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I constantly question what romantic attraction and sexual orientation actually means


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dreamerboy

I know just about enough to know that I can't relate to much of any of it at all (yes, I'm aroace). It's kinda frustrating that when I google "what does it mean to be romantically attracted to someone", the first answer I see is "a type of attraction in which people desire a romantic relationship with another person.". Okayy... really? But what even IS a "romantic relationship"! LOL

 

So I ask google what a romantic relationship is and it says it's a "mutual, ongoing and voluntary interactions between two partners that is characterized by specific expressions of affection and intimacy." ...okay... but how is that any different than just having a close friend for life? Perhaps people just mean like a "super special friend" that's got some "super exclusive privileges" that other friends can't have, like doing life completely together (living together, making decisions together, etc)? I mean, I only guess so... 

 

The definition for sexual attraction I find first on google seems rather simple: a desire to engage in contact with someone sexually. Googling the definition of sexual orientation is also frustrating, especially since the definitions seem quite allonormative... "a pattern of sexual attraction"? Really? If those defining sexual orientation had considered asexuals, they'd have to also include "the lack of attractions" in that definition as well. 

 

But whatever, in theory sexual attraction and orientation both sound really simple in theory, but in reality, allosexuals seem to speak of it as being more nuanced than that. Personally, I find allosexual labels to be quite strange because they sound as if to imply wanting sex with an entire gender, when that's not actually what they mean. When I honestly ask, with no intention of being offensive, what the difference is between sexual attraction to someone and just having certain people as an object of one's sexual arousal, allosexuals are very quick to protest, "NOO!! Sexual orientation is more than about having sex" or "attraction isn't the same as objectifying"... now the latter is understandable... but isn't who you could imagine sex with the point of sexual attraction?

 

Edit: Okay pondering the former point that sexual orientation is more than about wanting sex, maybe sex as an objective isn't the point, but rather just a mere feeling that draws you into that direction? Well if that were indeed the case, then google's definition is wrong.

 

Maybe this is just a rant of a very frustratingly confused aroace who is desperately looking for a concrete explanation of allosexuality and romance

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Sarah-Sylvia

Hi @dreamerboy. Just gonna quickly share some of my thoughts.

 

When it comes to romance, friendships aren't nearly as intimate. Also depends on someone's love language for how it looks like. But touch/sensuality is one (and mine). I wouldn't touch a friend like I do a romantic partner. At most would cuddle and cheek kiss but that's super rare with a friend. For me romantic touch shares a personal intimate connection and/of affection. Lots of closeness, caressing actions of love and care, and it's much more pronounced and also affection is not wayyyy more frequent and waaay longer. There's just much more a personal intimate connection. Not what I would do with a friend. Frienship is more about company and mutual enjoyment of things, even if a bond and trust grows too. Which are included with a romantic partner too since friendship is part of romance too for me. (it just goes way beyond that) And im not sexual, but for some who are i guess it's how they like to share intimacy and enjoyment.

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The thing is, there is no 'concrete' explanation of what being a sexual means and what romance mean and those definitions are always going to be vague because they have to cover a lot. They are very much wrapped up in emotionality and therefore are very individualistic and nuanced. You could talk to 100 people and get a 100 different answers. There will likely be some similar themes, but really everyone feels their sexuality in their own unique way. This is why there often isn't agreement and you aren't ever going to get just one easy explanation. These concepts mean different things to different people because they feel them differently. 

 

For me who I am attracted to sexually and romantically are intrinsically interlinked. So with one comes the other and vice versa, so I cannot just split them apart, and that is often why orientation is not just about one aspect. So even if a definition is pointing more towards sexual attraction per say, well for me that will automatically include the romantic aspect too. They can come at differing intensities and amounts, but they are inseparable for me, and for many people.

 

For me romantic/sexual relationships are a whole lot more intimate than friendships, and there is potentially more of an expectation of commitment to each other (if that is set out). Now sure I guess you could make similar commitments to a friend, but I would have no desire to do such a thing with a friend over someone I am romantically interested in, because what I want from these relationships is in general very different. 

 

 

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You're not ever going to get a 100% concrete answer because romance means different things to different people.

 

Quote

So I ask google what a romantic relationship is and it says it's a "mutual, ongoing and voluntary interactions between two partners that is characterized by specific expressions of affection and intimacy." ...okay... but how is that any different than just having a close friend for life?

As you've already surmised, romantic partners usually do things that even "close friends" generally wouldn't do.

 

Quote

The definition for sexual attraction I find first on google seems rather simple: a desire to engage in contact with someone sexually. Googling the definition of sexual orientation is also frustrating, especially since the definitions seem quite allonormative... "a pattern of sexual attraction"? Really? If those defining sexual orientation had considered asexuals, they'd have to also include "the lack of attractions" in that definition as well. 

Asexuality was not known at all when that definition was made.  Even then, you pretty much have to consider it as an outlier; it's literally the "X" on the 0-6 Kinsey scale.

 

Personally, I don't really view asexuality as a sexual orientation, more like the lack of one, much like how you wouldn't consider atheism a religion.

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Feds the Freds

So far I understand romantic attraction as a very personal feeling. Some people may be way more intimate with close friends than others with their romantic partner. But if there are certain people you imagine being way more open with compared to with everyone else (even friends) then these people are what would be romantically attracted to, I assume.

Now for someone like me, this is very difficult to truely comprehend as I never was in a romantic relationship, but I imagine, if I would be, I would maybe see hugs, that I actually would want to have with that hypothetical person, as an already really close intimate interaction because I just don't hug people and don't really want to (quite touch averse). But again, with the right person, I may want to. But others go round the world hugging everyone even complete strangers. Is such a person constantly romantic or would I (while hugging) not be romantic when compared to eachother? I don't think so: Hugs mean something way more to me than to that person.

And for most people, sexual and romantic attraction means the same thing, so sex is just more intimate for some people compared to other romantic closeness. That's one way to explain asexuality to most people I think, that sex just isn't something that comes to mind when thinking of getting more intimate.


And yeah, I did hug people in my life and it wasn't the end of the world for me, but it felt more like a must thing to do in most situations compared to something I wanted myself. It's just something I don't really prefer to do with most people :)

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3 hours ago, dreamerboy said:

But what even IS a "romantic relationship"! LOL

It's a relationship in which the people in it define it as such. It's when both parties feel romance is present. No reason a friendship can't be romantic because the people are friends and both feel romance is present.

 

3 hours ago, dreamerboy said:

"mutual, ongoing and voluntary interactions between two partners that is characterized by specific expressions of affection and intimacy." ...okay... but how is that any different than just having a close friend for life?

 Isn't really. How people make it different is that many romantic relationships lack the foundation of trust, admiration and mutual respect that friendships have. It's why many people struggle to remain friends with an ex. Nothing to go back to. It was just about being a couple.

 

3 hours ago, dreamerboy said:

Perhaps people just mean like a "super special friend" that's got some "super exclusive privileges" that other friends can't have, like doing life completely together (living together, making decisions together, etc)? I mean, I only guess so... 

 

There's no reason you can't do this with a friend if you both agree to it. Some people choose to call these kinds of relationships platonic partnership. Like Queer platonic partnership. 

3 hours ago, dreamerboy said:

 

The definition for sexual attraction I find first on google seems rather simple: a desire to engage in contact with someone sexually.

I'd sort of disagree with that because for me, there's a step between attraction and desire that requires reciprocation of sorts.

3 hours ago, dreamerboy said:

Googling the definition of sexual orientation is also frustrating, especially since the definitions seem quite allonormative... "a pattern of sexual attraction"? Really? If those defining sexual orientation had considered asexuals, they'd have to also include "the lack of attractions" in that definition as well. 

A lack of sexual attraction is a pattern. The asexuals I origialnally knew where not attracted to anyone and nor did they desire sex with anyone. Gender didn't come into it. 

3 hours ago, dreamerboy said:

But whatever, in theory sexual attraction and orientation both sound really simple in theory, but in reality, allosexuals seem to speak of it as being more nuanced than that.

It's very nuanced. That's why when ace people try and create generalizations about us to compare and contrast to themselves and use as a basis to create labels and definitions, it can err into downright offensive. Sometimes just painfully ignorant. Like the classic "I need to like my sexual partners for more than their looks so I'm ace".

3 hours ago, dreamerboy said:

Personally, I find allosexual labels to be quite strange because they sound as if to imply wanting sex with an entire gender, when that's not actually what they mean.

What gave you that impression? 

3 hours ago, dreamerboy said:

 

When I honestly ask, with no intention of being offensive, what the difference is between sexual attraction to someone and just having certain people as an object of one's sexual arousal, allosexuals are very quick to protest, "NOO!! Sexual orientation is more than about having sex" or "attraction isn't the same as objectifying"... now the latter is understandable... but isn't who you could imagine sex with the point of sexual attraction?

No, orientation is more like saying "I'm a cis man and I'm generally attracted to femme presenting women, I'm heterosexual". Most people are at least partially referring to who they typically want sex with because sex is desired feature of their intimate relationships. But not everyone, and I think very, very few people are only referring to sex when they speak about their orientation unless they subscribe to the split attraction model which most sexual and romantic folks do not. 

 

Sexual attraction is saying "I am attracted to Wendy from Accounts". It's usually a mix of esthetic attraction and personal admiration that leads to sexual attraction. The balance varies between individuals and depending on the specific link between the people involved. Sometimes, someone you don't find particularly esthetically attractive and can have qualities that increase your sexual attraction to them. 

 

3 hours ago, dreamerboy said:

 

Edit: Okay pondering the former point that sexual orientation is more than about wanting sex, maybe sex as an objective isn't the point, but rather just a mere feeling that draws you into that direction? Well if that were indeed the case, then google's definition is wrong.

Orientation doesn't speak about if and how much sex you want. It speaks about your pattern of attraction. 

3 hours ago, dreamerboy said:

 

Maybe this is just a rant of a very frustratingly confused aroace who is desperately looking for a concrete explanation of allosexuality and romance

Could be

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WhiteCatandcherries
3 hours ago, dreamerboy said:

So I ask google what a romantic relationship is and it says it's a "mutual, ongoing and voluntary interactions between two partners that is characterized by specific expressions of affection and intimacy." ...okay... but how is that any different than just having a close friend for life? Perhaps people just mean like a "super special friend" that's got some "super exclusive privileges" that other friends can't have, like doing life completely together (living together, making decisions together, etc)? I mean, I only guess so... 

I would say the feeling over any specific action (actions can also be done between friends if they so wish) - if both people have a romantic feeling for each other / romantic attraction to each other and want a relationship that is romantic (which includes things that can be done between friends but because both people see them in a romantic light / get romantic feeling from doing it, it is romantic). There is just a difference between how I feel for my friends and any crushes - and it is not that I love my friends less, there is just a difference in how I feel about them, an spark/ attraction in a romantic way that is there with my crushes and not with my friends. A romantic relationship for me also includes things I wouldn't do with my friends (like kissing), but some might do that, and what really sets it apart is that if I kissed my friends I wouldn't feel the same about it as kissing a crush. It is the romantic feelings that transform the action into something romantic.

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WhiteCatandcherries
4 hours ago, dreamerboy said:

But whatever, in theory sexual attraction and orientation both sound really simple in theory, but in reality, allosexuals seem to speak of it as being more nuanced than that. Personally, I find allosexual labels to be quite strange because they sound as if to imply wanting sex with an entire gender, when that's not actually what they mean. When I honestly ask, with no intention of being offensive, what the difference is between sexual attraction to someone and just having certain people as an object of one's sexual arousal, allosexuals are very quick to protest, "NOO!! Sexual orientation is more than about having sex" or "attraction isn't the same as objectifying"... now the latter is understandable... but isn't who you could imagine sex with the point of sexual attraction?

 

Edit: Okay pondering the former point that sexual orientation is more than about wanting sex, maybe sex as an objective isn't the point, but rather just a mere feeling that draws you into that direction? Well if that were indeed the case, then google's definition is wrong.

Well I can give you my personal definitions, but people have different ones.

I think that sexual attraction and sexual desire is two often connected but different things. Sexual desire I define as wanting to have sex with someone. I believe that allosexuals do not want to sleep with everyone they feel sexually attracted to (my usual arguments is that if that were the case we would see it clearly in litterature and also that if sexual attraction is "wanting to have sex with someone" then every allosexual in a relationship would have to "fight" the urge the cheat and sleep with everyone they were sexually attracted to - because they would want to sleep with these people according to that definition.)

Sexual attraction I define as basically "finding people sexually pleasing / interesting". For people who also experience sexual desire that could manifest as "I would sleep with that person if the circumstances were right (I was in the mood, I was single, we were in a relationship together - whatever you need)". For someone not experiencing desire, it would just go back to "finding people sexually pleasing / interesting". I once (it lasted 30 seconds) experienced finding someone pretty in a sexual way, I percieved them in a light that was just clearly sexual in nature. I define that as sexual attraction.

I cannot give you my definitions without saying that I believe that just not experiencing one of either desire or sexual attraction is enough to be able to identify as asexual.

Sorry if you didn't want this. I just saw your wonderings about sexual attraction being something different than just desire, and it reflects my own perspective.

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Guest Queerdo
4 hours ago, WhiteCatandcherries said:

Sexual attraction I define as basically "finding people sexually pleasing / interesting". For people who also experience sexual desire that could manifest as "I would sleep with that person if the circumstances were right (I was in the mood, I was single, we were in a relationship together - whatever you need)". For someone not experiencing desire, it would just go back to "finding people sexually pleasing / interesting". I once (it lasted 30 seconds) experienced finding someone pretty in a sexual way, I percieved them in a light that was just clearly sexual in nature. I define that as sexual attraction.

Oh yeah, this.

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