It begins vaguely.
“Yeah, I could see myself with a girl,” I say. I feel the same way about men as I do about women, I think, what’s the difference?
The rainbow of orientations I find myself diving head first into are bright with invite and separated cleanly by their definitions. I can’t quite place myself among them but I know I belong somewhere in the LGBT+.
The ‘b’ draws my interest, it’s call most familiar, but still not quite right. I find the ‘p’ listed under the plus sign. That feels better, less like a public location conspicuously empty of people and more like the cool embrace of a vast body of water. I feel the same about people regardless of gender, I think, that’s pansexual right?
I can’t tell you what happens next. Maybe my friends’ — travelling the same queer path as I am — began talking about past crushes on girls they’d suppressed. Maybe I’d been taught the next step (always, always, the next step) is finding a partner. Maybe someone mentioned their sex life and I thought to myself: “I’ve never once thought about anyone.” I can’t say, but I can tell you the word asexual slipped over my skin like the finest of silks.
Panromantic ace, I think, yeah?! I don’t care about gender so why not anyone?
Why not indeed.
Then came the most haunting week of my life. I’m being melodramatic but I can’t convey the horror I felt any other way. In the space of seven days three of my closest friends expressed romantic interest in me and I ended that week in tears.
Oh, I thought, this doesn’t feel right. I don’t want this.
I wish I could tell you the word aromantic clicked into neatly into place then and there but I think we can all agree that I’ve been fairly oblivious in regards to my sexuality so far. Always I answer with an agreeably passive ‘yeah, that’s possible!’ rather than a deep desiring statement of fact.
Two years pass and I’m reading a story. This side pairing is getting more screen time than I want but they’re working their way towards a QPR and I’ve never seen one fleshed out. I’m curious. One of the characters is allo and the other is aroace. No, one of the characters is demi and the other is aroace. I think there’s a fight or a kiss, maybe both and it ends in tears. They reunite with blunt honesty and a delicate grasp of hands. The a-spec character says something then, something about her identity that I can’t recall, she says something gut-wrenchingly aromantic and I think: “Oh, that’s me.”
Six months later I’m introduced to the split attraction model. It’s through concerned tumblr users advising people not to use this ‘SAM’. It's quite dangerous, it’s hurtful and divisive. For the life of me I can’t figure out what split attraction means so I ignore it. I’m not using it and I’m not promoting it so it doesn’t concern me.
I read through the Carnival list of prompts last month and I thought: ‘ehhh.’ I can’t say any of the prompts really interested me. Not one of them felt like something I could add to. All of them require what feels like a depth of knowledge I don’t have. But, this is the first Carnival of Aros and I want it to take flight! So I’ve picked the one concerning SAM because that’s always interested me. The fact is I’m still not sure I understand what split attraction means. My attractions simply aren’t split! “What are your thoughts?” this very uncircuslike Carnival asks me. What could I possible have to add to this conversation you ask? I ask?? Someone asks??? Deeply anecdotal evidence and delicious quantitative research, that’s what.
I could write a fucking forty page essay on what I found but I won’t because most of it would be a rant and, while satisfying, that would be ultimately unhelpful. So I’ll keep this simple. I couldn’t use tumblr as a source because I’d finally began to lose interest in the site and didn’t dare rekindle a (no romo) relationship. What my mind had really been enamoured by was the idea of beautifully researched and written scholarly articles on the topic of SAM. I didn’t bother searching for any because, lbr, if we a-spec struggle to find our orientations hidden under the oft forgotten ‘+’ then no allo is going to either. No, I kept this simple in the most basic and absent minded sense: my research would be limited to the first page of Google. Ridiculous?? Yes! Perfect?? Absolutely! Listen if you don’t know what something is you Google it. You Google it and you never leave that first fucking page. I want to know what people will see when they Google ‘split attraction model’. There has been such awful ““discourse”” about SAM over the years and I want to know what has wormed its way to the top of that explosive trash heap! Just fyi I can’t guarantee what Google showed me will be the same as what everyone else sees bc 1) I hear algorithms work wonders and 2) I don’t understand how algorithms or Google works for that matter. At the very least I can say I rarely Google anything queer so that probably indicates I’m a blank slate ready to be dutifully informed about the split attraction model, right?
The problem with this methodology of course is that there’s a lot wrong with that information on first page of Google. I have an incomplete draft of near three thousand words at the moment and no one wants that. More than that I don’t want to cut this down because I have a lot to fucking say. So I’m making this a series! Today I’ll introduce you to the first website and, thanks to it’s misinformation, our points of contention.
The sole link some people will click on to learn about the split attraction model belongs to BetterHelp. You know, that counselling service that Youtuber’s were mindlessly promoting with no guarantee you’d talk to a professional or that those “helpers” would show for your appointment at all? Yeah, that exercise in compassion is who gets to introduce people to SAM. Cooooool.
It does an……….alright job. Like it does in the counselling department I hear! The title of the piece is What Is The Split Attraction Model? And it’s only time stamp is December 11 of 2018 so I assume the company has paid for this ranking in the search engine. I’m 90% sure whoever wrote this took all the information from the LGBTA Wiki (ranked sixth!!) and paraphrased it. The BetterHelp article(?) speaks in absolutes and is clearly written by someone who isn’t a-spec and I sincerely doubt is queer or LGBTQIA+ at all. My main problem with the piece is that it seems to have an angle throughout and when you get to the end it states: ‘Why The Controversy?’ and ‘What's The Solution?’ Which is a lovely undertone for any informative education tool to have. Here are the controversies (you’ve read them a hundred times on tumblr already dw):
- It oversexualizes LGBT by emphasizing sexual desire or attraction over everything else.
- Other than asexuals and aromantics, most people experience attraction that does not fall under either one categories, i.e., sexual or romantic.
- Attraction is different for everyone and varies between individuals when considering all aspects of it.
- It prioritizes asexual identity over LGBT identity, making it harder for lesbians, gays, bisexuals, and transgenders to connect with and support each other.
- It makes life even more difficult and confusing for young people who are trying to come to terms with their identity as LGBT.
- It pushes the negative label of "homosexual" onto gay people.
- It reinforces stereotypes of the LGBT community as hyper-sexualized. Link.
And why should you want to hear about this from me? Well I don’t use SAM anymore that’s why. This lovely framework held my hand until I no longer need it’s assistance. What I’m writing here is a love letter (no romo) of sorts. SAM was there for me before I knew what it was. The casual use of split attraction by queer and a-spec people afforded me an introduction to myself. I’m a-fucking-romantic and that’s all folks.
COMING SOON TO A SCREEN NEAR YOU: what Reddit has to say about SAM.
Check out the Carnival of Aros: https://carnivalofaros.wordpress.com/