Roundup of Submissions | October 2021 Carnival of Aces | Attraction (#2)

Hope everyone had a good Ace Week and/or a good Halloween weekend. Here is the roundup for the October 2021 Carnival of Aces, the call for submissions for which can be found here. Note that this is the second time this carnival was hosted around the theme “Attraction.” Next month’s carnival will be hosted at vacanthands/Pillowfort, and the call for submissions is available here.

This is going to be long because (1) there are a lot of submissions and I wanted to summarize them all; and (2) I was not expecting to get this many submissions and had a draft of this (mainly the time capsule section) written out ahead of time. Thought about cutting some of it out, but I figured, I’ll let this stay long and readers can focus on the parts that interest them! Thank you everyone for your submissions, interest in this month’s theme, and also for sharing very valuable and thoughtful insights! It was a lot of fun (and challenging!) for me to go through them all and try to synthesize everything I learned.

List of Submissions (chronological)

Themes from the Submissions

In this portion, I will try to summarize and organize all the submissions by theme, so they will not be in chronological order. I am summarizing (and adding commentary) based on my understanding of the submissions, so please feel free to clarify anything I may not have represented as was originally intended.

Isaac has two submissions – one in English and the other in Spanish (covering the same content) – about the split attraction model and the fact that it doesn’t fit the experiences of many in the aspec communities. Isaac speculates this may be because of the word “split” and suggests “separate” may be a better term. Attractions may be separate from each other, but they are not necessarily independent of each other as the term “split” might seem to imply (albeit not intentionally). These attractions may be linked, sometimes with one-way, sometimes with two-way links.

Speaking of separate attractions, I started writing an entire series of posts in which I do a deep dive, from a personal perspective, into different kinds of attractions. First, I provide an Introduction to the series. Then I discuss aesthetic attraction (or “sensory”, or “distant sensual attraction” as described by Ettina, to include senses other than visual) and how it can be experienced in isolation from other forms of attractions, i.e. this kind of attraction need not be accompanied by an impulse to get to know the object of attraction in any capacity (whether physical, emotional, social, etc.).

And speaking of the link between attractions, KaeS brought up, in comments, the fact that aesthetic attraction (or aural/auditory attraction, or olfactory attraction) can play a role in helping to determine one’s “type” – even in the absence of sexual attraction. “A lot of sexual development happens alone and in complete privacy.” Also, this conversation with KaeS reminded me that there is a difference between feeling an inhibition to act on an impulse vs. not experiencing any impulse at all.

I submitted two other posts in the series – on mental attraction (under which I included psychological, intellectual, and spiritual attraction) and social or interpersonal attraction. These are two forms of attraction that do not get talked about very much, but I think they play a role in wanting to get to know a person. I will continue writing this series in the coming weeks. Next I will reconceptualize emotional attraction for myself, followed by what I will call familial attraction. I will the discussion of attractions by going over sensual and sexual attraction. Then I will have one more post in which I will discuss what else can we think about besides attraction when thinking about orientation. I will include a summary at the end. (Links will be included here as they become available. Uh…if you want to keep reading the series, please follow my blog? Lol.)

Coyote questions this entire conceptualization of attraction, especially with regard to non-physical attractions. The way I have been talking about attraction in my submissions, for example, ties it back to what kinds of desires are inspired by those attractions. Coyote questions whether this conceptualization of attraction assumes that it coincides with desire. My quick response to that, for now, is that – no, I wouldn’t say attraction coincides with desires; attraction, does however, lead to an impulse, which is what I had been trying to describe. However, at least in my posts, I didn’t do a good job of keeping language about impulses and desires separate. The best way I can try to explain it is that I interpret experiencing an attraction (both the physical and nonphysical ones) as picking up on signals from someone that puts them on my radar, and yes, in a little bit of an involuntary way. I would hypothetically want to form a certain kind of connection with the person, but whether or not I would actually pursue that kind of connection (or consciously want to pursue it) depends on a number of other factors (as in the examples given in Coyote’s post). (Similar thought expressed by Sennkestra here.) I think an interesting question could be whether attraction is a necessary and/or a sufficient condition for desire. For me personally, I believe it is necessary but not sufficient, but for others, it may well be quite different – it may be both, it may be neither, it may be some other combination.

But that still leaves the question of … when we feel negative impulses towards others (e.g. anger, as in Coyote’s example), would we also think of those in terms of attraction? That is such a great question! I think I agree with Coyote’s suggestion that attraction is just a very ubiquitous concept in aspec communities. Personally, I am consumed with the burning question “What draws me to a certain person?” And I really, really, really want a framework to answer that question … and attractions provide a tractable framework. But at the same time, I’m not trying to ask the question “What invokes certain emotional responses in me towards another person?” And so I haven’t thought about those impulses in terms of attraction. At any rate, there is a lot more for me to think about on this matter …

But on to more submissions!

Perfect Number chronicles how her experience with sexual desire changed after giving birth. The post is quite illuminating for those wondering what sexual attraction and sexual desire feel like. Perfect Number raises the question about what this change in sexual desire means for her sexual attraction, bringing us, once again, to Coyote’s question – are some folks thinking about attraction as they coincide with desire? As a starting point for further exploration on this topic, I highly recommend Hannah Witton’s video about the differences and overlaps between sexual attraction, desire, and arousal, as well as desire for bodily satisfaction vs. desire for intimacy. (See my comment on the submission for more details.)

VioletEmerald also shares a personal story, actually several personal stories in one about her 4 dating relationships and why she was attracted to the people she had these relationships with. There were many compatibilities and she may have been so attracted to them because of those, but there were also many incompatibilities, yet she was attracted to them despite those. Also, I note that VioletEmerald didn’t specify what kind of attraction she felt towards them. Her post took me out of my obsession with specific terms and labels with attraction that have come up in the ace and aro communities, and reminded me of the general way in which the word is used – to describe a nebulous holistic feeling. And even though I can’t describe what kind of attraction she felt, I’m able to understand her story and the sentiments expressed perfectly without that level of specificity! This is a good reminder that we don’t always have to get so bogged down with these labels.

VioletEmerald’s post actually is a good example of the question posed in Coyote’s post whether nonphysical attractions involve an element of the involuntary. They are involuntary to the extent that they can form based on a limited amount of information (whether “first-degree” or “second-degree” as I described), but this amount of information may not be enough to weigh all the factors. By the time one has sufficient information to weigh all the factors, they may have already felt the (nonphysical) attraction (whether in a specific or a nebulous, holistic sense). After weighing the factors, one may choose to ignore the attraction / not act upon it; and whether that causes pain or discomfort probably depends on the strength of the attraction and/or the emotional response it created.

Moving on …

Although not a submission, some of the comments generated from the submissions also had interesting perspectives on attraction. The most salient of these to me was the point about how attraction is perceived by others. If people view attractions in different ways, and conceptualize attractions in different ways, they can interpret attraction in others in ways not intended. This gets worse in our society that is full of double standards. The same expression of attraction can be viewed threateningly in some and non-threateningly in others. And this is something worth being cognizant of when we have discussions about attractions.

Ettina draws our attention away from attraction to people to attraction to concepts – falling in love with the idea of something or someone. People can fall in love with the idea of their “soulmate” or “The One”. People can fall in love with the idea of a pet after deciding to adopt but even before meeting the pet they would adopt. Similarly, people can also fall in love with the idea of their future child, before the child is born, or even conceived. Ettina writes about parental attraction, defined here as the attraction a parent feels for their child, or in this case, for their potential child. (Ettina’s submission actually touches on the fantasy element, which will come up in Sennkestra’s.)

Artemis writes about attraction fixation and attraction reification (taking a complex abstract concept and reducing it to something material or concrete). Attraction fixation is “the idea that attraction is all that you are, that your involuntary attraction is the only thing that defines you … not lived experience, not community, not desire, not individual comfort levels, and not even your own understanding of your own attraction experiences.” Attraction reification is “the idea that across all space, time, and people, attraction is experienced in discrete, specific, concrete, easily-separable ways.” These attitudes have led to prescriptivism and identity policing in queer communities as well as confusion about who is experiencing what attraction and who belongs in what identity group as a result. “Attraction fixation and attraction reification go hand-in-hand, and hurt queer communities by forcibly reducing everyone’s identities to a nebulous, involuntary feeling, that you may or may not feel, or center as part of your identity.

Tying all this together is Siggy’s submission that explains how and why attraction is a social construct. “Attraction isn’t one single feeling felt identically by everyone, it’s a category whose bounds are determined socially.” The article was illuminating for me, personally, because it sheds light on why I’m fixated on attraction and writing a whole series exploring different types of attractions: I experienced great frustration upon realizing that I am not reacting to certain feelings and sensations in the way others around me do. Then I tried to read about different types of attractions and tried to relate to them, but I got confused by the rather divergent conversations around this topic. Siggy’s article provides several examples of the dissonance that can occur when people who experience attraction in different ways might use the same language to encapsulate different experiences. A good illustration of this can come from exploring how the conversation has changed since the previous carnivals that covered this theme, which I will do below.

Finally, Sennkestra’s submission offers an explanation for why there might be so much attraction fixation in the ace communities: “attraction-based definitions are perhaps the more accessible for people with limited sexual and relationship experience, which includes a disproportionate amount of ace people as well as younger questioning people in general.” For someone questioning their sexuality or orientation, it is a much safer option to “explore” inside their heads rather than out in the wild – it’s easier to think about towards whom you feel attraction, under what conditions do you feel attraction, what do you fantasize about, etc., rather than going out there trying to engage in romantic or sexual relationships or encounters in order to experiment and learn. However, fantasies did not get as much attention as attraction did even though they can be informative for thinking about one’s orientation. Sennkestra also talks about the Klein Sexual Orientation Grid, which could be a useful framework for thinking about one’s orientation.

Time Capsule: Themes from Previous Carnivals

Since “Attraction” was a previous theme on the carnival and since “platonic attraction” was also a theme, I thought I’ll highlight a few submissions I found interesting. But first, here are links to those roundups. (Note: many of submissions are no longer accessible, so we could be missing out on quite a bit.)

Asexuality Unabashed, in their 2011 submission, wrote about romantic attraction and how they experience it as a form of “soul connection” as defined by John Welwood, which was referenced by bell hooks in All About Love: New Visions. Welwood described soul connection as “a resonance between two people who respond to the essential beauty of each others individual natures…” They also described that when they do feel attraction, most of all, they are attracted to a person’s energy. They also brought up “erotic attraction” as described by bell hooks who says this kind of attraction “often serves as the catalyst for an intimate connection between two people, but it is not a sign of love…the intensity of sexual intimacy does not serve as a catalyst for respect, care, trust, understanding, and commitment.  Couples who rarely or never have sex can know lifelong love.” I think “erotic attraction” is an interesting concept: one I plan to talk about in my “Exploring Attractions” series in my upcoming post about sensual and sexual attraction.

Bagheist, in their 2011 submission, described how they experience aesthetic attraction as an urge to draw someone. They also discussed intellectual attraction, in a way that is similar to how I described it in my post.

Valprehension, in their first 2016 submission, discussed how (initial) attraction, regardless of what type, is not necessarily the best yardstick with which to determine whether or not to pursue a relationship, which is in line with some of the conversations happening around this month’s carnival submissions.

One theme I saw come up repeatedly in the 2011 carnival was difficulty in conceptualizing what romantic attraction actually is. Even more difficult is distinguishing it from platonic attraction. I have written at length on that topic. The February 2016 carnival centered around this as well. Laura, in her submission, brought up that the trouble with platonic attraction is that it describes what it is not (i.e. romantic, sexual, etc.), rather than what it is. That’s why she preferred to think more about alterous attraction or emotional attraction in general. But Vesper, in their submission, critiqued the concept of alterous attraction because it seems to have been invented in order to relegate platonic attraction to one that is about “just friendship” and luvtheheaven (VioletEmerald) discussed not (meaningfully) experiencing platonic attraction. Much of this confusion stems from the fact that there is no clear understanding of what platonic attraction actually entails. In fact, in Valprehension’s second submission, they described how they experienced platonic attraction, which actually matches up a lot with how I described psychological attraction.

Given all of this confusion and diverging perspectives on romantic attraction, platonic attraction, and alterous attraction, it is no wonder that emotional attraction, the umbrella term, is hard to articulate. In fact, Coyote brought up a very good point in this month’s carnival submission (which I didn’t address above since it fits better here) about platonic attraction – that it implies platonic emotional attraction. “Platonic attraction” has been classified under “emotional attraction” whereas, as Sennkestra has brought up elsewhere – “the word ‘platonic’ … in general standard English usage means ‘non-sexual'” and as such using platonic in an emotional attraction context can certainly cause confusions! I have some more thoughts to share about the concept of emotional attraction though, and that is coming up next on my “Exploring Attractions” series.

How Has the Conversation Around Attraction Evolved?

Siggy’s article provides a great overview of how the conceptualization of asexuality has evolved. At the beginning, there didn’t use to be an attraction fixation. This post by Sennkestra lists all the different ways people have historically thought about asexuality. However, the definition of asexuality ended up as attraction-based, and perhaps this led to the hyper-focus on attractions as people tried to define all the different kinds of attractions and then created more and more sub-communities to sort themselves based on which attractions they do and do not feel. (To be clear, I am speculating based on my readings, and not stating this as fact.)

However, the trouble with this is everyone experiences attraction differently and I don’t suppose there has been sufficient widespread acknowledgement of this fact. For example, as I’ve illustrated above, there has been great confusion about what is “platonic attraction” and everyone seems to think of it in very different ways. In fact there is still much confusion regarding “romantic attraction”. The term “aromantic” is defined as someone who does not experience romantic attraction, but when there are so many diverging definitions and experiences of what romantic attraction even is, it will inevitably lead to much confusion among those who are still questioning. And when there is prescriptivism regarding what kinds of attractions one must feel in order to belong to a particular community, it can result in alienation. (Here is a linkspam of articles addressing asexual identity prescriptivism.)

That being said, it is still useful to think about attractions for many, especially for those still questioning, as Sennkestra explains. I certainly have gained a lot of, well, mental peace, from writing my “Exploring Attractions” series. However, for those of us who wish to continue thinking and writing about attraction, it is well worth remembering that (a) attraction is socially constructed and (b) everyone will experience it differently. Quoting Siggy, attraction “is a public category, a conglomeration of all the things that different people with different feelings have said about it.”

The way we each think about attraction is not universal, and attraction does not have to be the end-all and be-all of our identities either. Quoting Siggy again, “It’s a bit too restrictive to require everyone to accept that construct and apply it as an interpretive lens to their lives–especially when this often occurs under the fiction that attraction is an essential category of human experience.”

Post-Carnival Submissions (chronological)

18 thoughts on “Roundup of Submissions | October 2021 Carnival of Aces | Attraction (#2)

  1. Lol oh my 2016 submission… Where I don’t think I realized aplatonic was actually already a word anyone was using our would become popular enough one day to have its own pride flag… Where I discuss not feeling any attraction at all. I feel like I haven’t looked at that post of mine at all since when I first published it 5.5 years ago! But then my submission just now makes it clear I am attracted in some way to people I date. I guess I’ve learned a lot about myself since then, dated more, the community evolved, etc… 😉

    I did purposefully talk in a more general way in my submission about attraction to people without specifying or focusing on the type of attraction… I am glad you highlighted that 😉

    This is a great summary of so many submissions! Thanks for hosting! It was definitely a great Carnival topic.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yay, thank you! 😁
      This weekend, when the bulk of the submission came in, I was kinda caught off guard because I’d written a draft for a roundup with about ~5 submissions. (I took inspiration from the way you write your roundups, actually!) And then I was like, “Do I scratch this and list everything, or do I stay committed to summarizing everything?” But I’m glad I took the time to summarize because I learned a LOT and it was fun connecting the dots between the posts. AND it was super interesting look at posts from the same people (like yours) from back then and now to see how the concepts have evolved and the people have evolved. But whew! This took a lot of effort, but it was worth it, haha.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Btw I noticed when you separated out Violet and Emerald as two words that you were just following/copying what I apparently did in my “About” page – but to keep things slightly more consistent I just fixed my name in the About Me on my blog to still be like it displays here, one word, VioletEmerald. 😉

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  2. Ah yeah I think hosting Carnivals generally goes like that when it’s a successful theme – quite a few submissions come in within the final few days of the month and first day of the next month even. 😉 a lot of us are wait till the last minute people in the blogosphere I guess… Or maybe just in general people tend to be that way… 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Hi! I’m sorry if this is against etiquette or if there isn’t anything you can do with it, but I wrote up a post for this after the roundup! I had a million and five essays I wanted to write about attraction, and I half-wrote about five of them, and by the time I finally figured out that I had to actually pick one we were days into November.

    This is the post I wrote about aesthetic attraction, which will at least be in the comments here. Thanks for writing such a thoughtful roundup drawing in so much of the discussion around this month’s topic! https://thiro.dreamwidth.org/1631.html

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hey! Thanks for the appreciation! Great post, and thanks for writing it even if the carnival is closed. However, here’s what I will do. Since I’m giving myself the leeway to include links from my future entries to the exploring attractions series, I’ll include yours along with those links in a “post-carnival submissions” section. But it won’t make it into the summary unfortunately… I don’t have it in me to update the summary again, lol.

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