IDENTITY, ATTRACTION, RELATIONSHIP TERMS.
asexual – a person who does not experience sexual attraction or a need/desire for partnered s*x that cannot be satisfied with masturbation
allosexual — any person who is not asexual, demisexual, or gray-asexual; a person who desires partnered s*x and experiences sexual attraction to others; anyone who is heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual, or pansexual
demisexual – person who only experiences secondary sexual attraction as a result of emotional connection (either platonic or romantic) and often a pre-existing friendship; demisexuals may experience sexual attraction to more than one person at a time or only one; they do not experience sexual attraction to strangers, celebrities, or to people who they barely know. How frequently they experience sexual attraction and how long it takes them to experience it in a given relationship varies by person.
gray-asexual – a person who: doesn’t normally experience sexual attraction but may have in a few isolated instances (rarely), experiences sexual attraction but is repulsed by partnered s*x, never experience sexual attraction but does actively desire partnered s*x, experiences sexual attraction but never or almost never feels compelled to engage in partnered sex due to indifference, cannot tell clearly whether they experience sexual attraction, someone whose sexual attraction is very brief and fleeting, and people who can enjoy and/or desire sex but only in very specific and limited circumstances.
mixed orientation sexuality — otherwise known as varioriented sexuality. Mixed orientation sexual people are those whose sexual and romantic orientations do not match. Combinations include heteromantic homosexual, homoromantic heterosexual, heteromantic bisexual, homoromantic bisexual, biromantic heterosexual, biromantic homosexual, aromantic heterosexual/homosexual/bisexual, panromantic heterosexual/homosexual/bisexual, etc. Asexuals who experience romantic attraction may also technically qualify in this category but usually are considered separate.
libidoist — someone who has a s*x drive; in the asexual community, some individuals have a s*x drive despite their lack of sexual attraction to others. They may or may not deal with this by masturbating. Those who masturbate may or may not use pornographic material to achieve genital arousal.
nonlibidoist — someone without a s*x drive; both asexuals and sexual people can be nonlibidoists.
sexual urge vs. arousal – A sexual urge is the need for genital stimulation for the purpose of orgasm. Arousal is the genital response to physical or mental stimulation (an erection or vaginal lubrication). The two happen together during s*x or masturbation but they can also happen separately: you can feel a sexual urge prior to experiencing genital arousal or you can, in some cases, experience genital arousal in the absence of a sexual urge.
celibate — a person who is celibate does not engage in sexual activity. Both asexuals and sexual people can be celibate, either temporarily or permanently. Celibacy is a choice, and asexuality is an orientation. The first is about sexual activity, the second is about sexual attraction.
indifferent asexual — these asexuals feel neutral about the idea of participating in s*x . Their preference may certainly be celibacy, but the concept of engaging in sexuality does not distress them. They may still choose not to have s*x, even in mixed relationships. Some indifferent asexuals do choose to have sex in mixed relationships and can physically enjoy it.
repulsed asexual — these asexuals feel a strong aversion to the idea of participating in s*x. It should be noted that their repulsion often has nothing to do with sexuality in general or, more specifically, with other people engaging in s*x. Their repulsion is only in reference to themselves engaging in s*x. A repulsed asexual’s reaction to s*x(that they participate in or are asked to participate in) may range anywhere from mild discomfort to panic to revulsion. Some asexuals may be s*x-repulsed to a point where they cannot watch pornography or think about s*x in the abstract without feeling emotionally and/or physically distressed.
s*x-favorable asexual – these asexuals like participating in s*x, though they do not usually feel it is necessary to their happiness, satisfaction, etc. They can enjoy partnered s*x for the way it makes their romantic partner happy or for the feelings of intimacy and emotional connection they experience with their partner.
aromantic — an aromantic individual is someone who does not experience romantic attraction or a desire for romantic relationships. There are aromantic asexuals, as well as aromantic sexual people of all sexual orientations. An aromantic person’s feelings on relationships, physical affection, emotional closeness, commitment, etc will vary widely from person to person. It should be noted that while some aromantic people prefer to live alone and remain unpartnered, many other aromantic people actively desire one or more serious/long-term platonic partner(s) and may or may not desire cohabitation with their partner(s). Some aromantics hate being touched, while others love it. Some aromantics want children, many don’t.
demiromantic — someone who only experiences romantic attraction or fall in love with someone after a close, emotional bond has been established through friendship
gray-romantic (or gray-aromantic) — someone who rarely experiences romantic attraction, someone who experiences romantic attraction but is romance repulsed and does not want to participate in romantic relationships, someone who doesn’t want or need their romantic attraction returned (also known as lithromantic), someone who experiences attraction or feelings somewhere in between nonromantic and romantic, someone who can’t tell the difference between romantic and nonromantic emotion or love (also known as WTFromanticor quoiromantic), experiences romantic attraction but only for a very brief period of time in any given relationship, someone whose romantic feelings disappear as soon as they’re returned or in a romantic relationship
romance-repulsed — Someone who is romance-repulsed feels some degree of discomfort with romantic behavior or romantic relationships. Many aromantics are romance-repulsed, which may only indicate discomfort with personally being in romantic relationships or receiving romantic interest, or can also include discomfort felt when seeing or hearing romantic media or other people displaying romantic feelings to each other.
sexual attraction – wanting to have sex with a specific person, usually indicated by sexual fantasies, genital arousal, physical sensations of heat or tingling, or a general interest in having sex with the other person. It is often triggered by a person’s physical appearance but can involve many other aspects, both physical and personality-related.
- primary sexual attraction – sexual attraction that occurs toward a person one meets for the first time, doesn’t know well, or toward a stranger one sees in a public place. Usually based only on the other person’s physical appearance or other superficial qualities that appeal. Primary sexual attraction also occurs toward celebrities or images of unknown individuals. This is what separates the average sexual person from demisexuals, as well as asexuals; the latter groups do not experience this sexual attraction.
- secondary sexual attraction – sexual attraction that occurs after an emotional bond has been established, whether that bond is romantic or not. This is the only kind of sexual attraction demisexuals experience. Sexual people in general also experience this in romantic or nonromantic/sexual relationships, subsequent to primary sexual attraction.
romantic attraction – Romantic attraction is a subjective feeling that has no universally applicable definition. It is can only be known and recognized through first hand experience. Romantic attraction is traditionally thought of as the motivation to pair-bond with someone in the context of a romantic relationship, but pair-bonding can also take place between two people who love each other nonromantically. (And for polyamorous individuals, romantic attraction isn’t restricted to a single relationship at a time.) Romantic attraction may create the desire to “date” or to marry, to be in an emotionally intimate relationship that is either closed or highly exclusive, to demonstrate one’s feelings using stereotypically romantic gestures, to engage in frequent physical or verbal affection, etc. Romantic attraction is often characterized as producing feelings of excitement, wonder, intense interest or fascination, jealousy or possessiveness, intense happiness (euphoria) for no reason or simply at the thought or sight of the other person, etc. Other commonly reported symptoms include persistent and intrusive thoughts about the romantic interest, which can reach a point of obsessive thinking, and grandiose fantasies involving the expression of one’s romantic interest/love to the other person. It is important to acknowledge, however, that sometimes features of “romantic” attraction/love can also happen in a platonic relationship or characterize platonic feelings/love.
James Park, an existential philosopher and author, attempted to define romantic attraction/love in a small book breaking it down into 26 points. The online version may be found here
It is worth noting that even within romantic-sexual relationships, romantic attraction can be temporary even while love survives it. In long-term romantic-sexual or romantic-nonsexual partnerships, romantic attraction usually changes or branches off into emotional attraction.
emotional attraction – Emotional attraction encompasses a variety of bonds and degrees of emotion. Generally speaking, emotional attraction will translate into a desire for emotional closeness, emotional intimacy, mutual reliance and trust, affection, fondness, caring (emotional and/or physical), mutual support, regular contact and physical companionship, etc. Emotional attraction can exist between friends, between siblings, between parents and children, between colleagues, between mentors and proteges, and also between romantic/sexual partners (simultaneously or subsequent to romantic/sexual attraction). It would be inadequate to equate emotional attraction with platonic love because there are different types of emotional attraction, different levels of intensity, etc. Emotional attraction is what usually holds long-term partners together after the romantic and/or sexual attraction has faded (if it fades) and is obviously the substance of platonic or queerplatonic partnerships. Emotional attraction that does not coexist with romantic and/or sexual attraction can feel just as intense as emotional attraction that does coexist with the romantic and/or sexual feelings.
sensual attraction – attraction that motivates a desire to be physically intimate or affectionate with someone, in a nongenital fashion. This may be a nebulous desire to simply touch and be touched by the other person or it may point toward distinct forms of physical contact: hugging, cuddling, caresses, holding hands, massages, sleeping in the same bed, touching each other’s hair, platonic kisses, etc. Sensual attraction can exist apart from sexual attraction and even from romantic attraction. It usually goes hand in hand with emotional attraction but not strictly.
intellectual attraction – attraction to someone’s mind, intellect, knowledge, skill, professional mastery, or other cognitive faculties. Intellectual attraction can coexist with other forms of attraction or it may be the only form of attraction present in a particular relationship, as between two colleagues or a mentor and protege, etc.
aesthetic attraction – attraction to a person’s physical appearance that is not sexual in nature. This attraction involves feeling a visual pull to another person’s physical beauty, style of dress, or both, and has nothing to do with one’s sexual orientation.
queerplatonic relationship – the term “queerplatonic” was coined in the aromantic asexual community to describe the kind of nonromantic, emotionally intimate relationship that many aromantics desire. This kind of relationship is different—arguably, more—than a normative friendship, in that it emotionally transcends what the average, contemporary friendship feels like and means. Expectations in a queerplatonic relationship are greater than in a friendship. Queerplatonic relationships can be open or closed and can function as a primary partnership (which many aromantic people desire) or a significant non-partner relationship. A queerplatonic relationship can occur between any two people, regardless of their sexual and/or romantic orientations. The “queer” in queerplatonic refers to the relationship, not the people in the relationship. Queerplatonic relationships and love occupy a space in between platonic relationships and romantic relationships.
Alternative terms include quasiplatonic and quirkyplatonic.
platonic partnership – platonic partnerships are friendships that function as primary relationships in the lives of its participants. A platonic partnership may also be a queerplatonic relationship but it doesn’t have to be. Platonic partners are behaviorally more than friends, even more than best friends; they are each other’s primary partner and live in much the same way as romantic-sexual primary partners would. They may live together or very near to each other, they put each other first, they may pool resources, make themselves available to each other for physical/emotional care, support, consistent companionship, etc. Some degree of emotional exclusivity is likely in a platonic partnership, although if one or both partners is sexual and/or romantic, outside intimacy with others is bound to continue simultaneously. They are committed to each other in exactly the same way as a pair of spouses, but they do not feel romantically attracted to each other.
romantic friendship – The term was originally coined in the 19th century, which was the last era where romantic friendship thrived as a widespread culturally sanctioned institution. Prior to the 19th century, romantic friendship existed all over the world throughout history, dating all the way back to ancient Greece and Rome. Romantic friendship blurs the lines between “friendship” and “romance” or “platonic” and “romantic” love, and this relationship form was predominantly nonsexual regardless of the time and place in which it occurred. (While it is reasonable to assume that some of these romantic friendships were covert homoromantic-homosexual relationships, scholars generally view the sexually consummated romantic friendships as comprising a minority.) Historically, romantic friendship happened between members of the same sex but there are a small handful of accounts of cross-sex romantic friendship as well. Romantic friends would write each other sentimental or passionate notes and letters, touch each other affectionately (hugging, cuddling, holding hands, kisses, sleeping in the same bed, etc), and often spoke to each other and of each other with the kind of emotional intensity considered to be standard for romantic-sexual couples. Romantic friendship often functioned as the primary emotional relationship in the lives of its participants while the friendship was going on, prior to either of the friends entering a marriage with a third party; in the 19th century, many of these relationships ultimately ended when one or both of the partners married someone else. Those who chose not to marry often continued their romantic friendship for much or all of their lives.
Romantic friendships are usually defined as nonsexual in nature and while romantic feelings may obviously be present in this kind of relationship, they may not necessarily be characteristic of either friend’s romantic orientation either. (For example, two heterosexual women or two heterosexual men may form a romantic friendship with each other, in which their behavior and/or their feelings for each other are romantic/nonsexual, yet with no other individual of their same gender do they experience these feelings or behave in this way.)
Today, romantic friendship and queerplatonic friendship are usually considered two different things. Romantic friendship can include romantic attraction, while queerplatonic friendships are definitively nonromantic in nature.
asexual romantic relationship – For asexuals who experience romantic love, this type of romantic relationship is the equivalent to any romantic-sexual couple relationship, except s*x does not happen within it. (Most commonly, this kind of relationship happens between two asexuals but can also happen between an asexual and sexual person, if the sexual person agrees to exclude s*x from the relationship.) Usually, the romantic relationship will take a primary position in the asexual person’s life and may include cohabitation, commitment, shared resources, financial interdependence, physical affection, verbal affection, romantic gestures, etc. Some asexual couples get married. The way an asexual defines their relationship as romantic depends entirely on the individual, just as their identification of “romantic” feelings versus non-romantic feelings varies on a case by case basis. Many romantic asexuals describe their experience of romantic love and partnership in terms similar to the standard romantic-sexual person’s experience (I.e. “warm, fuzzy feelings,” thinking about the other person constantly, an intensity of happiness because of the other person, a desire to spend lots of time together, a particular interest in emotional intimacy, possessiveness, etc.)
Many asexuals experience romantic attraction and identify with a particular romantic orientation: hetero-romantic, homoromantic, biromantic, and panromantic.
**Note: Whether one’s feelings toward their partner are some strand of “romantic” or whether they are “platonic” can only be determined by the individual. One person may be engaged in a queerplatonic relationship and another may be in an asexual romantic relationship and the two could look identical on the outside. Yet the feelings define each relationship differently from the other.
Queerplatonic relationships, platonic partnerships, romantic friendships, and asexual romantic relationships are all forms of nonsexual intimate relationships, and differentiating amongst them is primarily a matter of feeling or attraction rather than behavior. They can all include cohabitation, commitment, physical affection, verbal affection, primacy in the partners’ social lives, childrearing, etc. They can all be exclusive or emotionally closed or they may be entirely open.
passionate friendship — A nonromantic, nonsexual primary partnership that is highly emotional, deep, loving, affectionate, and compelling.
polyamory – literally means “loving many,” this is the practice of engaging in more than one intimate relationship at a time. Thus far, the original polyamory community has considered their definitive relationships as romantic and sexual in nature. It is possible, however, to engage in nonsexual polyamory and perhaps even nonromantic polyamory. The focus here is on love and loving more than one person at a time (or at least being open to loving more than one person at a time), in a way that places those persons at the emotional center of your life. Some asexuals identify as poly, as do some aromantics (sexual or asexual).
relationship anarchy – This is a relationship philosophy which goes one step further than polyamory and generally dismisses any preconceived ideas about relationship structures, drawing clear lines of separation between “friendship” and “romantic-sexual relationships,” relationship hierarchy, or categorizing relationships according to their behavioral and/or emotional qualities. Relationship anarchy rejects monogamy and the idea of love being finite or limited, in the same way that polyamory rejects that paradigm. Relationship anarchy, however, seeks to dissolve rigid emotional distinctions between sexual and nonsexual relationships, romantic love and friendship, in a way that polyamory usually does not. Relationship anarchy rejects emotional hierarchies of relationships: both the ranking of one romantic-sexual relationship over another and the ranking of romantic-sexual relationships over nonsexual and/or nonromantic relationships. Within a relationship anarchist’s social network, nonsexual and nonromantic relationships are equal to sexual and/or romantic relationships, if the RA has s*x and feels romantic attraction, and a nonsexual/nonromantic relationship is just as likely to become a highly involved partnership as any romantic/sexual relationship is. Anyone can be an RA, including asexuals and aromantics.
Source: Andie Nordgren’s RA Manifesto
open relationship – an intimate relationship where both partners are free to seek intimacy with other people, whether that intimacy is sexual, romantic, or emotional, without threatening the existing relationship. Any primary or intimate relationship can be open, whether it’s romantic-sexual or romantic-nonsexual or queerplatonic or platonic, etc. Some asexuals in mixed relationships agree to make the relationship open, in order for their partner to have s*x with others instead of with the asexual.
closed relationship – an intimate relationship where both partners are expected to refrain from engaging with other people in certain ways and instead reserve those behaviors to the existing intimate relationship. Usually, this means a sexually monogamous relationship but can also include romantic monogamy in isolation from sex, or emotional intimacy (if the relationship is neither sexual nor romantic).
squish – a term coined in the aromantic asexual community, this refers to “an aromantic crush,” or a strong desire to form a platonic bond with another person. It usually entails feelings stronger than those behind normative friendship; the feelings can range anywhere from wanting to be emotionally intimate friends to wanting a more serious platonic commitment. When your squish returns your feelings of interest, admiration, appreciation, etc, it evokes an elation comparable to that of someone whose crush returns their feelings. The desire behind a squish is to be important to the other person, even while not being romantically/sexually involved. Anyone can have a squish, regardless of their sexual or romantic orientation.
mixed relationship – in the asexual community, this refers to a relationship between an asexual and a sexual person.