Tag Archives: types of attraction

Comparing Additive & Subtractive Constructions of Attraction

This is a metadiscursive post — a post talking about ways that people talk about “attraction” as a construct, either expanding it or shrinking it in various ways. Below the cut, I examine additive approaches in ace discourse and subtractive approaches in lesbian discourse, each used as different means toward a similar end.

Crossposted to Pillowfort. Preview image: Scissors by James Bowe, licensed under CC BY 2.0.

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What makes non-physical attraction a squick?

A personal reflection post about certain forms of attraction subtype terminology and teasing out how come some of it gives me the reaction it does. Written for the October 2021 Carnival of Aces.

This is an extremely niche topic, so if you are not generally privy to these conversations, you may not get much out of this post.

[Crossposted to Pillowfort. Preview image by Tristan Chambers, licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.]

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Don’t Make Me Choose

Now that I’ve talked about what happened at the event, I want to work through a few things I would have liked to have said in the TAAAP Pride Chat that was supposed to make space for “people who object to there being a binary.”

[Crossposted to Pillowfort. Preview image by Matteo Magro, licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0.]

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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, and it comes from Tumblr users outside the ace community.

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

Edit 2/28/2022: This post is now getting linked in a way that misrepresents what it’s saying, so allow me to state this as bluntly as possible: the term “split attraction model,” which comes from outside the ace community, is a wrong and harmful way of describing ace language, and I object to the term’s use entirely. There is nothing wrong with identifying with a romantic orientation or more than one type of orientation; there is nothing wrong with describing different types of attraction; there is everything wrong with calling any of that by this bogus name.

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

[Edit: If you’re reading this post in the year 2021 or later, I would recommend An Actual History of The Term “Split Attraction Model” for a quicker, shorter read.]

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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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?