According to the split attraction model, how someone experiences attraction can be split into categories. For some people romantic and sexual attraction are distinctly different experiences. The split attraction model recognizes that sexual and romantic orientations are not the same for some people. This paradigm recognizes that people can experience sexual and romantic attraction differently.
The model was created by the asexual community as a way to help define their orientation more specifically. For some, it is an essential part of their identity. The model can help explain individuals who are asexual yet still experience romantic attraction. The purpose of the split attraction model was to help individuals understand themselves better and to have a framework to communicate this to others. Some find the model to be empowering, since it provides descriptive vocabulary that more accurately represents who they are.
Individuals in the asexual community can find their asexuality to be an important part of who they are. The model allows them to separate these orientations and emphasizes that the sexual and romantic attractions can be equally important experiences. The model also can help members of a potentially marginalized group feel a stronger sense of community. To some, belonging to a like-minded group of people is important. Also, some find the model to be validating, as it normalizes asexual and aromantic experiences in a culture that emphasizes sex and romance.
There are multiple ways individuals can experience their attraction orientation. The prefix of the sexual orientation is utilized for defining the romantic identification as well. People can experience romantic and sexual attraction to the opposite gender, both genders, the same gender, or no gender. If they are asexual and feel romantic attraction to the same gender, they would identify as asexual homoromantic. Or, they could identify as asexual and gay/lesbian. In this model, both their romantic and sexual attraction are expressed.
Following are additional examples within the split attraction model:
- Heterosexual biromantic: an individual who experiences sexual attraction toward the opposite gender and romantic attraction towards males and females.
- Asexual homoromantic: An individual who expresses romantic attraction toward people of the same gender, and does not experience sexual attraction.
- Bisexual gray-romantic: An individual who is on the spectrum between romantic and aromatic and who is sexually attracted to both males and females.
- Graysexualheteroromantic: An individual who is romantically attracted to the opposite gender and who experiences very slight or infrequent sexual attraction
Critics have concerns about the model, suggesting that it provides unnecessary boundaries and distinctions. Some find these explicitly stated orientations to be overkill. Some also find the labeling to be offensive. Some in the LGBT community find the “homosexual” label to be negative and believe the model reinforces this labeling too strongly. Critics also suggest that the model oversexualizes LGBT by emphasizing the sexual desire and attraction over all other elements of a relationship. Also, some find it to reinforce the stereotypes of people who identify with LGBT to be hyper-sexualized. Finally, for some the orientations may not be that clear cut and black and white. It can be limiting for people who have varying preferences.
Is it helpful or confusing? It is complicated and there are mixed reactions to the model. In the end, it is one paradigm that can be used for those who find it helpful. It is an individual choice to accept, utilize, or reject the model. An individual’s orientation is theirs to define.
Karen Doll has been a Licensed Psychologist in the Twin Cities for 20 years, working in organizational consulting. She leverages her education in Clinical Psychology with her leadership assessment expertise in her practice. She is an executive coach focusing on helping people maximize their potential.