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Attraction in the context of AVEN refers to a physical and/or emotional force that draws people together. Asexuals experience little to no sexual attraction, but may feel other types of attraction. There is some amount of debate as to what types of attraction actually exist.
While it is typical for allosexuals (people who experience sexual attraction) to also be alloromantic (people who experience romantic attraction), it is rare for an asexual to also be aromantic. Instead, asexuals are typically alloromantic (for example, a biromantic asexual experiences romantic attraction to multiple genders, but experiences little to no sexual attraction), and aromantics are typically allosexual (for example, a heterosexual aromantic experiences sexual attraction to a different gender, but experiences little to no romantic attraction). Because these types of attraction are typically split in people who fall along the asexual and aromantic spectrums, a distinction between sexual orientations and romantic orientations, as well as other orientations, is necessary.
Disclaimer: not everyone agrees with this definition of sexual attraction
Main article: Sexual attraction
Sexual attraction is a form of physical and/or emotional attraction that often leads to a desire to form a sexual relationship and/or to have sexual contact with the person to whom the attraction is directed (sometimes called a "lust" or a "smush"). desire for sexual contact with the person that the attraction is felt towards. Sexual attraction can be experienced towards any person of any gender. Sexual attraction can be based upon many characteristics of a person. Physical characteristics can include, but are not limited to; appearance, movement, and smell. The extent to which a person is successful at drawing sexual attraction based upon physical traits is known as sex appeal. Physical characteristics that result in a sexual or erotic response affect a person’s Primary sexual attraction. Characteristics that are not immediately available such as temperament, and individual genetic and cultural influence can also lead to sexual attraction. Secondary sexual attraction is an attraction that develops over time based on a relationship between people. There is currently no single accepted definition of sexual attraction, but it is commonly defined as a libido directed towards someone or something.
Sexual orientations are defined by the gender of the person who experiences the sexual attraction and the gender of the the person to whom the attraction is directed. For example, heterosexuals experience sexual attraction to people of a different gender, homosexuals experience sexual attraction to people of the same gender, and bisexuals and pansexuals experience sexual attraction to people of multiple genders. Those who lack sexual attraction, entirely or partially, fall along the asexual spectrum. Asexuals can desire sexual relationships and sexual contact for reasons other than experiencing sexual attraction, such as to achieve romantic intimacy, to satisfy an allosexual partner, to fulfill a personal curiosity, or to have a baby. Because of this, many asexuals do not consider sexual attraction to be the same thing as sexual desire, so it is difficult to define sexual attraction. It is commonly held that sexual attraction involves a desire for the sexual act itself, rather than for extrinsic motivations. Some models of asexuality make distinctions between different kinds of sexual desire and allow for asexuals to feel some varieties, however some do not.
Sexual attraction is often experienced alongside other forms of attraction, such as romantic or emotional attraction, but it can also be experienced independently of them, leading to only sexual desire. There are different models and methods to approaching sexual attraction. It should be noted that sexual attraction is not the same as a sex drive, although in allosexuals the two often go together. When asexuals experience a physical desire for sex (libido/sex drive), it is not necessarily directed towards anything in particular. Recently more asexuals have begun to identify with anegosexuality (previously known as autochorissexuality) which describes a disconnect between oneself and the object/target of their sexual desire. The term "anegosexual" is a microlabel that falls under asexuality.
Main article: Romantic attraction
Romantic attraction is a form of emotional and/or physical attraction that often leads to a desire to form a romantic relationship and/or to have romantic contact with the person to whom the attraction is directed (commonly called a "crush"). Romantic attraction can be experienced towards any person of any gender. Romantic attraction can be based upon many characteristics of a person. Physical characteristics, while more commonly associated with Primary sexual attraction, can result in romantic attraction. Aesthetic attraction is very often associated with this kind of romantic attraction. Characteristics that are not immediately available such as temperament, and individual genetic and cultural influence more often lead to romantic attraction than sexual, as it develops over time based on a relationship between people.
Romantic orientations, the counterparts to sexual orientations, are defined by the gender of the person who experiences the romantic attraction and the gender of the the person to whom the attraction is directed. For example, heteroromantics experience romantic attraction to people of a different gender, homoromantics experience romantic attraction to people of the same gender, and biromantics and panromantics experience romantic attraction to people of multiple genders. Those who lack romantic attraction, entirely or partially, fall along the aromantic spectrum. As mentioned in the Aromantic FAQ, not all aromantics are asexual, and there is as much variance in their sexual orientations as there is in the sexual orientations among alloromantics. Aromantics can desire romantic relationships and romantic contact for reasons other than experiencing romantic attraction, such as to gain companionship or a deeper relationship.
Some asexuals reject the alloromantic/aromantic dichotomy altogether, so it can be difficult to define romantic relationships. It is commonly held that romantic relationships involve activities with little to no sexual contact, ranging from dinners, movies, long walks on the beach, and sharing hobbies to kissing and cuddling. There is no clear-cut boundary between where a romantic action ends and a sexual action begins. Some define a person's approach to relationships as partner-based, in which intimacy takes place between an exclusive pair of people, or community-based, in which intimacy takes place among a group of people who see no need to pair off into couples, but are no less capable of forming deep relationships.
Crushes and Squishes
A crush is an emotional desire for a romantic relationship caused by being romantically attracted to someone. It is a desire that is possibly temporary in nature and possibly never acted upon. With a crush there is often an overwhelming desire to have the feelings reciprocated. There are many components to crushes that make them difficult to act upon. The fear of rejection is the largest component that often prevent people with crushes from acting upon them. As the emotions and desires felt when a person has a crush are so powerful, there is a large, and arguably rational, fear that whatever relationship currently exists may be damaged. Therefore this fear often prevents the person from acting. On the other hand, there is also the potential for hope. The secret desire that no action would be required and the "crush" would make the 'first move'. The smallest of gestures can result in massive fantasies and hope. Gestures such as "They held the door open for me" or "They send me a text message!" are often taken as overreactions, amplified by the extreme emotions, that do not fit the situation.
A squish is the aromantic counterpart for a crush. A squish is an emotional desire for a strong platonic relationship with someone. These relationships often take the form of deep friendships, queerplatonic pairings and occasionally partnering. The envisioned relationship is usually more emotionally intimate than a typical friendship. A squish can be towards anyone of any gender and a person may also have many squishes, all of which may be active.
There is a fine line between a crush and a squish. Both crushes and squishes could involve persistent thoughts about the person of interest, self-consciousness around that person, desires to be with them, fantasies about physical (not necessarily sexual) contact with them, or any combination of these. However crushes sometimes entail jealous of partners of the person of interest, and a desire for romantic contact (such as kissing), a dating relationship, or marriage, while squishes often do not. In both cases emotional attachment can be formed between partners, regardless if it is reciprocated. The type of the relationship is defined upon the desired actions and the actions shared between the pairing. Romantic relationships, or desired romantic relationships, frequently hold more romantic or 'loving' behaviors versus a platonic relationship, or desired platonic relationship, where the purpose is to know them well and be close. The lines between the two frequently become blurred with one transforming into another.
The bottom line is that both crushes and squishes are both types of infatuations. But, a crush is a romantic infatuation, and a squish is a platonic infatuation.
Sensual attraction can be an emotional or physical desire to engage in sensual acts with the person that the attraction is felt towards. Sensuality is a pleasure that involves the senses. This is especially true regarding tactile sensuality such as cuddling. Some asexuals are uncomfortable with this classification, since they can also get sensual pleasure from nonhuman objects such as pillows, blankets or pets, to which they do not consider themselves 'attracted'. Many sexual people interpret sensuality as only relating to sexual pleasure that involves the senses, but there are other ways of being sensual. Some (though not all) asexuals enjoy nonsexual sensuality with other people. Sensuality often involves tactile stimulation, such as cuddling, kissing, or giving or receiving a massage, but interpretations of visual, aural, taste, or olfactory stimuli as sensual are also appropriate - for example, since the desire to appreciate the sight of a beautiful person involves visual stimulation, it could be seen as sensual.
It is also sometimes difficult to fully distinguish sensual things from sexual ones in a relationship, especially between sexual people. Sensual acts are distinguished from sexual acts only by the people engaged with them. Kissing, cuddling, hugging and holding hands have both a sensual aspect and a sexual aspect. The purpose of the acts vary as they can be an action of affection or for the purpose of sexual arousal.
Main article: Aesthetic attraction
Some asexuals report feeling an attraction to other people that is not connected to a desire to do anything with them, either sexually or romantically. They simply appreciate their appearance. This is called aesthetic attraction because it is thought to be similar to other aesthetic desires, such as the desire to keep listening to a good song or to keep looking at a beautiful sunset.
It is possible to define aesthetic attraction as a subset of sensual attraction, since the act of observing a person's appearance or behavior can be thought of as pleasure involving the sense of vision or sometimes hearing. Some asexuals reject the concept of aesthetic attraction for the same reason that they reject the concept of sensual attraction - i.e. it feels the same to them with people as it does to inanimate objects and other things that they do not generally think of themselves as being attracted to.