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Ice Queen

Differentiating between types of attraction

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There are several types of attraction that one can experience towards the others: sexual, romantic, aesthetic, sensual, friend-crush, squish. 

 

As an aromantic, I am capable of experiencing all of them except for the second one. Many a time I would see a guy or a girl, thinking "s/he looks fantastic, I could look at pictures of them for hours". I've had more than 20 friend-crushes throughout my life... so on and so forth. But there is this one person towards whom I've experienced all the types of attractions I can feel (all 5 of them). 

 

It started with a friend-crush. I really wanted to get to know him and wanted us to be friends. I seemed to be successful. Once I got to know him to some degree, I found myself feeling something new: sexual desire. I was successful in this regard, too, so both our friendship and our sexual bond developed in tandem. At some point I also found myself wanting non-sexual physical contact with him: the beginning of sensual attraction. Later on, upon learning what kind of person he is, I realised he is a boy with a great personality and a wonderful soul. We had formed a strong bond, and I came to love him more than a year ago. I developed a squish on him, that is, I wish a relationship with him which is different from typical friendship, yet NOt romantic in nature. My feelings for him are strong. And on top of all these, I find him handsome, too. 

 

All these types of attraction are like a mostly heterogeneous mixture. Friend-crush was the first ingredient, the other ones to follow later. There is one comdition: for example, if I have a squish, then I also feel sexual and sensual attraction -or only sensual if it's a girl - , but not necessarily the other way round. Neverheless, I can clearly tell one from another. 

 

The question is: are aromantics gifted with the ability to distinguish between different types of attraction? Why do romantics tend to confuse one with another? To me, each one is crystal clear. Is this because I'm aromantic?

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The commonly used distinctions between types of attraction aren't particularly clear to me when I try to apply them to my own inner experience.  For example, I'm pretty sure I don't experience aesthetic attraction at all, and I see very little difference between a squish, a friend-crush, and sensual attraction in my own feelings.  If I like someone enough to be their friend, I pretty much always want to touch them, so a friend crush and sensual attraction are basically the same thing to me.  Sometimes I might experience one of these kinds of attraction particularly clearly, but most of the time I don't.  I also think I experience kinds of attraction that I've never heard anyone else describe before.  But it hasn't mattered all that much to me to find words for these feelings.  Usually I know how I feel and I know how I want to act on those feelings, and the other person usually feels completely differently so it won't work out anyway and it's irrelevant.  But I'm glad other aros find these terms really useful because having language to discuss commonly shared experiences is very important.

 

But in general, I think yes, aromantics are more able to distinguish between different types of attraction (and other things, like toxic behavior in relationships is a lot more apparent to many of us) because our experiences do not match with the commonly shared cultural narratives of how relationships are supposed to work.  Since we don't have these social scripts to follow, we have to figure things out on our own, so we spend more time examining our own feelings.  Queer people have very similar experiences, like the details of how gender constructs actually work are far more apparent to trans people than to cis people.  Being outside the norm makes the norm a lot easier to examine.

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I'm not sure we're able to distinguish between these things inherently because we're aromantic or because aromantics are in general more sensitive to amatonormativity and thus try to deconstruct relationships and feelings to not always equal romance. It would be nice if romantic folks could step back and be aware of the differences, but I think they often aren't simply because they have been socioculturally conditioned to think that any sort of intimacy beyond a certain point = romantic attraction. In this sense I agree a lot with what @Eklinaar has said!

 

I really think it's just a lack of knowledge about how many boxes there can be that contributes to fewer (or no) romantic folks being aware of these types of feelings. To them, it might be that anything that is not strictly platonic has to be romantic, so many diverse feelings may be thrown into that one box. This may also be a personal thing, as I know I love having lots of boxes but others may put different feelings into one general category.

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to me, there's platonic/friend attraction--that's the minimum requirement for me to call it a squish.  then there's aesthetic: usually, when i admire a girl's appearance, i'd like the characteristic(s) for myself, and when it's a guy, it's associated with sexual attraction.  there can be aesthetic attraction without sexual (even to guys), but not the other way around.  sexual/sensual, to me, is pretty much the same.  (there are some kinds of physical contact i'd like, which fall into that category, and some i wouldn't, which i'd classify as romantic.)  so, towards males, there's platonic, aesthetic, platonic + aesthetic, sexual + aesthetic, and all three--that's the point at which i might want some kind of qpr.  for non-males, remove the ones with 'sexual'.  i have experience with all these combinations.  i only sometimes have a hard time with recognition, with guys: uncertainty as to the presence of sexual attraction.  i actually have that now with my squish.  and i'm probably less likely to really want to act on attraction than an allo would be.  i also agree that they'd probably have no idea what i'm talking about here--i hope you guys do.  😄

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