Types of Attraction
A lot of people don’t realize that there are many different types and levels of attraction. Most of us are aware of sexual attraction—the desire to have sex with someone else, finding someone else sexy, imagining them in lingerie, etc. And though we might not think about it often, a lot of us are aware of platonic attraction, the desire to be someone’s friend. But there are tons of different ways to be attracted to others. Here I’ll be listing some of the most common, seven to be exact, but keep in mind that there are a lot more and the level of your attraction to someone can vary. Some people won’t feel every type of attraction (and there’s nothing wrong with you if you don’t!), while some might feel all.
Let’s dive in.
Sexual attraction is the most well-known form of attraction. Sexual attraction has a lot to do with physical appearance as well as many other factors—the situation we’re in, the person we are attracted to, and it can change moment to moment. Sexual attraction doesn’t necessarily mean that we want to have sex with the person we are sexually attracted to. A host of other factors can affect your want to have sex with another person, like their personality, (again) the situation that you are in, and what we know of the person. Just because you and a stranger at a bar are sexually compatible, flirtatious even, doesn’t mean that either of you want to have sex then and there, and sexual attraction doesn’t intitle you to sex. If you don’t feel sexual attraction, you could be asexual or on the asexual spectrum (sometimes shortened to ace or ace-spec). For some people sexual attraction can only form after other sorts of attraction form, the most common being demisexual, meaning someone is only sexually attracted to people after a strong platonic or romantic bond is created between them. For others, sexual attraction can occur without any pre-formed bonds or attractions.
Romantic attraction is another type of attraction that many people know and are familiar with. Simply and perhaps a bit redundantly put, romantic attraction is the desire to be romantic with someone. Romance and what it means varies from person to person. To one person romance might involve candlelit dinners and nights out, others might think that popcorn and a movie is romantic, and so on. If you’re romantically attracted to someone, then you’ll likely be interested in a relationship with them that goes beyond friendship. You might want to start dating them or pursue a committed relationship. If you don’t feel romantic attraction to others you might be aromantic, meaning you feel no romantic attraction (sometimes shortened to aro). If you don’t feel sexual or romantic attraction, you might be aroace, which is just a combination of asexual and aromantic. People who are asexual and aromantic are still perfectly capable of creating relationships with others, friendly or otherwise, though they might look different than what we might consider a ‘typical’ relationship. And as with demisexual, you could be demiromantic, meaning you only feel romantic attraction to someone after a strong platonic bond is formed.
Platonic attraction is the desire to be platonic with someone. Some people call having platonic attraction to someone a ‘squish’. A squish is sometimes also called a ‘friend crush’. It basically just means that you want to be someone’s friend. Platonic relationships take many forms, acquaintance-ships, work relationships, sibling relationships, best-friendships, and so on.
Sensual exists as a gray area between platonic and romantic attraction. Sensual attraction doesn’t necessarily mean that you want to have a romantic relationship with someone, but it does mean that you do want to have a more sensual one. The word ‘sensual’ refers to sensation, and it can mean that you want to have a more touchy relationship with someone, wanting to hold hands or cuddle (like these two cute cats!) but maybe not engage in more romantic parts of a relationship. Sensual attraction can also mean that you want to engage in more romantic behavior—like kissing someone or going on dates, but still not engage in a typical romantic relationship. This one is more up to the person experiencing the attraction, though it’s generally considered that sensual attraction goes beyond platonic attraction, creating a deeper relationship than friendship, though that can be up to the people in the sensual relationship to determine.
Intellectual attraction is the attraction to one’s intellect. This can refer to someone’s intelligence (and this tends to be what people assume when they hear the word ‘intellectual’), but it more commonly references one’s conversation. If you and someone else are conversationally compatible, and you desire more conversations with them, that means you are probably experiencing intellectual attraction. This can lead into platonic attraction but might also be connected more to mentorships. If you feel someone gives you good advice and you appreciate when you talk to them, but you don’t want to be their friend exactly, then you’re likely intellectually attracted to them. Again, intellectual attraction can lead into other forms of attraction.
Aesthetic attraction is the attraction to someone’s appearance, their body, their clothes, and the way they express themselves. Aesthetic attraction tends to transcend sexuality or orientation. You can find women aesthetically attractive even if you are not sexually attracted or romantically attracted to women, the same for men and non-binary folks. This is considered a sort of base-level attraction by some people, having little to do with a person’s personality, but aesthetic attraction shouldn’t be considered shallow. Your appreciation of another person’s style doesn’t make you shallow or naïve. Also, it’s important to note that your attraction to someone’s aesthetic can change over time, either as you get to know them or as their aesthetic changes. You might even find that your taste in aesthetics and people might change over time. You might like the look of a backwards baseball cap one day and find that you like cowboy hats more another day.
Hormonal attraction is completely out of your control, but it is still a form of attraction between people. There’s a lot of very interesting science behind hormones and attraction, like how ovulation can increase a person’s attractiveness to others, as can cologne and perfume, and that sweat can also increase or decrease attraction. Super interesting stuff, but at it’s core, this is just how your body hormonally reacts to other people’s hormones. This is done involuntarily through a process called olfaction, which is more commonly referred to as smell, but on a scale that you likely won’t notice. Hormones might also play a part in other parts of attraction, increasing or decreasing aesthetic attraction, sexual attraction, even intellectual attraction to others. If you go on hormone blockers, testosterone, estrogen, or even on hormonal birth control, your attraction to certain people can change.
So there you have it, those are seven types of attraction. Of course, there are dozens more, but these are ones you’ll most commonly hear about and run into. I’ll see you next time! If you’d like to, I’d love to read your comments, and I’ll be around to answer questions!