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Sexual Arousal vs. Sexual Attraction


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#1 Hap2

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Posted 31 October 2010 - 07:36 PM

Like Descartes, I have been trying to come up with something clear and distinct on these and have been having trouble in understanding them in the context of asexuality.

I'm going to use myself as the example here. I identify as a hetero romantic asexual, as the only person I have ever fallen in love with was female, and I am physically male and identify as male. But, there was never once a situation where there was a 'magnetic pull', or a want to have sex with her, and I was perfectly content with that (she was not exactly aesthetically attractive either, though after falling in love I found her to be 'cute', but in the same way I find my degus to be cute). The most I ever did physically was hug her, and I remember a strong intense desire to hug, but nothing else physically beyond that. It was not of case of pursuing her in the first place either, I have never actively pursued anyone (I have felt pressure over this, but it has never mattered much, if at all), the love built out of a friendship over years, and became an intense emotional connection. One that really hurt to be severed, when the love was unrequited (though in all fairness to romance, love is still a wonderful feeling).

This is what has led me to believe that I am asexual, as I have never felt any desire or 'pull' to have sex with anyone I have ever come across, not even the one person I was in love with for years, at a point in time where men are supposed to be at their most sexual (hormones flying, and what not).

But here's the problem, I do get aroused and this is what confuses me the most. There is no desire for sex, and masturbation holds no interest for me, but if I think of or view a sexual situation or something to do with the concept or idea of sex, I can be aroused physically down there. The gender doesn't matter either (though I do not find sex acts with men appealing at all)in the situation, it is the idea of sex itself that arouses me. If my mind somehow connects the situation, or an object even, to the idea of sex (the concept, or the form as Plato would call it, or whatever you would want to call it), I sometimes (but not always) get aroused. I have tried viewing and looking at porn, and using my imagination to see if it is the people or the actual sexual act that arouses me, but every single time, it boils down to it was the concept of sex being connected to the image, person, or scene, that was what triggered arousal.

There are other things that will arouse me though too that are a bit more unexplainable, the other day it was the smell of fresh cinnamon buns being baked, and sometimes, I will get aroused for no reason that I am aware of while I am doing something (while studying a logic textbook a few days ago). I doubt these have anything to do with sexual attraction, but it still confuses the situation further.

So the question is, how truly reliable is physical arousal in understanding what sexual attraction is? One of the possibilities that arises in my mind is that it could be a natural physical response by the body developed through evolution, that the idea of sex is what triggers it, likely in preparation for the sexual act. But within me, there is no desire to actively pursue a sexual relationship with anyone, nor any tension from not having sex, I am indifferent to ever actually having it, it isn't an issue. I know it is not because "I haven't met the right person", because I did in fact meet someone that was special and I wanted to have a relationship through primarily an emotional connection. Nor do I feel like I am repressing or afraid of sex, it doesn't bother me a bit to talk about it, once again, I am indifferent, it is not a matter of importance.

Which is the primary foundation here, does sexual attraction happen because of arousal, or does arousal happen from sexual attraction caused by sexual desire, or are they entirely separate modes within us as humans that in the average human have a connection much like the left and right hemisphere of one's brain?

I doubt the first would be true, as senior men and women may not be able to become physically aroused, but still be sexually attracted to someone and desire sex. Otherwise, what would be the point of impotency drugs? Arousal does not cause sexual attraction.

The second seems plausible, in a sexual's case, but that would mean to have arousal, there must be a pull towards an individual in some way in order to have the arousal. Would it not mean that sexual arousal is a result from sexual desire, which is thus intrinsically linked to sexual attraction?

But for me that is where things are disconnected, as I have never shown to sexually desire any specific person or desire to pursue a sexual relationship with anyone, I doubt in my case that arousal is derived from sexual desire. The linking of the concept of sex to thoughts can cause a physical reaction, but not a desire within the scope of the mind. This is why the possibility of it being a programmed response bred through evolution, seems logical to me.

It brings up another important question, does sexual attraction require sexual desire in order to exist? I believe so, otherwise, it wouldn't likely be a sexual attraction. It would be an aesthetic, intellectual, personality, or emotionally based one.

So what about arousal then, is it truly a result of sexual attraction, or is the idea and possibility of procreation so natural to the body that it is programmed through years of evolution to become physically aroused?

Anyone have any thoughts? As I wish to clear up the connection that arousal somehow means that one is sexually attracted, if there is no desire.
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#2 mylittlehazmat

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Posted 31 October 2010 - 07:54 PM

I'm going to go with a simple answer. The junk in the trunk still works, it's your mental sexuality that makes you asexual.

I would also add, fantasies are very /safe/. I can imagine having sex with people in my head, but even the slightest hint of a sexual act in real life, and I back off immediately. So when you get aroused by your fantasies, it's just the wiring to your junk that's going, it's not pointing to any real sexual attraction you might have.

I heavily based this answer off of my own experiences, since I have nothing else ... so if it doesn't apply to you, forgive me. x3
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#3 Glyn

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Posted 31 October 2010 - 10:24 PM

There is a difference between arousal and attraction. Many male rape victims will report having an erection, dispite (obviously!) no sexual attraction to their attackers.

Even I have had experiances where I find myself aroused, yet I have no more desire to make out with someone than I did when I was born!

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#4 Tanwen

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Posted 31 October 2010 - 10:50 PM

It's also possible for them to have an erection when having a rectal examination...or so I've read.
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#5 Sally

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Posted 31 October 2010 - 11:09 PM

Like Descartes, I have been trying to come up with something clear and distinct on these and have been having trouble in understanding them in the context of asexuality.


Here's simple: sexual attraction means to a person.

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#6 Hap2

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Posted 01 November 2010 - 12:08 AM


Like Descartes, I have been trying to come up with something clear and distinct on these and have been having trouble in understanding them in the context of asexuality.


Here's simple: sexual attraction means to a person.


Haha, true enough I suppose. I guess I was confused, for if I were to look at a person, and somehow connect them to the idea or concept of sex, and became aroused, it wasn't because I was attracted to the person, rather it was the body naturally responding through chemical release to the idea of sex (there is no desire, but the body through its instincts, still does the prep work, much like how vital organs are controlled without us having to think about them doing so). The proof of this being because I could change the 'person' in this sentence, instead into an object or situation (like a fantasy), and {un)consciously connect it to the idea of sex, and still get a similar result.

Arousal then, at least in my case, is not attributed to sexual desire of a specific person or persons, rather it is just the body naturally responding to certain forms of stimulation (may they be mental or physical), hence why it would not be sexual attraction. So in order for sexual attraction to occur, there needs to be both a physical and mental desire for sex, and it must be directed to or attributed a person, or persons. Could this be an accurate direction for finding a thorough definition of sexual attraction?



I am probably overthinking again, especially in regards to my own situation, but I suppose it is better to remove all doubts, rather than let them linger or fester in one's mind. Honestly, I am finding coming up with my own general theory of art is easier than trying to understand the vast nuances of my own sexuality and human sexuality in general :lol:
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#7 samepage1

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Posted 01 November 2010 - 12:52 AM

I would agree that sexual arousal is just a physiological response to various stimuli that may vary somewhat from person to person.

I imagine that this recent thread could help your understanding: http://www.asexualit...ctually-exist/. I agree with its OP that sexual attraction has two parts: sexual arousal, and non-sexual attraction. In this view, sexual attraction comes about through a sufficient combination of these two components. Since you mention "sexual desire" a few times, I suppose that you could call the inverse of this threshold "sexual desire," although I don't think that the idea of "sexual desire" is at all necessary to understand this view. (For some reason, "sexual desire" doesn't seem to be discussed much, if at all, on AVEN, while discussions of "sexual arousal," "sexual attraction," and "sex drive" are all over.) I threw that in there because I liked mylittlehazmat's "simple answer" that

...it's your mental sexuality that makes you asexual.

and this threshold seems pretty mental to me, so it fits.

So, what, if anything, is "sexual desire," and why isn't it discussed on AVEN? Maybe I should leave that for another thread...

#8 Sally

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Posted 01 November 2010 - 02:02 AM

I agree with its OP that sexual attraction has two parts: sexual arousal, and non-sexual attraction.



What? :blink:

From what sexuals have told me, sexual attraction is...sexual attraction. They are attracted to someone and want to have sex with them. I believe them and I've seen it in action. :lol:

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#9 Hap2

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Posted 01 November 2010 - 04:13 AM

I agree with its OP that sexual attraction has two parts: sexual arousal, and non-sexual attraction.



What? :blink:

From what sexuals have told me, sexual attraction is...sexual attraction. They are attracted to someone and want to have sex with them. I believe them and I've seen it in action. :lol:


Indeed. I am not sure what you mean samepage1 by non-sexual attraction. I'll sum up the conclusions so far for myself and others.

So far, sexual attraction has two necessary attributes that are both needed for it to occur:

1. There needs to be a mental and/or physical desire for sex that cannot be controlled.
2. It must be directed towards or attributed to a person or persons.

If the second condition is not met with the first, then it cannot be sexual attraction (which is why we have libidoist asexuals). Arousal is the body's biological response as wikipedia states: "in anticipation of sexual activity" which would explain why the idea of sex connected with thought, or an object, can result in said biological response. It does not require sexual attraction to be present or to happen.

As for what sexual desire is, it is basically mental and/or physical want for sexual activity, though by itself it is not specific towards anyone, for if it was then it would be sexual attraction. There are asexuals who do have a libido, but it is not directed towards any person[s] therefore it is not sexual attraction.

I hope I am not going in circles. But I am trying to come to a clean definition for sexual attraction, so for those who do not or do not know if they understand what sexual attraction feels like, they can have some sort of clear and distinct definition to hopefully understand themselves and the concept better with. Heck knows I have had trouble understanding sexual attraction, as too many often describe what they are feeling during sexual attraction, rather than the core of what makes sexual attraction as such. I hope I am somewhat succeeding here, which is why I need other's assistance, to see whether or not this definition does truly apply.
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#10 Pamcakes

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Posted 01 November 2010 - 08:37 PM

1. There needs to be a mental and/or physical desire for sex that cannot be controlled.


Er, no. Sorry. I assure you, the ability to control our urges - not just sexual, but also violent, gluttonous, criminal etc. - is what separates us from the lesser beasts (and sociopaths).
Yes, even Sexuals.
Sexual desire can be strong, but if the individual literally cannot control it, then they have a mental/medical condition called Hypersexuality (once referred to as Nymphomania), and need to see a doctor. It does happen, but it's considered a severe problem - not at all par for the course.

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#11 samepage1

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Posted 01 November 2010 - 10:31 PM

Indeed. I am not sure what you mean samepage1 by non-sexual attraction. I'll sum up the conclusions so far for myself and others.

So far, sexual attraction has two necessary attributes that are both needed for it to occur:

1. There needs to be a mental and/or physical desire for sex that cannot be controlled.
2. It must be directed towards or attributed to a person or persons.

The non-sexual component was explained in the 5th and 6th "paragraphs" of the original post on the thread: http://www.asexualit...ctually-exist/.

It's not really what I mean, so much as my interpretation of someone else's writing. I think the poster is saying that the reason that sexual arousal, desire or whatnot is attributed to people is due to factors that are not sexual. Like appreciating people and being drawn to them in non-sexual ways, analogous to the way that sexual attraction occurs, except it is not really analogous because all attraction is really the same. This view is why the poster doesn't consider sexual attraction to really exist.

I personally really liked this view, and I put it in this thread because it helped me understand sexual arousal without sexual attraction and which one leads to the other.

#12 Beenthere

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Posted 01 November 2010 - 10:39 PM

But if sexual arousal towards a person occurs for non-sexual reasons, then how come it's possible to look at someone you've never met and go from "0 to 60" just like that, when you weren't even thinking about sex? And also why would it be we (sexuals) can meet someone who would be the "perfect" mate and feel nothing at all for them sexually? (And this happens to sexuals all the time.)

#13 Sojourner

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Posted 01 November 2010 - 10:55 PM


1. There needs to be a mental and/or physical desire for sex that cannot be controlled.


Er, no. Sorry. I assure you, the ability to control our urges - not just sexual, but also violent, gluttonous, criminal etc. - is what separates us from the lesser beasts (and sociopaths).
Yes, even Sexuals.
Sexual desire can be strong, but if the individual literally cannot control it, then they have a mental/medical condition called Hypersexuality (once referred to as Nymphomania), and need to see a doctor. It does happen, but it's considered a severe problem - not at all par for the course.

P.

There's a difference between controlling an urge--i.e., controlling whether or not you have that urge--and controlling whether or not you satisfy the urge. If you find yourself one day just craving some sex, or a piece of cake or whatever, you can't just consciously decide to stop craving it. You can only decide not to have it despite the craving.
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#14 Hap2

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Posted 02 November 2010 - 01:15 AM



1. There needs to be a mental and/or physical desire for sex that cannot be controlled.


Er, no. Sorry. I assure you, the ability to control our urges - not just sexual, but also violent, gluttonous, criminal etc. - is what separates us from the lesser beasts (and sociopaths).
Yes, even Sexuals.
Sexual desire can be strong, but if the individual literally cannot control it, then they have a mental/medical condition called Hypersexuality (once referred to as Nymphomania), and need to see a doctor. It does happen, but it's considered a severe problem - not at all par for the course.

P.

There's a difference between controlling an urge--i.e., controlling whether or not you have that urge--and controlling whether or not you satisfy the urge. If you find yourself one day just craving some sex, or a piece of cake or whatever, you can't just consciously decide to stop craving it. You can only decide not to have it despite the craving.


Indeed, in sexual attraction, there is a feeling of desire, and the existence of that feeling cannot be controlled by the individual (one cannot prevent the a desire from happening, nor create one themselves, thus its happening is uncontrolled). There is never any specific mention of the control of one's actions based upon that urge Pamcakes, but perhaps I was not clear enough with my definition. That is one of the purposes of this thread though after all, clearing away confusion :).

@samepage1 - Eh, that thread to me, feels like it is over-complicating things a bit. From what I have understood so far of sexual arousal, is that it is caused by a part of the brain that is not directly controlled by the mind, the hypothalamus, and when the body or the mind anticipates the idea or concept of sex, the hypothalamus releases hormones to trigger physical arousal. It has little to do with attraction or desire, and like in the other thread, arousal can result from objects, thoughts, physical touch or whatever the hypothalamus decides to connect to the anticipation of sex.

But I believe the main difference with the definition here, is that ouinon connects sexual attraction and arousal together, and I do not, as I see it as a separate phenomenon from desire and thus attraction. This is supported by the fact that seniors can still have sexual desire towards others, (which is sexual attraction by the definition of this thread), but are incapable of or do not become aroused. Sometimes arousal happens in very random situations, where sex would be the last thing on a person's mind (like listening to music, or catching a certain scent). Arousal is not necessary and not accurate in determining desires of another person sexually, it is only the hypothalamus and the body's reaction to certain form of stimuli in the brain's anticipation of sex.
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