So I think I want to take a crack at describing how I personally understand sexual attraction. This is just me and how I feel. In no way would I claim that this is the only way to understand it, or even the best way, but for me, it’s what makes sense.
I’ve seen a lot of places that compare it to a “hunger” like for food. While I get that analogy conceptually, it doesn’t really click for me in a way that I can really feel and identify with. Other descriptions that are more direct often describe it as “seeing someone and feeling drawn to them in a sexual way,” or perhaps “seeing someone and feeling a ‘heat’ and having sexual thoughts directed toward that person.” For me, the more direct descriptions are actually far more useful in forming an analogy that clicks and feels right. Of course, you have to take the time to think about what analogy would make sense in your life, but doing that was worth it for me.
I wouldn’t claim at all to be a gear head, but I do love cars. In fact, I think it’s safe to say that I love lots of machines. I’ve always been completely mesmerized by things like cars, trains, and airplanes. How many times did I hurt myself as a kid running out of the house at breakneck speed hoping to catch a glimpse of an airplane flying overhead? Too often. Just recalling all the stubbed toes on doors, slips, and falls makes my back hurt! I loved every bit of it though.
This past weekend while walking through town, I saw a late-2000s Porsche 911 parked on the street. Glossy black. Hard top. Just gorgeous. I couldn’t even walk by it without staring at it, and looking inside. Immediately I found myself imagining what it would be like to drive it. How great that would feel. How it would sound when it started. How the clutch would feel. What it would be like to take it around some corners on my favorite roads. All of these thoughts and feelings just happened.
Now, let me just clarify as clearly as I possibly can right now: I am not sexually attracted to cars. That would be ridiculous and not at all the point I’m attempting to make. There’s nothing at all sexual about looking at the Porsche and feeling those things and having those thoughts. That said, I do think the kind of feeling that I had while looking at it is analogous to what sexual attraction towards a person would feel like. The immediate attention. The imagery of fantasized details about an experience. Feeling like I just wanted to be a part of that experience. That amalgamation of thoughts, feelings and attention directed towards a person in a sexual way is what I understand sexual attraction to be like.
Having discovered this analogy is really useful to me. My reaction to the Porsche? That was totally real. I really felt and thought all those things. I wasn’t scratching my head going, was that it? Was that this “attraction” I’ve heard about? It was crystal clear, obvious, and powerful. If this was called “car attraction,” I’d have zero doubts that I experienced it. I don’t at all expect that everyone (or even anyone) else will be able to relate to this story. And even though I had this experience, and got really excited that I’d be able to write about it and explain how it was analogous to sexual attraction, describing it was actually pretty tough. That makes me think I’m definitely on the right track, since people who experience sexual attraction describe having same difficulty explaining it.
With this analogy in my back pocket, sexual attraction feels even more foreign to me than ever. I suppose I’ve had a fairly small number of “was that it? was that sexual attraction?” moments during my life. Many of those moments have happened recently. I’ve been really focused and in tune with my feelings on the matter, and attentively listening to myself as I try to figure myself out. When I hear people say it’s one of those “you’ll definitely know if you felt it” kinds of things, I’m hesitant. That’s a great explanation, but would I really know?
Well, if sexual attraction is anything like my experience with the Porsche, then I’m here to say that yes, you would absolutely know. There’d be no way you could miss it.
I think this was a very useful exercise for me, and I’d encourage anyone struggling to understand sexual attraction to try to find a similar analogy in their own lives. Don’t be discouraged if the food/hunger one doesn’t really click for you. It didn’t for me. I think everyone just uses that one because everybody eats, so it’s a broadly relatable thing. That doesn’t make it the best though, and it doesn’t mean it will click for everyone.
For any car fans out there, I’ll just leave you with this piece of high-octane “meditation” material: