Sensual vs Sexual

This is my entry for the May 2018 Carnival of Aces.

I used to think that sensual and aesthetic attraction was sexual attraction. Not in those terms, of course, as sexual attraction was the only one I had heard of until the age of thirty-one, but I had determined (after over a decade of nerve-wracking confusion) that I did experience sexual attraction, just in a different way. Never mind that actually wanting to have sex wasn’t part of my particular brand of sexual attraction. That incredibly ill-fitting term was all I had.

Then I discovered asexuality and things finally made sense. I don’t want to have sex. I don’t feel that pull or whatever it is that other people feel.

Will I gleefully stare at an attractive person for hours and hours? Check.

Do I want to touch that person? Check.

Do I get explicit fantasies of activities that allosexuals characterize as foreplay involving that person? Check.

Do I want to do anything in that person’s pants? No check. Raise the gates and surround the perimeter with barb wire and electric fence. I go from eager to “hell no!” the instant anything crosses the waistline.

So, aesthetic and sensual attraction are a yes (as is romantic attraction). Sexual attraction is a no. It goes way beyond sex repulsion. I’ve read post after post explaining what sexual attraction is and I still go “huh?” Which might actually be my sex repulsion getting in the way, because it really should just be the same as sensual attraction, but with sex, yet I continue to not comprehend why people want to go into someone else’s pants on any level. Oh, well.

There is a slight wrinkle here, though, since a few sensual things get commonly categorized as sexual. For me personally, it’s simple. In the pants: sexual. Not in the pants: not-sexual. I realize that this is super subjective and that what is sensual for one person is sexual for another, and vice versa. Yet this is where I get stuck in a grey area.

I’m sex-repulsed. Extremely sex-repulsed. Spring any mention of sex on me without warning and I will flinch. Literally. So I try to stick to the sex-free side of ace communities as much as I can. And it’s great. I get to detox and relax.

But a feeling of isolation creeps in. I don’t “only want to cuddle” or “only hold hands”. I want to do other things, too. Sensual things. But since these particular sensual things get viewed, even by the ace community, as sexual things, I’m afraid to bring it up, because I don’t want to invade other people’s sex-free space with things that they consider to be sex. But I can’t go to the sex-favorable side of ace internet, either, because, again, I’m extremely sex-repulsed. I have nowhere in the community where I can fully express myself as an ace person.

Maybe I should just go ahead and bring it up. Someone has to. We spend so long talking about all the other forms of attraction, yet sensual attraction only gets quick mentions of “cuddles and handholding”. Sensual feeling is so much vaster than that. It encompasses so many nuances of touch and taste and sound and even melds with aesthetic attraction, because sight is a sense, too. A plethora of activities are qualify as sensual, and I’d love for the ace community to explore that.