The SAM and Mia’s Many Labels

Ever get confused about what your orientation is because it seems to be two different ones, or had a hard time explaining to a friend that just because you think someone is hot doesn’t necessarily mean you want to fuck or date them?

I’m the kind of person who likes labels, and I’ve been thinking about mine more than usual lately.  More specifically, I’ve been thinking about what would describe me if I looked at every type of attraction and not just romantic and sexual, and then I wrote out an explanation as an introduction to an ace diversity guest post…and then I realized it was already a full-length post on its own.  So instead of using the info elsewhere, I decided that it was a good month to discuss the split attraction model on Writing For Life, and use my labels as an example.

The split attraction model, or SAM for short, is basically the idea that there are several different kinds of attraction, and they don’t have to line up.  A commonly given list is:

  1. Romantic
  2. Sexual
  3. Sensual – phyical contact in a non-sexual sense, such as hugging and cuddling
  4. Aesthetic – “Wow, that’s a nice looking person,” similar to how you might admire a beautiful painting even though you likely aren’t sexually or romantically attracted to the painting
  5. Platonic – wanting to be friends with someone
  6. Emotional – could be any form of emotional draw or bond
  7. Alterous – will explain what this is shortly
  8. (And others depending on whose list you use, e.g. intellectual attraction is listed separately here and there)

For many people, romantic and sexual are the same, but for others, it’s not.  This is how some people are aromantic and asexual, while others are aro but not ace, or ace but not aro.  Although the aspec community tends to talk about it more out of necessity, anyone can use the SAM if it’s useful to them – you might, for example, be heteroromantic but pansexual.

Generally, people just use romantic and sexual in everyday life, because knowing whether you’re hetero or bisexual has a lot more practical impact on your life than whether you’re hetero- or bi-aesthetic.  However, knowing that the other types of attraction (especially alterous, which I’ll get to) are A Thing Of Their Own can be useful sometimes.  As an example of what I’ve talked about so far, I’ll give you the breakdown of my labels.

How I identify down the list:

For the general conversational introduction or factoid, I say I’m queer aro/ace, which sums up the relevant info accurately.  However, the full list in a SAM context is Asexual, Aromantic, Demigreysensual, Panaesthetic, Slightly hetero platonic, Heteroalterous.  (Because emotional attraction in general is complicated by so many factors like family ties, I’m not interested in trying to identify a specific orientation for that.)

  1. Asexual – Specifically, I’m sex-repulsed asexual.  Just think of me as Sheldon Cooper incarnate when it comes to personally engaging in sexual contact.
  2. Aromantic – I see myself as “romance-impossible” rather than neutral, favorable, etc.  Rather than having feelings about it any way, like I do actively disliking sex, it just feels like the romance stat bar got straight-up deleted when my character was created.  
  3. Demigreysensual – If you haven’t seen the terms elsewhere, demi- means only experiencing attraction after an emotional bond is formed, and grey- means experiencing it rarely.  I’m using both here because, while I’m fine giving out hugs if other people like them or being on a packed bus or the like, I’m generally fond of my personal space bubble.  BUT, there are rare occasions I wish I could be physically close to someone I have an emotional connection with.  Not just anyone I’m close to though; only a very few people even out of that pool of options.  It’s happened few enough times that I don’t yet know if it’s a semi-random thing, or if it’s exclusive to people I’m alterously attracted to.
  4. Panaesthetic – I think lots of people look cool in an artwork-type sense, and I don’t play gender favorites in this regard.  Pretty much all you have to do is have cool and/or unique hair :P.
  5. Slightly hetero platonic – I say “slightly hetero” because in my 20 years of life, I (mostly-cis female (demifemale technically)) have tended to have more male and nonbinary than female friends, in terms of emotional connection.  I’m not entirely sure why this is – maybe something to do with being autistic and my communication style, or due to most of my male friends having crushes at me at some point and being motivated to keep the interactions going even when I got stuck on the social scripts, or… Whatever the case, although I have more female friends now as a university student, I still feel like I just connect with guys better sometimes.

So can we discuss alterous attraction yet??

This is one of those things where if you haven’t experienced it, it can be hard to understand, but is highly useful to know about if you do experience it, because society only presents “friendship” and “romance” as the available options, so it’s easy to mistake it for a crush and get yourself into emotional tangles.  (I speak from personal experience.)

I got confused Pikachu faces last time I tried to explain this in my own words, so I’ll just quote the LGBTA Wiki.  “Alterous attraction is a form of emotional attraction. It describes a feeling that is not necessarily platonic, but also is not romantic in nature. For some it may be in between romantic and platonic attraction, and for others it may be completely separate from the romantic/platonic distinction” (https://lgbta.miraheze.org/wiki/Alterous_Attraction).
Personally, I’m heteroalterous.  I see it as the form of attraction associated with wanting to be in a QPR (queerplatonic relationship – a relationship that goes beyond what is considered normal or appropriate for a platonic one but isn’t romantic) with someone.  I experience it as a feeling of wanting/having a deeper connection than I typically do with friends, and thinking I could live with that person for the next few years.  (Although I should clarify that by “deeper connection” I mean more emotionally intense in a way, NOT that it’s superior or more emotionally fulfilling than my other types of relationships..)

Looking back, this is what I actually felt towards my boyfriend back in my brief dating life before I realized I was aro.  (We turned out to be in agreement, incidentally.  We remained good friends after ending the romantic relationship, and he said in a discussion months later that he realized he was aro too.)  

In conclusion

I’m not advocating that you have to use lots of labels or the SAM or anything, just to be clear.  Some people like them, some don’t, and some object to the term “split attraction model” because it has aphobic origins, from what I’ve heard.  Like many things, they’re just tools that may or may not be helpful to you, so take what you want from this and feel free to leave the rest.  I personally filled out the whole list just for kicks rather than because I needed all that information.  And if you come back to my life in a year or two, my list may look a little different as I’m always learning more about myself.  But if anything here helps you understand yourself or life better, great!

Thoughts, opinions, disagreements?  Drop a comment!

2 thoughts on “The SAM and Mia’s Many Labels”

  1. Labels are a mixed bag, to be sure. In reading previous posts and the comments on them, it seems that some people like to find just the right label for themselves, and others would rather ditch the labels and just find a person or persons they like to be with in whatever way. I identify with the need to find one’s true identity and be able to express that to others. I mean, who really likes it when everyone assumes they are something they aren’t? So we want to be able to explain what we are, right? But on the other hand, the labels can get confusing, and I also identify with those who just want to be able to communicate their desires with others and find a good partner/mate/friend/connection with whom to spend time. Communication really is the key, whether that be via officially recognized labels, or just through conversations in which people go deep and tell what they are looking for in, and willing to give to, a relationship.

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