What Does It Mean To Be Allosexual? Understanding The Sexual Desire Spectrum
When exploring sexuality—whether in the process of your own self-discovery or while just keeping abreast with evolving terminologies—you may come across terms like allosexual. Since sexuality is such a vast spectrum, it's not unusual to have multiple sexualities falling under one broader or umbrella-like term. In this case, we're talking about allosexuality, what it means to identify as an allosexual, the sexualities within the sexuality, and everything else you need to know.
What does "allosexual" really mean?
The term allosexual typically describes a person who feels or has felt sexual attraction, according to multi-certified sex and relationships educator Anne Hodder-Shipp. The prefix allo- means "other," and as an umbrella term, allosexual can be used in addition to specific sexual orientations. For example, someone could identify as an allosexual lesbian or a pansexual allosexual.
Allosexuality is a fairly new term, which means not everyone will immediately recognize it or its importance, and this often leads to misconceptions. Hodder-Shipp says one of the main misconceptions linked to allosexuality is that the term itself is unnecessary because of "the incorrect and harmful assumption that all people experience consistent sexual desire and attraction, and because it's the norm, it doesn't necessitate a label."
"Simply put, allosexual is the opposite of asexual, and the term was created quite intentionally—if there's language to describe a person who feels little to no sexual attraction, then there also should be language to describe a person who consistently does feel sexual attraction," they explain.
Allosexual vs. asexual
As mentioned, allosexual is the opposite of asexual, which is another term on the spectrum of sexual desire. According to sexologist Carol Queen, Ph.D., an asexual person experiences little or no sexual desire or attraction toward others. Although the ace or asexual spectrum does include exceptions, an ace-spectrum person will be more circumscribed in their attraction, or it will be absent for them. On the other hand, an allosexual person does experience attraction and generally the interest to act on it.
"Because this is a concept that arose from the [asexual] community, it's a way of contrasting what many people think of as the norm with the space that ace folks occupy," Queen explains. "Rather than this state of sexual interest merely being thought of as normal, the term allosexual gives it a name and depicts it as one of the different ways to relate to sexuality. It puts sexuality (and the role of asexuality) in a different and in many ways more equitable context this way."
How is allosexuality related to other sexual identities?
The term allosexual is defined by experiencing sexual attraction, but it doesn't specify gender. This is where sexual orientation terms come into play. Someone who is allosexual can also identify as cisgender, transgender, nonbinary, or any of the other gender identities, as well as gay, straight, bisexual, and any of the sexualities.
"[An allosexual person's sexual orientation] will help us understand what subset of people they find attractive," Queen says. "There are also a few kinds of sexuality that don't specify gender; you could say that pansexual doesn't, and there are also terms like sapiosexuality—attraction to brainy people—but of course someone could be a hetero sapiosexual, a bisexual sapiosexual, etc."
Signs you could identify as allosexual.
- You are attracted to (some) other people.
- You experience sexual desire for (some of) them.
- You fantasize about sex with other people.
- You enjoy sex with other people.
- You might want a romantic relationship/s that includes sex.
Other related terms.
Someone who identifies as demisexual typically needs to feel a strong emotional connection to someone before they develop sexual feelings toward that person. Queen says that "demisexuality is generally considered to be part of the asexual spectrum, but you could probably consider it an option within allosexuality too—since it does represent a form of feeling sexual attraction, just not in a wholesale or commonly felt way."
"Graysexuals feel sexual attraction rarely or more uncommonly than not, and/or their feelings of attraction could be slight. It is also on the ace spectrum," Queen explains. "Like demisexuality, it isn't a complete lack of sexual interest or attraction, but it also does not posit attraction as the norm or 'default setting,' more like the other way around."
Pansexuality is defined by experiencing sexual attraction or desire for a person regardless of their gender or gender identity. Because of this, Queen says pansexuals would also be considered as allosexual and fall under the same umbrella.
There's a difference between sexual attraction and romantic attraction. Sexual attraction speaks to who you want to have sex with, while romantic attraction speaks to who you want romantic relationships with or feel emotional connections with. That said, "Alloromantic" means that a person is interested in romantic relationships, and it's likely that would include sexual attraction and a sexual relationship.
"But since one's romantic orientation is not the same as their sexual orientation, alloromantic would not describe all allosexuals (some allosexuals aren't interested in romance, just connecting sexually)," Queen explains. "It could also be considered the opposite of aromantic—not desiring/feeling romance. It's also worth noting that this means someone of either asexual or allosexual orientation could be either aromantic or alloromantic."
We know what sexism is, but what does allosexism mean? According to Hodder-Shipp, allosexism is rooted in the inaccurate presumption that all people experience sexual attraction, and if they don't, they should. Allosexism shows up almost everywhere in Western culture and affects us in both micro and macro ways, including erasing and invalidating asexuality.
"The socially constructed idea that all humans experience a universal 'drive' for sex is so deeply rooted in our systems and institutions that many people—including doctors, therapists, and other professionals with influence—have a hard time believing that someone might not experience sexual attraction and, instead, create false narratives to make sense of what they don't understand," they explain. "Folks who do experience sexual attraction benefit from allosexual privilege and don't experience the same kind of judgment, misrepresentation, and pathologization that folks on the asexual spectrum do—but keep in mind that allosexism harms everyone, not just ace people."
Allosexism contributes to an array of misinformation and misunderstanding about how attraction and desire show up for people and help perpetuate harmful expectations for how our feelings and bodies are supposed to show up and function.
"For instance, allosexism makes it easy to judge someone (or our partners) if they feel low or no sexual attraction or desire and make it about something it's not: that they don't love us, that we're not hot enough, or that they must be getting sexually satisfied elsewhere," they explain. "Allosexism also allows doctors and therapists to pathologize feelings of low or no sexual attraction and, in turn, transform a person's normal experience of attraction into a medical diagnosis, a sexual 'dysfunction,' or mental illness that requires treatment of some kind."
A note on labels.
For some, labels may seem antiquated or arbitrary, but they are far more than that. Susan Milstein, Ph.D., who is a human sexuality educator on the medical review board of Women's Health Interactive, says labels can be an important way of telling people things about ourselves and creating community.
"Labels can [also] be a start for helping to educate people. Using these labels is important because they help to start a dialogue and can help increase awareness that there are orientations other than the ones they're familiar with. But again, there's the possibility that that will lead to othering, or the idea that this is just a phase or a trend. At the end of the day, labels are important. They help with visibility; they help with education, and they can help with acceptance," she says.
In the case of the term allosexual, this label specifically helps support asexual people and destigmatize asexuality.
The bottom line.
If you experience sexual attraction or desire in your life, you're probably allosexual or fall under the allosexual umbrella. If you're still questioning or want to know more, consider browsing this comprehensive list of sexualities to see if you identify with other terms within the spectrum.
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