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-   -   Sexual Attraction Versus Emotional Attraction (http://www.polyamory.com/forum/showthread.php?t=17061)

ray 11-13-2011 08:23 PM

Sexual Attraction Versus Emotional Attraction
 
As I've dated more, I've thought a lot about sexual and emotional attraction.I'm beginning to learn how they work for me and I find it interesting how it is so different for different people. For instance, I find myself emotionally attracted to a preponderance of folks but sexually attracted to a very small percentage. In addition, I am either 100% sexually attracted or there's absolutely nothing. And I can be heavily emotionally attracted to someone, to the point of infatuation but feel nothing sexual for them.

In the shower this morning, I had an epiphany. Now, this may be way off base or maybe obvious. I imagined a spectrum of sexual and emotional attraction, kind of like a Kinsey scale. On the sexual end an individual would frequently feel sexually attracted to people and on the other it would be more like me, with lots of emotional attraction/connect. People could fall anywhere on the spectrum and some one in the middle would have a relatively equal frequency of sexual and emotional attraction.

Now, obviously I'm not trying to say that on one end people don't feel emotional attraction or that they just like to fuck a lot. I'm also not saying that both can't be together. I'm merely commenting on the type of chemistry or connection you feel more frequently, if any, when you meet people, ie strangers before they become involved with you. I would imagine that swingers would feel frequent sexual attractions that would allow them to enjoy sexual encounters with many people. I so rarely have sexual attraction for an individual that I would have a difficult time swinging on the basis that finding a partner would be challenging. I do also tend to connect physical and emotional intimacy. I would also imagine that many poly folk might frequently feel sexually attracted to individual folks they meet. I'm really unsure. Hence why I'm curious to hear more thoughts and experiences from all of you.

Do you think you feel one or the other more frequently when you meet new people? How do sexual and emotional attraction develop for you? Is it an all or nothing kind of thing? Does one tend to happen first for you? Do you see the spectrum as accurately representing the possibilities? Could there be any significant correlation to relationship styles and choices?

caichan 11-13-2011 09:47 PM

A different way of thinking about the scales...
 
To answer your question quickly, I tend to be more easily emotionally attracted than sexually attracted, especially with men- I label myself as lesbian, but that's just because the percentage of men to whom I'm sexually attracted is about 1%- I'm emotionally attracted to a larger variety of the population.

That said, I think about attraction scales in a very different way than you're picturing. This is in large part bc I've spent a lot of time hanging out with my sister, who is asexual, but I like to think of attraction scales as starting at a point in the center that is zero. Nope. Nothing. Then, in various directions, you can feel, say, that a particular person is a 9 on the sexual, an 8 on the emotional, a 5 on the intellectual, a 3 on the romantic, etc. I see a lot of varieties of types of attraction, as well. So you can have people like me- I'm romantically and emotionally attracted to both of the standard genders, sexually attracted primarily to women, and intellectual attraction varies by individual. You can have people like my sister, who has no sexual attraction, but has romantic and emotional attraction to both genders, and an extremely strong intellectual attraction to her current partner. You can have people like my lovely, who is highly sexually attracted to both genders and has a much harder time developing a secure emotional attraction, and seems rather confused most of the time by romantic attraction.

It's complicated, but it works for me.

Jade 11-13-2011 10:14 PM

Interesting thoughts. I'm a swinger and part of a poly quad. The funny thing is, I'm not that terribly sexual - sensual, yes, but low sex drive. I can enjoy a swing experience, very much even, without having a desire to repeat. Of course, as a woman, I don't need to maintain an erection, so my task is more to enjoy responding versus initiating. I can also be deeply emotionally attracted to people, though I don't open up easily, so my relationships generally develop slowly. It can take years before I open up to a co-worker. Even in my quad, I'm still in the opening up process.

I watch people. I watch their actions, reactions, communication style. I examine what makes them smile, laugh, touch. I measure their trustworthiness. From this process, all my relationships develop. To give swinging its due, it has broken down some of my barriers to true intimacy. It's allowed me to work backwards. I've already played the end game. If I keep coming back, it's because there's a deeper connection. That's an awareness I cannot appreciate enough. But I digress:)

True sexual chemistry, for me, is a rarity. My sexuality, with those I love, is most often born of love and trust, rather than pure desire.

The combination of intimacy and sexual chemistry is one that I haven't learned to manage well yet. It is so rare that when I find it... it's happened three times in my life (and I'm not young anymore)... I don't want to let it go.

So, I suppose, despite all my practicality and logic, I am emotionally driven:) My poor hubby. He could really use a more highly sexed creature! I'm so glad he has his OSO and swinging outlets.

redpepper 11-14-2011 06:00 AM

Oh I totally get what you are saying ray. I discovered this when I decided to have a non-sexual boyfriend. It made me slow down long enough and really take a look at ALL people coming into my life. Before I would assume if there was a connection then sex was par for the course. Mostly with men. It turns out not to be the case. I am actually attracted to fewer men than women but emotionally connected to more men and fewer women. Interesting and extremely helpful to know about myself when considering furthering relationships.

BrigidsDaughter 11-14-2011 04:49 PM

I find that these days, I am far more likely to find a random woman on the street sexually attractive than a man. Maybe it is because my relationship with each of my men is strong and sexually satisfying. There are only a couple of men who I am sexually attracted to, but I find that it is a specific body type - the one that Runic Wolf had when we were first married - that attracts me to these men. Whereas, I don't always feel secure in my sexual relationship with Pretty Lady, in part because we only have sex once or twice a year and she just doesn't have the sex drive that I do. I am not looking to add another partner, but will occasionally find myself admiring another woman. Still I would say that I find myself more easily sexually attracted to people than emotionally at first. There are few people who I let in past a certain layer of my emotions. I connect emotionally, at least superficially, with many of my friends and acquaintances, but I don't suppose that my attraction to them is necessarily emotional.

I don't know. That's a tough one Ray. I guess for me it isn't an either or kind of thing. I'm a sexual creature and an emotional one, but sometimes neither are what attracts me to someone. I was first attracted to Wendigo's intellect and creativity. We bonded emotionally initially on a night I have only fleeting memories of because I was completely wasted. We bonded emotionally over the course of a few years because we felt a connection, but those bonds deepened after we decided to become intimate physically. I initially had no sexual attraction to him at all, but was willing to act as a sexual healer for him out of deep friendship. The sexual attraction came along not too long after that and knocked me on my ass. Which was the complete opposite of how Runic Wolf and I got together. We were purely fuck buddies for the better part of 2 months before our first official date. The emotional attraction followed the sexual in that case.

nycindie 11-14-2011 08:31 PM

I am not even sure how to answer this, I guess because I find the questions in your original post a little confusing.

Basically, I think I see emotional attractions as friendships and sexual attractions as sexual partners (or potential partners). I am able to see things about friends that I consider sexy, even though I know I am not drawn enough to them to go there myself. And lots of different elements go into what makes someone sexually attractive to me. It's not just physical, but personality, humor, intellect, and so on. Then I think there is a hormonal thing, like pheromones.

I suspect that your perspective on these attractions may very well change for you, Ray, after you've had sex.

ray 11-14-2011 10:43 PM

Thanks for all the comments thus far! This is absolutely fascinating!

@Indie

This is a big concept with many variables that is hard for me to condense in this form, so bear with me :) I'll try and elucidate.

So when I interact with people in a variety of context I can have many different feelings for them. Sometimes I meet people and the interaction holds nothing special, maybe a bank teller. We do our business and go our separate ways. Sometimes though, you meet some one and there's like a friendship spark. There's one bank teller that I like to go to because we have a bit of a spark in that sense. I can see now that I left some things out. I definitely have felt intellectual chemistry or creative chemistry with people. I've realized that I rarely feel sexual chemistry with people. And I know, I know, I'm a virgin and I certainly realize that my sexuality will evolve and shift over time w/ experience. However, I didn't even experience being aroused by another person or the thought of another person until very late in life (my long long life :P) So, when I finally experienced sexual attraction, I realized that my whole life, I'd frequently mistaken emotional connection for sexual attraction. Obviously they can and do co-exist but they don't have to either. I can count on my fingers (and maybe a few toes) the number of people I have felt SEXUAL attraction/lust for. Where I just wanted to rip their clothes off and do naughty naughty things with them. This has been problematic because I either feel this intense sexual attraction or I'm totally repulsed by the idea of being physical with them in any sense, (kissing, cuddling, sex, etc).

And for me sexual attraction is mysterious. There is no type, physical or otherwise. I can find someone to be sexy and attractive but be repulsed by the idea of sex with them. I can feel an intense emotional bond, usually one like a lover might feel but not have the slightest hint of sexual or romantic attraction. I'm still trying to suss out the distinction between sex and romance for me. I'm not sure if I, personally, can separate them out. I think that I have felt romantic connections that had no sexual component. I just think it's unusual that there are so few people I feel that fluttery sexual tingly urge about. I'm curious to know how frequently other people feel sexually drawn to someone. I know that some people have lot of trouble connecting emotionally and don't do it with very many folks. Perhaps, I am like that sexually.

It appears that this is not how most people I've talked to work, not that it means there's something wrong with me per se.

@Brigid's Daughter - That's an interesting point you bring up. I don't know if I've ever been really attracted to someone primarily on the basis of intellect or creativity. I think that I perceive those two things as components of emotional bonding rather than separate indicators. That would be interesting to examine further. I suppose I lump all of the non-physical/pheremonal stuff into one big category. lol

@RP - I'm curious to know more about having a non-sexual boyfriend. Without sounding silly, how does that work? I'd like to know more about relationships of that kind. It sounds like something I might be interested in doing some day if the situation were right.

@Jade - I'd like to know more about the more pure sexual chemistry versus just having sex. For me, every time I've tried to be sexual with out "chemistry" it felt very damaging. How do the two experiences compare for you?

@Caichan - Thanks! I agree that it is very complex. I guess we could think of it as a point with lots of lines shooting out of it in different directions. :)

ray 11-15-2011 01:29 AM

Let me also try to reword tHe question a bit more clearly as I forgot to do that.

How frequently do you feel different kinds of chemistry/spark/attraction to people when you first meet them? This spark could be anything from a friendship to fuck buddies to ranting about social science buddies or anything else.

Ie Jenny feels frequent sexual and intellectual attraction upon first meeting people but taken much longer to connect emotionally.

Bob makes connections easily with other artists on a creative level and occasionally feels sexually drawn to some one.

Annie is very friendly but rarely meets people that she feels sexually drawn to.

Francis is asexual and has deep emotional connects but is never sexually drawn to anyone.

Eponine 11-15-2011 05:24 AM

Interesting question. I haven't dated a lot of people, but I guess I feel intellectual attraction relatively easily. Emotional attraction takes longer to achieve, and I doubt it can happen during the first date. Sexual attraction varies; it can happen early or develop over time. If someone is totally my type, I can feel sexual attraction as soon as I meet them (but doesn't mean I want to have sex with them - I need emotional connection before sex). But that doesn't happen often. More likely I meet someone whose physical appearance is not "breathtaking" but "acceptable", then I feel more sexually attracted to them as I get to know them better over time.

SchrodingersCat 11-15-2011 07:29 AM

I rarely, if ever, feel sexually attracted to anyone I don't know.

I cannot recall a single instance where I have seen an attractive person and thought about having sex with them. Seriously, not even once.

That's not to say I won't notice an attractive woman, check out her butt, and think she looks hot. It just means my brain does not connect that with "I want to be naked in a bed with her." My husband tells me this is atypical :D

For reference, I almost never check out guys, yet I've only had sex with males so far, so it's not a men vs women thing. It took me years to realize that. I even doubted my pansexuality on the basis that I didn't want to fuck the pretty girls I saw... until I realized I didn't want to fuck the cute boys either.

For me, sexual attraction is a subset of emotional attraction, which is a subset of... friendly attraction? To put it another way, I'm only romantically attracted to people with whom I can be friends, and I'm only sexually attracted to people with whom I can be romantically involved.

For me, sex is about intimacy. I have a very low sex drive. I masturbate less than once a month, even though my only partner works out of town and I see him every other weekend if I'm lucky.

I disagree that this is because ray has not had sex and that his perception will change when he does. I've had lots of sex, and this has never changed at all for me. If anything, I've grown into it more and more as I accept myself without trying to make comparisons to "normal."


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