Question of the Week: November 7th, 2017.

Do you not experience sexual attraction and desire as linked together or independently?

It was tricky for me to come up with a simple way to phrase this question. The absence of a correlation is difficult to discuss, but if things are absent together, that’s a link.

I think for many allosexual and asexual people sexual attraction desire are linked. Either both are experienced or not experienced, making them appear as a single seamless experience. Is that actually how they are, or is that just a dominant narrative (or even stereotype)?

I think of sexual attraction and sexual desire as two separate phenomena because they occur (or don’t) independently in me.

I’m not sexually attracted to anyone so it just doesn’t exist. My sexual desire ebbs and flows doing its own thing, seemingly independent of people or any external drives. Experiencing sexual attraction and desire as two very separate things is one of the main reasons I identify as asexual and sex-favorable (one identity label for each thing).

If you’re comfortable sharing, are they linked or independent for you, sometimes linked sometimes not, or even, what do you think about the topic at all?

About Talia

Talia is an asexual, nonbinary, vegan-feminist that drinks a lot of coffee and stays up very late playing Blizzard video games and writing fiction. They are working on a PhD in Environmental Studies where they think a lot about oppression as intersectional and impacting identities differentially. Talia has a particular fondness for asexuality, fandom, and Critical Animal Studies. Their personal blog is petuniaparty.tumblr.com
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17 Responses to Question of the Week: November 7th, 2017.

  1. Rivers says:

    Even though I personally do not experience either attraction or desire, making it seem like a have a “linked” experience, I consider them independent things. They do work together to form our identity, but they still do so as different and distinctive things. Like having a desire to eat cake, and finding a cake that you would want to eat are separate things. People both ace and allo also experience a range of drive regardless of orientation, and within that range are people like you who directly contradict the sentiment that they are the “same thing” or “inherently linked”.

    • Talia says:

      Oh I like your cake example! It’s so simple and yet I’ve struggled to find a way to explain it to people that doesn’t just devolve into a complete sexual example (which opens them up to asking invasive sexual questions). I’m going to use that 🙂

  2. I’ve found in my experience that attraction and desire are tangentially linked. The one time I experienced sexual attraction, my sexual desire ramped up. But the rest of the time my desire just sort of does its own thing regardless of attraction being absent. Like you said, it ebbs and flows.

  3. Manny says:

    Very well said and explained.
    And Totally agree. 🙂

    That certainly helps clear out a lot of Confusion.
    Those who have sexual desire are still Asexual as that desire is independent of any external person as there is just sexual desire and no sexual attraction.
    Both are different and independent. 🙂

    Nicely said!
    Thanks for explaining that. 🙂

  4. luvtheheaven says:

    They’re linked for me. More than just sexual desire and sexual attraction too. Also my confusing feelings about what is aromanticism vs romanticism seems linked to my asexuality, as do things like my sex-aversion and kissing-aversion seeming linked to my asexuality, or even my extremely low (possibly non-)arousibility. I find it hard to believe (or I find it very unlikely) that so many of these states are just “coincidental”. Like would I really be identifying as aromantic spectrum if I strongly wanted sex with one or both genders? Would I really be sex averse or kissing averse if going through those motions turned me on/satisfied any horniness already there in any sense? I highly doubt it. I probably would have never stopped to think that any of these things are separate if not for the asexual community making it clear, showing examples that some people experience one without the other. But now I’m trying to keep them separate, I’m learning to separate them, in order to be a better ally to everyone for whom things aren’t linked. I explain my recent super personal fanvideo was about me learning to come to terms not just with my asexuality but also specifically with my sex aversion and not just call my sex aversion asexuality. That kind of thing. I think they can be separate but there’s something very linked about mine. I even think lack of desire can influence, in many people’s cases, what attraction then feels like and lessen the pull of something like sexual or aesthetic or sensual attraction, that the attraction stops mattering if not paired with desire and stops feeling as intense for folks, and possibly in some cases stop it altogether. Aroaces seem least likely to feel confident they experience aesthetic attraction, I’m not sure if that’s true, but part of that is that aesthetic attraction is linked to romantic and/or sexual attraction, and therefore such desires, for most people!

    Of course on the other hand sometimes I feel like I do have romantic desire, just without attraction. But I think what it is is more a desire for platonic commitment and stuff… So Idk.

    It’s an interesting question though.

  5. astarlia says:

    I’m not really sure how to answer this question as i only experience sexual desire if I’m already in a super sexual situation, and attraction not at all.

    I understand that they are things that exist, because other people talk about them, but they are pretty far from my experiences. Like even ‘asexual people can masturbate’ is weird to me. It’s…. just super not something I’m interested in.

  6. butterflo says:

    I think the distinction between the two is this:
    – ‘sexual attraction’ involves the people one is attracted to, and ‘sexual desire’ involves the person who is having it.

    and the mechanisms of the two would also be different. attraction requires an external attractor, while desire requires an internal tension of some sort.

  7. For me, the two are definitely separate. I’m not sure if I’ve ever experienced sexual attraction–maybe once or twice? Sexual desire, though, is something I’ve felt sporadically since I was in my mid to late teens, and since going on testosterone it’s become stronger and more consistent. At times the change makes me question whether I feel sexual attraction now, too, but my desire is pretty thoroughly satisfied by fantasy and masturbation, so I’m going with “no” for now.

  8. Taryn says:

    They’re definitely independent for me! Sometimes (rarely) I feel desire, but never attraction. My desire only flares up once in a blue moon, maybe a few times a year, though.

  9. Nowhere Girl says:

    I would say that for me they are linked, but in a very different way than for allosexuals and, maybe, generally non-sex-averse people. I don’t feel any sexual desire – while I am autochorissexual and arousable, I experience strong aversion, fear, discomfort and “ickiness” towards ever attempting sex with anyone. I could even say I feel reverse desire – a desire to never have sex. However, sexual attraction is almost analytical for me. It’s as if aversion goes first for me – my feeling of not wanting to have sex and (I consider it much more decisive) NOT WANTING TO WANT to have sex – and I experience lack of sexual attraction as a result of these feelings. I feel like I can’t experience sexual attraction since I can’t actually want to have sex with anyone, but it’s secondary for me to not wanting (to want) to have sex as what makes me asexual in my own experience.

  10. Rachel says:

    My libido and sexual attraction are both at a flat, eternal zero, but i find the idea of libido and attraction easy to separate. Having a sex drive, but no attraction, is like being hungry but none of the restaurants in town serve food that you like (so maybe you just cook for yourself…?). The reverse, attraction without libido, I find hard to wrap my head around (maybe wanting a dessert for giggles but you aren’t hungry or eating for amusement rather than hunger…?).

    • luvtheheaven says:

      Food analogies really only go so far and just like with sexual attraction, people experience this stuff all differently, but I think there’s a difference between thinking that fresh baked bread is a pleasing smell even if you aren’t hungry to eat it right now (same with something like coffee) or even really wanting to eat what looks like a delicious cake even though you’re already full from dinner because you have so much desire for cake that it doesn’t matter if your hunger (sex drive) can keep up… But essentially, as far as I understand it, sexual attraction without sexual desire often manifests as it being a pleasant experience in and of itself to look at or otherwise sensorily experience that person, or to fantasize. That it’s fun in and of itself to go to a beach near a college town because of all the hot young adults around while all the while you’re not actually tempted for having sex, because you’re satisfied elsewhere with your sex life or your sex drive is at or near) zero for other reasons. It’s maybe also feeling more distracted by sexy people than people who aren’t your type, all the while not caring one way or the other about sex itself. That’s sort of where my mind goes with it, at least. My former qpp claimed to be gray ace because he experienced attraction to men but no sexual desire for anyone. A guy I met at an ace meetup recently seems to have a mismatched and confusing set of orientations but to not actually be ace – that being said sometimes he knows he doesn’t want sex with people who he does want to kiss or that kind of thing and I could see it playing out that way for some people too.

      • Nowhere Girl says:

        Is eating without hunger such an incomprehensible idea? I don’t like suggestions that it’s Wrong to eat sweets or to eat just for pleasure…
        Food analogies are of course limited because sex is NOT a biological need on par with hunger, thirst and so on – a human being can survive about a month without food, a few days without water, a few minutes without air, but indefinitely without sex. Even when an average person might be frustrated if zhe has to go without sex for a longer period, nobody will die from lack of sex. But this particular analogy is very clear to me as for someone who doesn’t have sex for any reason, but does eat snacks and sweets for pleasure.

        • luvtheheaven says:

          I eat without being hungry pretty often too. It’s a difference between being so full and it feels unpleasant to consider eating more this second or the weird feeling of really craving sweets when you think about them or see them or just all the time if you get in a bad habit, which us sort of a “eating desire” but isn’t necessarily hunger, that makes the analogy only go so far. Not everyone seems to have the same reaction to “oo free candy!” And eating without being hungry is generally a thing yes – that’s having sex without desire. But what’s the “attraction without desire” part? You know?

          • Rivers says:

            It’s like going along in life not thinking about or craving cake, and then when you see it being like “I would eat that” even though it’s not a craving you’ve had.

            I personally really like the food analogies because I am currently experiencing some hunger related health issues, as in, I currently do not experience hunger.

            At all.

            Which relates very well to the topic at hand, and it’s something I’m willing to talk about because it’s just a physiological issue for me (as opposed to people I know who don’t experience hunger due to eating disorders).

            Yet, I still like the idea of food and the idea of eating food. I still eat. I still salivate over really good food. I can still eat a burger faster than anyone in my family. I’m just never hungry.

            (Note: the big failing of this analogy is that food is a survival thing and sex is not, so not experiencing hunger is a problem (a huge one in fact), while not having a libido or having a low libido isn’t actually a problem (which some people will make it out to be, thereby causing problems, but that’s a whole other discussion)).

          • Sara K. says:

            Yeah, I’ve also had to deal recently with eating without hunger during my big backpacking trip. A lot of long-distance hikers get ‘hiker hunger’ which is their bodies’ response to calorie deficits (though it depends on the individual/terrain/pack-weight/etc. I’ve read that it takes roughly 300 calories to hike a mile, and if one is going to hike 15+ miles per day, calorie deficits are going to happen). I have never gotten hiker hunger (and I prefer not to have hiker hunger), but it does mean there were many times when I did not feel hungry but I pushed myself to eat anyway because I knew I had a calorie deficit and I wanted to avoid the more severe physical problems associated with long-term calorie deficits.

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