Attraction describes interest, desire, or affinity that’s emotional, romantic, sexual, physical, or aesthetic in nature.
Many people mislabel attraction as purely romantic. But many feelings qualify as attraction, from taking an interest in someone to admiring someone’s appearance to experiencing sexual feelings.
Attraction is a key part of how you connect to other people and build your support network, whatever form it takes.
Why does it matter?
Attraction can take many forms and it’s possible to experience more than one type simultaneously.
Learning about the nuanced and multifaceted nature of attraction helps us gain insight into our own feelings, as well as the boundaries we need to set to ensure those feelings are respected and understood.
Check out the following breakdown of the different types of attraction. We also explain different terms that show the subtle differences between varying types of attraction.
This type of attraction isn’t necessarily physical in nature and is rooted in a desire for connection because of someone’s heart, mind, or personality.
This describes the desire for a type of emotional relationship and emotional closeness that the terms “platonic” or “romantic” don’t feel like they accurately characterize.
It can also convey discomfort or de-identification with the word “romantic” as a primary descriptor or focal point for different types of attraction.
Attachment refers to a type of bond or connection that’s often necessary or present in committed or long-term relationships of any kind.
Attachment can be a factor in relationships with:
This type of attraction isn’t necessarily physical in nature and is rooted in a desire for connection due to someone’s intelligence.
This is a deep or passionate feeling of connection or affection that often involves an element of emotional attachment.
The meaning of love and things associated with love can vary from person to person, relationship to relationship, and across cultures.
This describes feelings of deep desire, intense emotion, or strong enthusiasm.
This is the nonsexual or nonromantic desire to be in a relationship with someone. Friendships, for example, are often platonic.
This describes attraction toward those who require caretaking, such as a child, pet, or loved one.
This describes those who are generally well-liked by the majority. A person who’s socially attractive is typically also someone many people want to be around.
The desire for a strong, nonromantic relationship that often includes elements of emotional depth or intimacy.
It’s considered the nonromantic version of a crush.
Also known as a queerplatonic partner, zucchinis are people engaged in queerplatonic relationships.
This can describe a deep emotional interest or connection that isn’t purely physical or sexual in nature.
This describes people who experience romantic attraction.
A social force that presumes romantic relationships are more ideal or “the norm” for everyone, subsequently viewing this type of relationship as more valid than or superior to others.
Also known as “aro,” this identifier describes the spectrum of people who experience little to no romantic attraction or desire for a romantic relationship.
This describes those who experience romantic attraction to oneself.
It doesn’t indicate the specific genders someone is romantically attracted to, but the fact that the individual is romantically attracted to people of more than one gender.
The object of someone’s romantic attraction or the desire for a romantic relationship with someone.
On the aromantic spectrum, demiromantic describes those who only experience romantic attraction after developing an emotional connection.
On the aromantic spectrum, grayromantic describes someone who rarely experiences romantic attraction, or only experiences romantic attraction under particular circumstances.
This describes those who are romantically attracted to members of the “opposite” sex or gender.
This describes those who feel romantic attraction to members of the same sex or gender.
Generally speaking, gender and sex don’t play a major role in governing romantic attraction for those who are panromantic.
This describes someone who experiences romantic attraction towards people of many, but not necessarily all, gender identities.
This attraction takes the form of the desire for intimately physical or sexual contact with someone.
This describes intense feelings of passion, desire, affection, or attraction toward someone.
This type of attraction occurs when the majority of people consider someone sexually attractive, even if you personally don’t experience sexual attraction toward them.
This describes sexual feelings or the desire for sexual contact based on personal feelings and individual experiences that aren’t necessarily shared by the majority.
Subjective sexual attraction is often viewed as sexual chemistry that exists in a given relationship, connection, or interaction.
This describes the desire for touch or to receive touch — not necessarily in a romantic or sexual way. For example, this can include hugging or kissing a family member or petting a dog.
This term describes physical, sexual, romantic, or emotional closeness between people in personal relationships of any kind.
This type of attraction occurs when the majority of people consider someone physically attractive, even if you personally don’t feel attraction around their physical appearance.
This type of physical desire or admiration involves personal feelings and individual experiences that aren’t the most people don’t necessarily share.
Subjective physical attraction is often observable as physical chemistry that exists in a given relationship, connection, or interaction.
Very similar to physical attraction, sensual attraction describes a desire to touch or receive touch that isn’t necessarily sexual in nature.
Aesthetic attraction refers to the ability to admire someone’s appearance without the need or desire to have physical, sexual, or romantic contact with them.
You might find that elements of aesthetic attraction cross over into other types. For example, you may think the way a person dresses makes you feel romantic or sexual attraction, while you also find them aesthetically attractive.
Some people describe the distinction between aesthetic attraction and other types as a feeling similar to the experience of observing a beautiful painting or lush scenery.
Many people have had the experience of feeling fond of someone but having a hard time identifying the exact emotion. For example, they may wonder, “Am I attracted to them physically? Do I admire their personality or intelligence? Do I have the desire to be romantic or sexual with them?”
Attraction can be confusing and takes time to understand. Just remember: There’s no right way to experience attraction and one form isn’t better or more valid than another.
Expanding your understanding of attraction beyond romantic and sexual boundaries can help you navigate the various feelings that inform your interests, desires, boundaries, and relationships.
Mere Abrams is a researcher, writer, educator, consultant, and licensed clinical social worker who reaches a worldwide audience through public speaking, publications, social media (@meretheir), and gender therapy and support services practice onlinegendercare.com. Mere uses their personal experience and diverse professional background to support individuals exploring gender and help institutions, organizations, and businesses to increase gender literacy and identify opportunities to demonstrate gender inclusion in products, services, programs, projects, and content.