Tag Archives: types of attraction

Reminders on attraction

In a comment on a prior post, Ib/Arofrantics mentioned seeing a problem with how some people talk about attraction, implying a kind of compensatory role. In their words:

It feels like aspec identities are so open to “I don’t experience [x] attraction but…. I experience [y].”

And based on the fuller context of that conversation, it sounds like this is another one of those topics subject to anxieties over some narratives being (ostensibly) centered over others.

I don’t run in the same circles as Ib, so I won’t claim to know exactly what they’ve seen, and that limits what I can respond to. Even so, it sounds like the issue merits further conversation. For that reason, I’m using this post to spell out some things that have been on my mind — a few reminders that I think some people need to hear: 1) attraction isn’t all (of the subtypes) or nothing, 2) attraction doesn’t need to define you, 3) attraction doesn’t need to define your relationships, and 4) attraction is not a source of legitimacy.

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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. It comes from Tumblr users outside the ace community who were reacting (negatively) to this kind of language & the (separate, but conflated) idea of romantic orientation, usually by calling it homophobic. The originating posts have been lost to time, but one of the approximately oldest ones is here, and you can get a better sense of how the term was being used and developed that year by looking at more Tumblr posts from around that time: here, here, here, here, here, and here.


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.

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Romantic Orientation and the “Split Attraction Model” are not the same thing

A few days ago, when I mentioned on Pillowfort that I wanted to write something about the development of the “romantic orientation” model, I was helpfully pointed toward this post on the “split attraction model” at Historically Ace. I appreciate that, and I think it’s a handy collection of information. However, I have a problem with that post: it’s not actually a history of “the split attraction model” as a term itself. The phrase “split attraction model” appears in the post only three times, two of those times being as introduction and the other solely to specify that something else would not be considered an example of it. The timeline of that post ends at 2007, which is actually before the phrase “split attraction model” even entered into circulation in the ace community.

For comparison, I think this is like if I had written “a history of relationship anarchy” and then only, solely charted examples of the use of queerplatonic — which is to say, maybe it’s not wildly-off base, but it still falls short of what it actually promises. As related as they are, and as much sense as it makes to discuss the two alongside each other, the history of one is not the history of the other. A history of the “split attraction model” still remains yet to be told.

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“Strawberries Taste Like Red”: A Post on Defining Sexual Attraction

“What is sexual attraction?  What does sexual attraction feel like?” Phrases like these show up often in the list of search terms that lead people to this blog, and while I think my usual readers are well past the question, I want to make a more direct post on the subject for the people who need it.  The short answer is “a manner of interpersonal attraction that in sexual in nature”.  But if you want the long answer, keep reading.

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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?


A Question on Permanence of Attraction

I’ve been thinking about something I haven’t seen much discussed before.  People who read this blog (I presume) know that attraction can be classified according to lots of different types, but what of its longevity?

This post isn’t asking about sexual fluidity, or changes in sexual orientation, but of changes in attraction to a specific individual (which could also correlate to an overall change in orientation, but wouldn’t have to).

I know that I’ve experienced changes in aesthetic attraction, for example, based on extraneous factors aside from the look of the person themselves — such as whether the person in question goes from being a total stranger to revealing themselves to be a raging jerk (and a corresponding change in my aesthetic perception of their face sometimes occurs).  That doesn’t always happen, though, as there are also people I strongly dislike who are still uncomfortably attractive.

I’ve mentioned before, in explaining why I identify as gray-a, that picking out sexual attraction is difficult for me — which is why I’m now looking at the volatility and longevity of other types of attraction for comparison.

Sensual attraction is very similar in some ways, so I’ve been keeping an eye on that.  It’s not as frequent as aesthetic attraction, though, which keeps the data pool limited.  And in the one case that I can draw repeated observations on… it has shown an inconvenient permanence.  Other people I’ve been sensually attracted to are people I never saw again, so I can’t say how fleeting that feeling might’ve been for them or formulate any significant conclusions, yet.

Have you ever had a reverse-demi experience, where you’ve started out attracted to someone and then felt the attraction fade?  How quickly did it happen?  What about the opposite (whether as a result of a strong emotional bond or not)?  What about attractions fluctuating from one type to another?  If you find that the people you’re attracted to (in any sense of the word) tend to stay the same from day to day, have you ever noticed exceptions?  Or is volatility your norm?


What (attractions) do you believe in?

According to my stats page, someone has found one of my blog posts by googling the phrase “do you believe in aesthetic attraction”, which I can’t help but find hilarious because, first of all, it makes me think of that blasted song “Do You Believe in Magic”, and second of all, how can you not believe in aesthetic attraction?  …Seriously?  I mean, what I’m imagining here is–

Person 1: Wow, that guy over there sure is handsome.
Person 2: You don’t really think he’s handsome!  Aesthetic attraction isn’t real!  You’re lying to get attention!

???

I’m going to go out on a limb here and guess that what the search phrase was getting at, and what people who dislike the term believe, is that nonsexual aesthetic attraction to fellow humans does not/might not exist, and that any aesthetic attraction to other people is automatically sexual attraction because they’re members of the same species.

Admittedly, I can understand how aesthetic attraction might sound like an asexual’s “get out of allosexuality free” card, but this concept is something I’d already seen acknowledged well before I started researching asexuality.  In my (American) culture, it’s a pretty accepted thing for straight women to compliment each other’s appearances and say things like “You look pretty today!”  It’s also a pretty widely acknowledged thing that gay men hold powerful positions in the fashion industry and are given some degree of credibility and authority in evaluating women’s appearances and deciding what looks good on them, despite the fact that they’re not sexually attracted to them.

There’s probably an analysis you could do on how these social norms fall along gendered lines, but this post won’t get into all that.  The point is this: either you think everyone is bisexual, or you understand that people can find someone good-looking without finding them sexy — which is exactly why we need the phrase “aesthetically attractive”.  And if you’re going to object to the concept of aesthetic attraction, you can’t do so on the basis that it’s just a prop to support asexuality, seeing as it’s a concept used implicitly by monosexual people as well — conveying their nonsexual attraction to people of a gender that they don’t find sexy, the same way that aces use it.

Any questions?


Differentiating Types of Attraction

magnetBecause sexual attraction usually (but not always) comes mixed with other kinds of attraction, prying them apart for categorization can be a tricky process, firstly because some allosexuals resist attraction disambiguation on the basis that it’s “not necessary” — for them, because they experience these attractions simultaneously.  However, even a bisexual friend of mine reports having experienced sensual attraction to a man she was not sexually attracted to.  We were in the midst of a discussion about attraction types when she came to this realization, with a sudden exclamation of “OH, that’s what it was!”

[This article is now available en français! Thanks, Valentin!]

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