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Sexual attraction vs sensual attraction

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This has been on my mind lately and I feel like Arocalypse is the best place to start a discussion, as there are going to be some people who experience both.

 

How do you guys experience sexual and/or sensual attraction and how do you differentiate the two? Or do you think of them more as a joint experience? Do you find the split attraction model useful or not?

 

Really I just want a discussion about different forms of attraction with people of all orientations!

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The thing that's made the most sense to me so far is this image:

Spoiler

tumblr_nmrka1v6ji1th3zx5o1_r1_500.png

but like you I still find it really hard to find the line between sexual and sensual attraction, sometimes I'm not even sure I can tell those from platonic attraction.

(Rant about "platonic attraction" in the spoiler)

Spoiler

So I feel weird calling it "platonic attraction" because what if it's not platonic? 
I have what I'd call a squish on someone at the moment, and I'm super sure that I just want them in my life, and to talk to them, and see them, and be there for them. Which as far as I can tell is what most would call platonic attraction, but then I'm sort of thinking that I'm also sensually/sexually attracted to them too, and it seems contradictory to have platonic and sexual attraction to the same person. So there should totally be another word for this (I'm leaning toward companionate attraction, like "companionate relationship" instead of "QPR").

As per the spoiler I have a squish thing at the moment and I'm fairly sure I'm also feeling sensual/sexual attraction, but I'm not really sure which one/s it is. I know I want to spend time with them, and netflix and chill sounds really nice, but so does "netflix and chill". I can't remember ever feeling sexual or sensual attraction without at least a bit of the other, but I probably have felt them at different strengths with different people. 

 

Overall I like the split attraction idea. I've found it good for explaining aromanticism, and it's a useful tool to think about feelings, even if those feelings aren't super discrete. I see it kind of like the four element personality profiles (also most other personality profiles); it's really useful as a tool as long as you don't expect people to fit perfectly into boxes and just treat is as a guideline.

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@Saaaro that's a great analogy. I think the split attraction model can be useful as a tool for communication but it shouldn't be the be all or end all. I've kind of realised over time that for me everything other than romantic and sexual attraction can be lumped into these "weird platonicesque feelings" and when you look at it all together it looks even less platonic than before.

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I partially agree with @Saaaro's linked graphic, which states that "sexual attraction = a desire for contact with the genitals as in sex with a specific person," and "sensual attraction = a desire for physical contact such as hugs, kisses etc. with a specific person." I think sexual attraction is actually broader than just contact with genitals. If you wanted contact with their chest, or wanted to french kiss them, I would also count that as sexual. 

 

The way I tell sexual attraction and sensual attraction apart are how I feel around the person. When I'm sexually attracted to someone, I feel the attraction in my loins--it's a sudden burst, a growl, that lasts for a few seconds and then quickly fades if I don't act on it. Sensual attraction feels like a balloon of warmth, filling up and expanding inside of me, starting from my chest and spreading upwards. I know that was very abstract description, but that's how I tell them apart. 

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I am sexually repulsed and feel no sensual attraction (or so little that I don't bother thinking about it). Of course, since I feel neither of them, all conclusion that I get is by doing very general logic association. For instance, sexual attraction makes you sexually aroused (I guess), sensuality is about the sens of touch (in all its different forms). Therefore, any feeling of attraction for physical contact that doesn't make you sexually aroused is probably sensual attraction. This logic is probably far from being flawless, but up to now, it's the one that satisfied me the most considering the infinite possibilities of the human experience.

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1 hour ago, omitef said:

I partially agree with @Saaaro's linked graphic, which states that "sexual attraction = a desire for contact with the genitals as in sex with a specific person," and "sensual attraction = a desire for physical contact such as hugs, kisses etc. with a specific person." I think sexual attraction is actually broader than just contact with genitals. If you wanted contact with their chest, or wanted to french kiss them, I would also count that as sexual. 

 

The way I tell sexual attraction and sensual attraction apart are how I feel around the person. When I'm sexually attracted to someone, I feel the attraction in my loins--it's a sudden burst, a growl, that lasts for a few seconds and then quickly fades if I don't act on it. Sensual attraction feels like a balloon of warmth, filling up and expanding inside of me, starting from my chest and spreading upwards. I know that was very abstract description, but that's how I tell them apart. 

I could see chest touching and french kissing as either, depending on the context, but I really like your description of where the attraction comes from. Sexual attraction isn't just a scaled up version of sensual. It very much comes from a different place.

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9 hours ago, Saaaro said:

The thing that's made the most sense to me so far is this image:

  Hide contents

tumblr_nmrka1v6ji1th3zx5o1_r1_500.png

 

I don't find this graphic useful at all. Why is the sexual one so weirdly specific? I suppose the split attraction model doesn't really work out for me at all.

 

I don't have and issue with dividing sexual and sensual attraction because I don't find sensual to be a form of attraction, it's a potential was of expressing attraction, affection or intimacy to me. I suppose another thing is that I don't feel any need to define all my attractions. It's just a pull I feel towards a person, and my relationship with them may develope in any direction if I get to know them, or maybe none at all.

(When I read this post through it sounds a bit angry and I don't know why. Maybe it's because I'm hungry xD)

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I don't think we should use the split attraction model for any kind of attraction besides romantic and sexual, because, for example, throwback to when I was a questioning, scared sixteen year old who was just realizing they were LGBT.

 

If you had told me that my desires to kiss girls, to hug them, to cuddle them and hold their hands and be close to them were the result of platonic and sensual attraction, if you had told me that when I found girls so beautiful that they took my breath away it was aesthetic attraction, I would have still been convinced I was straight. I could have ended up in a relationship with some greasy straight boy that I was repulsed by and thought that when he made my stomach churn, that's what attraction was supposed to feel like.

 

And if I hadn't discovered I was gay, I wouldn't have accepted that I was gnc or even known I was nonbinary. Meaning that I would have still been forcing myself to be feminine and struggling with dysphoria and I would never have come out or begun my transition.

 

Promoting the split attraction model so uncritically, especially around minors and questioning people and people struggling with compulsory heterosexuality, is homophobic and transphobic.

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for me, at first I thought I was a sensual ace. but, when I talked with other sensual aces, I realized that there was, on some level, sexuality involved with my interest in touching. well, with some people at least. With people who I was (apparently) sexually attracted to. 

 

 

The biggest difference for me, is that I feel mildly aroused with some people when cuddling or kissing, or even just thinking of cuddling or kissing them. and, there is more to it than just arousal.. a certain pattern of thoughts and feelings that "is sexual" at least I categorize it that way. really, attraction is... (as far as I feel it, and I've heard others say similar thing) it is kinda the same but... the signs each are some slightly different level of "tone" and "volume" depending, and that subtlety gives me a certain and reliable indication of what "type" of attraction it is.

 

 

 

but.. attraction is attraction... so if you want to know what it feels like, it feels like anything that you feel that draws you to someone, and if you want to know if you feel sexual or sensual attraction. you gotta think about it IMO and decide for yourself, if your attraction has sensations or desires or fantasy to it that have a sexual element to its nature.

 

like, it's perfectly normal to feel lost about this stuff. it takes time to understand ourselves, and we gotta learn as we go. 

 

 

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4 hours ago, cute kitty Meow! Mewo! said:

The biggest difference for me, is that I feel mildly aroused with some people when cuddling or kissing, or even just thinking of cuddling or kissing them. there's other sensations, thoughts, and awareness that happens too, that I can now identify as of a sexual nature... but idk. I don't think it's worth trying to describe that, because how feelings feel for every human is based entirely on individual experience. Talking about my personal experience can easily be misleading for others.

This is kind of how I feel. The attractions that I do feel are super ambiguous, and while they may be sexualish on occasion it's not super useful to me to include these experiences in my orientation because a lot of people would take that as me having a romantic and sexual interest in multiple genders (bisexual) rather than the weird and somewhat irrelevant feelings that I actually experience.

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I think the key element here is the intent.

If you intend to make the other person feel relaxed, calm, loved, safe, etc. then its a sensual thing. If you want to turn them on, pleasure them, watching them having sexual reactions then its in the sexual side of it.

 

Non-genital contact can be very sexual in nature, and you can touch someone's genitalia without it being a sexual touch. Fore example, you can give somebody a neck massage because they have slept in the wrong position and they have some muscle pain. Or you can run your hand down somebodies shoulder while making some suggestive eye contact. In both cases you are touching the same body part, but the intent is very different.

And this can be true the other way around. Okay, genital contact is very intimate, but not necessarily sexual. For example you can bathe someone without intending to get them off or pleasure them in a sexual way.

Does that make sense?

 

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First things first, I only experience sensual attraction towards the ones with whom I have a very strong bond - towards those about whom I love (in my own way, of course), and, occasionally, but just to some degree, towards certain squishes. 

Given I'm heterosexual, I'm going to try to explain how I differentiate between sensual and sexual attraction towards a boy with whom I have a strong emotional bond and whom I also desire. 

 

Hugging, cuddling, arm/back/face/head caressing, sleeping together (all that being done with clothes on, of course), holding hands, kisses on the cheeck/temple are ways of expressing my deep affection towards the person. They give me a feeling of warmth, safety, comfort. I feel protected, as if nothing bad could happen to me. (It doesn't matter if the person is male or female in this one case, all these acts are for the bond we have.)

 

Now, beside the obviously sexual acts, having the boy I desire kiss my body, touching certain areas of my body (whether with clothes on or not), massaging me, and vice-versa, being skin against skin, and sharing tongue kisses is something sexual to me as it turns me on. 

 

The peck on the lips is to me like the borderline between sensual and sexual. It does have a (slight) degree of eroticism to me, which is why I wouldn't feel comfortable kissing a girl like that. 

 

Last but not least, as I said, considering that me and that boy have a strong emotional connection, too, certain acts such as naked cuddles(+caressing) are sexual but also sensual at the same time. My body feels good and I am turned on, but at the same time, I get a certain feeling of total relaxation and comfort, it feels so...natural, so right. It is like apart from a way of having fun and making each otjer feel good, sex is also a way of showing that we feel at ease around each other. 

 

But yes, in essence, when it comes to a boy I want, I regard as sexual anything that turns me on. 

 

I hope it makes some sense :-?. 

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On 10/27/2016 at 2:47 PM, Miles said:

I don't think we should use the split attraction model for any kind of attraction besides romantic and sexual, because, for example, throwback to when I was a questioning, scared sixteen year old who was just realizing they were LGBT.

 

If you had told me that my desires to kiss girls, to hug them, to cuddle them and hold their hands and be close to them were the result of platonic and sensual attraction, if you had told me that when I found girls so beautiful that they took my breath away it was aesthetic attraction, I would have still been convinced I was straight. I could have ended up in a relationship with some greasy straight boy that I was repulsed by and thought that when he made my stomach churn, that's what attraction was supposed to feel like.

 

And if I hadn't discovered I was gay, I wouldn't have accepted that I was gnc or even known I was nonbinary. Meaning that I would have still been forcing myself to be feminine and struggling with dysphoria and I would never have come out or begun my transition.

 

Promoting the split attraction model so uncritically, especially around minors and questioning people and people struggling with compulsory heterosexuality, is homophobic and transphobic.

Just because people might misunderstand a concept doesn't make it bad. If being half-educated could lead to bad outcomes, the solution is a full education.

 

Your 'solution' would leave a pile of people with no way to understand how they are. In fact, since you have decided that you're going to claim that the split attraction model is homophobic and transphobic (transphobic, really? It has nothing at all to do with gender identity! Are you just throwing that out at random?), I will tell you that in my opinion, opposing the split attraction model is acephobic, arophobic and biphobic.  

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To me, sensual attraction isn't a thing.  I don't mean to say others can't use it to describe how they feel, but every act I can think of desiring or not desiring can be classified as platonic, romantic, or sexual.  Many so-called sensual things like gentle kissing, holding hands, cuddling, caressing, I deem romantic and find unnecessary if not uncomfortable.  Things I would like doing with platonic friends are hugging, maybe a kiss on the cheek, casual contact like leaning against them, you know, when sitting together or whatever.  Sexual things besides intercourse (which I've not yet had) and oral sex include touching of genitals, chests, sitting or lying on top of each other, making out (this can be a tricky one because if I get romantic vibes at all--gentleness is the best synonym I can think of--I'll get spooked, but if it stays sexual, we're good).  To put it simply, I can experience platonic and/or sexual attraction--if they coincide, they're still unrelated--and of course, never romantic.

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On 09/07/2016 at 11:46 PM, aussiekirkland said:

Do you find the split attraction model useful or not?

 

For me, personally, not really. I like to do what I like to do. I do find it helpful for trying to explain things to others though.

 

1 hour ago, aro_elise said:

Many so-called sensual things like gentle kissing, holding hands, cuddling, caressing, I deem romantic and find unnecessary if not uncomfortable. 

 

Interestingly, as an aro/ace, I find many of these things enjoyable even if I don't necessarily actively desire or seek out all of them.

 

On 31/10/2016 at 9:12 AM, Cassiopeia said:

I think the key element here is the intent.

 

This is the key to me too I think. There is a very blurred line between sexual and sensual attraction but the intent of sexual attraction is to have sex. Everything else is sensual or perhaps even platonic. It's pretty easy to find examples of platonic hand holding and hugging/cuddling. Kissing cheeks is also fairly universally understood to be platonic. Kissing on the lips is usually romantic or sexual. But if you don't experience any of these things, then things seem to take on a different aspect. And I think that's probably the essence of sensual contact. If you are allosexual then sensuality tends to get tied up in that or at least confused.

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Now that I reread it in the morning I feel like the above is half a post so let me finish it up now. 

 

7 hours ago, Momo said:

but the intent of sexual attraction is to have sex.

 

The intent of sensual interaction is intimacy. Feeling connected to someone. For an allosexual this will probably get pretty entwined with sex. For an alloromantic it can get tied up in romance pretty easily too.

 

For an aro/ace though, assuming that you aren't sex or romance repulsed, there's a whole range of physical interaction that can be quite pleasant for bonding. Seemingly romantic interaction takes on a platonic context and seemingly sexual interaction takes on a sensual one.

 

Things I thoroughly enjoy as an aro/ace (with the right person): cuddling/snuggling (platonic), holding hands (platonic), caresses (sensual), soft, quick kisses on the lips (sensual), kisses on other erogenous zones (sensual, in small amounts).

 

Interestingly, I will often get an erection during sensual encounters, I just have zero desire to act on that part. 

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On 10/07/2016 at 7:50 PM, RedNeko said:

I don't feel any need to define all my attractions.

 

Yep, I get this too. Still, being able to talk about different types of interactions (sexual, romantic, sensual, platonic) is definitely useful and then attractions are just who you want to do those things with and some people are inevitably going to latch onto that as something useful to them. But realistically, I don't think everyone will feel all of those things as separate, definable things. I also wonder how useful it is to try to split up all those things into such little chunks. It's useful to help describe feelings which are inherently abstract and hard to define but something has always felt that as a solution it is a little lacking but also at the same time like we're overthinking the solution.

 

For me though, trying to define a sensual and platonic attraction/orientation for myself just feels a little silly. Even trying to dig too deeply into exactly where on the aro/ace spectrum I fall feels a little counter-productive. As I said in my first post, I feel what I feel and I like to do what I like to do. Broad strokes I'm an aro/ace and that helps me communicate most of what I'm about but no matter what finer definition I chose to use I would almost certainly end up acting counter to it at some point.

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I totally feel sensual attraction, and this I think contributes in part to why it took me so long to identify with being Aro and Ace.

Often, mostly with close platonic relationships (some exceptions) I find myself idly thinking about touching the person or wondering what it might be like to kiss them. I am very sure I am Aro (97%) and pretty certain I am Asexual (93%). Still, kissing and touching are things I like very much, and even am drawn to certain people with whom I want to do these things (most often when platonically close to them).

I am a fairly sensory-driven person, and physical contact is something I crave as an extrovert. That said, the fact I include kissing and other typically romantic/sexually coded actions in this leads me to believe that people can have a sort of sensual orientation (THOUGH LETS NOT CONFUSE EVERYONE WITH EVEN MORE LABELS).

 

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2 hours ago, SamwiseLovesLife said:

That said, the fact I include kissing and other typically romantic/sexually coded actions in this leads me to believe that people can have a sort of sensual orientation (THOUGH LETS NOT CONFUSE EVERYONE WITH EVEN MORE LABELS).

I agree on both point. Sensual and platonic attraction are Definitely A Thing. But throwing more labels at the situation feels like the wrong solution to the wrong problem. For most people, they're underlying feelings and I feel like even trying to define sensual and platonic attractions would only be useful to asexuals and aromantics respectively. Perhaps even only to the aroaces. The idea of a platonic orientation where you only want to be friends with certain types of people feels kind of odd to me. Sensual orientation would likely line up with your aesthetic preferences too, though not necessarily.

 

As I mentioned before though, I don't find a lot of this helpful to me personally. The split attraction model is useful in as much as it confirms that these are all things that exist but beyond that... what will be will be.

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On 01/08/2017 at 0:33 PM, Momo said:

I agree on both point. Sensual and platonic attraction are Definitely A Thing. But throwing more labels at the situation feels like the wrong solution to the wrong problem. For most people, they're underlying feelings and I feel like even trying to define sensual and platonic attractions would only be useful to asexuals and aromantics respectively. Perhaps even only to the aroaces. The idea of a platonic orientation where you only want to be friends with certain types of people feels kind of odd to me. Sensual orientation would likely line up with your aesthetic preferences too, though not necessarily.

 

As I mentioned before though, I don't find a lot of this helpful to me personally. The split attraction model is useful in as much as it confirms that these are all things that exist but beyond that... what will be will be.

Well put :clapping:

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