A Better Understanding of What Typical Heterosexuality Really Is

Sometimes, I am reminded that I really don’t understand what is typical for allosexual people to experience. Sometimes I’m reminded that maybe I think of allosexual people’s experiences in ways that aren’t accurate or fair to how they, in truth, typically experience their drives or attractions?

I feel like I don’t have enough in-depth discussions with my heterosexual and bisexual offline friends about these things to really get what it is they desire, what their thoughts in regards to sex are, what their experiences that make them sure they are not ace are.

I am reminded of this post from Sara K.: In Spite of Growing Up in a Society Full of Allosexuals, The Allosexual Experience Still Doesn’t Make Sense and also this older post of Siggy’s here: A jaded look at sexual attraction.

Now that it’s coming up on my 3 year anniversary of officially coming out as ace to some folks, I realize I’ve talked in fairly great depth with a variety of people about these topics. It’s not like I’ve never engaged in the conversation at all.

These were all conversations with people who identify as heterosexual, because that’s who my social circle mainly is… but these conversations have generally left me more confused.

Back around 3 years ago, I received some kind reassurances from straight women whom I was only friends with online. I was told, while I was still questioning my sexual orientation and unsure of where I would fall, that my experiences weren’t all that different than what straight women experience, so I was probably “normal” and straight like they were too. I now am 100% sure they were wrong – I’m not even close to straight. But it’s interesting that ace experiences can be that indistinguishable that people can tell me “yeah kissing is weird and bad the first time” even when eventually they are going to be into it, unlike *my* eventually turned out. Etc.

More recently, I was having an email conversation again with one of these cis women, who I have, since then, actually met in person once. She is around age 30 for the record. We had the more recent conversation only a few months ago. She said, among other things:

And I was just reading the description on demisexuality.org and there was one part that made me think:

“—Demisexuals often feel alienated by these conversations because they aren’t interested in sex, they don’t find people sexually attractive, or both. When the conversation turns to hot celebrities, for example, demisexuals may feel confused, and wonder what it is their friends see and feel.—”

If I see a picture of a “hot” celebrity, a person I’ve never seen before in anything, I don’t immediately find them hot. But if someone said to me they find them hot I would perfectly understand it. I would not feel “alienated”, more like I’d like to find out if this person is talented or intelligent in any way, or if I can relate to something they do or the way they act. That’s the premise for sexual attraction for me when it comes to celebrities. If this person is an actor and it turns out they are bad at acting, that’s a turn-off for me. My mom is the same way. She always says even some average-looking men are hot in her opinion if they are intelligent. This does not apply to men she thinks are below average in looks though:D

This friend mentioned that she related to aspects of demisexuality once she looked into it, however:

But at the same time there was all this talk about how sex sells and how that kind of marketing doesn’t work on demisexuals, at least that’s the idea I got. It does work for me though, porn does as well.

And she went on to explain a bit more. She also felt like the typical demisexual narrative involved sexual attraction being too rare compared to her own experiences, so she still felt pretty sure she herself wasn’t demisexual.

Before I started blogging about asexuality myself in 2014, back at the end of 2013 when I was really new to it, I had an online conversation with a cis-female heterosexual family member who was quite young, um – at the time under the age of 20, which included her telling me:

I do have to say however that in regards to arousal, everyone is different, which I’m guessing you probably know. For me cuddling on the couch is more about comfort than sex, but doing things like making out or removing clothing is very stimulating for me. Then again if you are not in the mood things like that can be boring. I will be the first to admit that sometimes making out can be extremely boring if you are not into it.


For one thing the fantasy of having your partner feeling pleasure in your sexual activities is a common one. Even I will do things that might not feel as great to me because I enjoy the way my partner is really into it. I know a lot of people who feel this way. I imagine this would be a difficult thing to compromise between a sexual and asexual person because the asexual person would not find a lot of pleasure in sexual activities.

I’m bringing this topic all up now because I was sharing, with an approximately 70-year-old heterosexual friend (acquaintance?) whom I have known for almost a-year-and-a-half through an atheist meetup.com group, some information on asexuality and some nuanced commentary on how current consent politics can sometimes fail aces as well. We had been having a complex conversation so… suffice it to say it felt relevant, once I was back home, to email him and discuss this stuff a little further.

He replied, and now I wish to quote a short snippet of his email reply. He said:

I find it a bit sad that these things are not included everywhere in sex ed. I frankly think there are many people who do experience some sexual attraction who would benefit from a more nuanced understanding of when to say no. I fall in that spectrum because sex for me makes no sense whatsoever if I do not know the person with some depth. There is a cartoon image of sexual motivation presented to males that somehow we are supposed to want to have sex with anything that is the least bit attractive or there is something wrong with us. I think this is a situation where a deeper understanding of asexuals would create a more nuanced understanding that would benefit many who are outside of that category.

This instantly reminded me of other things people have told me. At this point, quite a few people!!

I was thinking of posting something along these lines on Imzy’s asexuality community, which I recently joined and kind of love… Actually I love Imzy as a whole so far… but as I started writing I got ahead of myself and this turned into a whole blog post in its own right, so I’m posting it here.

I just want to put out there… I don’t get what heterosexuality really is for the average person. I really don’t. I talked to my first boyfriend, my brother, and a couple more people about these topics too. I came out to a cis-female straight 42-year-old cousin quite recently who was so shocked at the idea of someone not experiencing sexual attraction to anyone, ever, that her mouth was literally hanging open, eyes blinking rapidly – okay maybe I have since exaggerated it in my mind but even dialing it back she was certainly really surprised this could be possible.

You would think after years of being invested in the topic I might have a pretty good idea of what being straight, at the very least, tends to be like for people, but honestly a lot of this is still a mystery, and probably always will be.

Part of the difficulty in narrowing down what being straight is like is probably that, like asexuality, it’s got to be a spectrum, a wide range of variables where if quite a few are present, you feel comfortable enough with the label straight, but not all the variables are present for all straight people, and they can come in tons of combinations. Some straight folks might have so much in common with bi folks’ experiences that just reading a list of their experiences, you wouldn’t be able to tell which person identified as bi and which as straight. Also some “straight people” are likely who I was for over a decade of my life-after-puberty and totally ace but completely oblivious to that truth. More complicatedly, some may be in line with demisexuality or gray-asexuality. The list goes on. And how they experience their attraction and desire is not uniform or consistent, not really, and gender divides almost certainly exist too.

So where does this leave us? I really don’t know. I probably shouldn’t be bothering to hit “Publish” on this blog post… but I figured some of you might be interested in reading my thoughts so… here goes nothing.

6 thoughts on “A Better Understanding of What Typical Heterosexuality Really Is

  1. I think it’s that spectrum that confuses people the most. For example, my girlfriend could definitely fall under the demisexual label, but she doesn’t identify with it. She doesn’t identify with any label per say, though she sometimes calls herself bisexual. So to an ace person, her experience of sexual attraction might actually be easier to understand than some other bisexuals’ – but then that blurs the line between allosexual and asexual. And as long as people choose their own labels (which they should 1000% do), there will always be people who confound the equation, so to speak. Which I love, personally. The more we blur the lines between labels, the more comfortable people will be to choose one or many labels. I guess. Now I’m rambling too. 🙂

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  2. I think there’s a spectrum between allosexual and asexual without any clear divide – it’s just that as long as you have enough in common with allo experiences, and you never feel really alienated from it, you will see yourself as heterosexual/bisexual/etc. because that is your closest reference point (even if some of your experiences differ from the (perceived) “norm”). If you’re low enough on the spectrum that asexual is your closest reference point, you will be more likely to identify as asexual, grey-a or demi, depending on your exact experiences.

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  3. Regarding the link you posted – I don’t get what responsive desire is supposed to mean. I came across the idea from some guy who was invalidating demisexuality and seemed to think demisexual = responsive desire, but I just can’t buy that 30% of women are demisexual, given the popularity of attractive male movie stars, the gossiping of teenage and young adult women I’ve overheard over the years, the survey results where more than 70% of women are able to rate which male stranger’s face they find more sexually attractive (https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/a427/ab155c3f5fc1b79f675a25acc171af95e490.pdf), and so on. So if responsive desire is a real thing, and it’s not demisexuality, what is it?


    1. I’m thinking based on the cited bullet points at the bottom of the post I linked: http://www.thedirtynormal.com/blog/2014/06/16/i-drew-this-graph-about-sexual-desire-and-i-think-it-might-change-your-life/ that we’re talking about “how much a person wants the act of sex”, or would “consider themselves horny” which is different than general “finding people attractive” at all in the first place. Also though, for people who don’t know about asexuality/demisexuality but who might qualify under that identity/label/description, they might rate who’s sexier in a study because they know conventional standards and can recognize who’s “objectively” sexier… I don’t know.

      I think plenty of people do differentiate desire from attraction, even if they don’t know they’re doing it, so if you ask them questions about desire they think about something specific and don’t necessarily consider recent attractions they’ve had.


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