There are many different kinds of attractions. Some that come to mind:

  • Sexual: you want to have sex
  • Sensual: you want to touch them
  • Emotional: you want to share feelings
  • Aesthetic: you like how they look
  • Platonic: you like the idea of them
  • Romantic: you want to share a deep knowledge of each other
  • Intellectual: you want to discuss stuff with them

…and probably some more that I’m missing.


Love begins with a notion; lust, with an image. If you’re sexually attracted to someone, it’s fairly obvious - you like the way they look. Something about their hair, their face, their ass, legs, penis, breasts, vagina, etc. etc. Sexual attraction means you want to be with that body.

Romantic attraction is all about the person in that body. The way they talk, the things they like and dislike, their interests, their goals, fears, little quirks that make them human. You could envision yourself spending a lifetime with this person outside the bedroom. Romantic attraction means you want to be with that person.

There is, of course, room for bleed and considerable or even complete overlap between those two circles - and the circles move. People get old, life happens. People change their minds and move on from old passions to new interests, life happens. Sometimes you find yourself liking someone you couldn’t stand when you were younger. Sometimes, tragically, you grow apart from someone you loved, or they grow apart from you.


What a lovely way to describe the difference. I really liked your opening line 💜


To be fair, it’s not mine, I heard it somewhere before, but it does ring true.

chuso avatar

Maybe Sternberg's triangular theory of love will help: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Triangular_theory_of_love

In the context of interpersonal relationships, "the three components of love, according to the triangular theory, are an intimacy component, a passion component, and a commitment component."

Sternberg says that intimacy refers to "feelings of closeness, connectedness, and bondedness in loving relationships," passion refers to "the drives that lead to romance, physical attraction, sexual consummation, and related phenomena in loving relationships" and decision/commitment means different things in the short and long term. In the short-term, it refers to "the decision that one loves a certain other", and in the long-term, it refers to "one's commitment to maintain that love."

According to Sternberg's theory, you can call it love when you have all three.

It's only sexual attraction for example when there is only passion (like in a one-night stand) or passion+commitment (fuckbuddy).

But note these three components usually don't appear all at the same time. Commitment is usually the last one to appear. You don't commit to someone you are just knowing. So a relationship initially based on passion+intimacy can later add commitment and develop into what Sternberg would call love.

For other explanations that are more components, you can see Lee's Colour wheel theory of love and Hendrick and Hendrick's research on it: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Colour_wheel_theory_of_love

Evergreen5970, (edited )

I want to add that I’ve been led to believe that for many people who experience romantic and sexual attraction, kissing someone or cuddling them can start up a desire to “go further,” to add tongue and groping genital areas and eventually end in sex.

I am asexual, but I have experience with romantic attraction. For me, I’ve always been satisfied with kissing and cuddling. It doesn’t cross my mind to maybe start turning the encounter sexual, and I definitely do not want this to lead to sex.

Also, some asexuals are totally okay with and may even seek out sex. The key thing that links all asexuals together regardless of how often we seek out sex or how much we enjoy it is that we don’t experience sexual desire. Think of it like you can not be hungry for food (not experience sexual desire ever), but choose to consume it anyways because it tastes good (choose to have sex because it feels physically good) or because it makes your partner happy. You could accurately say that you like food but don’t ever get hungry (like sex but don’t experience sexual attraction). Except in this case, it’s an actual valid orientation and not a reason to get checked out by a doctor the way you probably should if you’re never hungry.

There are also some of us who do experience a libido, a sex drive, but it still won’t make us look at a person and think “I’d tap that.” We might satisfy it with sex or masturbation, but the key difference is that we don’t feel that same strong impulse to have sex with someone else that other people describe as being so intense it’s a “need” and a passionate longing for their object of desire.

I saw a comment further down where you’re trying to learn more. www.asexuality-handbook.com/home.html is a pretty nice resource.

NylaSmokeyface avatar

Wouldn't seeking out sex count as sexual desire? Or are you defining sexual desire as something different than how I am?

(I'm not saying sex-favorable aces are invalid I'm just a bit confused on the terms you're using)


I’ve always considered myself a hetero person, but now I’m a bit curious because I always assumed asexuality was mutually exclusive with physical intimacy. I definitely get aroused by the opposite gender, but the thoughts never lead to full on sex. Usually, I want to cuddle with that person, maybe get a bit handsy, and at most engage in some lightly kinky acts like shibari. When I do have sex, it’s all about making the other person happy. With that out of the picture, it’s no more satisfying than a particularly good jerk sesh.

It’s caused some anguish in relationships. I almost never initiate outside the unspoken context of “Oh we haven’t had sex in a while, better do that before the relationship falls apart.” and it often feels like the juice isn’t worth the squeeze a lot of the time once you factor in how long it takes and cleanup and being all gross and sweaty afterward. The idea of people wanting to go through that trouble more than once or twice a week is unfathomable to me.

I always thought that my lack of sexual desire was some dysfunction from too much porn as a teenager or something, but in hindsight, I don’t think I ever jerked it to anything featuring penetration between two people and I don’t remember ever being particularly interested in it. Even vanilla non-nude pics of fine looking ladies always did it for me way more than any hardcore porn ever did.

I’m wondering if this tracks with some form of asexual better than it does with heterosexuality?


You sound at least somewhere on the asexuality spectrum.

The capacity to be aroused ≠ sexual attraction, although they do often go together (especially if you get aroused at the sight of people instead of needing physical stimulation to make the parts respond) so I wouldn’t completely toss away the arousal data. However, I did read a study about conditioning marmosets to be aroused at the smell of a lemon, so it might be extensible to humans and you might have just conditioned yourself into arousal at the opposite gender. “People find this hot, I should try masturbating to it,” you stimulate yourself into arousal, eventually associate the opposite gender with sexual satisfaction and get aroused at the sight of them. Also, I’m kind of suspicious of this study because after they finished the conditioning, they observed erection rate after exposure to lemon scent, but not erection rate without exposure to lemon scent: sure, the erection rate is high for lemon exposure, but how do we know this is any different from no lemon exposure? However, lots of other similar studies were done that I didn’t bother to check out. And it’s still true that arousal ≠ sexual attraction. They just go together a lot. Even with your arousal at the opposite gender, you might be asexual. I’m just very used to hearing regular arousal at a certain gender as an allosexual experience instead of an asexual one. asexuality-handbook.com/…/whats-the-difference-be…

Also relevant that I’m ’strictly’ asexual, I have zero sexual desire, never have urges to have sex with another human, if you think of the asexuality spectrum as a line segment with “asexual, zero sexual desire” at the left endpoint and “allosexual, sexual desire” at the right I sit on top of the left endpoint. I’m as far from allosexual as you can be. But I do experience arousal from a certain trigger that makes me want to masturbate. Not to have sex with anybody. But it’s not from anything sexual at all. It’s something more along the lines of seeing a specific cartoon of a YouTuber teach math, without any desire to see them naked or in any kind of state of undress. It’s not actually that, but you get the idea. Does involve a human, makes me aroused, but aside from that it’s not sexual whatsoever.

I can’t tell you what you are, and to be honest I’m not sure where the desire to get handsy would put you, but to me you don’t sound fully hetero, you sound somewhere on the asexuality spectrum.



sorry, i’m a bit confused- how is arousal at the sight of someone not sexual attraction? what even is sexual attraction then?


Sexual attraction: an urge to have sex with a specific person. www.asexuality-handbook.com/glossary.html

I’d like to clarify something here. I’m pretty sure the intent here is “an urge to have sex with a specific person that isn’t just as a means to an end.” If I’m a gold digger who finds my target repulsive and I don’t think sex with them would be enjoyable, but I know having sex with them will make them more likely to love me and give me money? I do have an urge, a desire to have sex with them—but not an impulse felt instinctually from desire for this person and for sex with this person. It’s a desire that comes from the fact that sex is means to an end to my real desire of money. So although I do have an urge to have sex with my specific target, it’s not the kind of urge the definition means, and so I wouldn’t be considered sexually attracted to my target. Now with that set aside…

I imagine that arousal at the sight of someone need not always pair with a desire to have sex. Penis-havers sometimes experience random erections apropos of nothing, so we already have arousal being separate from attraction. Enough physical stimulation can make your parts respond with arousal even if you personally feel pretty neutral or even negative about having sex.

I’m thinking this situation could happen: you can be a person who doesn’t really get the urge for sex yourself, but you do have a partner you care about who likes it. So you have sex with this person regularly. Your parts respond from the physical stimulation involved in sex. Eventually, your brain pairs this person with sex and arousal, and pre-arouses your parts around them. I don’t mean to be reductive at all when I say this: I am thinking of classical conditioning, that same process by which you get a dog to salivate at the ding of a bell. Ding it right before you give them food, and eventually they associate the food with the bell sound and salivate at the bell sound too. But you still don’t have the urge for sex except maybe to please your partner. You might want to satisfy the arousal, yes, but it’s not quite the same thing.

Have you ever been hungry but you also don’t really feel a craving for food, so you just pick at random? You might even find it an annoying chore to make yourself eat to satisfy the hunger. You don’t want to eat pizza except perhaps as a means to an end to satisfy the hunger. This would be like that. No desire inherent, just getting rid of a biological feeling. It’s true your partner triggered the arousal, triggered the “I’m hungry,” but you still don’t exactly crave them specifically to satisfy the desire just because they are the one who triggered the feeling in the first place.

(In reality it’s a little more complicated—you might prefer your partner to satisfy this desire because you do value the bonding that may come with sex and you want to bond with your partner. Or because they know how to give you the best physical pleasure. But it’s still not anything that sexual, it’s all about its secondary effects. Sex is still a means to an end. Your urge is not for sex with your partner, despite the arousal that occurs at the sight of your partner—the dog’s urge is not for the bell to ding, despite the salivation at the bell sound.)

I’m guessing here, to be honest. I’m a virgin by choice, and no human outside of that completely nonsexual cartoon arousal trigger has made me want to do anything sexual. And the only sexual thing that arousal trigger made me want to do is to masturbate. Not to see it do something sexual, to have sex with it or a real version of it, or to have sex with another person. I don’t really have any relevant experience to pull from, just stories from my fellow asexuals and an asexuality handbook. Also a huge disclaimer on if it’s even possible to condition arousal in a person—I don’t know if that marmoset study where they got conditioned to have erections at the smell of a lemon is extensible to humans, and I think there was a methodology error in it (I mentioned it in an above reply). I also haven’t checked for any reproductions of that study to verify its findings.

Arousal at the sight of a person very frequently goes together with attraction, but I don’t think it has to.


i understand what you mean, it makes sense to me that something like that wouldn’t necessarily be considered allosexuality if the individual doesn’t actually want to have sex with the person. i think i just don’t see the purpose of differentiation at a point- for example a sex favourable person who both gets aroused by their partner and actively seeks out and enjoys sex on a regular basis could feasibly be labelled as asexual within this community, and i feel like that would be a very misleading term to use to describe them. (not saying that’s the commenter you were talking to, just an example.)

(this isn’t meant to be taking anything out on you or the other commenter by any means, i’m just venting a bit.) i think i might just be personally frustrated by having so many people fall under the “asexuality umbrella” who live relatively normal lives in regards to sex and relationships, while i’m a rather sex repulsed ace. i feel like with the label being so broad and inclusive it’s like i need to find something else to call myself- i’d be really uncomfortable if someone heard me say “asexual” to describe myself and think i’d be interested in sex at all, but that’s really what the label has been coming to and idk how to feel about it.


I’m cool with sex-favorable aces who live an allosexual-looking lifestyle still using the word. I don’t want to tell them that they can’t be asexual because they consented to sex. Differentiation exists in practice as well as in theory because these sex-favorable people who engage in sex still might wonder why their experience is a little different, why sex isn’t as important to them as it is for so many others, why they don’t seem to feel that innate pull to have sex with others even though it does feel good like everyone said it would. Why are they different? Because their whole orientation is different, not because you’re broken. And all else being equal, asexuals who don’t want sex would probably do better in a relationship with an asexual, including sex-enjoying asexuals, than with an allosexual. The fundamental drive that tends to be responsible for making sex important to allosexuals, for making “I don’t want to have sex” a dealbreaker for many allosexuals, still isn’t present in a sex-enjoying asexual. Something in me just screams “no” at the thought of excluding these people from our community.

However, I do get where you’re coming from. If it helps you any, a lot of people I’ve met will assume “no sex” when I say “I’m asexual,” although if this is a partner I do make sure to clarify that I’m an asexual who won’t engage in sex, not one who will. I think most accepting peoples’ conception of asexuality still involves them assuming “oh, they aren’t going to have sex” even if they’re aware that some asexuals will engage in it voluntarily. The technical possibility for misinterpretation while still understanding asexuality is there. The possibility for you to say “I’m asexual” and for a person who understands and accepts asexuality to still arrive at “they might have sex” when you absolutely will not just because some of us will can feel very frustrating. Especially when you’re used to using the word to say “no sex” but it turns out that it doesn’t always mean “no sex.” But in the end there’s always the (honestly annoying if “asexual” used to be sufficient to explain yourself) adding on “Some of us will voluntarily have sex, I’m not one of them, I’m sex-repulsed” to clarify your identity before anyone gets the wrong idea.

I really do get where you’re coming from. I have a very similar situation.

Asexuality is a sexual orientation where a person doesn’t experience sexual attraction towards anyone [1–3], which current estimates say applies approximately 1–4% of the population [4–10]. Asexuality is also an umbrella term for people that fall between asexuality and other orientations.


I get “asexuality” is not the same word as “asexual” so I’m possibly wrong here, but I’m thinking this means that “asexual” is used both for people like us who experience no sexual attraction, and for people on the asexuality spectrum who do rarely experience it. So when I say “I’m asexual” people could get the idea that I still experience sexual attraction because I’m on the asexuality spectrum, which includes things like demisexuality and graysexuality, for whom sexual attraction is a “rarely” and not a “never.” It’s infuriating. I always thought “asexual” was strictly for people like us, and you needed to use “asexuality spectrum” to include demisexuality and graysexuality. It turns out I was wrong. The word I thought I was using correctly for “no sexual attraction” can actually mean identities that do include it. (I don’t mind being mistaken for “will have sex,” but I do mind “experiences sexual attraction” very much. These identities are valid and I accept them but they’re also not me.) I think this is pretty similar to your own frustration. I know that most people still use “I’m asexual” to say they experience no attraction, and not to say they’re on the asexuality spectrum, so in practice I’m still okay to say “I’m asexual” and I can always just clarify “I mean that I do not experience sexual attraction” in order to get rid of misconceptions about me being demi or gray. Still frustrating. So I absolutely get where you are coming from.


i really appreciate this response! i wasn’t expecting you to be understanding, since expressing sentiments like this get people even banned on certain subr*ddits, so it’s refreshing. especially because most people tend to be very one way or the other- either us “real” asexuals experience no sexual attraction whatsoever and everyone else is allo, or absolutely anybody who experiences slightly abnormal attraction is asexual. the nuance of “yes i acknowledge graysexuals and such are real and also need support groups, but saying they are specifically asexual feels like it’s muddying the meaning of the label” is very much where i lie and i like getting to have others who agree :)

i do agree that sex favourable aces get fair use for the term and need support for their unique struggles as well. being sexually attractive to your partner is an understandable necessity in relationships for some, and not being able to provide that for your partner or make them feel desired in that way sounds difficult. though i admit i do find it kind of annoying when people get mad at others online for assuming asexual means no sex, though i understand where they’re coming from.

i think the biggest issue that comes with the broadness of the label is that those like me- sex repulsed aces- oftentimes feel unsafe or uncomfortable in asexual spaces, which is a true shame. on top of that, it is exceedingly difficult (speaking from experience) to find exclusively sex repulsed spaces, even when actively searching for them. i don’t struggle so much anymore with being sex repulsed, but in the past it’s been very difficult to deal with, and i haven’t been able to find nearly as much support as you’d think in popular ace communities.

i agree with a lot of what you’ve said :) thank you for sharing


i think i just don’t see the purpose of differentiation at a point- for example a sex favourable person who both gets aroused by their partner and actively seeks out and enjoys sex on a regular basis could feasibly be labelled as asexual within this community, and i feel like that would be a very misleading term to use to describe them.

Nothing here specifically reads as antagonistic, but when I read this quote I got the impression you didn’t really think sex-favorable aces get fair use and that their use was a mere technicality. Might be why the other subreddits reacted badly. I’m glad to see that you do actually think that sex-favorable aces get fair use.

i think the biggest issue that comes with the broadness of the label is that those like me- sex repulsed aces- oftentimes feel unsafe or uncomfortable in asexual spaces, which is a true shame. on top of that, it is exceedingly difficult (speaking from experience) to find exclusively sex repulsed spaces, even when actively searching for them.

I’ve read something before, where someone mentioned that sometimes two peoples’ completely valid needs conflict hard with each other. Sex-favorable aces want to be able to talk about their experiences with sex as an asexual without feeling suppressed or gatekept from being asexual, while sex-repulsed aces want to have a space free of sex and to talk about and vent about their negative feelings toward sex’s prevalence in society without being told they’re prudes trying to stop everyone from having consensual sex. It’s difficult to manage. And unless we get a big enough asexual community where we can splinter off into spaces for sex-favorables and sex-repulsed, or the community has us tag sexual content and vents about sex so the repulsed and favorable can filter them out respectively, we all live under the same roof and end up stepping on each others’ toes.


Andrzej Sapkowski has a good distinction between the two somewhere in his Witcher Books. I'm paraphrasing here: there is the beauty that will invoke a physical reaction in your nether regions but is gone as soon as the subject of the attraction is out of sight. Romantic attraction is the kind of beauty that'll make you think about that person when you're alone in the evening for days)weeks to come.


A third term is aesthetic attraction, which is “I like looking at that person” but not necessarily “I want to have intercourse with that person”


Also piggybacking to say that aesthetic attraction can exist without romantic attraction as well.

There are lots of girls who look good, and who I like looking at. However, I’ve never felt any urge to have sex with them or take them on dates.

It’s basically like looking at sunsets or cute animals, but with people instead. You’d never have sex with them or date them, but they sure are enjoyable to look at.


Ever played fuck marry kill?

It can sometimes approximate the split. Though it’s not as clear for everyone. Some people the two are very closely related, for others, it’s completely separate.


Some people (some aces, aros, or aroaces) don't really understand how others play that game though and treat the game very differently without realizing it.


I am ace and am super curious how we might treat this different from an allo.

The way I decide is that I marry the person I like the most, kill the person I like the least, and fuck the leftover.


They don't treat the fuck as whatever's leftover I guess?


Sexual attraction means you look at someone and think “I’d fvck them”

Romantic attraction means you look at someone’s personality and behaviour and think “I wanna date them” or “I wanna be in a romantic relationship with them”

@pickles@lemmy.blahaj.zone avatar

For me, romantic attraction means I have all of the warm swoony fuzzy feelings for another person, where I want to spend time with them, do things for them, have a deep, emotionally close relationship with them…the only things I don’t want to do with them are sexual things like get naked and touch each other’s genitalia and stuff.


What you are talking about is the “split attraction model” it’s very helpful for the asexual and aromantic community when describing ourselves. It absolutely applies to people who experience attraction too.

backhdlp, (edited )
@backhdlp@lemmy.blahaj.zone avatar

I’m horrible at explaining, but if you are asexual for example, you can still fall in love with people, but not want to fck them. The other way around works too, say you’re aromantic, you can want to fck people, but not want to go into a relationship with them. For most people (afaik) romantic and sexual attraction are the same, for example, bisexual people are likely also biromantic. This is a very simplified explanation, hope it helps.


Thank you for the explanation. I’m trying to learn more about the community


Hey, using asterisks here will put things in italics if you happen to enclose any text in between them.

The quick brown fox *jumped* over the lazy dog.


The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog.

If you want to censor words, you’ll need a backslash.

F*ck this sh*t, I’m out.

will display as

Fck this sht, I’m out.

but if you do not use the backslashes, you will instead get

Fck this sht, I’m out.

Also, aromantic people are the people who do not want romance. Romantic people do want romance.

@backhdlp@lemmy.blahaj.zone avatar

Thanks! Also the romantic was a typo I overlooked.

@glacier@lemmy.blahaj.zone avatar

If someone is romantically attracted to another person, then they would desire to have a romantic relationship with them. This could include being a couple, going on dates, holding hands, kissing, or other forms of affection. It is up to the individual and their partner how to define their relationship.

If someone is sexually attracted to another person, then they would desire to have a sexual relationship with them (But it does not mean that they are ready to consent to sex in any given situation).

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