My Experience of Attraction as an Asexual Person

April 6, 2024
A hand holding a small asexual flag in front of some trees. The Asexual flag has 4 vertical stripes of black, grey, white, and purple.

6th April is International Asexuality Day, and as someone who identifies as ace I always look forward to the conversations that are inspired by this day. Even so, I didn’t quite expect to be inspired to write a blog post at 10am! But here I am. Sharing my experience of attraction as an asexual person, because a conversation with my wife made me realise that this isn’t something I’ve written about in enough detail in the past.

I’ve touched on it, of course, in various posts since I realised I was queer. And I was honoured to share glimpses of it when people shared their asexual experiences with me. But I’ve never done a deep dive into how I experience attraction and how I came to realise that this is different to that of allosexual people.

How do you know how others experience attraction?

This is a question that I never really considered until my wife came out as trans and I realised that it changed absolutely nothing for me. I was as in love with her as I always had been, and her changing gender only mattered in that it made her feel fully herself. It did not impact my attraction to her in any way. But how could that be when I had always assumed I was straight?

That question took me on a long journey of research and reflection, and I eventually came to understand that what I thought of as attraction was very different to what a lot of people understand it to mean. I realised I’d spent my entire life thinking we were all talking about the same experience, but we weren’t. And over time I have just come to accept this as another one of my quirks, that makes perfect sense to me but isn’t the generally accepted “norm”.

Then this morning I asked on Threads and Bluesky for people’s recs for books with asexual characters. My friend Matt, who writes about his own experiences of demisexuality over on The Ace Space, asked me if I’d read his book Phobetor’s Children yet because he wanted to know if I thought the characters Nero and Valens are ace-coded. I have not got around to that book yet (my TBR is loooooong). But Thea has. So I asked her what she thought. And her answer was, “I don’t know. I don’t really know what the ace experience is.”

Asexual vs allosexual attraction

Thea’s response really caught me by surprise, because I knew we’d talked at length about attraction during my questioning period of trying to figure out if I was ace or not. I don’t think I’m alone in wondering whether I really fit when you first start to wonder if you’re ace or not – after all, how do you define yourself by something you’ve never really experienced?

But then I realised that even after all those discussions I still don’t really know what it means to experience attraction as an allosexual person, even though I have a lifetime’s worth of stories that show me. Romantic and sexual attraction are displayed and explored in books, films, TV shows, music, you name it. You don’t even have to pick something that is described as a “romance” to come across it.

So if I struggle to still understand what it means for someone to experience sexual attraction after being surrounded by it my whole life, then it’s no wonder allosexual people have absolutely no idea what asexual people experience when our stories are so rarely shared. Hence this post.

My personal experience of attraction as an asexual person

Before I go any further, I want to make it clear that this is my personal experience of attraction as an asexual person. I cannot and will not speak for other aces. We may share similar experiences, but we are unique and all fall on different parts of the asexual spectrum. For instance, I consider myself a sex-favourable ace, but there are also sex-repulsed aces, sex-indifferent aces, and those who do not define themselves in any such way. I also experience romantic attraction, so my experience will be very different to an aromantic person.

All that being said, here is my best attempt at describing how I experience attraction.

Aesthetic attraction

I can look at someone and think that they are really beautiful, in the same way that I might look at a stunning landscape or an intricate piece of art. I consider this a form of attraction, because it fills me with a certain sense of pleasure to see them. But it is never sexual. I never see someone and get sexually aroused in any way.

It’s just a sort of appreciation for the way they look. And it doesn’t always coincide with what is generally considered attractive by others. I’ve been around allosexual people enough to objectively know that this person or that person is considered “hot”. But I don’t find them attractive at all. I couldn’t even tell you “my type” because I don’t think I have one physically (I definitely do emotionally – more on that later).

I just know that I find some people visually very pleasing. But it never really affects the way I feel about them.

Emotional attraction

By far my biggest sense of attraction comes from an emotional connection. In this I still haven’t figured out if I am asexual or demisexual (because I have only ever been in a relationship with Thea – I might just be “Thea-sexual” for all I know!) But that’s not to say that I don’t feel a deep, emotional attraction to others, because I do. It often makes me want to have a more intimate relationship with them. But in a “I want to have emotional intimacy with you” rather than a sexual thing. (Again, more on that later).

When I talk about emotional attraction, I mean that I am attracted to a person’s character over how they look. I am far more attracted to someone who is kind, passionate, and nerdy than any physical characteristic they may have. If you’re someone I can safely be myself with, who’ll make me laugh, challenge me to be a better version of myself, and catch me when I fall, well you’ve got my attention!

Growing up in the 80s and 90s I watched a fair number of films about the popular guy turning the nerdy girl into a beauty. And it always made me uncomfortable. I wanted to know the nerdy girl. The popular guy could get lost. He was too fickle. She knew who she was and wasn’t afraid to show it publicly. As an undiagnosed autistic teen with epic masking skills, that confidence to be who you are was so attractive. And it continues to be to this day.

Emotional Intimacy

Emotional Intimacy is intrinsically tied in with emotional attraction to me. Not only do I want to be emotionally intimate with you if I’m attracted to you, emotional intimacy also makes me more attracted to you. And yet as I write this I realise that even using the word attraction for this is somewhat misleading, because it is more often than not an entirely platonic experience for me.

Let me try to explain – I’ve had more crushes on fictional characters than I’d probably care to admit, because of the emotional intimacy that comes from knowing their innermost thoughts and feelings. As an autistic person who often struggles with understanding people’s emotions and motivations, there is something very comforting about knowing someone so well. However they aren’t crushes in the more typical sense of the word. I want to be their friend. One of their closest circle. A confidante. I don’t want to be their partner.

And this isn’t limited to fictional characters for me. I yearn for an emotional intimacy that isn’t seen as normal with quite a lot of people. I want to be able to snuggle up with my friends, to hold them when they’re sad and stroke their hair as we watch a film together. I want to be able to share intimate details of our lives together, as well as the most mundane day-to-day stuff, where there are zero limits and the term TMI doesn’t exist. But, as I said before, completely platonic.

Romantic attraction?

So where does that all leave me? If my experience of aesthetic attraction isn’t sexual, and emotional attraction is usually platonic, do I even experience attraction at all?

I mean I think I do. I am a sucker for a good romance. I love seeing people find their “special” person (or people – let’s not forget that polyamorous people exist). And when I first met Thea I knew that she was “the one” for me. We’ve now been together over 16 years, have stuck together through some of the hardest challenges, and love each other deeply. She knows me in a way nobody else does. I feel safer with her than I ever have with anyone. And I fear the day when one of us dies and the other is left on this earth alone.

So I’d say yes, I do indeed experience romantic attraction. But the line between romantic attraction and emotional intimacy is kinda blurred for me. Where does platonic emotional intimacy merge into romantic attraction? I’m honestly not sure. I just know that what I have with Thea is a more intense experience of what I feel for others. And I don’t have all the answers, even when it comes to my own experience of attraction.

Let’s talk sex…

You didn’t think I’d end this post without commenting on sexual attraction, did you? I’ve already mentioned I’m a sex-favourable ace, but what does that actually mean?

For me it means that I enjoy sex. But it isn’t a driving force in my attraction to someone. If sex didn’t exist, it wouldn’t impact me much. Yeah, it’s fun and it feels good. But it’s also messy and requires energy I often don’t have or can’t be bothered to expend.

I don’t feel more closely connected to my wife through sex, and have never really understood the premise that sex is the ultimate stage in a relationship. Do I want to make Thea feel good? Hell yeah. That’s the fun part. Do I want to feel good too? Of course. But I can do that myself too. It simply isn’t intrinsically linked to my experience of attraction. It’s just a fun thing we do. When we’re in the mood.

That doesn’t mean that I don’t see it as an intimate act though. I could never have sex with someone else. I mean, come on. I threw up the first time Thea kissed me because I was so overwhelmed, you think I could do the deed with just anybody? It’s a deeply intimate part of our relationship. But my point is that it isn’t what drives my attraction to Thea. I can appreciate her body because I love her. Not the other way around.

My understanding of myself is always evolving

This post has taken me a couple of hours to write, because I had to really think about how to express what I feel. It’s hard to explain, because it’s not something I put into words very often. I haven’t had to. I’m happily married to the love of my life, and my attraction is just what it is. But every so often, on days like today, I have reason to take pause and really consider what attraction means to me. And it is ever evolving.

If you’re asexual yourself, I’d love to hear what your experience of attraction is.

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  • Reply
    Matt Mason
    April 6, 2024 at 1:02 pm

    Wonderful article, Amanda.

    One thing has always been clear to me – years before I came out as demisexual – that romantic attraction was quite rapid for me, sometimes by the end of a first interaction with someone I thought was both aesthetically attractive and “kind of cool to be around”. A woman who can make me laugh wthin minutes of meeting her, and beyond mere superficial smalltalk, tend to give me a certain non-sexual tingle and a spring in my step.

    It never occurred to me that this early crush-like experience, which lacked sexual attraction, wasn’t what straight people experience. Romantic and sexual attraction are such distinct and separate experiences for me that I know I have never and could never confuse them.

    Obviously it’s not for me to label you, but if romantic attraction is blurred with emotional intimacy for you then it’s possible you’re also demiromantic (or greyromantic).

    • Reply
      April 6, 2024 at 6:12 pm

      Thanks Matt šŸ™‚

      That’s really interesting to hear about how fast romantic attraction could occur for you. And I think you’re right, I probably do fall somewhere on the demiromantic side of things. As much as I *always* wanted romance, it’s not something that really happened for me. I mean I met Thea when I was 23, and there was just one other person before her I briefly felt it with. And that never even went anywhere, we just remained friends. That’s it. I’m a romantic soul, but whether I actually experience romantic *attraction* (beyond Thea, obviously) is uncertain for me. And I think that in itself says a lot, haha!

      All I know for sure is that I do not experience attraction in the same way as most people and am *somewhere* on the ace spectrum. And that gender doesn’t make any difference to me in terms of the way I do experience the kind of attraction I do, so I’m pan in some respect, but also probably demisexual/demiromantic and Thea just happened to tick all my boxes šŸ™‚

  • Reply
    Anticipation | Power and Glory
    April 11, 2024 at 8:43 am

    […] My Experience of Attraction as an Asexual Person […]

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