Further to my last post on the subject of invisible tapirs, I had a fascinating conversation this week with a couple of allosexual friends who are always happy to talk tapirs with me. The subject: aesthetic attraction.
Aesthetic attraction – when all I wanna do is look at you
There’s a lot of conversation in the asexual community about the different ways people can be attracted to other people, particularly those are aren’t sexual. As I’ve described before, there are several commonly identified types of non-sexual attraction, including romantic attraction, emotional attraction – and aesthetic attraction.
I’m very familiar with aesthetic attraction. It’s the phenomenon that leads to me covertly staring at people on trains while trying not to act like a creepy stalker. It was also the cover I used extensively through high school and university to mask the fact that I didn’t get celebrity crushes the way my friends seemed to. While they were swooning over Leonardo DiCaprio’s body, I focused on the actors with faces that made me want to see the same movie over and over again, just so I could keep watching them.
For me, aesthetic attraction is a facial thing. It’s not necessarily about conventionally-attractive faces, but interesting faces – faces that catch my attention and make me want to take in all their details: the tiny quirks of eye and mouth and eyebrow that make them unique, the ways they express different emotions.
Very occasionally an ensemble look will catch my eye – a particularly intriguing outfit and/or hairstyle and/or tattoo. But mostly it’s all about faces.
Unlike the other ways I can be drawn to a person, aesthetic attraction doesn’t make me want to get to know them better. I know their looks tell me very little about what they would be like as a person. Mostly it makes me wish, just in that moment, that I was an artist of some kind. It makes me want to sketch or paint, to try to capture what I’m feeling in some tangible form. Plus it’s convenient that artists won’t get in trouble for staring at the same person for hours.
But wait… what??
So that’s aesthetic attraction, at least as I experience it. Like the invisible tapirs, it has very little impact on my life most of the time, and it’s rare for me to even stop and think about it. But this week, in the aforementioned tapir conversation, my world got turned a little further inside out – because it turns out neither of my allosexual friends experience it at all. Or rather, they don’t experience it the way I do.
But surely, I insisted, you must see people whose appearance draws you to them? They told me, sure – but that comes wrapped up in sexual attraction.
The idea of separating out those experiences from one another – of being deeply arrested by someone else’s looks and yet having zero interest in them sexually? Totally alien to them.
I realise this is a sample size of two, but it’s opened up a whole new world of questions to me. Is aesthetic attraction on its own something allosexuals simply don’t experience? Surely not – after all, the great portrait artists of the world can’t all have been asexual. So what is going on in the heads of the Leonardo da Vincis, Johannes Vermeers and Annie Leibovitzs of the world, and is it anything like what goes on in my head when I find myself wishing I didn’t draw like a five-year-old?
Just how common is aesthetic attraction as an experience?
Help me out here
I don’t know, but I figure a good start is to conduct an informal poll via the medium of this blog post. So please comment let me know: do you, as an asexual or an allosexual person, experience aesthetic attraction independent of any other form of attraction? And if so, what is it like for you? Is my description of it also how you experience it, or does it work entirely differently?