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Naosuu

Sexual Attraction Debate 101

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Naosuu

Foreword

The purpose I write this is to provide one perspective on the sexual attraction debate. I am by no means a professional sexologist, a researcher nor do I represent anyone who may share my opinion. These are merely my thoughts and interpretations. I write this hoping it will serve as a guide post for others still questioning their identity.

For the purpose of organizing this, I’ll split this up into various sections: it will have one post per section, with smaller, bite-sized sections to read. It’ll be easier for people to jump on, skip and pick up what interests them. Just use your search function to jump to your desired section.

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Part I: Introduction

1.1 Mainstream Understanding of Sexual Orientation

How did people understand sexual orientation? What is it trying to convey, anyway?

1.2 The Sandwich/Curry analogy

My understanding of how libido, sexual attraction and sexual desire relate to each other and what they mean.

1.3 AVEN’s Conception of Sexual Attraction

The problem with AVEN's understanding of "sexual attraction" and its implications.

1.4 What does this mean?

Given all of these things, how does it affect asexuality?

Part II: Sexual Desire and its Relationship to Asexuality

2.1 Sexual Desire and Sexuals

How do sexuals experience "sexual desire"?

2.2 Sexual Desire and Asexuals

How does this show in asexuals?

2.3 The Mixed Relationship

What happens when these two natures collide in a relationship?

2.4 Sexual Desire in Relation to Asexuality and AVEN

A mini conclusion of Part II.

Part III: The Sexualities "In-between"

3.1 Demisexuality

What is demisexuality in relation to sexual desire? Why does it get so much flack to begin with?

3.2 The "Gray" zone

The fuzziest area in sexuality. Why did the subforum come into existence, what does it say about sexuality in general?

Part IV: Conclusion

4.1 ???

NOTE: All titles and content are tentative, so they are subject to change. Also, if I tweak any section I'll put a note on the top of the next part to let people know.

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Naosuu

Part I: Introduction

Part I contains:

1.1 Mainstream Understanding of Sexual Orientation

How did people understand sexual orientation? What is it trying to convey, anyway?

1.2 The Sandwich/Curry analogy

My understanding of how libido, sexual attraction and sexual desire relate to each other and what they mean.

1.3 AVEN’s Conception of Sexual Attraction

The problem with AVEN's understanding of "sexual attraction" and its implications.

1.4 What does this mean?

Given all of these things, how does it affect asexuality?

----------------------------------------------

1.1 Mainstream Understanding of Sexual Orientation

The main idea behind “sexual orientation” is to describe a long-standing pattern of one’s sexual activities/feelings, in particular with/towards other people. There are three jargon words in particular: libido, sexual attraction and sexual desire, that are used to help convey this concept.

Prior to asexuality, it was assumed that everyone was a “sexual being”. That is, everyone wants to have sex with someone at some point (have a libido and want someone to scratch their itch). It was also assumed that everyone experienced “feelings” during their adolescence, including sexual feelings. At some point, these feelings become strong enough to act them out. Sometimes this happens in a relationship, sometimes it happens with two horny people under the right circumstances.

Sexual attraction and sexual desire are often conflated, used incorrectly or at the very least used to define each other. A quick look at wikipedia demonstrates the latter quite nicely:

Sexual attraction is attraction on the basis of sexual desire or the quality of arousing such interest.[1][2] Sexual attractiveness or sex appeal refers to an individual's ability to attract the sexual or erotic interest of another person, and is a factor in sexual selection or mate choice.

Why did this happen? Well, generally speaking sexual attraction and sexual desire does happen almost in-sync, or at least very closely with each other. For some people, these are almost impossible to separate. If Alice finds Mary sexually attractive, it must mean she is open to having sexual activities with her. Given that "sexual attraction" is so difficult to study in a scientific way, it is not surprising that sexual desire is used as evidence of sexual attraction. When there’s smoke, there’s fire, right?

Fast forward to around early 2000s and asexuality bursts in on the sexual orientation party, screaming, “I don’t want sex with ANYBODY!!”. It was a rather awkward debut, but since then it has prompted more in-depth research about those three little terms and how they really relate to each other.

1.2 The Sandwich/Curry analogy

Here is an anecdote:

I had just eaten lunch when I got a message from a friend on AVEN. We were discussing the various aspects of these terms and how they pertain to asexuality. I pondered, chewing on my sandwich and started jotting some ideas down. I was thinking of some analogies to explain my perspective. When I finished my sandwich, I thought about one of my favourite foods: chicken curry.

Curry-Chicken.jpg

It has a spicy, aromatic scent. It’s a laborious food to make: crushed garlic, ground coriander, crushed chillies, ginger and a magical blend of cinnamon, anise, cloves and cardemom... the curry I make is from a packet, but it is delicious: made with coconut milk, it gives the curry a creamy consistency. The chicken is slow cooked, so it’s soft and tender with hearty potatoes. When you eat it with Japanese rice (it’s gluttonous enough to hold the sauce), it’s an incredibly tasty burst of rich, intense flavours.

I was, unfortunately, full. The sandwich satisfied my hunger and I knew I’d never find it anywhere near me: it was way too Asian for a North American city, so I’d have to make it myself. However, if someone were to place a bowl of chicken curry in front of me at that very moment, I knew I wouldn’t be able to eat it. I was full, after all.

So what am I trying to explain? Well:

  • The fact that I get hungry for food is like having a libido.
    Hunger is a craving for food. Libido is a craving for sexual contact.
  • The fact that I ate the sandwich but did not necessarily crave for it can be seen as experiencing sexual desire but not sexual attraction.
    I did want the sandwich and I wasn't dissatisfied with it. It was there, available, and willing (as willing as an inanimate object can get, anyway).
  • The fact that I salivate at the mere suggestion of chicken curry can be seen as experiencing sexual attraction but not sexual desire.
    Despite my being full, any thoughts of chicken curry makes my mouth water. It doesn't matter how tasty my previous meal was; chicken curry is that freaking epic. Would I gorge myself? No, because I don't want to eat anymore. Even if I were hungry, I might be in the mood for sushi, chilli or spaghetti or something.

So, what is sexual attraction? I think it is hard to understand due to the last word: attraction. I make no claim to be smarter than the scientific community, but seeing as studies on sexual attraction used arousal and dilated pupils as an indication of this state, I think the concept is trying to convey an involuntary, subconscious reaction to sexual stimuli.

What constitutes “sexual stimuli” is highly individual: men; women; breasts; butts; muscular frames; both; people with a foot fetish; someone who only likes people who wear glasses; someone who likes blonds, etc. Much like the sandwich/curry analogy, these sexual stimuli does not necessarily incite a drive for sexual gratification. It would be rather problematic if a girl, who liked guys with a scarf, pounced every guy with a scarf. It becomes complicated because, just like anything else, what constitutes as "sexual stimuli" develops and changes over time. People get curious, they try things out. A virgin may not be into BDSM for their first sexual experiences, but it's possible for them to develop an interest in BDSM later. This is why is it so difficult for sexuals to agree what is and isn’t sexually attractive: it is highly personal, which often does not help questioning asexuals.

What kind of reactions do people get? It’s a very wide range. It can be something as subtle as a sexual thing catching your attention (noticing large breasts, a butt, a six-pack, etc), genital tingliness, “electricity”, sexual thoughts and images (image flash of the person on your bed in their underwear) to full-blown arousal. It can be powerful enough to incite one’s drive for orgasm, either through partnered sex or masturbation. All of this happens in the absence of physical/manual stimulation.

I should also be clear on this: I do not think that arousal automatically means it’s sexual attraction. If one manually stimulates one’s genitals, that is merely a physical/bodily reaction, much like feeling pain when one is kicked. I do think, however, arousal is an indisputable aspect of “sexual attraction” that cannot be ignored. In that regard, I do consider arousal in the absence of manual stimulation to be the results of sexual attraction.

A quick summary of what these terms mean (from my understanding):

  • Libido: the general craving for sexual contact.
  • Sexual attraction: an involuntary reaction to sexual stimuli in the absence of manual/physical stimulation.
  • Sexual desire: a libido with a direction, specifically towards other people and/or objects. (Does not include masturbation aids)

1.3 AVEN's Conception of Sexual Attraction

According to AVEN, an asexual is someone who “does not experience sexual attraction”. What this means is this formula:

Bob sees Alice - Bob thinks “she’s hot!” - Bob is open to having sexual relations to her.

There are some problems with this conception. It implies:

  1. ... that the majority of sexuals experience “bar room” attraction.
  2. ... a sexual only desires sex when there’s a potential partner.
  3. ... asexuals never experience “sexual attraction” (an involuntary reaction to sexual stimuli), despite some that actually do.

1. “that majority of sexuals experience “bar room” attraction.”

Where did AVEN get this conception from? Consider this: when AVEN started out, sexuality was taken for granted. As explained in "Mainstream Understanding", sexual attraction and sexual desire were two concepts that were used interchangeably. If one expressed sexual desire, it was seen as an indication of feeling “sexually attracted” to the subject. It is also understandable, then, that David Jay was not immune to this.

This is also based off of hypersexuals: the extremely vocal group of people who are very responsive to sexual stimuli. In reality, this group of people are on the one extreme of the sexual spectrum. Therefore, it doesn’t make sense to say “all sexuals are hypersexuals”. However, given English AVEN’s adolescent-young adult demographics, it isn’t surprising to see this “black and white” boxing of people.

2. “a sexual only desires sex when there’s a potential partner.”

Consider this: why do some sexuals pursue casual sex/friends-with-benefits/sex buddy? Some might say, "because they find it pleasurable, no-strings-attached," etc.

Consider this: if it was really about pleasure, why can't sexuals just masturbate? It's an awful lot of work to go out, find someone, chat them up, get them to be sexually-inclined (without coming off as creepy and/or perverted) and then find a private area to have sexual activities. Why is it so important that their "fix" includes another person? This indicates that there is some inherent difference between having partnered sex and masturbation, however motivated they are to get it.

Using another food analogy, it is common for some people to eat for the sake of eating: they like the texture of food, the taste, going through the motions of chewing... I don't think it's unheard of to think sexuals genuinely crave and want partnered sex for its own sake. If one thinks about the sandwich/curry analogy, it is possible for a sexual to simply find a "suitable partner" to get their fix without experiencing any notable reactions, much like my eating the sandwich. However, if one uses a strict application of AVEN's formula, these people are asexual. Yet clearly, they demonstrate a deep craving for partnered sex not found in many asexuals. Are they sexual, or are they asexual?

3. “asexuals never experience ‘sexual attraction’ (an involuntary reaction to sexual stimuli), despite some that actually do.”

This is probably the most uncomfortable point for some people reading. By using a strict application of AVEN's definition, any asexual who is aroused by anything (porn is popular) is not asexual. In order to protect and maintain the validity of one’s asexual label, many posters have jumped through various cognitive hoops, slaloms and pretzels to explain why they become aroused without manual stimulation. Many have brought up the idea that they are not aroused by the people, but rather the situation.

Consider this: there are various activities one does to feel relaxed. Personally, that entails reading, writing, listening and analyzing music and drawing. These all provide a sense of relaxation in different ways, but the results are the same: I feel relaxed.

Why does it matter if one is not aroused “by the people” but by “the situation”? The fact of the situation remains: one has become aroused without any physical stimulus. It was a bodily, sexual response to sexual stimuli. One may not cognitively like it, but that is the precise nature of an “involuntary” response: it happens on a subconscious level.

A smaller side note, but I think it is worth mentioning: what about other sexualities?

Given that the “sexual orientation” paradigm is centred on “... towards other people,” it’s not surprising that other, non-mainstream sexual practices have their own name. For example, a zoosexual. Technically, if a zoosexual only experiences sexual responses and wants sexual contact with animals, they are “asexual” since they do not experience these towards other people. They still fit within the asexual criteria, i.e. “does not experience sexual attraction (towards other people)”, yet it is clear that they do not share the same characteristics of an asexual.

1.4 What does this all mean?

How important is “sexual attraction” in defining asexuality? I am inclined to say, “not as important as some people think it is.”

AVEN presents a strange dichotomy: in keeping the definition so vague, its application of the definition is actually extremely strict. If someone even slips out that they have felt “sexual attraction”, they are automatically placed in the Gray zone. It is OK if that person talks about porn or a foot fetish, because it is understood as being an “asexual” way of being “aroused”.

Why is it so strict? If a heterosexual man has felt, on occasion, sexual feelings from another man, that does not automatically make him homo/bisexual. Why is it so taboo for an asexual to feel “sexual attraction”? That is because, by definition, asexuality cannot “experience sexual attraction”. Some people on AVEN claim to know what "sexual attraction" is, however if one persists they define it using sexual desire, much like the wikipedia entry.

In other words, asexuality defines itself using the same archaic understanding prior to AVEN's debut. This is done despite: English AVEN's immense community; more explicit talks about sexuality; a growing interest from the scientific community and a growing archive of studies that call this conception into serious question.

Why is there such a "puritanical" dogma surrounding AVEN and its conception of sexual attraction? There is nothing wrong with creating a definition and revising it as new information becomes available. Seeing as one's sexual orientation is a complex conception of oneself, I think an involuntary response should not make-or-break any sexuality. It shouldn’t discount the various feelings and experiences that brought one to the label in the first place.

If asexuality is less about experiencing “sexual attraction”, then what is it about? What is really going on? Why are there people who don’t feel the other labels fit? It is in my opinion that asexuality is less about “sexual attraction” and more about “sexual desire”; specifically, an asexual is someone who “doesn’t experience sexual attraction and/or who does not want sexual relations.”

On a personal note, I'd like to say that I have personally been in this position when I first joined AVEN. I am inclined to point the finger at protecting one's sexual identity in order to be part of a(n a)sexual community I finally felt connected to. It served as an anchor when I realized people actually wanted sex and knowing this literally changed the way I see the world and shook my fundamental understanding of human beings and relationships. It was scary, so believe me when I say I understand why some people are attached to this place. I really, really do.

Just in case some people think I am against asexuality, I am by no means trying to bash asexuality into non-existence. Rather, it is through these very forums that I safely explored what sexuality means to sexuals and how that manifests itself. It is through these very forums that I learned all of this and feel comfortable enough writing about it, explaining these concepts in simpler terms in order to help other people questioning their own sexuality. AVEN appears to exist in its own "internet bubble" and, while it enforces a "safe haven" in all of its subforums and I have personally benefited from this, I think it will be AVEN's own undoing if it remains narrow-minded in its own definition. I can only hope that this will inspire others to examine what all of these terms mean outside of AVEN's "safe" bubble.

In Part II, I will elaborate on "sexual desire". It's a very complex concept and I will specifically write about how it relates to sexuals, asexuals and how these concepts interact with each other in mixed relationships.

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skullery

Sorry, I know you're in the middle of a process but if I don't post this now, it'll be gone foreva (sorrysorrysorry!):

If someone even slips out that they have felt “sexual attraction”, they are automatically placed in the Gray zone. It is OK if that person talks about porn or a foot fetish, because it is understood as being an “asexual” way of being “aroused”.

It is extremely bad luck for some asexuals that they happen to have sexual responses that aren't deemed "asexual", whereas other asexuals have sexual responses that are deemed "sexual attraction"... I've yet to see any legitimate argument as to why getting aroused by any one of these is different in any relevant way to getting aroused by any other of these ways:

Ashton Kutcher in real life

Ashton Kutcher's ass in real life

Ashton Kutcher on a mass produced tv show

Ashton Kutcher's ass on a mass produced tv show

Ashton Kutcher's ass on a personal video meant for his girlfriend

Ashton Kutcher's charisma

Some sexuals are more turned on by noises, or porn, or real life situations, or erotic stories, etc... the specifics of it don't matter. Everyone is different and therefore everyone's attraction manifests itself a little differently. Common sense will tell you this is true across the board. If your husband, Bob, was having an affair with Heidi, and you walked into the bathroom and found Bob jacking off to Heidi's picture, you probably wouldn't say "eh, that's just an asexual attraction, no worries". If every time you hugged Randy he got an erection but he explained it as "I'm not attracted to you, just your elbow", it wouldn't change the way you thought about his attraction. So why does it make sense for asexuality to look at the multitude of ways that attraction manifests itself, point at 2 of the 100,000 ways, and say "those two are sexual attractions and the other 99,998 ways are asexual!"

Let's look at the image below:

colors.jpg

Now, each strand is technically a different color, right? I'm sure there are some strands that are so close in color as to be indistinguishable, but most of the threads are sufficiently different as to be noticeable. It is the same with manifestations of attraction. No two people are exactly the same with exactly the same brains, so no two people are going to have identical attraction manifestations. Some people will be more attracted to clothed figures, some to naked figures, some to auditory stimulation, some to visual, some to imagination... some people are more attracted to personalities than appearance, some people care more about facial beauty and others care more about body shape. No two people are exactly the same... no two people receive the exact same sensory stimulation, process it the exact same way, and receive the exact same response. It's just natural variation. It is ridiculous to pick out a few of those manifestations and call them asexual, when there is nothing about those few selected which separate them in any meaningful way from the standard variation. It would be equally stupid to look at the square above and pick out three threads and say that those are completely different from the others and must be separately classified. Natural variation MUST be acknowledged and accommodated. If something fits within the standard deviation, then it is not separable from the others. It is my firm belief that picking apart attraction specifics, like if it's on TV vs not on TV, or whether it's based on a body part vs the whole person, or whether it is personality based vs physical appearance based... those differences fall within the standard deviation of regular old run of the mill sexual attraction.

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Philip027

Dang girl, you've been hard at work~

But yeah, I'll be watching this with interest >_>

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Kitty Spoon Train

Natural variation MUST be acknowledged and accommodated. If something fits within the standard deviation, then it is not separable from the others. It is my firm belief that picking apart attraction specifics, like if it's on TV vs not on TV, or whether it's based on a body part vs the whole person, or whether it is personality based vs physical appearance based... those differences fall within the standard deviation of regular old run of the mill sexual attraction.

I agree with this...

I suppose it comes down to specific labels really being more of a classification of a particular form of attraction, rather than something making the person inherently different (in the "this is a whole other animal" kind of way).

eg. Let's say you've got a heterosexual guy who is only into blondes. 100%. No other type of woman turns his crank, at all. He'd rather go without sex for the rest of his life than hook up with a non-blonde woman. Is he "asexual to non-blondes"? In practice, yes. But it does come across as a somewhat ridiculous label. There's no need to treat his inclination for blondes as a separate sexual "orientation". He's still a heterosexual man, just with specific and very absolute preferences.

I guess it really comes down to how specific a particular inclination is, and how much it affects standard dating assumptions in a particular culture.

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Cakey

I guess other people may have problems with how they view attraction and indeed how I view attraction. Feelings that I experience, can happen in a nano-seconds (for me), but putting those feelings into words, may inspire many protracted, paragraphs. I have found many commonalities when comparing the asexual experience, there are four or five core ones, that appear with regularity.

Beyond that,I tend not to want to forensically view and review the various contested nuances, (or, indeed, the major rifts in that interpretation.) I guess it bascially reflects my trait, of going through stuff and settling it, there and then Personally

So this presents a lovely chance, for me Personally, to enhance my minimalistic world view on this issue. A contention, that inspires both the denominations of desire and no desire, based on Aven's first Testament of Wikipedia.

From the attraction-only,Fundamentalists, to the born-again revelations of our more secular members, all adhering to The Religion of Attraction. (Which I believe is descended from David Moses and the Avenites, who bought with them their Ten Terms of Service!!!!)

(If only I could have been baptised earlier, doh!!)

Well done nasou :)

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5_♦♣

AVEN is a religion? :huh:

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Cakey

AVEN is a religion? :huh:

God knows? :rolleyes:

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Vampyremage

Wonderfully done, I must say. The way its laid out, I think makes some of these concepts easier to understand and differentiate from one another. I especially enjoyed the sandwich vs. curry analogy. I don't have anything further to add for the moment, but suffice to say I shall continue to follow this thread closely.

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Qutenkuddly

This is a very well composed piece! I really like your analogies and explanations, even if I might not agree with all your points.

Would you mind if I added some hypertexting so that future readers will be able to easily navigate to the remaining parts of your article?

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eamonn
Natural variation MUST be acknowledged and accommodated. If something fits within the standard deviation, then it is not separable from the others. It is my firm belief that picking apart attraction specifics, like if it's on TV vs not on TV, or whether it's based on a body part vs the whole person, or whether it is personality based vs physical appearance based... those differences fall within the standard deviation of regular old run of the mill sexual attraction.

This, and the rest of your post, is one of the most insightful things I've ever read on AVEN.

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Naosuu

Go for it, Qute. I'll PM you when I write the 2nd part too. :P

@SM and other people: Don't worry about it. Feel free to add any comments you might have. I am only one person, afterall. :D

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Beachwalker

That's awesome Naosuu.

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Significant Form

This thread times All The Numbers.

There should be a link to this on the front page.

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Naosuu

Minor changes: (For those who are interested)

  1. Fixed some spelling and reworded some sentences.
  2. Tweaked 1.2 The Sandwich/Curry Analogy: added additional details about what "sexual attraction" is.
  3. Added a personal note and a minor tweak in 1.4 What does this all mean?.

Also: Thanks to everyone for the positive feedback. It is most appreciated! :wub:

Part II: Sexual Desire and its Relationship with Asexuality

Part II contains:

2.1 Sexual Desire and Sexuals

How do sexuals experience "sexual desire"?

2.2 Sexual Desire and Asexuals

How does this show in asexuals?

2.3 The Mixed Relationship

What happens when these two natures collide in a relationship?

2.4 Sexual Desire in Relation to Asexuality and AVEN

A mini conclusion of Part II.

----------------------------------------------

In my interpretation, "sexual attraction" is an involuntary, subconscious reaction to sexual stimuli. Seeing as one's sexual orientation has many facets, I do not agree with AVEN's death grip on its own interpretation of "sexual attraction". While it is true that the current definition is accurate to some, I do not think it captures asexuality's entirety.

How important is sexual desire in relation to asexuality? In my opinion, this is the most important characteristic of any sexual orientation. I don't think it's an exaggeration when I say most people, including myself, consider this aspect to make-or-break a sexuality, not "sexual attraction".

2.1 Sexual Desire and Sexuals

First, let's do a quick comparison of a sexual when they are not interested in anyone/single and when they are interested/in a relationship.

Context: Not interested / Single

What are sexuals like when they're single? Well, quite frankly, they're pretty much like any regular person. They: wake up; wash up; in a panic eat breakfast and run to your car/catch your public transit; nearly be late; work; eat; get pissed at your boss; etc.

There seems to be some conception that sexuals are, somehow, predominantly occupied with sex. To be fair, there are those whom are very interested in sex and think about it a lot. However, if one watches various TV programs like Cake Boss, Storage Wars, Animal Planet, National Geographic, MythBusters... a majority of those involved with the process are probably sexuals. In fact, I'm sure many well-known figures and celebrities are sexual. Being a sexual does not prevent one from, you know, living a life, building a career, having hobbies and building connections with other people. It's simply one facet of who one is. There should be an understanding that "sexual" is simply a catch-all term for people whom identify as something other than asexual.

Contrary to AVEN's emphasis on "hypersexuals" (i.e. someone who seeks, pursues and enjoys casual sex), a majority of sexuals do want to have that one-on-one, intimate connection with someone. How much this affects their attitude towards sex will vary: some really like sex and its pleasures; some will never have casual sex, as the only good sex is one with emotions tied into it; some can enjoy both for what they are. Just how motivated one is to pursue sex depends on the individual.

In the state of "not being interested in anyone", they do not necessarily, nor actively, search for a sexual relationship despite showing interest in sexual things. Sometimes people choose not to have any sexual relations: religion; busy building a career; unstable lifestyle; psychologically/emotionally not ready; negative attitude towards casual sex; personality... the list goes on.

Context: Interested / In a relationship

This is where the sexual nature of one's sexual orientation comes out, regardless of how "low-key" someone is.

So Bob meets Alice. They met at Steven's house-warming party; a friend of a friend, or something like that. Either way, It is clear that they both hit it off really well: they find each other funny; enjoy each other's company; exchanged numbers; communicate by phone and/or through text and meet on a bi-weekly basis. Suffice to say, both are romantically interested in and are becoming more emotionally attached each other. For the remainder of my explanation, I will use this context since there is a lot of gray area in new relationships.I will also not cover romantic vs. aromantics, as that adds an entirely new dimension on the subject and does not add to the purpose of this essay. For those of you who are interested in romantic vs. aromantic, a fellow member has already done a wonderful post about this. (Yes, I'm shameless and not ashamed of it.)

Many, if not all, romantics are familiar with this time period: there is a strong desire to be with the other person; to talk to them; spend time with them; flirt / be playful; being on cloud nine; the desire to be closer to this person; the tentative "first kiss"; initiating more intimate affection because it just feels so good to touch and be touched by this person. This is commonly known as the "infatuation phase", or when the chemicals are at its peak in a romantic relationship (à la Helen Ficher). Many romantic asexuals are familiar with this process. For sexuals, this is what a romantic phase can be like, in addition to increasing sexual feelings.

What does that mean, exactly? Well, it simply means that a sexual can experience: noticing their partner's lips, "electricity", "sexual thoughts" and "images" in relation to their interest without manual stimulation. In other words, become "sexually attracted" to this person. Depending on the individual, it can immediately spark the need to have sexual contact with their partner, or it can come up much later. As the relationship progresses, "being closer" to one's partner eventually manifests itself as sexual intimacy. From my understanding, the desire to be sexually intimate with their partner can be proportional to the strength and depth of one's emotional attachment. To add another dimension to the situation, for some sexuals, "sexual attraction" never manifests despite their strong want to be sexually intimate with their partner. What matters, in this case, is the depth of the emotional bond that ignites the desire to be sexually intimate with their partner.

As you can see, for a sexual there is a complex network between emotions, romantic feelings and sexual feelings/need for sexual intimacy. This should also provide a clearer understanding of why sexual cheating is a heinous crime/possible dealbreaker, as it implies the cheating partner is not as emotionally invested as the other partner thought and breaches the contract of a monogamous relationship. This is made even more complex in the light of polyamorous relationships, but seeing as I lack experience in and the knowledge about that area, I will refrain from writing about it.

2.2 Sexual Desire and Asexuals

As explained in 2.1. Sexual Desire and Sexuals, there is a very complex network between emotions, romantic feelings and sexual feelings/need for sexual intimacy. So where does that leave asexuals?

Let's return to the definition of "sexual desire":

Sexual desire: a libido with a direction, specifically towards other people and/or objects. (Does not include masturbation aids)

One could say that sexual desire is more about being driven for orgasm. In that regard, masturbation and partnered sex fall in this definition. However, one should consider that masturbation is, generally, not a result of finding oneself sexually desirable. That isn't to say it doesn't happen, but it is generally viewed as simply taking care of a bodily function. This can also be rolled up into the hedonistic perspective of libido and sexual desire (i.e. sexual pleasure is good and people pursue it for its own, pleasurable, sake) and it does not take into account a sexual's inherent preference to partnered sex over masturbation. Remember: if it were all about the pleasure, why is it necessary to have another person? Or for other sexualities, why is the presence of that object necessary for the experience to be sexually gratifying? This is why the distinction, "specifically towards other people and/or objects" is made.

For those who have been on AVEN for a while, most people are familiar with asexuals with libidos. These asexuals occasionally feel the need to masturbate; scratching the itch, if you will. However, for whatever reason, many of these asexuals are not motivated to have sexual relations with other people. In addition to some asexuals whom experience "sexual attraction" (mostly to porn), it can be very confusing to on-looking sexuals. Remember how sexual attraction and sexual desire are used to define each other? When there's smoke, there's fire, right? In this case, there's smoke but there's definitively no fire!

An asexual's attitude towards partnered sex varies quite a bit: some are mostly indifferent; some find it boring; some would prefer to do without it; some are totally repulsed. While asexuals can enjoy sex for the same reasons as sexuals (increased physical and emotional intimacy, finding it pleasurable, fun, know their partner appreciates it, likes making their partner feel good, etc), these asexuals have a "take it or leave it" attitude towards it. While sexuals have an inherent preference to partnered sex, asexuals have no preference. Some describe having a complete "mental disconnect" with sex, which I think means they cannot enter the same "aroused mental state" as a sexual does. In other words, partnered sex and masturbation are exactly the same in terms of sexual gratification despite the presence of a deep, emotional bond.

2.3 The Mixed Relationship

Now that there is an understanding of sexual desire in relation to sexuals and asexuals, let's take a look at what happens when Bob's sexual nature collides with Alice's asexual nature.

Bob and Alice love each other very much and are each other's best friends. They are strongly attracted to each other; they support each other in time of need, help each other, guide each other when one is unsure, are honest and truthful... in other words, they have the makings of a successful, long-term relationship. This is all rainbows and pink butterflies until sex enters the picture.

Bob, hardwired as a sexual, wants to have sexual intimacy with Alice as an extension of how much he cares about her. This comes very naturally to him since he is very, very attracted to and emotionally attached to her.

Alice, hardwired as an asexual, never thinks about being sexually intimate with Bob. She loves being close to Bob; holding him; kissing him and don't forget the cuddles. She's also very attracted to Bob, but despite the presence of an emotional bond, Alice never thinks about having sex with him.

This isn't something new. Alice has always thought she just had a "low libido", but Bob has his suspicions. Bob notices that Alice never seems... as into sex as he is. Sometimes she'll be rather "mechanical", or she'll try to get it over with as soon as possible. When Bob asks her about this, she clams up.

There are a few layers to this situation. For those of you who are wondering, the situation will not take into account religious beliefs to keep it simple. Aside from that, this tends to be the clichés of mixed relationships:

I will break it down into Bob's perspective and Alice's perspective:

Bob:

  1. ... thinks that part of being "in love" with someone is showing that through sexual intimacy.
  2. ... wants Alice to enjoy sex because he cares about whether she's having a good time.
  3. ... sees Alice's lack of interest as evidence for her lack of attraction towards him.
  4. ... feels very unattractive, unloved and doesn't know what to do.

Alice:

  1. ... cannot understand why she doesn't feel motivated to have sex with Bob.
  2. ... feels pressured to enjoy sex the way Bob thinks she should.
  3. ... notices "signals" that Bob interprets as her initiating sex, so she pulls away.
  4. ... is very attracted to Bob, loves him very much but doesn't know what to do.

Let's compare each of these points, one by one.

1. "Bob thinks that part of being "in love" with someone is showing that through sexual intimacy." / "Alice cannot understand why she doesn't feel motivated to have sex with Bob."

So let's recall that a sexual wants, desires, thinks partnered sex is really freaking awesome. Asexuals can, more or less, "take it or leave it". One would think oh, this isn't really a problem. Afterall, Alice is neutral, so technically she could have sex and be OK with that.

Unfortunately, it is not as easy as that. Remember that some, if not most, asexuals describe having a "mental disconnect" with sex. That is, one is not deriving any feeling, good or bad, from the experience. In fact, there is usually some degree of boredom associated with the activity.

Here's an anecdote/analogy that I will use throughout my explanation. I will talk about my friend, G and his love for animation and sharing "scrubbing" (going through an animated clip frame by frame) with me. G is analogous to a sexual; I am analogous to an asexual and scrubbing is analogous to sex.

G is a passionate animator. He's studying animation, loves, lives and breathes animation and will coax me into seeing every new (Disney-)Pixar movie. I like seeing his enthusiasm, his knowledge of the trade and his technical skill, but the moment he wants to scrub a scene from "Legend of Korra" with me, he loses my interest. My mind wanders: I make lists; I think of other thoughts; I think how I haven't peed in a while and maybe it'd be a good idea to do that. Or I think about scratching my butt, whichever comes first. In other words, I stop connecting with him about his passion and I can't wait to be doing something else.

A sexual partner is being completely genuine in sharing sexual intimacy. It is something they care about, something that comes from the depths of their souls and it is shared meaningfully with their partner as a way to establish or maintain a connection. An asexual partner, just like me, however is not interested in that. It doesn't ping on their radar and, sometimes they can feign interest, but with greater exposure it can get increasingly difficult.

Anyway, the point is that I can never be motivated to scrub an animated clip. I can pretend to be interested in it, but it can only hold my attention for about 15 seconds before I want to pull at my hair. It does not hold any interest in me, just like an asexual has no interest in sex for these (and more) reasons.

2. "Bob wants Alice to enjoy sex because he cares about whether she's having a good time." / "Alice feels pressured to enjoy sex the way Bob thinks she should."

When G starts to scrub through a scene, I am 99.999% sure he notices that I'm not very interested: I fidget; play with his hair; give him monosyllabic responses to his observations; poke his face... a bunch of signals that indicate I'm not paying attention. Sometimes I feel tense when I'm caught in this situation, as it plays out in one of two ways:

A: He gets the hint and eventually stops verbalizing his thoughts and watches the clip by himself. When he does, I feel guilty; I genuinely love G, even if he may drive me crazy at times. I want to show that I'm interested in the things he's interested, even if it's really hard at times. Not only do I feel guilty, but he might feel bad or rejected that I'm not showing the same enthusiasm for scrubbing as he is.

B: Sometimes he doesn't(?) get the hint and marches on, much to my annoyance. However, because I really can't wait to be doing something else, I also feel a bit resentful for his consistent need(?) to scrub clips with me. You'd think he would've gotten the message by now, right?! But no, there he is... scrubbing the clips and forcing myself to feign interest. He probably senses this too, so he might feel annoyed that I'm not paying as much attention as he is.

Either way, the results are the same: we both lose out. Either I feel guilty or resentful, or he feels rejected or annoyed that I'm not paying attention. This is not so different for most mixed partners.

3. "Bob sees Alice's lack of interest as evidence for her lack of attraction towards him." / "Alice notices "signals" that Bob interprets as her initiating sex, so she pulls away."

For the sake of explaining the analogy, let's pretend that G consistently scrubs clips with me.

By now, things are reaching a very delicate point. I've gotten pretty sick of scrubbing while G has been rather insistent. Eventually, I notice small signs that might open him up to sharing another scrubbing session:

  • He has his laptop out.
  • He's looking up random Legend of Korra images, animating trivia, etc.
  • He just talked about how awesome Legend of Korra is with his fellow animator colleagues.
  • He's already scrubbing an episode.

When he's looking up Legend of Korra images and watching an episode, you better bet I don't talk to him. Or sometimes I'll ask him a question about the series and he'll go off on so many tangents I don't even know how it got to scrubbing. It's all related, I'm sure. This can also happen if he sees me and waves me to come over, then I know I'll have to endure another scrubbing session with him.

So what do I do? I spend less time around him. I withdraw; I make sure to talk to him when he's not on his laptop (which isn't a lot). Since I don't verbalize my dislike for scrubbing, G starts to think that I'm avoiding him because I don't like him. This is, in fact, very far from the truth. He begins to feel kind of hurt and maybe a bit resentful This eventually begins to affect other aspects of our relationship, like my teasing him causing him to lose his temper. It was the straw that broke the camel's back, however, since I didn't know he felt this way, I don't understand where this anger comes from. I mean, everything else is fine, right?

4. "Bob feels very unattractive, unloved and doesn't know what to do." / "Alice is very attracted to Bob, loves him very much but doesn't know what to do."

Point 4 is a result of points 1, 2 and 3. The base emotions are still the same: asexuals understand that sex is somehow important to their partners, but really can't give two hoots about it. Some don't even understand why it's so important and would rather go without it. Sexuals, on the other hand, are constantly demonstrating they want to share an intimate activity with their partner. Constantly being rejected by someone you love, especially when you attach strong emotions to the activity, is very difficult.

There are a lot of questions that are asked in this period. Prior to asexuality, anyone who was in Alice's position would think that they simply did not love their partner the way they think they should. This is very understandable: remember, it is assumed that everyone will want to be sexually intimate with someone at some point, especially in the context of a relationship. It is assumed that they are not as "attracted" as they think they are. That's pretty harsh, especially when both partners are emotionally invested in each other.

The mixed relationship isn't as easy as it sounds in writing. Even though I've listed four characteristics, the emotional story for both partners can run deeper than that. There have been some sexuals who, despite finding a good compromise, still feel they are "coercing" their asexual partner to have sex. Think about the analogy: if scrubbing is meant to be shared as a bonding tool, it's entire purpose is defeated if one partner isn't enjoying it, right? How does G really know if I'm enjoying the experiencing as much as he is? There is also very erroneous conception among some (newer?) asexuals that sexuals are awful people whom can only think with their crotch. Not that there aren't, but in a deeper relationship it dismisses the experiences of the sexual partner. Sexuals can be passionate about sex and it is no one's position to say this passion is inherently wrong. This is an aspect that should be respected. It is, however, a whole different story if a sexual is being a jerk about it.

For those who are in mixed relationships, all hope is not lost. These relationships can work, but they take a lot of effort on both ends. What is normally necessary is the asexual partner's willingness to engage in sexual activity and, usually, turning down the frequency. How an asexual relates to sex varies from person to person: some are neutral; indifferent; minor leaning to dislike/like; completely repulsed. If an asexual is mostly neutral with a minor leanings, it makes compromising much easier. If, however, an asexual is repulsed, compromise might not be an option.

Some people may feel that this is still bad since the asexual is still "going against their nature" to have sex. Let's bring the analogy back and pretend that G and I talk about scrubbing. For G, it means a lot to him that I scrub episodes with him (I make funny observations, he values my opinion, etc). Rather than sitting through an entire episode, I tell him that I'll scrub a favourite 10 second clip with him, at max once a week. It doesn't sound like a lot, but consider that there are 24 frames per second, so that means there are 240 frames to look through.

If that doesn't work for you, you can also imagine this with food. Many of us have gone out for lunch or dinner, right? There is usually some discussion over what kind of food to eat. One person may want sushi, but the other is allergic to sea food or doesn't like sushi. It logically makes sense to not eat sushi, seeing as one person will be thoroughly enjoying themselves and the other will sit like an awkward, hungry penguin in the zoo. True, there is less emotional baggage associated with dining, but the underlying principles are the same.

The point is to demonstrate that sex is not just about sex itself. When sexuals are deprived of this need (and yes, it is in fact, a need), it takes its toll. Like Bob, many sexuals take a tremendous blow to their self-esteem and suffer psychological damage. They feel they are not attractive; they're worthless; unlovable; think their asexual partner is cheating on them; feel there is something wrong with them. These could not be further from the truth with an asexual partner, but one has to remember that asexuality is still under the radar. No one can blame a sexual for expecting their partner to be sexual because, quite frankly, there are three other orientations that include some motivation towards sexual relations. For a heterosexual, there are still potentially two sexually-driven sexual orientations they can end up with (heterosexuals and bisexuals). It's a numbers game: mathematically speaking, it's highly improbable for a very sexual partner to be paired with a very sexually-uninterested/repulsed asexual partner, but it's clear that it still happens.

2.4 Sexual Desire in Relation to Asexuality and AVEN

Let's come back to AVEN's conception of "sexual attraction":

Bob sees Alice > Bob thinks, "she's hot!" > Bob is open to having sexual relations with her.

Given that step two is sexual attraction while step three is sexual desire, what makes people identify with the asexual label?

My friend has been welcoming newcomers for the past two months or so (she should get a gold star). The majority of anecdotes and stories shared are based on how the newcomer has never wanted sex with another person. It might be in a different colour or the pattern is different, but this theme comes up over and over again. These newcomers will identify with AVEN's conception and assert that they do not feel sexual attraction. These same newbies will post questions about arousal, porn, how other people feel about X kink, have fetishes, etc.

Remember how a lot of people conflate, confuse or interchangeably use "sexual attraction" and "sexual desire"? It is my opinion that a vast majority of asexuals actually experience sexual attraction. In fact, by virtue of having a fetish or a turn-on, that is evidence of experiencing sexual attraction to some degree.

Consider this: take this interview done on MSNBC on March 27th, 2006. In this interview, listen very closely to the

to the question, "So you don't think about sex?". If one looks at other interviews with David Jay, he repeatedly asserts that he "does not desire sex" but continuously asserts asexuals "don't experience sexual attraction" and can have fetishes and kinks. He isn't wrong in his assertions, but with this minor confusion with the vocabulary, along with its politically-driven background, it has exploded just like the Butterfly Effect.

This leaves AVEN in a compromised position: in my opinion, AVEN should change its definition in accordance to new information and studies. A definition should not be a "sound bite", or a "catchy" tune because then it fails as a definition. A definition should be able to communicate what it means concisely, with clarity and not force its newcomers to jump through various hoops. On the other hand, there has been extensive work done in the name of visibility and education thus far with that definition. If one compares it to a tree, its roots are much too deep to simply pull out. It has been there for too long and any forceful attempts simply put the tree at risk, or worse.

So why do asexuals identify with the label? In my opinion, it is because they lack sexual desire ("a libido with a direction, specifically towards other people and/or objects. (Does not include masturbation aids)"). and not because of a lack of sexual attraction. David Jay does not feel the need to express his sexuality with another person. He is essentially expressing that his libido is "directionless" despite the presence of a libido. It is this "directionless libido" that other people identify with, even though it's being called "sexual attraction" instead of "sexual desire".

There has been some fierce debate between "sexual desire" and "internal motivation towards partnered sex", but in my mind they are expressing the same thing. Whether someone prefers to say asexuals "do not experience sexual desire" or "do not experience sexual attraction and/or want sexual relations" is a matter of po-TAY-toe or po-TAH-toe. The latter could be seen as more "inclusive" since many asexuals do not experience sexual attraction, but they technically fall under the former since they still do not want sexual relations with other people (or lack sexual desire).

In Part III, I'll talk about what this all means in relation to demisexuality and the "gray" area.

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Qutenkuddly

Absolutely brilliant! You've really eloquently described some of the problems faced by many mixed couples.

I'll take care of all the linking and such when I have the chance. (I'm at work right now.)

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Vampyremage

Once again absoolutely beautifully written and well worth the read, Its fantasti to have this all out there and cleary stated.

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Notte stellata

Very brilliant, insightful, and an interesting read! :cake:

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Beachwalker

I think you have captured the essence of what it means to be asexual Naosuu, I personally found it moving. Thankyou.

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WhenSummersGone

"It is my opinion that a vast majority of asexuals actually experience sexual attraction"

How do you figure that? Usually when I am out in public I never ever look at people in a sexual way. For me a turn on helps with my arousal, the feeling itself, not because I'm sexually attracted to them specifically. If that were the case I could easily be sexually attracted to animals because of the feeling I get from certain sexual feelings. However I never look at men, women, animals, aliens, plants, whatever and say "Man, I'd really like to have sex with them". I enjoy the feeling itself which is why I masturbate to get that feeling.

"The fact that I salivate at the mere suggestion of chicken curry can be seen as experiencing sexual attraction but not sexual desire"

I would say quite a few asexuals don't even "salivate" at the mere suggestion of men or women, let alone wanting to have sex with them.

Also this is just my opinion and what I experience. I think the AVEN definition is just fine the way it is but adding sexual desire would help too.

Other than that I would say this was very good.

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Naosuu

Thanks everyone :) I'm on a writing binge since the semester is still young. Hopefully I can write out most of Part III over the weekend. >_>

"It is my opinion that a vast majority of asexuals actually experience sexual attraction"

How do you figure that? Usually when I am out in public I never ever look at people in a sexual way. For me a turn on helps with my arousal, the feeling itself, not because I'm sexually attracted to them specifically. If that were the case I could easily be sexually attracted to animals because of the feeling I get from certain sexual feelings. However I never look at men, women, animals, aliens, plants, whatever and say "Man, I'd really like to have sex with them". I enjoy the feeling itself which is why I masturbate to get that feeling.

"The fact that I salivate at the mere suggestion of chicken curry can be seen as experiencing sexual attraction but not sexual desire"

I would say quite a few asexuals don't even "salivate" at the mere suggestion of men or women, let alone wanting to have sex with them.

Consider this: you consider a turn-on a turn-on precisely because it causes your body or mind to have a a sexual response, right? Why does you react the way you do? It isn't a cognitive thing, like: see stimulus > decide it's sexy > body responds. In fact, your body skips the second step and jumps to the response the moment you see the stimulus. Studies on sexual attraction may have been fighting over the actual definition, but there is a common thread that implies it's subconscious. Really, I think that's the most I'll ever pull out of it.

I have recently started dating a fellow. He's very lovely; very polite; we can dork out together over video games and/or animal documentaries; very affectionate; we mutually share interesting things. All in all, very fun to spend time with him (and I do love giving him the Nao-time he insists on having ;) ).

Hmm, well, just in case some people don't want to hear about it...

I really like shapely butts, no matter who it's on. In fact, I just noticed he has a fantastic butt. I was kind of skeptical, because I've seen "shapely bottoms" where they had a huge chunky wallet adding all that volume. No, it's real - and all I can think is "mmm, so yummy and so nice to look at!"

Here's the thing: in spite of his loveliness and this new-found Yummy-Factor, I don't actually want to have sex with him. When I spend time with him, it's really the last thing on my mind. I consider the Yummy-Factor as sexual attraction because checking out that part of the body is definitively sexual. It's just like checking out cleavage/large breasts - they're a sexual part of the body and, for some reason, may draw people's attention. This is also sexual attraction.

If I were more gungho about the definition, I might argue, "well, I'm only attracted to that part, not to him." But why are there "sexual" ways to check out cleavages and butts and "asexual" ways to check out cleavages and butts? It's part of an asexual twisting themselves into cognitive pretzels to protect their identity. I kind of joke about it, but when an asexual is extremely attached to the definition, it's like they become allergic to/scared of the word "sexual".

It's totally true that some asexuals don't experience this at all - in fact, some sexuals don't experience this either. If you consider that, what makes a sexual different from an asexual? While this subconscious reaction can help people in identifying their sexual orientation, AVEN treats it like it's a "make-or-break" factor. I don't think experiencing an involuntary response should invalidate an asexual's identity, let alone any sexuality. Which is why I think sexual desire plays a much bigger role than what most people are willing to admit.

EDIT: Oh, and thank you for your feedback. :)

Back to writing... :ph34r:

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trueblue

I'm sure this is all wonderful, but can someone sum it for me in five words? (preferably small ones)

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kochouran

I look forward to what you have to write about the grey area since I've been going back and forth recently on whether I'm grey-a or asexual who's been conditioned to think that she wants sex.

The Bob and Alice scenario is fantastic, but what happens if Alice thinks one day she will want to have sex with Bob because that's what couples do? Is she still asexual or would she fall under the grey area? This is the kind of question that I've been asking myself because before I knew about asexuality, I imagined that sex would happen in the future and yet when I was with someone I liked, I didn't think about sex.

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Naosuu

I'm sure this is all wonderful, but can someone sum it for me in five words? (preferably small ones)

I'm pretty sure you saw this and looked like your Fry avatar. :P

Without using too many jargon words, I'm basically criticizing AVEN's use of "sexual attraction" to really mean "a want for sexual relations with other people" (jargon word: sexual desire). These parts are explaining how, in detail, this minor change greatly changes how you see certain concepts: sexuals, asexuals, demis, grays and other sexual orientations.

Well, at least it did for me. Hopefully it'll at least make other people think about it.

I look forward to what you have to write about the grey area since I've been going back and forth recently on whether I'm grey-a or asexual who's been conditioned to think that she wants sex.

The Bob and Alice scenario is fantastic, but what happens if Alice thinks one day she will want to have sex with Bob because that's what couples do? Is she still asexual or would she fall under the grey area? This is the kind of question that I've been asking myself because before I knew about asexuality, I imagined that sex would happen in the future and yet when I was with someone I liked, I didn't think about sex.

Thanks :o I certainly hope my thoughts about the "gray" zone helps you.

I'm actually planning on addressing your question somewhere in this monster of an essay. I have a little paragraph that opens up that discussion, but I haven't quite tackled it yet. I definitively look forward to picking it apart. :twisted:

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Lucienne

This is absolutely wonderful! You've put so many of my thoughts into words that I would have been unable to express otherwise, along with throwing more food for thought into the mix. Many people do tend to use "desire" and "attraction" interchangeably (myself included at times), and you've clarified things very well for those who were more confused on the matter. Can't wait to see what you say next!

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WhenSummersGone

Thanks everyone :) I'm on a writing binge since the semester is still young. Hopefully I can write out most of Part III over the weekend. >_>

"It is my opinion that a vast majority of asexuals actually experience sexual attraction"

How do you figure that? Usually when I am out in public I never ever look at people in a sexual way. For me a turn on helps with my arousal, the feeling itself, not because I'm sexually attracted to them specifically. If that were the case I could easily be sexually attracted to animals because of the feeling I get from certain sexual feelings. However I never look at men, women, animals, aliens, plants, whatever and say "Man, I'd really like to have sex with them". I enjoy the feeling itself which is why I masturbate to get that feeling.

"The fact that I salivate at the mere suggestion of chicken curry can be seen as experiencing sexual attraction but not sexual desire"

I would say quite a few asexuals don't even "salivate" at the mere suggestion of men or women, let alone wanting to have sex with them.

Consider this: you consider a turn-on a turn-on precisely because it causes your body or mind to have a a sexual response, right? Why does you react the way you do? It isn't a cognitive thing, like: see stimulus > decide it's sexy > body responds. In fact, your body skips the second step and jumps to the response the moment you see the stimulus. Studies on sexual attraction may have been fighting over the actual definition, but there is a common thread that implies it's subconscious. Really, I think that's the most I'll ever pull out of it.

I have recently started dating a fellow. He's very lovely; very polite; we can dork out together over video games and/or animal documentaries; very affectionate; we mutually share interesting things. All in all, very fun to spend time with him (and I do love giving him the Nao-time he insists on having ;) ).

Hmm, well, just in case some people don't want to hear about it...

I really like shapely butts, no matter who it's on. In fact, I just noticed he has a fantastic butt. I was kind of skeptical, because I've seen "shapely bottoms" where they had a huge chunky wallet adding all that volume. No, it's real - and all I can think is "mmm, so yummy and so nice to look at!"

Here's the thing: in spite of his loveliness and this new-found Yummy-Factor, I don't actually want to have sex with him. When I spend time with him, it's really the last thing on my mind. I consider the Yummy-Factor as sexual attraction because checking out that part of the body is definitively sexual. It's just like checking out cleavage/large breasts - they're a sexual part of the body and, for some reason, may draw people's attention. This is also sexual attraction.

If I were more gungho about the definition, I might argue, "well, I'm only attracted to that part, not to him." But why are there "sexual" ways to check out cleavages and butts and "asexual" ways to check out cleavages and butts? It's part of an asexual twisting themselves into cognitive pretzels to protect their identity. I kind of joke about it, but when an asexual is extremely attached to the definition, it's like they become allergic to/scared of the word "sexual".

It's totally true that some asexuals don't experience this at all - in fact, some sexuals don't experience this either. If you consider that, what makes a sexual different from an asexual? While this subconscious reaction can help people in identifying their sexual orientation, AVEN treats it like it's a "make-or-break" factor. I don't think experiencing an involuntary response should invalidate an asexual's identity, let alone any sexuality. Which is why I think sexual desire plays a much bigger role than what most people are willing to admit.

EDIT: Oh, and thank you for your feedback. :)

Back to writing... :ph34r:

You are confusing attraction to mean the same as arousal. What about men who can get turned on by other men/gay porn sometimes? Or me who watches lesbian porn? Are you saying everyone is sexually attracted to everything? I enjoy being touched because it feels good, does that mean I could be sexually attracted to an alien if it touched me?

I can't see a feeling. Just because I can picture myself being touched doesn't mean I want them. Sexual attraction has to do with what you see sexually, external factors, not what you feel which is arousal.

I experience aesthetic attraction, where I can see where a person looks good or I have a preference on what looks better because I also experience physical attraction. I look at attractive people as art paintings, not sexual beings. I also experience sensual attraction like being touched.

I belive there is a difference between sexual arousal, sexual attraction and sexual desire.

Arousal = turned on, hard on, Viagra etc.

Attraction = liking someone, being flirty etc sexual chemistry.

Desire = wanting to follow through with your attraction towards someone.

http://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20100715020515AA0s4sv

I personally can become aroused by turn ons, not people specially, but I can't enjoy sex because I'm not sexually attracted to anyone/anything and I'd much rather do it myself. Turn ons are turn ons, they are not based on a specific person, they are just a feeling of good and arousal.

People who say 'visual arousal' are referring to being aroused by visual stimuli.

People who say 'physical arousal' are referring to being aroused by tactile stimuli.

In other words, you could get aroused wearing a blindfold if someone was touching you the right way. - http://ca.answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20120106151353AA4q9xb

This is why some asexuals can still enjoy sex, being intimate, even though they don't have the attraction or desire to have it, like myself.

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Naosuu

You are confusing attraction to mean the same as arousal. What about men who can get turned on by other men/gay porn sometimes? Or me who watches lesbian porn? Are you saying everyone is sexually attracted to everything? I enjoy being touched because it feels good, does that mean I could be sexually attracted to an alien if it touched me?

I can't see a feeling. Just because I can picture myself being touched doesn't mean I want them. Sexual attraction has to do with what you see sexually, external factors, not what you feel which is arousal.

I experience aesthetic attraction, where I can see where a person looks good or I have a preference on what looks better because I also experience physical attraction. I look at attractive people as art paintings, not sexual beings. I also experience sensual attraction like being touched.

I belive there is a difference between sexual arousal, sexual attraction and sexual desire.

Arousal = turned on, hard on, Viagra etc.

Attraction = liking someone, being flirty etc sexual chemistry.

Desire = wanting to follow through with your attraction towards someone.

http://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20100715020515AA0s4sv

I personally can become aroused by turn ons, not people specially, but I can't enjoy sex because I'm not sexually attracted to anyone/anything and I'd much rather do it myself. Turn ons are turn ons, they are not based on a specific person, they are just a feeling of good and arousal.

People who say 'visual arousal' are referring to being aroused by visual stimuli.

People who say 'physical arousal' are referring to being aroused by tactile stimuli.

In other words, you could get aroused wearing a blindfold if someone was touching you the right way. - http://ca.answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20120106151353AA4q9xb

This is why some asexuals can still enjoy sex, being intimate, even though they don't have the attraction or desire to have it, like myself.

Hmm, perhaps I wasn't clear before, but I agree that if one becomes aroused from touch, then that's just a response to a physical stimulation. However, if one experiences arousal by simply looking at something, like porn, I consider that sexual attraction. Getting turned-on by standing close to someone you love? That's also sexual attraction. Does it matter if the acts, the people, the setting or the mood arouses you? No, I don't think so. I think, as SM has pointed out, these are natural variations in what is "sexually attractive".

To answer your question: yes, if a guy feels "genital tingliness" or feels "turned-on" from gay porn, he is sexually attracted to gay porn. It doesn't matter if it was to the situation, the people, the setting... whatever it was, it caused him to react in a sexual way without touch. Something in his reptilian brain saw the stimuli (porn), marked it off as sexual and made his body react appropriately to the information. I think this is what "sexual attraction" is trying to explain.

However, this doesn't invalidate his sexual orientation in any way. It is merely a facet of his sexuality, just like heterosexual women getting turned on by lesbian porn. Or if a gay man likes looking at women's butts it doesn't make him bi or straight. I don't see why noticing anything sexual should invalidate an asexual's identity either. Of course, this gets a bit complicated with deeply closeted gay men consciously identifying as straight... but let's put that aside.

No, not everything should fall under the "sexual attraction" omnibus. People can still appreciate people who look good, or they think looks pretty. However, if one's focus is on the target's breasts, butt, broad shoulders/thick neck... I'm less inclined to call it aesthetic appreciation.

I also agree that asexuals can enjoy sex for many and the same reasons as a sexual: increased emotional and physical intimacy, like making their partner feel good, like knowing it makes their partner happy... but these reasons don't make an asexual a sexual and vice versa. Just looking at those alone, it appears there is no difference between a sexual and an asexual, but clearly there is. Otherwise, we wouldn't be here, right? That's why I think it runs a bit deeper than that. It's simply just that: asexuals lack sexual desire or the want for sexual relations.

Think of it this way: I am totally neutral to movies and I wouldn't go out of my way to watch them. I actually like watching movie trailers because they tend to be really interesting and I like how they build up tension (analogous to sexual attraction). However, watching the trailer is generally not enough to make me haul my lazy ass to the nearest movie theatre (lacking sexual desire). When I do get pulled into a movie theatre, I know that I generally have a good time (liking sex). Still, the experience isn't enough to make me chase after every new movie that comes out (neutral/indifferent feelings overall).

Just to play hard ball... (and in no way am I trying to invalidate you or anything, but merely pointing this out)

Did you notice that you're jumping through hoops to prove you don't experience sexual attraction in a "sexual" way (i.e. get turned on by the turn on and not to people)? Why does it threaten your identity? It really doesn't and shouldn't. It's part of AVEN's death hold on the definition, throwing any asexual who dares to say they experience "sexual attraction" in a sexual way off the boat and into the "Gray" sea.

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Qutenkuddly

I'm going to disagree with the notion that visual attraction to body parts is necessarily sexual attraction. For this, I'm going to go back to my notion that we're (generally) hard-wired to respond to a variety of sensory cues which (if sexual) elicit an interest in having sex.

Every now and then, for example, I'll catch myself glancing at exposed cleavage. It's a momentary glance, as the visual processors go "Hey, what's that? Could be interesting!" and the rest of the brain follows up with "It's someone's cleavage; we're not really interested in that. You can look away now." And then I look away, feeling somewhat annoyed and embarrassed that I glanced there and hope the other person didn't notice. There's no arousal, 'tingling', or anything of that nature. It's just like flashing something sparkly in my peripheral vision, or sounding a horn outside of view; my attention gets drawn to it until my brain has sorted out what it is and whether or not there's any need to maintain interest. In other words, it's instinctual (at least for me). Does momentary instinct count as attraction?

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Kitty Spoon Train

I'm going to disagree with the notion that visual attraction to body parts is necessarily sexual attraction. For this, I'm going to go back to my notion that we're (generally) hard-wired to respond to a variety of sensory cues which (if sexual) elicit an interest in having sex.

Every now and then, for example, I'll catch myself glancing at exposed cleavage. It's a momentary glance, as the visual processors go "Hey, what's that? Could be interesting!" and the rest of the brain follows up with "It's someone's cleavage; we're not really interested in that. You can look away now." And then I look away, feeling somewhat annoyed and embarrassed that I glanced there and hope the other person didn't notice. There's no arousal, 'tingling', or anything of that nature. It's just like flashing something sparkly in my peripheral vision, or sounding a horn outside of view; my attention gets drawn to it until my brain has sorted out what it is and whether or not there's any need to maintain interest. In other words, it's instinctual (at least for me). Does momentary instinct count as attraction?

I can relate to this...

I have a lot of little things that might grab my attention momentarily - let's call them "Aesthetic Attraction triggers". But there's ZERO sexual followup thoughts to them. They're literally just that - moments of aesthetic appreciation of some outstanding feature that people have. I can see various things like that in all genders too, but since I'm heteroromantic, it's somewhat more emphasised towards females, with whom it can sometimes combine with a vague sense of sensual attraction too (the "cuddle urge").

Hanging out with a very paranoid and possessive ex years ago - I remember her freaking out at me "checking out other girls". But these were just these totally harmless moments of aesthetic appreciation, not even any more meaningful or long than my moments of noticing good looking guys. So I tried to explain how I simply notice visually nice features in people - of all genders - and how it has ZERO sexual followup in my head and that I'm not really "checking out" girls specifically in any sinister way. But she didn't get it. Mind you, this is back before I knew anything about asexuality (or demisexuality in my case), but I did already have this general sense of romantic, aesthetic and sexual "attractions" being separate things in my head.

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