Why I say “I don’t experience split attraction” not “I don’t have a romantic orientation”

Coyote over at The Ace Theist is talking about the SAM again,1 which in turn means that I’m thinking about the SAM again. There is an odd point of intersection between Coyote’s thoughts on this subject and mine, because taken at face value, we’re basically in agreement. However, once you actually break things down we actually attribute the issue to different problems and have different ideas on how to fix it. In this post I will attempt to lay out my thoughts on the subject.

Compulsory Romantic Orientation is not terminology that I’m particularly familiar with since we didn’t use it on Tumblr. As far as I can tell, it refers to the assumption that all aces have a romantic orientation and therefore should label it. To be honest, I take some issue with the fact that the terminology is too old to take account people who identify primarily or solely as aro (am I supposed to interpret this as meaning compulsory sexual orientation can’t exist?), but that discussion is both beyond the point of this post and beyond my own experience.

Then there’s Split Attraction Model or SAM. This terminology I’m much more familiar with. In full transparency, I’m new enough to identifying as ace that I’ve never known the concept of labeling both a romantic and a sexual orientation as anything but the SAM which I suspect is a big source of my disagreement on the subject. Apparently, “SAM” is a blanket name for several models of labeling that the ace community originally used, but I’ve never found a decent explanation of what those models actually were and how they were different from each other. As a result, I generally end up horribly confused whenever someone starts talking about how the SAM is incoherent, especially since I can (and have) come up with a coherent definition of the concept as it existed in the Tumblr communities I used to be a part of. I offer it to you here to hopefully get us all on the same page at least for the duration of this post:

The Split Attraction Model (SAM): (1) A model of sexual orientation which maintains that attraction is inherently composite (split) and that all people—regardless of whether they’re aspec or allo—can (and in the case of aspecs should) split their attraction into its component parts without violating their internal experience or experiencing any dissonance. (2) A name used in some aspec communities for the act of labeling both a romantic orientation and a sexual orientation which was coined by anti-ace antagonists on Tumblr and later adopted by ace people.2

My issue with the SAM is not what it’s called, it’s with what it assumes about the way that attraction works. On a personal level, I’m actually okay with the fact that it’s assumed that I’ll identify as both grayromantic and asexual, it’s the fact that people then use the fact that I’ve called myself grayromantic to dictate what I mean when I call myself asexual that I take issue with.

The difference between multi-label identification3 and split attraction as concepts is that the former doesn’t say much of anything about the person’s actual experience and how the multiple labels interact, per se; the person is just using more than one word in concert. Split attraction, on the other hand, is directly about the person’s experience. Split attraction assumes that because you are using both words they must be talking about inherently different things and it would be incorrect to conflate the two words in any way.

To give an example using my own experience; I identify as grayromantic asexual. I use more than one orientation label and I would consider myself to have a romantic orientation. However, I don’t experience my romantic orientation and sexual orientation as inherently different, in fact, I think the fact that I’m grayromantic at all has a lot to do with the fact that I’m asexual. When it boils down to it a lot of the experiences I have that are technically aro experiences feel like ace experiences to me. I don’t have aro experiences because I’m grayromantic; the word grayromantic just makes it easier to talk about experiences that I already had when I was just calling myself asexual. Attempting to discuss my romantic and sexual as inherently different is an actively uncomfortable and maddening experience akin to attempting to cram a square peg into a round hole. By the model I laid out above I practice multi-label identification but do not experience split attraction.

In other words, split attraction is the assumption that your romantic orientation and your sexual orientation are inherently different. It’s also the assumption that the line between romantic orientation and sexual orientation is the same for everyone. Split attraction would say that a person I used to know who identified as biromantic asexual but only experienced romantic attraction when a close bond was formed was actually demiromantic asexual because it wouldn’t allow for the space for someone to draw a different dividing line between ace and aro. As I hinted at in the above definition of SAM, split attraction would also say that allo people’s orientations can be split into parts as well. Split attraction would say that a bisexual person is actually biromantic bisexual and just chooses to only label their sexual orientation as opposed to acknowledging that they probably have a convergent orientation which is solely bisexual and wouldn’t gain anything from making a distinction between a romantic and a sexual orientation.

I suppose it’s worth acknowledging outright that I’ve had more trouble with this kind of thinking in the Aro Community than I have in the Ace Community. The Aro Community is in the process of separating itself from the ace community, which is a really great step especially for non-ace aros or for aroaces who would prefer romance-free spaces. However, this development has put non-split/convergent aroaces like me in a tight spot where the act of describing aro experiences as ace ones (ex: “I’m not interested in dating; I’m asexual”) becomes an actively harmful act of erasure, or “conflation.”

Before I washed my hands of Tumblr aspec communities altogether, I spent some time trying to be more involved in the Aro Community. Overall, it was not a particularly positive experience. There’s a lot of pressure in the aro community to talk just about being aro without ever talking about being ace. This was especially hard for me, because as I mentioned above that I can’t really talk about being aro without talking about being ace because to me they’re the same experience.

While interacting with the Aro Community, I tried to just talk about being aro and it didn’t end very well. Trying to say aro when definitions said I should be saying aro has the curious effect of shrinking my asexuality into just not thinking people are sexy. I actually don’t think about how I don’t want to have sex and basically everyone else does as often as you’d think. Actually, I still tend to forget that experiencing sexual attraction is common and assume that everyone around me is ace much as I did as a teenager. My asexuality has always been as much about the fact that I’m not interested in dating as it is about the fact that I don’t find people sexy and don’t want to “do it.”

The hard ace/aro split of split attraction demands that I accept that the word asexual says nothing about me other than that I’m not interested in sex. If I want to talk about anything else then I must use the word grayromantic, because those other things are not ace things and it would be harmful for me to imply that they are. Asexuality is solely and completely about sex; there is no room for anything else. If that bothers me then the word asexual is too small to contain me and I should be identifying primarily as grayromantic instead.

I’m not sure why this kind of thinking seems to be more common in the Aro Community. Maybe Aro Community discussions end up self-selecting for split aroaces4 and non-split aroaces find the space unwelcoming and don’t stay. Maybe the Ace Community doesn’t care as much about whether people are using ace and aro correctly as the Aro Community does. Maybe I just give the Ace Community more passes for bad behavior as a whole because I feel more comfortable and welcome there.

I’m still working out how I want to deal with this issue. When I first starting pushing back against the concept of split attraction, the only way I could think of to describe my experience was to say “but to me ace and aro are conflated” but I’ve become increasingly opposed to using the word conflated (which was used on Tumblr to imply that my experience was inherently wrong) to describe myself. I briefly described myself as non-SAM, but I didn’t like how that terminology made it about me refusing to use the SAM not my actual experience of not being split. These days, I describe myself as either non-split or convergent5 depending on my mood. I’ve been experimenting with identifying solely as asexual, though, honestly, I’m not a huge fan of it, and I’ve been trying to teach myself that I’m not a bad person for conflating when I’m talking about my own experience.

Thing is, I actually do think Coyote’s idea of ditching the SAM terminology would make it easier for people like me to exist because a softer model wouldn’t have so many rules to break, but I also don’t think that the name itself is the problem. The problem is that we’re assuming that the lines are inherently in the same places for everyone as opposed to letting people decide where the lines are individually (or if there even are lines) and respecting where they draw those lines. That’s not an issue that just not calling it the SAM anymore will fix.

1 For those of you unfamiliar with Coyote’s earlier writing on the subject I suggest you start here: option a, option b. I would also recommend TAAAP’s response to option b, which so far as I know is the only other perspective that this discussion has ever received.

2 This is a fragment of a “in my experience when people say this, this is what they mean” definition list that I’ve been fiddling with over the last few months. Likely, this will never see the light of day.

3 I am in no way married to this terminology. I just needed to call it something for the explanation to work.

4 Acknowledgement that I am talking almost solely about aroaces in this post and I’d be curious to hear the perspectives of others. I’m especially interested in whether alloaces or alloaros feel like they experience split attraction, but I don’t know if I have any readers who would fall into those categories.

5 I picked up the terminology “non-split asexual” from a small group of people on Tumblr who experience no attraction and identify solely as asexual. I lifted the term “convergent” off these posts of Coyote’s. However, I’m fairly sure that I use both terms in slightly different ways than they were originally used. In other words, even though I’ve never coined any microlabels I’m still firmly in the Tumblr ace’s wheelhouse of inventing neologisms.

22 thoughts on “Why I say “I don’t experience split attraction” not “I don’t have a romantic orientation”

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  1. Man, I sure got a flood of notifications from this.

    Compulsory Romantic Orientation is not terminology that I’m particularly familiar with since we didn’t use it on Tumblr.

    This is just a bit of a genealogical note: I actually got it from Tumblr, modifying it a bit from “compulsive” to “compulsory.” Guess I probably should have said that somewhere in my last post…

    To be honest, I take some issue with the fact that the terminology is too old to take account people who identify primarily or solely as aro (am I supposed to interpret this as meaning compulsory sexual orientation can’t exist?)

    huh? No, it doesn’t mean that compulsory sexual orientation can’t exist. Sure it exists. That just wasn’t what that particular post was about. I would say in some contexts the two expectations intersect, but compulsory sexual orientation is probably much more pervasive.

    A model of sexual orientation which maintains that attraction is inherently composite (split)

    I think we have different ideas about what the word “composite” means.

    However, I don’t experience my romantic orientation and sexual orientation as inherently different, in fact, I think the fact that I’m grayromantic at all has a lot to do with the fact that I’m asexual. When it boils down to it a lot of the experiences I have that are technically aro experiences feel like ace experiences to me. […] Attempting to discuss my romantic and sexual as inherently different is an actively uncomfortable and maddening experience akin to attempting to cram a square peg into a round hole.

    This sounds a lot like what I was getting at with the idea of “convergence” and composite sexual orientation in the last section of this post (alternatively see Siggy’s condensed version).

    Personally, although I would say that my identity as quoiromantic has a lot to do with my identity as ace, I do think of my sexual orientation as specifically a “sexual” orientation, and I don’t think it makes sense to call me a “split” ace for that. My gray-asexuality isn’t splintered off of anything else. It just is what it is. So I think that’s sort of a testament to how many possible variations there are with this stuff — as you say, it’s not just “there are people with different romantic + sexual orientations, and then there’s people for whom romance/sexuality converge.” There’s people with convergent romantic + sexual orientations, and there’s also people who have just one distinct orientation without it being convergent.

    I’m not sure why this kind of thinking seems to be more common in the Aro Community.

    Well, I have a theory, but I think you know what it is.

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    1. This is just a bit of a genealogical note: I actually got it from Tumblr, modifying it a bit from “compulsive” to “compulsory.” Guess I probably should have said that somewhere in my last post…

      Interesting. I’d never seen that terminology when I was over there, though admittedly the groups I was part of didn’t talk about this kind of thing very much.

      huh? No, it doesn’t mean that compulsory sexual orientation can’t exist. Sure it exists. That just wasn’t what that particular post was about. I would say in some contexts the two expectations intersect, but compulsory sexual orientation is probably much more pervasive.

      Yeah, this is just me being needlessly petty a la “likely someone’s going to be pissed about this post anyway so I may as well give them something to be angry about.” I apologize.

      I think we have different ideas about what the word “composite” means.

      I was using it to mean something like “so you’ve got sexual, romantic, aesthetic and sensual attraction and they’re always completely different things and if you don’t know how to draw the lines between them you’re just not trying hard enough.” Back on Tumblr the general thought pattern was that allo people just don’t know how to tell the difference between the four types of attraction but that they could learn if they just put in the work. I’m no longer convinced that’s the case. Obviously, having never been allo, I can’t say for certain, but it seems to me that it might all be one feeling for a lot of them. Even I find the sexual/aeshetic attraction distinction a lot more useful than the sexual/romantic one in a lot of instances.

      Anyway, I’d forgotten that you’d already used the word composite in this context to describe something else. Probably, I’ll have to update my SAM definition to avoid confusion.

      This sounds a lot like what I was getting at with the idea of “convergence” and composite sexual orientation in the last section of this post (alternatively see Siggy’s condensed version).

      According to my bookmarks, I have read this post of Siggy’s, but I don’t remember reading it so thank you for bringing it to my attention again.

      Personally, although I would say that my identity as quoiromantic has a lot to do with my identity as ace, I do think of my sexual orientation as specifically a “sexual” orientation, and I don’t think it makes sense to call me a “split” ace for that. […] There’s people with convergent romantic + sexual orientations, and there’s also people who have just one distinct orientation without it being convergent.

      This is really interesting because I’ve never heard of this particular experience before. You’re not the first person I’ve ever met who doesn’t have a romantic orientation, but I’ve found that when people say that they generally mean they don’t see the point in making the sexual/romantic split. For example, the people I got the terminology non-split ace off of didn’t experience either romantic or sexual attraction but they had huge issues with dominate ace labeling conventions forcibly labeling them as aromantic when they didn’t think it made sense that aromantic asexuals should have to split themselves when gay/straight/bi/pan people didn’t have to.* You’re the first person I’ve ever met who has labeled a sexual orientation as solely sexual at the same time as not having a romantic orientation.** That’s really interesting.

      *Acknowledgement of the fact that they were assuming that all aroaces are non-split; this is not actually the case.

      **However, I do get the impression some non-SAM aros might fit the opposite of this description (ie “I have a romantic orientation that is solely romantic but not a sexual orientation”). Non-SAM aro is an interesting identity overall because in a lot of cases it seems to be tied very closely to aro community/ace community dynamics.

      Well, I have a theory, but I think you know what it is.

      I do?

      My theory is that it’s some combination of the three possibilities I mention above, but I didn’t want to outright say that.

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      1. You’re not the first person I’ve ever met who doesn’t have a romantic orientation, but I’ve found that when people say that they generally mean they don’t see the point in making the sexual/romantic split.

        Yeah, and that goes back to how I see it as a problem that the term “the SAM” involves gluing together so many different things and calling them the same. Throwing that term around has entrenched a habit of so much lumping-together that now I have to get very wordy about manually peeling apart “romantic + sexual orientation” from “the personal salience of a romantic/sexual distinction.” It’s like pulling teeth to even get people to think about that, let alone what it means for people like me.

        Unfortunately I figure even if you tried to hem people in with “no no listen, let’s cut it down to mean only one out of these five different things,” that’s going to be a losing battle. You’d still have to spell out which things are being positioned beyond the scope of it, or previous exposure is just going to have people gravitating right back to assuming that one thing entails all the others.

        I do?

        Oh, I guess I was being unnecessarily cryptic there. I just assumed I was being predictable since it just goes back to the usual observations I have.

        Basically: seeing various parts of the aro community do all this sort of “I’m aro, I prioritize being aro, being aro is more important to me than any other part of my identity, I’m aro aro aro aro” and going about all these gymnastics in how they talk about sexuality, my initial (naive) reaction has been to be like, okay….? yeah? You’re aros in the aro community. You’re all aro. Who are you trying to distinguish yourselves from? Other, less-aro aros? ….But realistically I don’t think that’s it. I think it goes back to issues of audience.

        The way people talk, I get the impression that people are dealing with a combination of 1) getting fed up with/wanting to avoid ace stuff but not being able to do that (if they want to find aro stuff), and 2) wanting to talk about certain stuff in aro contexts, but (for various reasons) feeling like that’s not “allowed” for aros and fearing they’ll get backlash for putting that on an aro blog or server. Regardless of ace/allo/no sexual orientation, people feel a need to snip themselves down to just aro identity in order to both clear space and guarantee space. So then the way that manifests is “I’m aro I’m aro I’m aro.”

        And if I’m right about that, then the only way to relax that tension is for those people to gain access to better filtering options in terms of finding what they’re looking for, selectively restricting their audience, and protecting themselves from backlash.

        (In other words oh my god please free yourselves.)

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        1. Unfortunately I figure even if you tried to hem people in with “no no listen, let’s cut it down to mean only one out of these five different things,” that’s going to be a losing battle. You’d still have to spell out which things are being positioned beyond the scope of it, or previous exposure is just going to have people gravitating right back to assuming that one thing entails all the others.

          Yeah, I suspect attempting to do this would end badly. I have no impulse to do so anyway, because I think the way that people conceptualize things differently and label them with different words is really interesting. Unfortunately, people don’t generally explain how they’re conceptualizing things and forcing them to do so would be rude so I have very limited data on which to theorize.

          Re: Aro Community

          There is a lot of pressure in the aro community to do being aro “correctly” ie romance-repulsed, not gray-aro, etc. As you pointed out, there is also a lot of pressure to view being aro as the only part of your identity that really matters. As I discussed above, when I was in the aro community I struggled a lot with feeling like it was bad that my asexuality was so important to me and that if I truly was a good aro I would think of myself as aro first. It seems that alloaros have a similar experience. I wonder if that’s why non-SAM aros seem to be more common than single-label aces.

          For what it’s worth, I actually would be interested in hearing about how experiencing sexual attraction as an alloaro is different than experiencing sexual attraction as an allo because I have a longstanding interest in how not experiencing one half of the romantic/sexual attraction dyad affects your experience with the half you do experience. That said, I also acknowledge that I have a lot of hang-ups with sexual attraction/allosexuality/sex as concepts so it’s probably best that I don’t claim to be a better ally to alloaros than I actually am.

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        2. And if I’m right about that, then the only way to relax that tension is for those people to gain access to better filtering options in terms of finding what they’re looking for, selectively restricting their audience, and protecting themselves from backlash.
          (In other words oh my god please free yourselves.)

          I suspect the “actually, social media was a bad idea, let’s not do this anymore” ship has already sailed, which is terrifying and I have no idea what to suggest to do about it.

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          1. Hah — oh, I’m not saying “quit social media.” I’m saying “stop expecting Tumblr and Discord to cover your community needs.” The way that Tumblr and Discord happened to be designed makes it basically impossible to combine topic-based filtering (ex. with tags and blacklists) with moderated group spaces (i.e. having a user who can delete something off-topic from the space), so if my theory about aro community needs is correct, neither of those formats has what it takes to cover all of those needs at the same time. You’ll either be subjected to whatever gets dumped into the tag search, or you’ll be subjected to whatever anybody in the chatroom wants to talk about at the moment. Neither Tumblr nor Discord can protect you from both at once.

            But it’s not like filtering, moderation, and audience restriction are just totally unavailable as a combination of features. As you and I know, there’s definitely at least one site that does all three.

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            1. oh, I’m not saying “quit social media.”

              You might not be saying that, but I very definitely am.

              Theoretically, there are ways to fix social media but given that the main issues are things that exist because they’re profitable for the companies (ie algorithms with prioritize outrage and feed you endless like content–yay! echo chambers! /s–while collecting data to sell about you) I don’t see any of those changes actually getting made. Washing my hands of the whole trash-fire is looking increasingly tempting, if only because I’m not sure what else to do.

              That said, I actually do like Discord, but admittedly a lot of that is because I like being able to have real time conversations with people about things I like, but the blocking functions admittedly suck and you’re at the mercy of the mods being decent. I’d say Tumblr’s blocking capabilities are about even with Discord’s, with the exception that on Discord there’s (hopefully) a human element who can step in when things get out of hand. I’m far too cynical to put any kind of faith in Pillowfort being a better option in the long run. It worked until it went into open beta because everyone there genuinely wanted the site to be something better and interacted with the site in a way that furthered that end. You saw how fast it fell apart once the rest of the Internet had their shot at it.

              if my theory about aro community needs is correct, neither of those formats has what it takes to cover all of those needs at the same time. You’ll either be subjected to whatever gets dumped into the tag search, or you’ll be subjected to whatever anybody in the chatroom wants to talk about at the moment. Neither Tumblr nor Discord can protect you from both at once.

              The nice thing about the Ace Community is that it does exist in places that aren’t Tumblr and that are populated by people who don’t use Tumblr, so you can leave Tumblr and go somewhere else. I’m not sure the Aro Community really has anything like that (AUREA, maybe, but I have even less experience with it than I have with AVEN, so I couldn’t say).

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              1. The coding flaws are something I see as a separate consideration from how the site functions socially. If that particular combination of features could help address community needs — and I think they could — then I think that’s something the aro community could better serve itself by looking for, whether on Pillowfort or anywhere else.

                AUREA is one I’m not counting here because it’s not really a social media/discussion platform, it’s just an organization website. You might’ve been thinking of Arocalypse?

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                1. I don’t think you can separate the way sites function socially from the algorithms that are running on them.* Social media (or even the Internet in general) is a collection of people interacting with content that they see. What’s deciding what content you see and therefore get the chance to interact with? The site’s algorithm is. The classic example of this is the way that alt-right posts gain popularity on Facebook. Because the algorithm on Facebook prioritizes interaction every time someone comments on that bigoted post explaining why it’s wrong the algorithm makes it more and more visible which means more and more people see it.** Facebook doesn’t care that the post is horrible, people are interacting with it which means that they’re spending more time on Facebook which means they’re watching more ads which means Facebook gets more money. Plus, since most of these algorithms are black boxes (meaning the humans who run them can’t see what they’re doing) Facebook can claim that they’re not to blame because they can’t control what the algorithm spits out (this is actually a lie).

                  Going back to the specifically Tumblr-based example (I used Facebook as an example above because most of the research done on this was done on conservatives on Facebook), in full transparency, I’m not 100% sure how the algorithms on Tumblr work (it definitely has them, but Tumblr is a cringey site everyone used in high school and only losers use now so no one cares enough about it to undergo a serious study of it now), but I suspect that there’s an algorithm behind that bane of Tumblr users everywhere: the fact that if you do a tag search only some of posts tagged that way show up. In the case of the mistagged ace posts, likely the algorithm has decided that those posts are more important or will get more interaction than legitimate aro content would so it shows and prioritizes mistagged ace content over correctly tagged aro content.*** While obviously there is still legitimate, human mistagging at the core, there’s still an algorithm in the middle distorting the results which in turn affects the content people can react to which affects people’s perceptions of what exactly is being talked about and how.

                  As I write this, it occurs to me that because Tumblr hides some undefined amount of content we don’t actually have a clear idea how much mistagged ace content there actually is in the aro tags. It could be that what we see is all that there is and the algorithm is just amplifying the visibility of that content, but it also could be that this mistagging is way more common than it currently looks and the algorithm is actually hiding most of it. I’m not sure if there’s a way to know for sure without being able to actually do a tag search that shows all content with that tag.

                  * I’m talking about something more specific than just general coding flaws because a) a coding flaw could be a simple style issue which arguably wouldn’t effect the social functioning of the site and b) the type of code I’m talking about isn’t flawed, it does exactly what it’s designed to do and that’s the problem.

                  ** It’s sort of like how reblogging to disagree on Tumblr spreads the original message, only the site is doing it automatically here.

                  *** Annoyingly, given the tags of some of the mistagged posts I’ve seen, this implies that “everything and the kitchen sink” tagging (where the user doesn’t realize that only the first five tags even have a chance of showing up in a tag search and therefore fills the tags with every slightly related tag they can think of in a misguided attempt to gain more visibility) actually works sometimes.

                  AUREA is one I’m not counting here because it’s not really a social media/discussion platform, it’s just an organization website. You might’ve been thinking of Arocalypse?

                  Yeah, I’m thinking of Arocalypse.

                  …Somehow I got through this whole post without mentioning the other massive algorithm issue, which is best summed up as “the Google algorithm is racist.”

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                  1. You know…. I’m realizing I don’t know enough about the word “algorithm” to determine if it includes things like chronological subscription feeds, since I’m used to seeing it only applied to cases where posts are displayed in non-chronological order, prioritized by popularity, etc. Afaik PF’s feed is pretty unadorned, except for the reduced reblogs feature that collapses duplicates.

                    (it definitely has them, but Tumblr is a cringey site everyone used in high school and only losers use now so no one cares enough about it to undergo a serious study of it now)

                    I’ve known comm researchers who do studies on social media, and there was even a unit on it in a course I’ve been taking this year. The main ones I remember getting covered in the textbook were Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and Twitter — with both the book and the professor drawing attention to the convenience of Twitter especially, because it’s deliberately set up to make it easy for third parties to run detailed, customs searches and collect extensive data and metadata. I cannot emphasize enough how much that functionality plays a role in what people study.

                    Outside of those major four, though, I’ve also known comm scholars to study other sites with a less polished image and less built-in convenience. I’ve had a classmate who studied Reddit. I’ve had a classmate who studied 4chan. In my previous department I even knew someone who undertook a study on Tumblr, and I remember someone linking me to a special issue on it once. But like I was telling Ace Journal Club the other day, I tend to hear about projects like that less often than I hear about researchers flocking to Twitter. I even have a colleague who hates Twitter but keeps their account mostly just because of how simple and easy it is to do mass data pulls on Twitter.

                    I don’t think Tumblr’s social image is the culprit here.

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                    1. Sorry for the late response.

                      I’m realizing I don’t know enough about the word “algorithm” to determine if it includes things like chronological subscription feeds, since I’m used to seeing it only applied to cases where posts are displayed in non-chronological order, prioritized by popularity, etc.

                      Chronological subscription feeds aren’t included in this discussion, while a feed prioritized by popularity would be. The difference between the order in which PF displays posts and the order in which Facebook does is a good example of what I’m talking about.

                      […] I don’t think Tumblr’s social image is the culprit here.

                      You’re probably right. Likely, my thoughts on the subject are somewhat influenced by my own hang-ups on the subject anyway.

                      the professor drawing attention to the convenience of Twitter especially, because it’s deliberately set up to make it easy for third parties to run detailed, customs searches and collect extensive data and metadata

                      Yikes. I don’t think I want to know why anyone would decide it was a good idea for the site to do that.

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  2. AFAIK “compulsory romantic orientation” is not some sort of old terminology that you’ve never seen before. It’s just… romantic orientation that’s compulsory, an adjective applied to a noun. I suppose it borrows from the concept of “compulsory sexuality”, which has been used by both activists and academics for a long time.

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  3. Apparently, “SAM” is a blanket name for several models of labeling that the ace community originally used, but I’ve never found a decent explanation of what those models actually were and how they were different from each other.

    I may have said this before, but most of the models I’m talking about were never really systematized. There wasn’t Model A, Model B, and Model C, it was more like, there were a lot of different ways of talking about it and conceptualizing it. And this is still true today, but for some reason we act like there’s a single model.

    As a case study, look at “Taking The Cake: An Illustrated Primer on Asexuality” from 2012.

    Attraction is kind of like a recipe. A lot of ingredients go in but it can be hard to tell them apart in the finished product.

    And then it refers to aesthetic, sensual, romantic and sexual attraction as ingredients.

    And in a presentation I made in 2011, I show the Storms model, then expand to the Double Storms model… which I then immediately cross out with the comment “models are meant to be broken”. I then went into personal narratives that I gathered from interviews, the first being a person confused by the romantic/aromantic binary.

    Basically I find the whole romantic/aromantic concept confusing and extremely non-intuitive to me, since no one seems to have the same definition of what “romance” or even “romantic attraction” even is.

    These were both 101 materials, and present very different pictures. But I never thought of it as “here’s one model, and here’s another”. There were just many ways of thinking about it–and there still are today. It’s just kind of weird to call all the different ways we think and talk about it “the SAM”, because it promotes the idea that there is one canonical model, and then every other way of thinking about it is in the “other” category.

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    1. Oh, so it’s less “the SAM is incorrectly referring to multiple models as the same thing” and more “there was no consensus on a model to start with.” That makes a lot more sense, thank you.

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    2. Thought for sure I’d already linked this at some point, but I can’t find where…. Had to go dig this up from my saved drafts on WordPress:

      Back in 2012, you made a post referring to “a four-attraction model.” But as I think you can attest, that was never treated like an Official Name For It or anything. From what I saw, people generally didn’t even conceptualize it as a designated particular “model” at all. It was just stated as a fact, ex. “These are the different kinds of attraction.”

      When those attraction types started getting called “split” attraction in 2015 and getting lambasted as an over-ambitious “model,” that functioned as a provocation to start thinking of this as a particular system that not everybody wants to take part in, rather than a Platonic truth. So there’s something worthwhile to that. I just happen to think it was disastrously executed, since now people act like the concepts of “sensual attraction” and “biromantic” just inherently go together as part of some unified Model.

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  4. I was using it to mean something like “so you’ve got sexual, romantic, aesthetic and sensual attraction and they’re always completely different things and if you don’t know how to draw the lines between them you’re just not trying hard enough.” Back on Tumblr the general thought pattern was that allo people just don’t know how to tell the difference between the four types of attraction but that they could learn if they just put in the work. I’m no longer convinced that’s the case. Obviously, having never been allo, I can’t say for certain, but it seems to me that it might all be one feeling for a lot of them. Even I find the sexual/aeshetic attraction distinction a lot more useful than the sexual/romantic one in a lot of instances.

    I guess the question is why wouldn’t we expect those concepts to be congruent for most people? Let’s start with straightness. There’s absolutely nothing essential behind the value that The Disney Princess Wedding(tm) represents True Love(tm) and True Beauty(tm). Straight culture says that the heterosexual nuclear family is ideal. That’s an ethnocentric claim historically bound to certain groups after WWII. And then it tells us how to prepare for it (romance), what our ideal mate should look like (aesthetics), and how we should respond to them (sensuality.) (I think those four are the tip of the iceberg.) So why wouldn’t a person who desires heterosexual monogamy (and can practice it without identity dissonance) internalize those values?

    When we talk about queer romanticism/aesthetics/sensuality, there’s an implicit process of unlearning what we’ve been taught is disgusting, and recreating, rediscovering, and relearning different values. QTIPOC have a lot of conversations about decolonizing from the view that White bodies are more beautiful than non-White bodies. Feminism has a lot of discussion about the male gaze, and next to nobody has given a good account about how these concepts apply to people undergoing gender transition. (WTFromantic as in “why the f**ck should I describe my relationships in terms of systems that barely include me and create gender dysphoria?”) People who cannot participate in straight culture without identity dissonance have had to DIY these values or find counter-cultures that cause minimal dissonance.

    One of the whole points behind a preference for community-based terms like “gay/lesbian/queer” rather than “-sexual” terms was to get away from reductionism. How a person integrates sexuality, romance, sensuality, aesthetics, spirituality, kinship, etc., etc., is likely to be highly individualized. And since my own integration has changed radically over time, I’m really suspicious of essentialist frames here.

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    1. Your thoughts on how queerness affects the way people conceptualize and rebuild their understandings of this kind of thing are super interesting, especially since it’s an area I’m not particularly qualified to comment on. I’m especially intrigued by your “WTFromantic as in “why the f**ck should I describe my relationships in terms of systems that barely include me and create gender dysphoria?”” comment, especially since as far as I know that line of thinking hasn’t really entered into the ace/aro communities’s WTFro/quoiro discussions (acknowledgement that I’m both not quoi and much newer to being ace than a lot of the people involved in these discussions, so I could have missed something). I wonder if that’s the sort of thing that’s going on on Tumblr where people are trying to come up with ways of labeling attraction to a single gender which don’t inadvertently gender them.

      One of the whole points behind a preference for community-based terms like “gay/lesbian/queer” rather than “-sexual” terms was to get away from reductionism.

      That makes a lot of sense.

      my own integration has changed radically over time, I’m really suspicious of essentialist frames here.

      I know what you mean. Romantic attraction as a concept actually made sense to me as a baby ace, but these days the only way I can make sense of it is as a convenient shorthand for all the other not sex related factors that people use to choose a partner.

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      1. A struggle I have with these definition discussions across the board is analogous to something a microbiology mentor said to me, “We know everything about how these organisms live in a petri dish, and next to nothing about how they live in dirt.” The dictionary definition of “attracted to…” works in vitro, which handwaves away the reality that in situ there are a lot of political and cultural things that are a part of sexuality. And I feel that sometimes Marxists and Conservative Christians are more honest about admitting about how sexuality and relationships function to preserve systems of power than a lot of “discourse.”

        “Romance” in American culture has a much more popular meaning describing a politically and culturally ideal relationship. That’s almost always heterosexual, monogamous, mostly neurotypical, and gender-normative according to the fashion of the decade. Attempts at making that more inclusive usually involve modifying a few variables without changing the base structure. If you change too many variables, you end up in the “queer studies” or “kink” section of the bookstore. People who don’t live up to “romantic” ideals are at higher risk of relationship abuse, and arguably those ideals encourage certain forms of relationship abuse even for ideal couples.

        I see some real conflicts going on between ace/aro aromanticism which tends to say “I don’t want that” and feminist/queer aromanticism which tends to say “the romantic ideal can be oppressive.” A significant number of allosexual people are celibate, de facto if not self-identified. Others reject traditional relationship styles and structures as unsatisfactory or personally harmful. Some reject the implicit hierarchies of love and emotional commitment involved in categorizing relationships. Compulsory romantic orientation feels very intrusive and unwanted for me.

        It’s a classic cats and boxes problem. Put a box on the floor and a cat may sit in it by choice. Forcing the cat into a box will likely create resistance.

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        1. A struggle I have with these definition discussions across the board is analogous to something a microbiology mentor said to me, “We know everything about how these organisms live in a petri dish, and next to nothing about how they live in dirt.”

          This is a really great analogy. I like it.

          And I feel that sometimes Marxists and Conservative Christians are more honest about admitting about how sexuality and relationships function to preserve systems of power than a lot of “discourse.”

          I suppose so? I admittedly don’t know much about Marxism, and a lot of the time when people say “Conservative Christians” they’re actually talking about Evangelical Protestants. I was raised Catholic and while Catholicism is undeniably homophobic and anti-sex (well, anti-sex-before-marriage, married sex is apparently the pinnacle of human experience), at least in my experience it isn’t those things in the exact same way as Evangelical Protestantism is those things, so I’m not sure if I have any experience with what you’re describing here.

          “Romance” in American culture has a much more popular meaning describing a politically and culturally ideal relationship. That’s almost always heterosexual, monogamous, mostly neurotypical, and gender-normative according to the fashion of the decade.

          That tracks about with my (limited) understanding of the subject as well. It seems more like a conglomeration of commonly desired behaviors more than any kind of actual attraction.

          Also to further confuse the whole thing, it seems like at least some portion of heterosexual relationships are formed solely because the people involved are lonely? I don’t know if I’m understanding this correctly or not, but a lot of the straight people I know talk about how the period of time right after you graduate from college is the loneliest time of your life (which does track with my experience, admittedly) and it seems that the unspoken agreement on how you fix this is by finding a partner and getting married. “I was lonely” seems like a really horrible reason to get into a romantic relationship to me, but if that’s really a common occurrence, it’s a fascinating one.

          I see some real conflicts going on between ace/aro aromanticism which tends to say “I don’t want that” and feminist/queer aromanticism which tends to say “the romantic ideal can be oppressive.”

          I mean, arguably, there’s still less conflict than there would be with the “I don’t experience romantic attraction” variant (which buys strongly into the idea of romantic attraction actually existing in it’s desire to push back against it), but I get what you mean. Ace/aro orientations aren’t really political in the way the feminist/queer aromanticism you’re describing is.

          Is this feminist/queer aromanticism common?

          A significant number of allosexual people are celibate, de facto if not self-identified.

          I’ve read your blog post about this and it was really helpful for me as a (celibate) asexual person too. It would have been really comforting to me back when I was questioning and was afraid that something horrible would happen to me if I said I was ace and turned out to be wrong.

          Compulsory romantic orientation feels very intrusive and unwanted for me.

          Yeah, I’m a little worried that eventually someone who doesn’t care to understand the internal discussions in aspec communities about these things is going to start making surveys which force everyone to label a romantic orientation, which even I wouldn’t necessarily want to do and I do identify with a romantic orientation. There are ways to allow aros to self-identify as aro without forcing everyone to label a romantic orientation, but I’m not sure I trust people to put enough thought into it to figure those out.

          It’s a classic cats and boxes problem. Put a box on the floor and a cat may sit in it by choice. Forcing the cat into a box will likely create resistance.

          This is also a good way of describing it. I’m actually really interested in the boxes people choose to sit in, even the really hyper-specific and arguably useless ones, which I suppose is confusing given we’re having this discussion in the comments section of a post ranting about the dominant conceptualization model that allows for those hyper-specific boxes. Generally speaking, as long as you’re not hurting anyone with the boxes you’re sitting in, we won’t have problems until you start trying to force me to sit in your boxes with you.

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