Unstraightening My Facts: Sexual Orientation

The blog series in which messy reality muddles my neat mental image of sexuality. Let’s start with the basics, shall we? How’s asexuality and demisexuality a “sexual orientation”? And how does it relate to others? How’s “I want you with my brain, but not my loins” translate?

What I think I know:

What I got in secondary school (high school): the Kinsey scale is my preferred choice of partner presented as a spectrum. Nature and nurture combined determine my place on it. That’s called my “orientation”. Names for the varieties are homosexual, bisexual and heterosexual. Colloquial names in Dutch are those words minus “sexual”. In English people say “straight” and a have bewildering variety of words for “homosexual”, most are used as insults, even the neutral word “gay”.

Asexuality (ace) does not appear on that spectrum, so it needs a new one, especially if things like demisexuality are going to exist. It’s the degree to which you actually wish to engage in sex, in thought or deed. What I’m not really sure about is what’s the opposite, and what’s the middle of that spectrum?

What I found:

Professor is X, like asexuality according to Kinsey

I want you with my brain!

On Asexuality.org’s wiki1, I found asexuality was granted a designation, X, like the Professor. And that the view on sexual orientation’s less deterministic than it’s generally presented as: one can change over time, and one can be somewhere vaguely inbetween starkly hetero and not.

For that matter, there are more sexual orientations, including pansexual2, and gray-a or grey-a3(?), who are attracted in different ways and degrees (e.g. to all people, or occasionally). Demisexuality falls somewhere in that grey area, where the will to have sex exists, but only sometimes. Anything not asexual is called allosexual.

Then there’s Storm’s model4, in which the degree to which one is attracted to one’s own gender and the opposite gender is measured independently and there’s room for gay, bi, hetero and ace.

There’s the collective identity model5, in which sexual identity is shaped by how much you fall out of the norm of any given group. This resonates because for me sexual orientation wasn’t ‘in the picture’ until I had the time and inclination to feel attraction and went in search of what I was, thus making me something other than the default silent crowd. On the other hand, it supposes you do have a pre-set attraction…

The ABCD model6 of defining asexuality makes a distinction between romantic attraction and sexual attraction, saying one can feel either or both. This model makes a space for romantic asexuals to have relationships resembling allosexuals, but not so much for those who are aromantic.

The primary-secondary attraction model7 is most useful when you are demisexual, because it takes time into account as a factor for sexual feelings. In other words, though you may not be attracted at all to anything new, it’s not strong enough to be an independent signal, it can piggyback on previously existing connections, mostly emotional ones. For asexuals, it takes another factor into account, namely, that while you may not have sex for pleasure, primary desire, there are other reasons, under the heading “secondary desire” to engage in sexual activity.

Nonlibidoism8 is a good model in that it makes a distinction between wishing to engage in sexual acts with a partner (according to your orientation) and wishing to engage in sexual acts at all, including masturbation (your libido).

Under the heading “Not interested”9 the wiki explains that interest in sex does not equal attraction. When one is asexual, it simply comes (mostly) from other sources, such as curiosity, emotional fulfillment, enjoying physical acts of affection but not sexual acts per se, wishing to have kids, etc.

The opposite of that is being antisexual10, an article that contains many reasons why sex is not a good thing for some.


There’s a whole lot of models, not just the one I knew, to define sexuality. There’s even more gray areas than defined sexualities, so I presume that as time goes by, we’ll be adding to that list rather than simplifying it. All models have some benefit, which I’ve tried to point out, so I think they work best if mashed together. I’ve learned several words and distinctions I was seeking, here goes:

  • Sexualities, there are many more than the four options that binary gender would suggest there are (homo, bi, hetero, ace) and attraction to the own and the opposite gender could be independent or related. The ones such as pansexual, gray-sexual and demisexual fill in some of the gray areas.
  • Libido is the wish to engage in sexual acts at all. So someone who wishes to engage in sexual acts, but is uninterested in doing so with a partner, has a libido and is asexual.
  • Attraction is the feelings you have for a potential partner, these may be romantic or sexual. What attraction should be called for an aro-ace if they feel it is unclear. It also develops over time, in the case of demisexuality attraction is gradual rather than immediate.
  • Interest or desire is the choices one makes about behaviour one wishes to engage in… so an allosexual may be entirely disinterested in sexual activities, and an asexual person may wish to engage in sexual activity, and vice versa, for many and complicated reasons. If a person is not just disinterested but actively wishing not to engage in sex for a variety of reasons, that is called antisexual.
  • A sexual identity or orientation is formed because people seek to define what sexual activities and interests they have that are outside of the norm in their society, which’d explain why I’m writing about being demisexual now, and don’t really have a word for what I was before I defined myself as such.

Further Reading:

  1. AVEN wiki: Kinsey scale
  2. AVEN wiki: Pansexuality
  3. AVEN wiki: Grey-A
  4. AVEN wiki: Storm’s model
  5. AVEN wiki: Collective Identity Model
  6. AVEN wiki: ABCD model
  7. AVEN wiki: primary-secondary attraction model
  8. AVEN wiki: Nonlibidoism
  9. AVEN wiki: Not interested
  10. AVEN wiki: Antisexual



Posted on July 22, 2015, in Personal reflection, What others say and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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