Romantic attraction and romantic orientations

2 minutes

Learning objectives

After completing this unit, you will be able to:

  • Describe romantic attraction and explain how it is different from sexual attraction.
  • Use romantic orientations to describe patterns of romantic attraction.

What is romance?

Romance is a type of love or affection that can be expressed differently depending on cultural and individual preferences. For some people this expression includes sex, but sex is not a requirement. Other ways of expressing romantic feelings include:

  • Gestures of physical affection, such as hand holding and cuddling
  • Spending quality time together
  • Giving meaningful gifts
  • Complimenting or affirming another person
  • Sharing responsibilities

Often, people desire a relationship where they can express these feelings. When someone desires that kind of relationship with a specific person, that desire is called romantic attraction. Romantic attraction is distinct from sexual attraction, as it does not inherently involve a desire to engage in sexual activity with another person. Although it is commonly assumed that romantic and sexual attraction are always experienced together, the two can be separate experiences. When someone has a desire to have sex with a person that they long to form a romantic relationship with, this is a case where the two types of attraction overlap.

Romantic orientations in a nutshell

People often experience sexual attraction to specific genders, and romantic attraction can follow similar patterns based on gender. Some people choose to identify with a romantic orientation to explain their patterns of romantic attraction. This is especially common for those whose patterns of romantic and sexual attraction do not align, such as an asexual person who is romantically attracted to women. Because romantic orientations describe attraction to others based on gender, there is a corresponding romantic orientation for each sexual orientation. Examples include:

  • Aromantic: experiencing little to no romantic attraction regardless of gender, and/or having no desire to form romantic relationships.
  • Biromantic: experiencing romantic attraction to two or more genders.
  • Homoromantic: experiencing romantic attraction exclusively to the same gender.
  • Heteroromantic: experiencing romantic attraction exclusively to another gender.
  • Panromantic: experiencing romantic attraction to all genders, or experiencing romantic attraction regardless of gender.

People who identify as homoromantic often prefer to use terms like gay or lesbian to describe themselves, and others may use different terms (such as bi, pan, or aro) to describe their romantic orientation.

Further reading

References

Our examples of romance are based on The 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman