Question of the Week: February 11, 2014

Does “sexual attraction” seem like an obvious concept to you, or was it unclear for a period of time? If so, is it still confusing?

To me, “sexual attraction” has always seemed pretty clear-cut: if I’m sexually attracted to someone, I must be experiencing a desire to engage in sexual activity with that person for my own enjoyment. This desire might be strong or weak. At least, that’s the way I define things in general, because for obvious reasons I don’t experience this desire.

Occasionally people run into my old post about the invisible elephant and take it upon themselves to explain to me in great detail what sexual attraction feels like, which I’ve always taken as well-meant but annoying. Their definitions sometimes intersect with mine, but often don’t. For example, my definition doesn’t necessarily involve arousal, because arousal happens in response to things besides “desire to have sex.” It is also known to occur in response to strong emotion (for example, fear and anxiety!) and for no reason at all.

About Sciatrix

Sciatrix is an American graduate student studying ecology, evolution and behavior. She identifies as asexual and has mostly given up trying to sort out the whole romance thing for now. She has previously blogged about asexuality at Writing From Factor X. In her free time, she trains in canine agility and knits oddly cabled hats.
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7 Responses to Question of the Week: February 11, 2014

  1. shadowsax says:

    I think there’s a difference between arousal and sexual arousal, but I can see why you wouldn’t want to include the term in your definition. People tend to jump straight to sexual arousal whenever the word “arousal” is used. Sexual attraction is really confusing to me in general because I don’t think I feel it, but I can’t be sure because I wouldn’t know what I was feeling if I felt it. (Also your elephant analogy is A+.)

  2. ace-muslim says:

    Sometimes I think I have a theoretical understanding of sexual attraction and then I’ll read something about it and think, “If it’s like that, I really don’t get it at all”.

  3. Carmilla DeWinter says:

    Hm. When I first read the English definition, it made immediate sense to me. It’s something I don’t think I’ve ever felt. By now, I can mimic it well enough when writing, though, I think.
    I also agree about leaving arousal out of the definition. Once I had to redo a scene because my beta thought the character was sexually aroused, when, in fact, she’d just escaped certain death. *headscratch* So, there is stuff that I do not get at all. Hooray for allosexual betas, huh?

  4. epochryphal says:

    Being confused about sexual attraction and whether I experience it was a huuuuge part of why I began identifying as grey(/-a). It was so not obvious.

    I have OCD, and as a teenager this manifested in intrusive sexual thoughts which were often also violent, even gory. One summer I couldn’t look at people without imagining me having sex with them, and I didn’t understand why — I really, REALLY didn’t want to have these thoughts, nor did they feel linked to any actual desire, and I felt so gross and invaded and didn’t know what to blame/source.

    I’ve also been primarily pursued by cis dudes, and tried so hard to unravel what was me being put off by their cisness or straightness or politics vs not being into them. It was an AMAZING epiphany to realize last year, wow, so completely not into cis dudes and THAT’S what the visceral ‘ugh gross shudder why did I do that’ feeling was/is, and that that’s what an orientation feels like (and how different it feels from all my anxiety/OCD/depression-based ‘why did/didn’t I do that argh’).

    And that’s freed me up for my current project of, wow I really am sexually attracted to people who AREN’T cis dudes! Not everyone, obviously, and that still needs sussing out. Plus there was a whole other crisis of, “I think I’m attracted to this person but I don’t want to do anything sexual to them?” and how I often go through periods like that, sort of reverse-stone (or ‘paper’ if you will). I also think my sex drive is super low, which is usually just fine by me, but many of my partners are/have been concerned about it (especially if it’s a side effect of my psych meds, because apparently THAT disqualifies it as not okay).

    The result is right now I’m still using grey, less because my previous “wtf is sexual attraction idgi” and more because “ok now what do I do with this, I guess I fit the low intensity criterion, also still useful because navigating expectations (but also, self, be wary of using as excuse to avoid pursuing what you really want, we’ve done that already).”

    So, sexual attraction: still confusing, now identifiable (and so is its absence! hallelu) but very, very “what do.”

  5. Victrix says:

    I still get confused every so often and wouldn’t want to define it if asked on the spot. I still have doubts over whether I’m grey or just asexual, defining it would probably help, but doesn’t make a difference to me at the end of the day.
    That last link is an interesting read, thank you. Will probably help if I ever get around to writing a post about repulsion.

  6. siggysrobotboyfriend says:

    I’m allo, so my perspective is not typical for this group, but I wouldn’t say the definition on the OP conforms to my experience. I can be sexually attracted to someone without having any interest in having sex with them. Maybe I just don’t like them, or maybe I’m more into someone else, or any of a host of other reasons. I wouldn’t expect my experience to be typical among allos though.

  7. Isaac says:

    When I first read about asexuality, I didn’t know what sexual attraction was and, hence, I didn’t know if I was asexual. Indeed, when I started my blog about asexuality, I still considered myself heterosexual. It was latter, after reading experiences in AVEN, when I realized I was asexual with libido.

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