfully dug up some representative posts that still remain online. Here I’ve quoted relevant excerpts from the links:

Note the patterns here:

  • accusations of homophobia and to a lesser extent, sometimes lesbophobia
  • objecting to universalization — one of the first criticisms was just about blanket statements and overgeneralizing
  • anti-bi alarmism — framing the mere concept of labeling mixed orientations (especially bi/pan ones) as a threat to gay people
  • ace/aro exceptions, i.e. backpedaling in the form of asserting that the “split attraction model” is only acceptable for aces and aros to use
  • scrutiny of ace language more generally — see for instance this post where criticism of the “split attraction model” is talked about alongside criticism of “allosexual” and AVEN

For these reason, I am describing these original uses as the backlash of anti-ace and anti-bi reactionaries who were responding to (sometimes overgeneralized) uses of attraction subtyping and romantic orientation labeling.

If you’re noticing that the term keeps being attacked by people who keep calling it “homophobic” then, that’s because that itself is its original purpose. Pre-criticism uses of the term “split attraction model” do not exist. When you embrace that term instead of the more complex original language it was meant to seize control over, you are giving ground to these ideas and letting them dictate the terms of the conversation.

If not that, then what?

For an explanation of what other terminology you can use instead, I recommend Sennkestra’s post on differentiating attraction/orientations. Note that if what you’re talking about is specifically romantic orientation, you can also just say “romantic orientation.” If your impulse is to simply continue to use “SAM” as if it can be neutral, please consider the complications that I’ve talked about here.

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