The Three Dimensions of Connection-Based Attraction
I had broken off a complicated long distance relationship, and my need to be held was overwhelming me. I had gone months without much more than a brief hug from a friend. I reached out to a woman, a close friend, whom I’d briefly dated but had a very affectionate bond with. I invited her over and we cooked dinner together.
Afterwards, we sat on the sofa and talked together. I massaged her feet and she massaged my neck. After a while of being present and affectionate with each other, we retired to the bedroom and spooned together, sleeping deeply. I had no romantic feelings for this woman, and despite her being very aesthetically attractive, I did not want to have sex with her. I actually possessed no attraction for her other than a need for sensual touch, and I truly needed to share a human moment. I slept like a baby that night in her arms.
The dynamics of human attraction are never as simple as black and white. Attraction, for some, comes with work if it ever comes at all. Humans bond for different reasons and in different ways, but the popular focus of society often is disproportionately invested in sexual attraction. The often fallacious claim that people of the “opposite sex” cannot be platonic friends is such a tired example of sex dominating interpersonal relationships, when the nuances of attraction are far more complicated and granular.
For simplicity, and brevity, most people who are capable of seeing someone as sexually attractive, even if they have no intention of acting on said attraction, can be referred to as allosexual. This, in and of itself, in not a sexual orientation, but a term to balance out it’s polar opposite, being asexual, which means the complete lack of sexual attraction towards others. As with most things in regards to the scope of human nature, these are polar extremes to a spectrum of attraction-capacity which is often referred to as grey-asexual, meaning infrequent or substantially reduced sexual attraction.
For more complexity, there is also those who are demisexual. Demisexuality is attraction to someone only after a strong emotion bond is formed, called connection. There is often a revelation moment for demisexuals where they see a friend or someone they are dating as sexually attractive. Before that, they may recognize someone is aesthetically attractive, such as someone who is heterosexual may observe in a same sex person they’re being objectively attractive, but without personal sexual attraction towards them. A demisexual may also, with experience, see people who are potentially someone they could connect with, but connection is never a certainty. There are some that would label this as normal, quite possibly by fellow demisexuals that are unaware of their true attraction-capacity, but we are a distinct and different type of person. Demi-erasure, much like bi-erasure, is a problem we deal with, and something I have discussed in past articles, and will again. For more being demisexual, please refer to my other articles.
But much like the nature of homosexuality, heterosexuality, bisexuality and the other variants of multi-gender attraction, so much is wrapped up in the sexual component of the word. There is more than one kind of attraction, and by extension, not all people experience them equality and in the same way. Excluding the already mentioned aesthetic attraction, there are three predominant attraction types that are often included in sexual orientations:
Romantic: The emotional attraction based on a desire to love and be in a relationship with someone, often colloquially referred as “having feelings”. Someone who is alloromantic is often wanting to date, spend time with and develop a romantic relationship with someone else. Someone who is aromantic often will not experience this attraction in a conventional sense, but may still seek out companionship, or even a queerplatonic relationship.
Sensual: The physical and emotional attraction based on a desire to touch someone in a non-sexual manner. This can involve intense hugs, dancing close, massage, holding hands, cuddling and even kissing. Someone who is allosensual can often be seen as highly affectionate with people, while someone who is asensual can seen touch phobic. One important reality, is that touch is a basic human need, and lacking adequate touch, called touch starvation, can have have adverse effects on people, emotionally and physically, even with those who are asensual.
Sexual: The predominantly physical sexual attraction where a desire to touch intimately, engage in sexual activity, pet, deeply kiss and explore another person’s body. Someone who is allosexual, in this specific sense, will experience this attraction, even if they don’t act on it. Someone who is intentionally celibate, but is allosexual, will recognize people they are sexually attracted but not pursue that attraction. An asexual will simply not feel sexual attraction towards others.
The sexual term is often used to encompass all of these. Someone who is heterosexual is often assumed to experience all of these to a certain level with those identifying and presenting as the opposite gender whom they are attracted to. But what about those that are identified as “players” or otherwise promiscuous, who often have sex with serial or multiple partners but never develop a desire or need for a relationship? What about those that enjoy sex, but don’t want to stay and spend time in post-coital afterglow and bonding with a partner, and are out of the bedroom as fast as they can be. While some undoubtedly are simply avoiding situations where deeper emotional attachments could develop, a great number of them may simply be, to some degree, aromantic and / or asensual.
And it’s in degrees that the spectrum of attraction-capacity exist for all three of these levels. A demiromantic may have never developed an emotional connection with someone to have that romantic attraction, while still being very sexual with people, unless they form a deep emotion connection. Someone can be demisensual, in needing to have a strong emotional connection to want cuddling and holding hands, but still experience romantic and / or sexual attraction. It is not uncommon for all three of these attractions to present themselves in different levels. They are all spectrums, and many people grouped under the demisexual identity, will have differentiation in each of them.
But what about people that experience attractions for more than one gender? The terms bisexual (attraction to two or more genders), polysexual (attraction to more than one gender, but not the same as polyamory), omnisexual (attraction to all genders, with gender being a factor) and pansexual (attraction to all genders, with gender not being a factor) encompass a large swath of multi-gender attraction orientations that broadly overlap, but with distinctions that are very important to some. I will add, that there is a bit of a conflict over pansexual and bisexual both alternately being trans and non-binary inclusive, or exclusive, and inherently phobic of the other. I will not address that here, but simply refer to them all as multi-gender attraction collectively.
That said, multi-gender attraction can have the same sexual, romantic and sensual attraction varieties in regards to one or more genders in different ways. There is a concept of “bi-cycles” or “panfluidity” that can change the degree of attraction a multi-gender attracted person will experience from time to time. Yet for others, these are set levels that rarely change. Some multi-gender attracted people will predominantly be sexually attracted to more than one gender, but only experience romantic and / or sensual attraction with a preferred gender. Societal factors can play a big part, as in many Western countries woman being sensual with other women is regarded as normal, while men much less so. Sensual connection with men in the West is often relegated to things like playful arm punches and rear swats in sports. Toxic masculinity, “hot bi babe” unicornism, and attraction-related insecurity often factor in how people view multi-gender attracted people.
This all can have the effect of making ones attractional nature hard to define. A person could be a hetero-allosexual / allosensual / demiromantic and homo-demisexual, homo-greysensual, homo-aromantic and enby-demisexual / demisensual, enby-aromantic, etc., but I highly recommend not unloading all of that on anyone else. These spectrums are very beneficial in understanding yourself, and unless you have a strong affinity to one or two, it’s probably best to keep things limited to the larger definitions as far as anyone else is concerned. Terms like heteroromantic / demisexual are typically all you’d need. I’ve found the term pandemi(c) particularly fun for someone who is panromantic and demisexual. Others would argue that demisexual encompasses all gender-based attractions as it’s based on emotional connection and not constrained by gender, but others are clearly asexual, aromantic and even asensual towards one or more genders.
This has all been an attempt to maps who you are and how you experience attraction, in the broader sense, that few things in life are strictly A or B. You are you. Demisexuals, and our other demi-variants, are often very misunderstood. I hope this helped you not misunderstand yourself and how very valid your capacity for attraction is.