Criticisms of the split attraction model

The Split Attraction Model, or SAM, refers to the framework in which people describe themselves as having two (or more) orientations, such as “homoromantic asexual” or “bisexual aromantic”. I do not like the phrase “split attraction model” for reasons I will elaborate in the postscript below, but I’ll tolerate it since it is the phrase most people are familiar with. Split attraction models have long been a point of attack for people looking to criticize (or flame, or troll) the asexual community. I am writing a series of posts addressing criticisms.

  1. The split attraction model does not harm questioning youth

Be patient for the rest of the series!

Later in this series, I would like to share other people’s personal experiences with split attraction models, be it positive or negative or mixed. If you would like to be featured (anonymously or otherwise), please contact me at asexualagenda@gmail.com.

Why address criticisms of split attraction models? Recently, it has become common on Twitter for people to criticize split attraction models, and often in bad faith. This leads to a lot of people googling “split attraction model” to find articles for and against.

As a result, I’ve seen a lot of traffic going to an article I wrote over a year ago, “Splitting The Split Attraction Model“. To be blunt, that article was written to address a different set of arguments arising from a completely different context. If someone cites my article “Splitting the Split Attraction Model” in a Twitter argument, I suspect they either did not read or did not understand it. Yes, please quote me.

So, the purpose of this series is to create articles that are more appropriate to address Twitter arguments, while also offering a higher level of nuance than you would find on Twitter.

Who am I? I am a well-known ace blogger, who has been active in ace communities since 2009. I am also openly gay, and have been immersed in gay male politics for about as long. I don’t usually directly address flame wars (with exceptions), because I think I come off as a grumpy old dude who keeps on pointing out that we already addressed this argument back in 201X, so uh, you’ve been forewarned. I don’t personally use split attraction models, because my own experience with sexual and romantic attraction is that they’re all a mixed gray muddle. I identify as gray-asexual, and if pressed I would also say I was grayromantic.

That’s enough introduction, so I invite you to read the first article in the series. I hope you find it useful.


Post-script

The concept of sexual vs romantic identities has been extant in asexual communities since the early 2000s, and one could identify earlier analogues, especially in the bisexual concept of affectional attraction. However, the phrase “split attraction model” emerged in 2015, specifically in the context of Tumblr flame wars. In these flame wars, people criticized the ace community for having this “split attraction model”, which was (falsely) alleged to be universal and mandatory. Ace and aro communities adopted the phrase “split attraction model” to describe existing frameworks, although nobody thinks the split attraction model is mandatory.

Case in point, there also emerged the concept of “non-SAM” aces and aros, people who don’t necessarily take issue with the SAM, but find some aspect of it to be not useful for describing their own experiences. For example, a person might be described as non-SAM if they prefer to identify only as aromantic, preferring to leave their sexual orientation unstated. I could be described as non-SAM because I do not differentiate my own sexual and romantic feelings. But personally, I don’t identify as “non-SAM”, because I feel nobody hearing that comes away with a better understanding of me.

My issue with the phrase “split attraction model” is that it conjures an image of a monolithic unchanging framework. In reality, the ace community has a long history of discussing many models of attraction and orientation, basically on a perpetual basis. I even have an article showcasing some of the sillier ones. You don’t like something about a model, please get in line with the rest of us to propose something else. But at this point, basically all viable models are “split attraction models” insofar as they need to account for the reality of alloromantic asexuals.

Throughout this series, I deliberately refer to “split attraction models” as a nod to the fact that it is not a single model.

This is a really brief summary of arguments that have been discussed at greater length. I recommend this article and references therein if you want to dig into it.

About Siggy

Siggy is an ace activist based in the U.S. He is gay gray-A, and has a Ph.D. in physics. He has another blog where he also talks about math, philosophy, godlessness, and social criticism. His other hobbies include board games and origami.
This entry was posted in Articles, asexual politics, romantic orientation and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Criticisms of the split attraction model

  1. j says:

    Hey, thank you for your work– I’m looking forward to reading this series, especially because you’ve provided analysis I found valuable in the past.
    A lot of people in my circles believe that ace and aro people always treat the SAM as a universal model, so I’m interested in hearing about criticisms of it within the ace and aro communities.

    • Coyote says:

      If you’re interested in actual intracommunity conversations, those weren’t originally “SAM” conversations (since that’s an external term), but one place to look would be with aces who don’t use the romantic orientation model. I believe there have also been conversations among aro aces about conceptualizing their orientation more as one single thing, rather than a two-part multi-axis thing, but that’s something I don’t have as many links gathered about, so other folks are invited to chime in here on that. Outside of the ace and aro communities, when people talk about taking issue with “the SAM,” that’s usually been for a very different set of reasons.

  2. Elizabeth says:

    I admire the length of your post-script.

  3. Pingback: The split attraction model does not harm questioning youth | The Asexual Agenda

  4. Pingback: The weight of other priorities | The Asexual Agenda

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