🌈Romantic Orientation ≠ Sexual Orientation

Dr. Jarryd Willis PhD
8 min readDec 6, 2022

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Asexuals, Demisexuals, Sapiosexual, Bisexuals, Allosexuals, Aromantics, & Romantics

Table of Contents

· Alyssa Clark et al., 2022
Romantic-Sexual Concordance For Asexual Subjects
Romantic-Sexual Concordance For Allosexual Subjects
Direct QuotesRomantic Orientation Methodology

· Affectionate Behavior ≠ Sexual Behavior
Demisexuals
· Demisexual — Vu Kym Le, 2020
· SoCal Lab Research questions
· Ka Wing Luk, 2013
· Asexual Identity — Rothblum et al., 2020
· Sapiosexuality
Sapiosexuals — MacInnis & Hodson, 2012

Asexuality is defined as a lack of sexual attraction & interest in sexual intercourse (Bogaert, 2004, 2012; Brotto & Yule, 2017; Chasin, 2013; Jared Edge et al., 2021; Mandigo & Kavar, 2022). Asexuals allow us to disentangle the role of sexual attraction from love, romantic satisfaction, romantic attraction, intimacy, investment, commitment, & other romantic relationship outcomes.

Asexuals consider affectionate behaviors (e.g., holding hands, cuddling; Gulledge et al., 2004) as their preferred type of intimate behavior for building an affectional bond with their lovers in romantic relationships (Clark et al., 2022; Scherrer, 2010; Van Houdenhove et al., 2015), and they strongly prefer affectionate behaviors over sexual behaviors.

Allosexual = individuals who experience sexual attraction.

Aromantics in the ACE community don’t experience romantic attraction (Antonsen et al., 2020; Hammack et al., 2018), though they may experience sexual attraction.

Greysexuals degree of sexual attraction reflects asexuals, though it varies over time (Macneela & Murphy, 2015).

Alyssa Clark et al., 2022

Asexuals experience romantic attraction (Clark, 2022; Decker, 2014; Lund et al., 2016), just not sexual attraction. Scherrer (2008) found that 41% of asexual individuals reported experiencing romantic attraction, identifying as aromantic, biromantic, heteromantic, & homoromantic.

Allosexuals generally assume romantic attraction & sexual attraction are the same thing, and may never actually consider their romantic orientation to be something that exists in the first place.

Romantic-Sexual Concordance For Asexual Subjects

Only 37% of asexual adults’ romantic orientation matched their sexual orientation. In addition, “most asexual adults self-identify as either sex-neutral (41%) or sex-averse (54%).”

This is consistent with previous research finding “discordant orientations are more common among asexual people (e.g., Antonsen et al., 2020; Brotto et al., 2010; Ginoza et al., 2014; Scherrer, 2008; Zheng & Su, 2018).

Romantic-Sexual Concordance For Allosexual Subjects

Most heterosexuals identify as heteromantic (90%+) & most homosexuals identify as homoromantic (80%+); however, only 64% of bisexuals identify as biromantic (Clark et al., 2022). Among bisexuals, about 20%+ identify as heteroromantic & 10%+ as homoromantic. Research finds that bisexuals are less likely to report romantic attraction to both sexes than monosexuals were to report romantic attraction to one sex (Clark et al., 2022; Lund et al., 2016).

Overall, among allosexuals, concordance for romantic orientation & sexual orientation was highest for heterosexuals & lowest for bisexuals.

Direct Quotes

Asexuality is considered a valid sexual orientation (Brotto & Yule, 2017), and asexual people experience a wealth of richly heterogeneous relationship experiences (e.g., Haefner, 2012). Bogaert (2004) first used the term asexuality to describe someone who did not experience sexual attraction, and asexuality is now conceptualized as a spectrum or an “umbrella” term (Carrigan, 2011; Przybylo, 2016). The asexuality spectrum includes identities such as gray-A (a person whose experience of sexual attraction falls between asexual and sexual), demisexual (a person who only experiences sexual attraction after forming a deep, emotional bond), and A-fluid identities (a person whose experience of sexual attraction is fluid; Carrigan, 2011; Przybylo, 2016). Common definitions of identity labels shift with time and individual usage, again highlighting the heterogeneous experiences of asexual individuals (Vares, 2018).

Antonsen et al. (2020) indicated that romantic asexual people were more likely to currently be in a relationship, to report more romantic and sexual partners, and to report more frequent kissing than aromantic asexual people.

Romantic Orientation Methodology

With respect to romantic orientation, how do you self-identify? (As in, who are you romantically attracted to?).

Participants could respond with Heteroromantic, Homoromantic (Gay), Homoromantic (Lesbian), Bi-romantic, Panromantic, Aromantic, Other, or Prefer not to answer.

Affectionate Behavior ≠ Sexual Behavior

Asexuality may be better classified as an umbrella term rather than as one category (Carrigan, 2011; Przybylo, 2016). In addition to asexual, other identities under the asexuality umbrella include gray-A (a person whose experience of sexual attraction falls between asexual and sexual) and demi-sexual (a person who only experiences sexual attraction with a deep, emotional bond; Carrigan, 2011; Przybylo, 2016).

Clark et al., 2022 discussed “asexual adults’ hyperawareness of how their actions come across to allosexual individuals (Dawson et al., 2016). That is, even if asexual adults prefer affectionate over sexual behaviors (Weis et al., 2021), they may be disinclined to engage in affectionate behaviors with allosexual romantic partners out of concern that their partners may interpret such behaviors as signals for additional physical behaviors.”

Demisexuals

“Asexual adults are a fairly heterogeneous group based on specific orientation label (i.e., demisexual vs. asexual; Copulsky & Hammack, 2021; Hille et al., 2020) or romantic orientation (Antonsen et al., 2020). For example, demisexual adults only experience sexual attraction with a deep, emotional bond; Carrigan, 2011; Przybylo, 2016), are more likely to engage in sexual behaviors than asexual adults (Hille et al., 2020), & are more interested than asexual adults in future behaviors they define as sex (Hille et al., 2020).”

Clark, A. N., & Zimmerman, C. (2022). Concordance Between Romantic Orientations and Sexual Attitudes: Comparing Allosexual and Asexual Adults. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 1–11.

Demisexual — Vu Kym Le, 2020

The term ‘demisexual’ also falls within the gray-asexual umbrella and defines individuals who only experience sexual attraction after forming an emotional bond (Brotto & Yule, 2017; Mollet, 2020; Steelman & Hertlein, 2016). Individuals who identify as demisexual may experience a need to be friends, or date for a significant amount of time to form an emotional connection, before noticing and experiencing sexual attraction for the other person (Brotto & Yule, 2017; Mollet, 2020; Steelman & Hertlein, 2016).

The Asexual Community Census, which surveyed 9869 asexual people internationally from 2016, found the majority of participants in the census identified as asexual (65%), followed by gray-asexual (10.8%), questioning (10.7%), demisexual (8.6%) and the remaining 5.5% were non-asexual (Bauer et al., 2018).

Le, V. K. (2020). Exploring anti-asexual bias and future clinical contact intentions with asexual people among undergraduate psychology students (Doctoral dissertation). https://digital.library.adelaide.edu.au/dspace/bitstream/2440/131215/1/LeV-K_2020_Hons.pdf

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Asexuals are more likely to date allosexuals than asexuals (Weis et al., 2021).

SoCal Lab Research questions

Are heteroromantic bisexuals more likely to be in opposite sex relationships?
Are homoromantic bisexuals more likely to be in same-sex relationships?
Are heteroromantic bisexual women more likely to be dating straight men than bisexual men?
Are homoromantic bisexual men more likely to be dating gay men than bisexual men?

There are more asexual women than men (Bogaert, 2004, 2013; Edge et al., 2021; Fowler et al., 2018; Ginoza et al., 2014; Greaves et al., 2017; MacNeela & Murphy, 2015; Mitchell & Hunnicutt, 2018; Przybylo, 2013; Robins et al., 2016; Rothblum et al., 2020).

“Asexual people report significantly less desire for sex with a partner, lower sexual arousal, and lower sexual excitation compared to non-asexual people (Prause & Graham, 2007)” (Andi Bittle, 2021).

Asexuals don’t differ from allosexuals in their reported desire to masturbate (Prause & Graham, 2007), which they may do to relax without fantasizing about or thinking about a sexual partner (Bogaert, 2013; Scherrer, 2013).

¨Brotto and Yule (2011) found that women’s subjective sexual arousal to the erotic heterosexual clips did not differ between asexual & allosexual women, suggesting that ‘‘category non-specificity,’ ’or the finding that women’s genital response can be evoked from a variety of preferred and non-preferred stimuli, may be a feature of all women, regardless of whether they have sexual attractions or not.

Zaleski, Martin, and Messinger (2015) found that 80% of asexual youth reported talking with chosen family over given family.

Ka Wing Luk, 2013

“Respondent GZPANG2 → the couple could have a certain degree of physical closeness by practicing what she called “marginal sex”, such as hugging and kissing. Przybylo (2011a, 2011b) noted that some asexual individuals might derive pleasure from pursuing an interest in kissing, cuddling, holding hands or relating to others in non-physical ways, thus complicating the understanding of sexuality.

GZPANG2’s idea of “marginal sex” was indicative of the notion of “alternative sex intercorpearility” (Zhang 2003), which pointed to an understanding outside the phallocentric framework of sexual desire and pleasure.

Respondent dd7345’s view was also resonant with the notion of alternative sex intercorpearility. He was against the narrow focus of sexual intimacy on intercourse only and endorsed other physical contacts of romantic nature as part and parcel of intimacy.”

Asexual Identity — Rothblum et al., 2020

“Most studies of asexual participants have small sample sizes, with the exception of AVEN’s member survey of 10,880 asexual-identified individuals (Ginoza, Miller, & AVEN Survey Team, 2014). Participants in the AVEN sample ranged in age from 13–77 years, with a median age of 21.

The median age of first identifying as asexual was 17 and the median age of disclosure to someone else was 19.

The majority of asexual individuals were highly educated and not affiliated with a mainstream religion. Three-quarters were White/NonHispanic and 63.6% were from the U.S.

Only 13.3% identified as a man or male compared with 62.1% who identified as a woman or female. Remaining respondents identified as genderqueer or some other gender.

Regarding sexual orientation, 26.6% identified as straight, 26.1% as bisexual, 16.4% as pansexual, 11% as queer, 8.4% as lesbian, 4.6% as gay, and 6.9% as other.”

Pansexuality

“Pansexuals do not reference gender at all when describing attraction patterns (Belous & Bauman, 2017)” (Sierra Stein, 2020).

“Pansexuals identify based on their attraction to individuals regardless of their sex or gender (Harper & Ginicola, 2017)” (Philippa Waterhouse & Sarah Burkill, 2019).

Sapiosexuality

Sapiosexuals find someone’s intelligence to be sexually & erotically attractive.

All people across sexual orientations desire intelligent lovers over less intelligent lovers, but the preference for a partner who doesn’t believe the Earth is flat doesn’t produce an erotic arousal response.

For sapiosexuals it does.

Sapiosexuals — MacInnis & Hodson, 2012

Sapiosexuals “are sexually attracted to the human mind. They engage in sexual activity, but find intelligence to be the most arousing quality of their sexual partners.

Like asexuals, this group is relatively uncommon and objectively harmless.”

For a future piece

[Lesbian & bisexual women report] “taking more precautions with women who had sex with men” (Roberta Emetu et al., 2022).

Lesbians distrust bisexual women’s discussions of their sexual histories (Emetu et al., 2022; Hertlein et al., 2016) & bisexual women are more likely to be stereotyped as having an STi (Lytle et al., 2017) due to biases (particularly among lesbians) towards women who have sex with men (Emetu et al., 2022).

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Dr. Jarryd Willis PhD

I'm passionate about making a tangible difference in the lives of others, & that's something I have the opportunity to do a professor & researcher.