There are quite a few people I’m attracted to. I know what a loaded statement that is, and in this culture that is both sexualised and prudish at the same time, to say ‘attraction’ is to imply sexual attraction. To imply sexual attraction is to suggest following through with action. Attraction becomes a hazardous thing, perhaps even a threat to the person it’s a reaction to.
I think attraction is something we need to reclaim for broader and heartfelt use. There are so many things to find attractive in other people. Their ideas and beliefs, their passions, obsessions, creativity. And yes, faces, bodies, physical presences but even that can be non-sexual and we could allow room for it. With those in place, allowing sexual attraction to be one form of attraction amongst many, it might be possible to openly hold relationships with all kinds of shapes.
Attraction means a desire to move towards. A yearning to be closer, a keenness for the company of the one who attracts. A catalyst for action of some sort. We have evolved to be social creatures. We are designed to interact with complex networks of some 150 people, we are meant to be attracted to each other in all kinds of ways. Attracted to skill, to leadership, to ideas, to companionship, kindness, warmth. The pulls of attraction thread together communities, if we let them.
Try and talk about it, and all too often it’s seen as troubling, or weird. My attraction causes repellence sometimes, like two north ends of magnets. All too often, we’re only allowing each other to act on all those many forms of attraction if nobody talks about it. As soon as something is named, a kind of fear enters the mix, and a backing away. I’ve experimented repeatedly with an assortment of people of various genders over a lot of years. My conclusion is that almost any relationship shape is feasible so long as no one admits to it. Honesty is usually more difficult. This, I do not find attractive.
Fear of vulnerability, fear of giving too much away, fear of being misunderstood, fear of the power of attraction itself. Having no safe language with which to honour the pull. Feeling an element of sexual attraction to the other person and being ashamed of it. There are lots of reasons a person may not want to be honest.
On the other side of this, I know people who are able to be honest and open hearted about attraction. Some do it with more grace than others, but it’s not necessarily predatory or promiscuous. It can be a warm, affirming thing to encounter, even when highly sexualised in nature. It can be a gift. To enjoy and admire another human being, to treat them as attractive can be uplifting, if the recipient isn’t afraid of it, and if the one expressing it is good at issues of boundary. Attraction as something given, rather than an attempt to take from the ‘object’ of desire.
I have people in my life who have owned all kinds of attractions – mutual attractions. When it can be held honestly, without fear, it becomes something else entirely. Even when there’s a buzz of chemistry that you don’t want to follow through on. Not being ashamed of it, not hiding it, giving it room to breathe, it becomes something else. Not an affair, not a hazard to emotional wellbeing, not a point of tension or weirdness but something warm and worth having.
I speculate that attraction is far more common than most people admit to. I think there’s a lot of it out there, unvoiced, unexpressed, held in fear and in shame. I don’t think we need to be ashamed of feeling pulls of attraction to each other. I think if we were all more honest about it we might all be happier. I think non-sexual attraction is something that deserves a lot more thought and attention, and that sexual attraction is something to stop shaming people over. Perhaps if we could hold attraction more openly, we’d be able to have deeper, more fully consensual, safer and happier relationships with each other, in and out of bed.