Romantic and sexual orientation

For discussion of issues pertaining to sexuality. Warning: Topics within this forum may contain frank discussion of a sexual nature.
flergalwit
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Romantic and sexual orientation

Postby flergalwit » 29 Sep 2011, 04:45

OK here's something I've been wondering about for a while.

It's generally agreed, I think, in the asexual community that romantic and sexual orientation are different things, and need not co-incide. Here I'm not only talking about *-romantic asexuals. The very best evidence, in my opinion, for two separate orientations (rather than alternative theories, such as the existence of one orientation with sexual-attraction-intensity-level as a modifier to that orientation) is that occasionally you get people wondering into AVEN who identify as heteromantic and homosexual. Or heterosexual and homoromantic. Etc.

Of course it's interesting in itself that such people wander into asexual spaces, being neither asexual themself nor necessarily even involved with asexuals personally. But if you think about it it does make sense, simply because the notion that sexual and romantic orientations need not coincide is probably better understood by the asexual community than anywhere else.

OK. So it seems reasonable to think there really are (at least) two separate orientations - romantic and sexual.

But this leaves a big question. WHY is it that for the vast majority of the population, these two orientations coincide? So much so that most people don't even know they're different.

Is it that sexual attraction is a huge factor for most people in whom they fall in romantic love with?
Or is it that society tells people they can only fall in love with those they're sexually attracted to?
Or (less plausibly to me) is it largely based on the somewhat puritanical idea that you should only want sex with those you're in love with?
Or some other reason?

Theories and speculation welcome of course!

Isaac
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Re: Romantic and sexual orientation

Postby Isaac » 29 Sep 2011, 06:44

The first time I found AVEN, months before I considered asexuality for myself, what I liked of it was the distinction between romantic and sexual orientation.

flergalwit
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Re: Romantic and sexual orientation

Postby flergalwit » 29 Sep 2011, 06:56

Seconded. In fact this was also what struck me very quickly on finding AVEN.

Asexuality itself was already pretty obvious to me. I'd been identifying that way long before the asexual community existed in any meaningful sense - nice as it was to find others who felt the same way.

But I'd never have come up with the sexual/romantic distinction on my own, and the fact I could be non-sexually attracted to people (actually "aesthetically" and "affectionally" fits me better than "romantically" for the most part) did leave me pretty confused. That there could be different orientations made things a lot clearer.

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Dargon
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Re: Romantic and sexual orientation

Postby Dargon » 29 Sep 2011, 14:02

if I had to fathom a guess, the reason it coincides for some many is because it is evolutionarily advantageous. You are more likely to pass on your genes if you have an emotional connection that drives you to better care for your partner which you produce offspring with. Better environment for the offspring as well.

The exceptions to the rule? Normal distribution. Nothing abnormal about having these data points which fall outside the norm.

Aside: with regards to your not being able to label your own romantic/sexual attraction; first off, aromantic is a valid point as well. Second, sexuality (and romanticality (I made up a word)) are not as simple as the little three point model people like to put themselves in. Perhaps there is no single explaining term. Don't feel restricted by them. I know I don't use any labels for my romantic or sexual orientations, because the normal ones just don't fit.

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PiF
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Re: Romantic and sexual orientation

Postby PiF » 22 Nov 2011, 02:39

is being romantic an orientation?

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Re: Romantic and sexual orientation

Postby Birdwing » 22 Nov 2011, 18:48

x
(I no longer visit this site or AVEN, and I've blocked private messages. Just FYI.)

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Lady Girl
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Re: Romantic and sexual orientation

Postby Lady Girl » 23 Nov 2011, 16:11

It kinda makes sense to me Birdie...I have a lot of trouble putting my feelings into words. You do a great job! Sex without romance doesn't sound so great to me, and romance without sex seems only ok at certain times. That's how I feel anyway.

Is being romantic an orientation? I begin to get a little confused when the difference between some words begins to be debated. It almost seems like semantics is an ongoing online problem of sorts.

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Dargon
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Re: Romantic and sexual orientation

Postby Dargon » 27 Nov 2011, 12:19

Lady Girl wrote:Is being romantic an orientation? I begin to get a little confused when the difference between some words begins to be debated. It almost seems like semantics is an ongoing online problem of sorts.


A common view is as follows:

Consider sexuality. There's a spectrum from heterosexuality to homosexuality, and then this other axis which goes from sexual to asexual (the point asexual really not having a position on the hetero-homo axis).

Romantic orientation is often viewed similar. There's a spectrum from heteroromantic to homoromantic, and then the other axis which goes from romantic to aromantic (the point aromantic not really having a position on the hetero-homo graph).

It's a useful basic model. It misses a lot, but it drives the major point home.

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Re: Romantic and sexual orientation

Postby SlightlyMetaphysical » 27 Nov 2011, 21:17

I actually know a couple of people who used to uneasily identify as bi- or pan- sexual who feel they can express themselves a lot better in the double-orientation system. My prediction is that the sexual/romantic binary will soon become more widespread to discuss 'bisexuality' than asexuality, which will be a welcome change to the clunky Kinsey system in which you can say 'This is how much I love women. This is how much I love men.' when the more relevant question is often how you love them.

On the other hand, while mixed sexual/romantic identities come really easily for bisexuals, I know quite a lot of straight people who clearly have a division between the gender they turn to for their sexual needs and the gender they turn to for their emotional ones, who have repeatedly said things I would identify as homo or aromantic. They often can't fit the dual model into their lives, which is a shame, because their coping strategies end up really poor.

I think there are some people who adopt the view that questioning their sexuality could solve their problems, and some people who subconciously rule that option out. The latter people are likely to assume that everyone has a similar experience of intimate relationships where you fake the romantic or the sexual part, just on the basis that we assume everyone thinks like us.

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hexaquark
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Re: Romantic and sexual orientation

Postby hexaquark » 28 Nov 2011, 13:48

flergalwit wrote:OK here's something I've been wondering about for a while.
Is it that sexual attraction is a huge factor for most people in whom they fall in romantic love with?
Or is it that society tells people they can only fall in love with those they're sexually attracted to?

Is it a combination of these things and then sometimes they are both irrelevant? I get really muddled when trying to understand it. People can stay in love with people they were formerly sexually attracted to, or never sexually attracted to, so it seems more like a preference that varies widely between individuals. Is it most important in the initial falling in love stage for most people? Immediately preceeding it? Then there are all these types of love. Romantic friendships were apparently more common/accepted until the second half of the 19th century, though we'll probably never know how many of these were people hiding a sexual relationship from disapproving or naive people around them...


I’ve been wondering about the concept termed “affectional orientation” which on the surface is pretty similar to what the asexual community calls romantic orientation, from what I can tell. However, it seems to sometimes include/encomapass sexual orientation, it just recognizes that sexual attraction is not always the “primary” thing. I know that people recognize this about sexual orientation too, I suppose affectional orientation is used to try to make that more clear. I’m guessing it was not well known enough for the early asexual community to adopt, but I’m not sure. Anyone know?

I also wonder if romantic will overtake affectional orientation as a concept.

SlightlyMetaphysical wrote:I think there are some people who adopt the view that questioning their sexuality could solve their problems, and some people who subconciously rule that option out. The latter people are likely to assume that everyone has a similar experience of intimate relationships where you fake the romantic or the sexual part, just on the basis that we assume everyone thinks like us.

I agree, I think between the assumptions and the vocabulary limitations hurting communication, it is really hard for people to challenge that way of thinking.

Dargon wrote:Consider sexuality. There's a spectrum from heterosexuality to homosexuality, and then this other axis which goes from sexual to asexual (the point asexual really not having a position on the hetero-homo axis).

Romantic orientation is often viewed similar. There's a spectrum from heteroromantic to homoromantic, and then the other axis which goes from romantic to aromantic (the point aromantic not really having a position on the hetero-homo graph).

There is also the Storms’ model and it has slight differences, but I know there are people who like a double Storms’ model, because the Kinsey scale is not too great for bisexuals and asexuals and other people with mixed orientations.

Image

It is still oversimplified and I can’t find any models that work with non-binary genders, but it’s still my favourite way to visualize orientation, until something better comes along, anyway.

Some peoples' orientations seem to be more like this though D:
Spoiler
Image

And mine seems more like this…
Spoiler
Image

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Dargon
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Re: Romantic and sexual orientation

Postby Dargon » 28 Nov 2011, 14:23

The Kinsey Scale with the additional axis (the model I described) and the Storms model are quite similar; the problem with the Kinsey scale it is is more concerned with the proportion of attraction, while the Storm model gives separate magnitudes to both same sex and opposite sex attraction, which is kind of nifty.

That being said, as you alluded to, pretty much any and every model out there is going to be heavily simplified. Sexuality (and romantic/affectionate/etc) orientation is something so very complicated that no single model will cover every facet. This is something that must be understood at the forefront when talking models. They are simplified to explain either very specific or large, general ideas, not to be a this-is-how-it-is descriptor of anything.

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hexaquark
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Re: Romantic and sexual orientation

Postby hexaquark » 28 Nov 2011, 15:21

Dargon wrote:This is something that must be understood at the forefront when talking models. They are simplified to explain either very specific or large, general ideas, not to be a this-is-how-it-is descriptor of anything.

I agree, I just think it is important to acknowledge a model’s weaknesses upfront for various reasons, one being that some people will walk away without doing any critical thinking for themselves, assume a model is the be all and end all, and then deny things that don't fit. Another is in case someone has an amazing brainwave about how to improve on the problems pointed out.

I’m really visual when I think, and I know sexuality is never going to fit into a satisfying, comprehensive graphic. But for once, I’d really like to see a model that allows for people who are not male or female. I tried to do it with Storms’ (using androsexual, gynesexual, androgynesexual, asexual, got confused when trying to label the axes) but the real difficulty comes in where it ended up erasing various things, e.g. the ways people experience bisexuality and pansexuality, the difference between a straight woman and a gay man’s experience etc. It is only really relevant to some people... but it was worth a try.

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Re: Romantic and sexual orientation

Postby madeline » 07 Aug 2013, 17:08

flergalwit wrote:Seconded. In fact this was also what struck me very quickly on finding AVEN.


I agree with that. definitely.

Asexuality itself was already pretty obvious to me. I'd been identifying that way long before the asexual community existed in any meaningful sense - nice as it was to find others who felt the same way.


Less than a year ago, I thought it was just a spectrum of how sexual each person is--I happened to be toward the bottom, in fact, not sexual at all. this months before I discovered that being asexual was an actual "orientation"/"self-identification"/"thing." It is different in it's own sense: being sexual (homo-, hetero-, or bi-) and not being sexual at all.

But I'd never have come up with the sexual/romantic distinction on my own, and the fact I could be non-sexually attracted to people (actually "aesthetically" and "affectionally" fits me better than "romantically" for the most part) did leave me pretty confused. That there could be different orientations made things a lot clearer.


I have never been physically attracted to anyone (to say, I don't have a filter between "beautiful" and "hot", although I know the different connotations), and I don't know if I understand romantic attraction, but I do "admire" people (typically, males) in a way (similar to your "affectional non-sexual attraction") that I may say that I'm hetero-romantic AND asexual.

Just some food for thought

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jmb
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Re: Romantic and sexual orientation

Postby jmb » 08 Aug 2013, 10:36

I love it when people comment on old threads, it lets me think about topics in a new way. (Well, new compared to what I thought of them in the past.)

The more I think of it (based on other threads as well), "Romantic" isn't an orientation. Nor should it be. There are too many external variables that exist to define what is or isn't "romantic." Beyond basic emotions, there's social, cultural, traditional gender, and historical norms and expectations that come into play.

Orientations are intrinsic - not influenced by outside factors.

The Greeks had three terms for love: philia (friendship), eros (physical) and agape (unconditional). So which of those three is "romantic?" I think traditionally it would be eros, which is why "Romantic" and "Sexual" are always linked. But none of these types of love are described as an orientation. The love is the kind of love it is regardless of gender or sexual orientation of the two people defining their love.

I have been defining my romantic inclination as aromantic. But that's not really true when held up to the Greek model, it would be more accurate to say I try to treat all my relationships out of the sense of agape.
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KAGU143
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Re: Romantic and sexual orientation

Postby KAGU143 » 09 Aug 2013, 04:29

Interesting viewpoint. I think I agree in some ways, especially with the idea that romance is closely linked with eros. I've been saying that for years.

The way I see it, and a lot of scientific research agrees, both philia and eros are biological types of love. Philia is definitely one component of friendship, but it goes a lot farther than that since it also encompasses maternal/parental/familial love as well as what I would call "team spirit." Both eros and philia are caused/influenced by hormones and/or neurochemicals so that they feel much more intense and "real" than agape love. ("Falling" in love is a chemical-based situation; as unpopular as that idea might be, it's still true.)

A person's orientation would be defined by whatever type of human being (or??) most often triggers the release of those chemicals in their brain.
Under very close scrutiny, orientation seems to break down and become a cascading pattern of chemical influences, starting well before birth and continuing at least until puberty - possibly even beyond that point.

Agape love, which appears to be unaffected by those chemicals, is independent of orientation and is much more akin to a deliberate decision.

Of course, just to make things interesting, the three types are very often mixed together in varying and ever-changing percentages.
Because, otherwise ... life would be too easy?

Trying to split romantic orientation and sexual orientation into two mutually exclusive different categories is not feasible. Romantic feelings are a preliminary step on the road to full-blown sexual attraction - again, "feelings" are a biological thing, not some sort of spiritual magic.
With "romantic" asexuals, the process mysteriously stops short of reaching actual sexual attraction. Or, perhaps in some cases it successfully reaches sexual attraction, but the individual, for whatever reason, either can't recognize or consciously/unconsciously chooses to override and deny those desires.
How? Why? I have no idea.
If I were a scientific researcher I would be looking into the biological end of things rather than conducting endless interviews and surveys, but I'm in no position to go back to school at this point in my life.

I definitely believe that asexuality is real and that is an absolutely valid variation of the human condition.

BUT ... whether or not it fits the definition of orientation in the scientific sense has not yet been fully established, and I VERY strongly suspect that any attempt to do so will fail. "Romantic" asexuality, as AVEN envisions it, is essentially a sexual orientation that fails to fully materialize.

Categorizing it as an orientation for the sake of seeking publicity and recognition makes sense, and I have no problem with using the term for that purpose. I can also see the logic behind the decision to become loosely affiliated with the LGBT movement.

Before a thing can be studied it first has to be recognized as a thing.
The details can be worked out later.
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jmb
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Re: Romantic and sexual orientation

Postby jmb » 09 Aug 2013, 07:36

KAGU143 wrote:... but it goes a lot farther than that since it also encompasses maternal/parental/familial love as well as what I would call "team spirit."

Actually, they don't encompass the familial types of love. There is a "fourth" category the Greeks used: storge - this was was used for familial love and is completely different from the other kinds of love (You can choose your friends, but not your family.)

KAGU143 wrote:Both eros and philia are caused/influenced by hormones and/or neurochemicals so that they feel much more intense and "real" than agape love. ("Falling" in love is a chemical-based situation; as unpopular as that idea might be, it's still true.)

I've never heard that chemicals are involved with philia. Could you please provide your reason for stating this (A website/research/etc.) because this is an entirely new concept to me. (Also, back to "Choosing Friends, so how is Philia any less of a choice than Agape)

KAGU143 wrote:Trying to split romantic orientation and sexual orientation into two mutually exclusive different categories is not feasible. Romantic feelings are a preliminary step on the road to full-blown sexual attraction - again, "feelings" are a biological thing, not some sort of spiritual magic.

Again, it depends on your definition of "romantic." "Romantic" is much more a cultural construct than anything else. Who deems one action and/or "feeling" to be romantic and another not? Society does. This is why it cannot be an orientation. What is an acceptable "romantic feeling/action" in the USA is not necessarily so in Uganda (and vice versa). Whereas, a -sexual is the same the world over. (All you have to do is read recent news to understand this.)

KAGU143 wrote:Categorizing it as an orientation for the sake of seeking publicity and recognition makes sense, and I have no problem with using the term for that purpose.

That is shocking to me. That's like saying a rain shower should be categorised as a tornado for the sake of "seeking publicity." This does not help with getting 'good scientific research' started and it also confuses the general population endlessly. (I'm looking at you, The Weather Channel!)
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Re: Romantic and sexual orientation

Postby KAGU143 » 09 Aug 2013, 13:59

I don't remember hearing the term "storge" used to distinguish parental/familial love, but I have no reason to doubt that it exists. It vaguely rings a bell, but so do a lot of things.
Still, it's another biological type of love that is greatly affected by hormones, pheromones and neurochemicals.

That leaves "philiea" as a much more restricted category but I think the same thing still applies. "Liking" someone (or something) still involves the brains "feel good" chemicals, but not to the same degree as "loving" them does, and I think I recall that the chemical concoction is somewhat different. (Perhaps missing the oxytocin part? ... not sure.)
I'm sure I've seen this research mentioned someplace but I don't remember where - other than it being a brief mention that was buried in an article about something else. I will do my best to find it again, though, because it was really interesting.
What makes one kind of person "appeal" while another person doesn't? It can almost always be traced back to very early childhood experiences, both pro and con, but that doesn't make it any less fascinating. (I confess: I'm easily amazed. :p)

My definition of romantic only applies to chemically driven feelings - not to actions. Like you said, much of so-called romantic behavior is cultural. I'm only talking about biology.
Society may not be able to distinguish whether a feeling is romantic (ie: sexual) or not, but science can. Which part of the brain lights up and what chemicals are involved? There is still a lot to learn, but even the earliest glimpses are fascinating.

(Please kill The Weather Channel!) I meant publicity in a more positive sense, as in getting the word out there and letting people know that asexuals exist.
The never-ending quest for Ratings is something else again, and I despise it.
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Re: Romantic and sexual orientation

Postby ParaLLL » 10 Aug 2013, 22:08

My immediate question is, why are we relying so much on the ancient Greeks? They had some great thinkers and culture, but they were just as limited by their experiences, knowledge and belief as we are. Just because they didn't have a separate word for romantic love doesn't mean that it doesn't exist.

As for anything being an orientation, I tend to view orientations themselves as cultural constructs; not things that actually inherently exist, but structures that we commonly know, can rely on others knowing, and thus use to communicate. The structures existing as a belief probably pulls some people's behavior in line with them as well, but I don't think that they exist beyond cultural beliefs and the reactions people have to those beliefs. And if orientations are essentially made up anyway, why not copy the structure to explain romantic love as well as physical? They're clearly separate things, regardless of how or why, and treating them as the same thing is confusing at the least and potentially harmful to many people. To treat them as separate things, we need some sort of structure to discuss romantic love, and 'orientation' seems like the simplest and most useful one that I've encountered so far. Past that point, I'm not really concerned by whether orientations of either kind actually exist; it would be vaguely interesting to know, but having the orientation structure to discuss romantic and sexual love both seems much more beneficial than knowing the absolute fundamental truth of whether they exist (biologically or in any other way).

For asexuality itself, I tend to think of it as not an orientation, but kind of a category a level above that; asexual as opposed to sexual, instead of asexual as opposed to heterosexual. The words don't work that way, of course, but that's how I tend to view it.

I... have thoughts on the idea of romantic and sexual orientations being the same thing, but I'm having to sort them out from a lot of automatic growling at the idea, so I may post those if I think they'll be at all interesting or useful once I get them to stop bristling and into a coherent form. For the moment, I'll just say I really disagree.

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PiF
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Re: Romantic and sexual orientation

Postby PiF » 19 Jan 2015, 01:45

Thought I'd revisit this as JMB mentioned it's time that allows review

I'm not sure that romantic orientation is asexual specific but could as easily apply to sexuals as asexuals. It got me thinking, are people seeking to over think what an asexual is for no other reason than inclusion? are so many things being added to what an asexual is that it would be almost impossible to define asexuality and if so is it a deliberate act?

An asexual is the lack of sexual attraction..that is it...after that point everything else is non specific to asexuality because it applies to all wether sexual, asexual, non sexual and the list goes on.

example..I am a straight asexual who currently prefers to be celibate...now being straight and celibate is not exclusive to asexuality but only the asexual part is standing on it's own as exclusive.....asexuality is one part..not a tree with many branches because remove the a from the start of asexual...and the many branches could apply also to sexuals...the spectrum some try and apply..is not exclusive to asexuality so is not part of what an asexual is.

As to orientation, I still hold that all these add ons are just that, add ons and not correct. Orientation is who you orientate towards..straight to straight, gay to gay, bi (the greedy people) to bi...and again this is not specific to asexuality

far too many people are trying to make asexuality mean a hundred and one things when it is and has always been..just the one thing

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Narnia
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Re: Romantic and sexual orientation

Postby Narnia » 19 Jan 2015, 03:09

I would say that bi goes to either :)

It does make it hard to expain to people though...
"What is asexuality?"
"No sexual attraction"
"So you don't like men/women/either? "
"We can."
"Oh, so you don't do sex?'
"Some can if they like their partner enough and some meet another person and rather fancy them."
"Oh - so what is it exactly?"

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PiF
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Re: Romantic and sexual orientation

Postby PiF » 06 May 2015, 07:42

I often wonder if these examples as you mention Narn, are ofefred by those who seek to confuse the definition for no other reason than to muddy the waters because they want to belong but know they can't under its main group.

The interesting thing is I have seen ...count on one hand...only a few say sexuals shouldn't be in asexual forums and almost to a T, they have been newbies who are uninformed on what the community is..it welcomes sexuals

Sexual attraction is incredibly easy to define and understand. I would like Salmon for my tea, go to the fishmonger, salmon please, certianly sir here you are..the end

Where this ..what is sexual attraction nonsense comes from, creates this.... Fishmonger, I'd like some salmon please, certianly sir here is our best haddock..wtf? I asked for salmon you numpty...fishmonger replies..but what is salmon, does salmon even exist, is it salmon or just a non binary cis fish who may or not fancy another fish?..Therefore sir..have some crab

the two key words..attracted..sexually, just because a few in the community refuse to take their hands away from their eyes..it doesn't mean it goes away..it is incredibly simple to explain because it is incredibly simple

Now I do agree Narn, particulary since the sexuals wanting to belong to the latest craze...it has made it difficulty to explain without providing contridictory statements which is basically the half/semi/demi/gey/latte/chai/frothywithcreamontop crew

What is sexual attraction?.simply it is being attracted sexually to another...but what about those over there?...simple, sexual attraction is not confusing...those sexuals claiming to be asexual are the confused and create the confusion.

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Re: Romantic and sexual orientation

Postby CatBunny » 28 Jul 2015, 16:04

i'm sure there is a biological factor in all this, because looking for a philosophical or spiritual one would probably not help. Sexual and romantic attraction are a drive to reproduce, and it seems asexuals lack the sexual part of it and aromantics lack the romantic part. Biologically they're two separate things from what I know, but i'm no scientist, so giving an actual fancy input on it would be pointless beyond basic facts. Romance isn't magic, it's biological and I guess aromantics are born without it, whatever it is, brain meat, I don't know. Maybe asexuals lack something similar. Maybe one day when science gets better we can figure out what the hell this stuff is and why it happens. Although once you mention science people think of a totalitarian future with mad scientists cutting up your brain and frying unborn asexual babies.
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