Does attraction in all different forms need to end with sex? Can you recognize the different types of attraction? What does it mean to be aesthetically attracted to someone? Hear it all on this episode of the Queer Joy Podcast; where two relationship therapists explore what it looks like to see joy in queer relationships.
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Melisa: How can I be a lesbian if I am attracted to Harry Styles? And so, which I'm like, Oh gosh, I dunno, tell me more. But that's where they talked about aesthetic attraction and, and you know, yeah. You can aesthetically appreciate how someone looks and how they're put together and their style without experiencing sexual attraction or romantic attraction or other kinds of attraction.
Melisa: Hi everyone. Welcome back to Queer Relationships, Queer Joy.
Keely: Hi everyone. I'm one your co-host, Keely C. Helmick.
Melisa: And I'm your other host, Melisa DeSegiurant.
Keely: So today we get to start continuing season three and talking about exploration.
Melisa: We're exploring, we said we would say that word a lot. So we're just following up on that promise
Keely: Yes. And we're gonna have to figure out other words than just exploring. We're gonna have to figure out some synonyms for sure. Well, I had a uh, exploration weekend, even though my exploration weekend is more about exploring how do I entertain myself while I can't move very much?
Melisa: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Keely: But hey, I will put it out there. When Melisa and I were talking earlier, even though I was in pain and I have a back injury, damn it. I can still have an orgasm.
Melisa: Hell yeah. These are the important things.
Keely: Yeah. Yes. But I, and I do wanna share real quickly cuz it was interesting cause I'm doing a lot of physical therapy and the physical therapist asked a question about sex and then said, oh wait, you're not having sex. And I was like, excuse me.
Melisa: Oh my goodness. Wow.
Keely: Yeah. I was like, excuse me. Do not assume, just because I have an injury and my body is moving differently right now, that I'm not having sex. So I gotta have a really interesting moment to be able to do some education with a medical provider. And don't get me wrong, these humans that are helping me are super awesome. But it was still this moment of like, Hey! Just to, you know, and then I, I kind of made some joke at first I was like, well, you know, I'm queer, so like we, we all, you know, we have our ways, we figure it out.
Melisa: We find a way. Where there is a will, there is a way.
Keely: Yes. So interesting side note. But yeah, exploration. Do you wanna introduce yourself first today, Melisa before we jump more into exploration? Or do you have an update?
Melisa: What was your I have some updates. Some of it I will say for queer joy cause I had a fun thing this weekend, but uh, I'm, maybe I don't have an update.. I'm just happy.
Melisa: I'm glowing. I'm very happy. I'm very happy in my relationships. I'm, I'm actually very happy about the fall season being upon us and, maybe it shouldn't surprise me as much as it does. I had a really, really good summer and so there was part of me that was mourning like, Oh, I'm not gonna have something fun in the sun every single weekend. At the same time, fall is by far my favorite season of the year and has been since I was really, really young. We're kind of coming on like my spiritual new year, which is at the end of October. And so I'm feeling just a lot of culmination energy starting to happen and I'm really excited about that. So I noticed even in like my weekend, all of a sudden I'm cooking again and I'm like going into the fall patterns and yeah, so I am very happy .
Melisa: But I will, I will start the introductions off. As I said, my name is Melisa DeSegiurant. I am a licensed marriage and family therapist and licensed as a professional counselor, and I work at Connective Therapy Collective. I am white, bisexual, able bodied, I am a polyamorous person, I'm also Demisexual, sapiosexual. We'll talk about more of that today. And I'm gender fluid. I use she and they pronouns. Yay.
Keely: Well, my name is Keely C. Helmick. I am a white, nonbinary, queer, able bodied, but currently injured, less physically able bodied currently in the moment, acute, uh, I am practicing solo, non monogamy dating wise, and I am a certified sex therapist and the owner of Connective Therapy Collective.
Melisa: So here we are ready to explore.
Keely: I know. Let's explore. So there are so many vocabulary words that we see and it's interesting because some people I find really like having more and more words to describe and some people are like, why don't we just have no words and just be who we are.
Melisa: Right? Yeah. It's gotta be both and in my book, some of the lingo and vocabulary is really helpful for kind of normalizing our feelings or validating what we're experiencing and giving ourselves some clarity and then at a point it can become limiting
Keely: Yes. So we, so we're talking about exploring and you already brought up some really good points or topics and when we're exploring different types of attractions. Can you just briefly, do the definitions of both demisexual and sapiosexual for those listening that don't know what those mean.
Melisa: Sure. Yeah. And I will specify, these are my definitions. Ask anyone who uses any term what they mean by that. For me, demisexual refers to the fact that I don't experience sexual desire or really sexual attraction unless I have an emotional connection with someone. And then sapiosexual, I'm attracted to intellect. And I think that kind of goes hand in hand. If I have a both an emotional and an intellectual connection with somebody, then there's a possibility that I will experience sexual desire. I don't really experience sexual desire without those things.
Keely: Mm-hmm. So in combo.
Melisa: Yeah, in combo. And I've been questioning for myself whether the intellectual has to be about something. I'm actually interested in .
Keely: Oh, that's an interesting.
Melisa: Right. I, I don't think I have a definitive answer. And I mean, none of this is definitive anyway. We're gonna grow and change, so these things will all shift for me. But I, I don't think so. I have been you know, in long term relationships with people who had very different interests than I did, but their passion about it and how they're able to speak about it and how like inform their, that to me is very attractive.
Keely: Yeah. That's awesome.
Keely: So what we were talking earlier about these different types of attractions and things we were mentioning, like, attraction aesthetically attraction, you know, cuz we, when we think of attraction being attracted to somebody, we often, again, because these are like cultural norms that we think of like, Oh, you're like, so we actually really go first to looks, I think.
Melisa: Physical attraction. I mean, gosh, there was a time where I think all that was being discussed was physical attraction, sexual attraction, romantic attraction, and that was kind of it. Which is so limiting, and especially like as a queer person with lots of different identities, the, the term aesthetic attraction was I think one of the relatively newer ones for me a couple years ago, but, I like it, especially in the queer context because I was listening to an influencer who was exploring their sexuality, their sexual orientation, realizing that they were a lesbian that had previously identified as bisexual, and they were saying, well, how can I be a lesbian if I am attracted to Harry Styles? And so, which I'm like, Oh gosh, I dunno, tell me more. But that's where they talked about aesthetic attraction and, and you know, yeah. You can aesthetically appreciate how someone looks and how they're put together and their style without experiencing sexual attraction or romantic attraction or other kinds of attraction.
Keely: Yeah. I mean, and that reminds me something I heard as well where someone, I think it was a sex educator who was talking about how you can be attracted to like masculinity or like masculine presentation, mask presentation. But that doesn't mean you wanna be cisdudes.
Keely: And like differentiating that, like those like the qualities and features that can be on different bodies.
Melisa: Mm-hmm. Yeah, totally. I think this was a confusing thing for me, because then, and I've talked about this before, when I first learned about compulsive heterosexuality, because I, I listen to these things and I go, oh, that must be what I'm doing. That must be me, right? I, I'm a queer person. It's gotta be me. But then at the same time, I can be aesthetically attracted to a cisdude and then also sexually romantically attractive.
Melisa: It's just again, like try on labels and then throw 'em out the window cuz you don't necessarily know.
Keely: Well, I think this just shows, like when we talk about this exploration, oftentimes in very cultural context, it's like the idea, oh, you're, you're exploring yourself in your like teens and twenties, and it's like, no, we are always shifting and changing as humans. One of the reasons why we're still here on earth is because the human species is adaptable. And so we're changing and, and growing and shifting and adapting. And so I think that's really apparent also when we talk about, you know, these terms of later in life lesbian or folks who are coming out or coming into their gender, coming into their sexuality after the age of 40, after the age of 50, after age of 60.
I mean the the movie, A League of Their Own, or, well, now it's a series. They remade the series. Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm. It showed the original person, one of the original people who was part of that league, 93 years old and she came out.
Melisa: Yeah, she did.
Keely: And I think most of our listeners have heard that. But it's, it's,
Melisa: It's amazing.
Keely: I know.
Melisa: The pandemic has made that happen for a lot of people. That time to just go internal and reflect, and a lot of people are like, forget it. I'm just gonna go with who I am, you know, fuck it all. Screw what the world says. Especially people who are a little bit older who dealt with a lot more stigma when they were young.
Hey. Hey, it's Cardinal. You're behind the scenes buddy. There is a lot going on at QR Qj and I'd love to share with you upcoming guests Choice, audiograms, spicy quotes, and more. Find out all on our new Instagram queer underscore relationships underscore Queer underscore Joy. All right, back to the show. Yeah, and this also makes me think about having sex as a person who's either dating or who's non monogamous. Meeting up with new people, trying some, some confusion sometimes kind of hinting at the confusion. You were talking about the experience of, do I really like this person? Do I, what do I wanna, like, what is our dynamic? I think also about how, like, how do we even figure that out for ourselves? Like if we're thinking about it and we have that attraction or that thought, I mean, I'm kind of the op, not the opposite, but I'll say that like when I was dating cismen, I think the confusion was I connected with them really well and I had like an intimacy, but I didn't really want the sex. After the piece of like, Oh, they're giving me attention. .
Melisa: Yeah. Could we call it like a platonic attraction?
Melisa: Like a friend.
Melisa: I was just wondering and I looked it up and haven't found anything on the side here, but like what about just attraction to queer people in general? Like I find queerness really attractive, and I believe there are also straight people who find queer people attractive. So, yeah, I don't know. There, there should be a term for that .
Keely: Totally. And so some of the other terms, you know, you mentioned platonic, there's like up queer platonic relationships. Some of the others I think of like the difference of having a crush on some, like a crush, like to me, a crush is, there's some piece that I'm attracted to that person, but it's more like fantasy and like kind of fun. But is it someone that I'm gonna actually pursue or...
Melisa: Yeah. Well, and you asked the question about how do we start to explore this for ourselves? I think number one, we have to give ourselves permission to explore these things. And then, I mean, I don't know. I'm like, Well, go practice . Go find out.
Keely: Go practice.
Melisa: Go get some .
Keely: But then you, when you say that, I'm thinking about the dating apps and yeah, it's like with these increasing languages and labels around our identities and our preferences, I see on some of the apps where it's like, oh really into butch or really into service top energy, or, this is the type of person I am, and I think, is that helpful?
Keely: Like, how do you, how do we. Combine this like, oh, I wanna like put myself out there and really like let people know who I am. But also still have room for shifting and changing.
Melisa: That's just it. I mean, and again, and I keep talking about fluidity, but perhaps there's a point where, you know, you're wanting to explore something really specific and then maybe it does make sense to be very specific on an app or on a profile. At the same time though, if you are limiting yourself, just be aware that, that you're limiting yourself, that you may actually be interested in other things. I say that all the time. I mean, I'm, I'm a very fem person and I tend to be attracted to AFAB people who are also very fem presenting, but that's not always the case. So it doesn't necessarily serve me to say that's the only kind of AFAB person I'm attracted to. All that means is I'm not gonna have opportunity to find other connections if I'm really limiting myself.
Keely: Well, and that it's interesting cuz then like how us defining ourselves and then how people perceive us. I was having a conversation and I think about myself. I remember there's times that I've been with partners that are AFAB more mask of center and will say things like, Oh, but that's not the type of person you're attracted to. I'm like, it's not, or like even I so remember, oh, we were talk joking about some, you know, like group of people and there's a lot of fems or fem presenting people. And you know, this person I was dating got a little cocky and was like, oh yeah, you know, I could get them or something. I'm like who says I couldn't get them? You're assuming that they are only attracted to you because you're more mask of center presenting.
Melisa: Yeah. So we have to be presenting as fem and mask for it to work. Are we back to, you know, fake heterosexuality? Like no ?
Keely: Yeah. And, and and the limitations within that?
Melisa: Yeah. Yeah.
Keely: And how much, how much of what we identify with is actually because of how we're presenting. That's what society expects.
Melisa: Right. Yeah. I've noticed that for myself and I don't know which kind of phobia, internalized phobia to call it, but, and I think we even talked about this on previous seasons but I will dress differently for cismen than I will for like queer AFAB people. And I, I'm like, well, what's that about? Are you thinking that like you can only be super fem for like cismen to be attracted to you. Like, what's going on there? You know? So just noticing like you said, both our internal feelings, but like how we're perceived and how that can affect and influence how we act or how we show up.
Keely: Yeah. And then trying to figure out this different types of attraction or in what way are we attracted to this other person even gets more muddled if we are like a people pleasing person, or we tend to have the type of anxiety or social anxiety, sometimes fawning. You said it's like, Oh, how do I, what do I, how do I really feel about this person? Am I trying to, appear or be a certain way to match so that they like me .
Melisa: Yeah. Yeah.
Keely: So that they find me attractive.
Melisa: Totally. Yeah. And without going too clinical, it just makes me think of like attachment that we all have this basic need to be attached to other people. Again, hopefully that could be securely attached. I remember us talking about this last season, but detachment is not the answer. Attachment is okay. It's healthy. We, we'd like secure attachment if possible, if you're, you're talking attachment lingo. But because of that, that need for us to be connected to other people. Yeah. Sometimes we may change and adjust ourselves and you know, I, I'm sitting here questioning, do we shame that or not? Right? Like maybe we just be aware of that and notice, and then we can choose to change that pattern if we wish. Or we can just go, Yeah, this is what I do. Because I think that these people will be attracted at the, you know, like maybe we can reduce the shame, but increase awareness.
Keely: It's like our own dating code switching. .
Melisa: Yeah, that's exactly what it is. Yeah.
Keely: Which we don't consider code switching isn't bad. It doesn't have a label of bad or good. It's like identifying that that's how we show up.
Melisa: Totally. Sometimes it's a survival technique.
Keely: Yeah. Well, and that when we're talking, you know, as we talk about this theme of exploration, it's like having safety to be able to explore.
Keely: To have curiosity to try new things. There needs to be some level of safety. Yeah. Yeah. And so even talking about these different types of attraction, having a sense of safety to be able to verbalize that, like, can you imagine, or have you Melisa had the experience or no clients had the experience where, identifying you know, you seem really cool, but I actually, like, I really am attracted to your aesthetic, or I'm really platonically attracted to you, but I don't wanna have sex. Or I'm only sexually attracted to you, but not romantically.
Melisa: Yeah, right. Interesting. Well, the first one I was gonna say, I feel like I'm, I'm the person who says that all the time. Cause it feels difficult for me to find people that I am sexually attracted to because I think of what I said earlier about, you know, being demi, being sapiosexual. So yeah, I'm often the one in the position of being like, you're, I don't know that I've said to somebody like, I'm aesthetically attracted to you, but not sexually. I, that would be an interesting thing to say. I, I imagine they would have a lot of questions.
Keely: I mean, I almost wonder if that's in similar, maybe not exactly the same, but similar realm of like that idea of like, Do I wanna be you or do I wanna fuck you?
Melisa: Right? Yeah. Yeah. Well then there's the other complicated layer. I think there's actually a term for this, and it's not one that I have pulled up, but of like, I enjoy when people are pursuing me or seem to be attracted to me, like that's a turn on. So then I'll get all like, oh, this is, it's kinda like what you said before about the crush, it's like, oh, this is a fun flirting game, I like being liked. I like being wanted. But then sometimes if it goes too far and there's an assumption then that I want sex, I'll be in the midst of sex. Oh my God. No, I didn't want this I just, I just wanted the pursuit.
Keely: Yeah. I wanted be pursued. It felt good to be, wanted, yeah.
Melisa: And again, that can be shamed. It has been shamed. And let's do away with that, everyone . It is okay to enjoy that part of getting to know someone and that part of attraction without wanting sex. Sex doesn't have to be the culmination of every attraction.
Keely: Yeah, I think you really hit that. You really hit the point right there, Melisa, is that yeah, attraction in different forms, whatever form that is, does not need to end with sex.
Melisa: Right? That's where communication becomes key. Once again.
Keely: Communication and just having self awareness and, you know, I think so, I mean, think about this. When we think about quick disclaimer, I'm gonna go to a little serious for a minute about sexual assault, but having a different type of attraction and not wanting to have sex, but enjoying the interactions with the person. The other person is assuming sex and then here's where everything goes.
Keely: Wrong, and then the harm happens.
Melisa: Yeah, absolutely. And you know, there are situations and I, I will disclose I put myself in this situation a lot where, and I think a lot of this is like because of my own gender programming but you know, it, it won't be an overt, no. I will verbally consent and not want to actually be having sex. But it's that guilt and that feeling of like oh, I led them on so, I'm asking for it in a way.
Melisa: When, again, if we take that expectation of sex off the table and we allow ourselves to explore attraction and connection without that having to be assumed, then there'd be a lot more space for people to freely say, no, actually that's not what I'm looking for. You know, instead of being assaulted and or verbally consenting to something that your body actually doesn't want.
Keely: And that makes me think about even within the dynamic. So we're talking about all these different attractions, but then also going back to demisexual, that shows up in relationships too, where, where some of these other pieces, like when you, when you've moved into relationship realm, like you're sexually attracted, you are romantically attracted. If you are sapiosexual, you're attracted to their mind and their brain and their intellect and the differences of being a demisexual within the relation, within the relationship dynamic. You know, I've been hearing, I hear so many times of like, this isn't addressed enough where a person identifies as highly sexual, but if they are arguing with their partner or if their partner. If they're in a place in the relationship that isn't working very well, some people can still have sex even when they're fighting with their partner. Even, you know, we think of makeup sex, but even not makeup sex, just like there's, there's some people that can't. But I have been hearing quite often there's this dynamic of being demisexual where it's like, yeah, if you are, I, if you're doing your thing, and I don't feel like we're connected in a way, that feels good to me, I'm not sexually attracted to you right now.
Keely: So I can still be in a relationship. I can still be romantically attracted to you. I can love you. I can physically attracted to you.
Keely: But I don't wanna have sex with you because I don't feel good about our connection and how this relationship is going right now.
Melisa: Yeah. Yeah. Thank you, Keely. That was very validating. No, truly. And, and I think that's where, perhaps some people identify with this particular definition of demisexual. But I think where people can get it wrong in the definition is they think, well, as soon as there's emotional you know, connection, then there's sexual attraction. Like it's been achieved and it's just permanently achieved. And like, no, my experience is, is what you just described, that there needs to be that piece of attunement. And we've talked about attunement before on the podcast. There needs to be emotional attunement for me to want to sexually engage. I've done the angry sex thing.
I'm, it's very particular, I'm going to need to be in a dominant role if that's what we're going to do. But it's not going to be the kind of sex that really fills me up and makes me feel connected to partners. That would be just me feeling like I was punishing someone which can be sexy, but like in that circumstance, not really healthy for me actually.