Romantic Attraction vs. Sexual Attraction (And More!)

Q.I.D. is a series that focuses on the education of queer identity, and serves as a resource for those who are questioning their identity.


Sexual attraction and romantic attraction are not the same thing, despite what many people think. These are almost as different as sexuality and gender. Today, we’ll take a look at the difference between sexual and romantic attraction, as well as some other attractions.

Sexual attraction is the feeling of desire to have sex with a specific person. This is different from sex drive, which is someone’s level of desire to have sex at all. This can be defined both as the capacity to feel that attraction towards someone else, as well as the gender or genders to whom someone is attracted. These same things can be applied to romantic orientation: it is the feeling of desire to be intimate with a specific person. This is different than a person’s desire to be romantic or in a relationship, and this can be defined in capacity as well as to what gender or genders the person is attracted to.

So what’s the difference, then? Well, it comes down to the difference between romanticism vs sexuality. Sexual attraction is in regards to sexual actions. This may be different based on how people view sex, but it can be sexual acts, kinks, making out, and kissing. Romantic attraction is about romantic or intimate actions, which can include dating, relationships, cuddling, and kissing.

One thing to note about all of these definitions is the difference between attraction and drive. Attraction is about the desire to engage with another specific person, whereas drive is the desire to engage in that way at all. To give examples, you can have an asexual person with a high sex drive, or a gay person with little to no sex drive. These are very different, and should be treated as such,

For some people, these types of attractions are all that they need to know. However, attraction goes much farther than just sex and romance. There are various forms of attractions other than sexual and romantic. Below, you’ll find a couple of other forms of attraction, as well as some ideas of what may be included underneath that umbrella.

Platonic attraction is the feeling of desire to engage in a platonic relationship with a specific person. This mainly pertains to the desire one might feel to be friends with a specific person. Some people may also be queerplatonic, meaning that they are in a relationship that goes beyond platonic, but not quite to the point of a romantic relationship.

Sensual attraction is the feeling of desire to engage in a sensual relationship with a specific person. This one often overlaps with romantic and sexual attraction, hence why it’s often not talked about. This can relate to many different activities, but some examples can include holding hands, hugging, cuddling, kissing, and non-sexual kink acts (namely BDSM).

With that, this should cover the topic of attraction. Whenever an orientation is discussed on this website, keep in mind that it can apply to any of the attractions discussed here. Just replace the latter part with whatever orientation fits best. Lastly, don’t feel a need to identify right away, and don’t be afraid to change the label you use if another one fits better. Understanding attraction is a fluid process, and depending on the person, may change. If you know of any other attractions that I didn’t discuss here, feel free to contact me by leaving a comment or using the Contact page. I would be happy to cover those as well.

For further reading, check out:

It’s Pronounced Metrosexual: LGBTQ+ Vocabulary

Asexuality, Attraction, and Romantic Orientation


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