Tag Archives: sensual attraction

On an Ace Experience of Physical Attraction

This is a personal reflection post about physical attraction. In this post, I talk some about what I use “physical attraction” to mean, what I find the concept useful for, what I don’t find it useful for, and my personal experiences of what makes it difficult to talk about.

[Crossposted to Pillowfort. Preview image by Tebo Steele, CC BY-SA 2.0]

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A Mini History of Different Types of Attraction in the Ace Community

A short list of when/where some different pre-2015 terms can be traced back to. Many of these terms, as you can see, are both older than and separate from the creation of the term “split attraction model,” which has its own separate history derived outside of the ace community.

The following timeline lists the earliest uses that I or others have found:

  • 2003 – emotional & romantic attraction were mentioned on an early version of the AVEN FAQ, and they most likely had been discussed even earlier than that. [See also romantic drive in 2002 on HHA]
  • 2005 – aesthetic attraction came up in this NSFW AVEN thread, and ditto above.
  • 2006 – sensual attraction was added to the AVENwiki, and ditto above.
    [Read more about different definitions of sensual attraction here]
  • 2007 – squish (or friendship crush) was coined on another AVEN thread.
    [Read more about platonic attraction and related concepts here]
  • 2010 – queerplatonic attraction was first described on Dreamwidth.
    [Read more about the trajectory of queerplatonic as a concept here]

Most of these terms had more or less entered standard ace parlance by 2012, and I even wrote a post about Differentiating Types of Attraction in 2013 (that I now cringe to reread, but whatever). Different names for subtypes of attraction — or attraction subtyping — never went by any particular name, itself.

The term “split attraction model,” meanwhile, does not appear to predate 2015, and it comes from Tumblr users outside the ace community.


What does sensual attraction mean for queerness?

I’m curious.

There’s been some revival of the asexuality & queerness discussion over at the Asexual Agenda, and while I have little to (directly) contribute to that, it brought up a question for me regarding where sensual attraction fits in relative to other types.  Aside from transness, a conservative definition of queerness/qualification for an individual to ID as queer tends to require same-gender romantic or sexual attraction.  Sensual attraction is usually treated as irrelevant.

Which is interesting for me because this is not the case any time people (indirectly) speak of same-gender sensual attraction outside the context of asexuality debates.

For the purposes of this post, I’m defining sensual attraction as any impulse/involuntary interest in kinds of touch that, to the individual, would not be defined as having sex.  Kissing, for example.

We know that you don’t necessarily have to have a crush on someone to want to kiss/enjoy kissing someone (i.e. it can be recognized as a purely physical attraction/desire/pleasure).  And we know that you don’t have to be sexually attracted to someone to want to kiss/enjoy kissing someone (ex. some sex-averse romantic aces like this).  Therefore: kissing is neither necessarily romantic nor sexual.  Individuals may feel it’s one or the other or both for them, but such categorization doesn’t have to be true for everyone or every case.

Yet ladies kissing ladies is often considered queer (or grounds for queerness), and the same goes for dudes kissing dudes.  Granted, it could be argued that, in these instances, kissing is being read as synechdochic for romantic and/or sexual feelings.

However.

I believe I’ve seen same-gender sensual attraction itself being labeled as gay or queer, and so I wonder if that’s contingent upon it being accompanied by other forms of attraction as well, or if people really do interpret “I wanna smooch this person of the same gender as me” as itself queer (or “worthy of being deemed queer”), irrespective of the person’s sexual or romantic orientation.

In any case, it casts what I’d previously only regarded as an error in a new light — that is, whenever people define sexual orientation as who you’re “physically attracted to”, implying inclusion of nonsexual physical attractions (what I’ve been terming here “sensual attraction”).

The desire for cuddles isn’t generally considered relevant to this conversation, and that may be fair, but then again, I don’t see why certain sensual activities should carry more weight than others.  Do we just group things according to the concentration of nerve endings in a given body part, then?  Wouldn’t that make hand-holding a significant one, if that were true?  Does same-gender physical attraction only become possibly-queer once it involves genitals?  Where does that leave butts and boobs, then, which are conventionally sexualized by some cultures?  How thick is the line between same-gender physical attractions that are “worthy of queer”, so to speak, and those which are not?