The idea that people should accept the socially normalised way of relating romantically or sexually is as absurd as expecting them to be heterosexual just because that is how the majority are. In fact, what if everyone falls somewhere on a spectrum of sexuality, orientation, gender, capacity for and expression of love?
The graphic representation of these spectra of connection is used for simplified illustration of the concept. Some of the terms used are well known in popular media but are sometimes used interchangeably or contrasting with non related terms. In some cases I am using a term that is not in popular use because I could not find this already laid out in a way that made sense to me. This started because I felt irate that people contrasted monogamy (a relationship model that is popular and deemed to be the default dynamic), with polyamory (the way you will emotionally connect with another person). They really are not comparable as you will see if you continue reading.
The spectrum of sexual attraction is already well known. It includes heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual and pansexual but is not limited to these labels. These other spectra attempt to show that there is no default way of being. The definitions used for the terms are not always exactly the definitions that exist in other resources, and are based on my own understanding of them. They are also not remotely exhaustive and there are many other terms and descriptors in use around the world. Please feel free to provide your own, if different, in the comments section.
There is no natural or default way of expressing sexual interest in others. It varies according to both biological and learned needs and wants. Some find that focusing on one sexual partner is sufficient, others like the variety and diversity of multiple sexual partners.
Someone who identifies as vegan would argue that this defines an aspect of their personality. Similarly some may feel that a label for their proclivity towards sexual partners is part of their identity. For others, their desire may shift, change, ebb and flow depending on the phase of life they are in, their mood and health, and their relationship dynamic. It may not fit your view of yourself which is totally fine. The reason it’s called a spectrum is that it can change and there are other points in the spectrum aside from these mentioned here.
- Monosexual: Someone who is only interested to have at most, one sexual partner at any given time.
- Ambisexual: Where the addition of more than one sexual partner is relationship/situation dependent.
- Polysexual*: Interested to explore sexual activity with multiple partners.
*Note that this is also a term that some use in the same way as omnisexual, referring to sexual attraction to multiple, different genders. These terms are used by different groups and communities. Pansexual is another term. My use of polysexual in this context does not invalidate its different meaning in use by other people.
How people express their sexuality and connect sexually to others can vary greatly along the spectrum. This can come from personality as well as prior experience. It can also be impacted by prior trauma.
These terms are not the only ones, only some touch points along the spectrum. Your life experience, way of creating bonds etc. will all have an impact. You may also find that with some people, your sexual expression can be different than with others.
- Asexual: Someone that feels little or no sexual urges, lacks desire to engage in sexual activity. Everyone has a different experience of being asexual, and this can mean different things to different people.
- Graysexual: Largely asexual but with some interest in sexual activity, seldom and only with specific people
- Demisexual: Someone who only feels a sexual connection with a person that they have an emotional bond with first.
- Megasexual: sexual connection comes before and often is needed in order to have an emotional one. The path to building emotional intimacy often starts with a sexual attraction and connection.
Most people who default to a monogamous relationship dynamic never stop to consider their emotional capacity for connecting to others. Emotional connection is about your capability/capacity to hold romantic/sexual or other kinds of non-family love and express it. This is different from the relationship model or dynamic that you choose to practice.
- Monoamory: When love is focused on one person only. A monoamorous person feels fulfilled emotionally from connecting to one person.
- Ambiamory: Describes an emotional connection to either one person, or more than one. It can change with the relationship dynamic chosen or your current state of mind. People who experience ambiamory can feel happy and fulfilled in both monogamous and multigamous relationships, depending on the agreement they have with a partner.
- Biamory: An emotional capacity of loving 2 people at the same time. For example, some people who are bisexual would truly feel fulfilled if they were emotionally connected to both a man and a woman.
- Polyamory: The capacity to love multiple people at the same time, express that love and accept that love is not a finite resource.
The way a relationship with others is structured falls along a spectrum as well. Knowing that all options are equally valid means you can design the relationship that matches your emotional and sexual connection style. If you identify with one or more of the previous emotional connection types, sexual proclivity and expression styles, then it can navigate you towards selecting a particular relationship dynamic. However, other factors go into this selection, not all of them conscious. These include: The dynamic that your parents modeled for you (positively or negatively); popular media impressions; time constraints due to family or work responsibilities; past traumatic relationships; anxious or avoidant styles of connecting with intimate partners; your love languages and more.
- Singledom: A conscious choice to only be in a relationship with self. People think of being single as something to avoid at all costs. At some phases of our lives, staying single is helpful and empowering. Some choose it to keep their lives simple and only be responsible for their own needs. People who choose single, can still experience emotional and sexual connection along the previous spectra.
- Monogamy: A relationship dynamic where the choice of two people is to focus their energy and attention exclusively on one another. There is sometimes a blurred line between monogamy and multigamy for people who are not actually monoamorous, but have struggled to communicate their needs to themselves and their partner. This might look like drunkenly kissing others at a party, struggling to align their deep emotional bonds to close friends with the emotional exclusivity needs of their partner, or concealing their affairs and pretending they are happy with monogamy. Cheating is not necessarily about the dissonance between relationship dynamic and connection style, but it can be.
- Ambigamy: Someone who is secure in their emotional place may have no strong preference to the relationship dynamic. It can depend on the partner or the situation they are in. A monoamorous person might accept being in a multigamous relationship with a polyamorous partner, where only the polyamorous partner sees other people. Or an ambiamorous person may willingly accept to be in monogamy if they are in-love with a monoamorous person.
- Multigamy: Usually referred to as non-monogamy, often pre-ambled with ‘ethical’ or ‘consentual’, it is a relationship dynamic that includes more than two people. It is a conscious choice to spend time and energy on multiple partners.
It is helpful to know where you are on each of these spectra, knowing that it is fluid and could change. I also find it helpful to work out why I identify with certain definitions and terms more than others. It is also incredibly powerful to know how to communicate this clearly and emphatically to potential intimate partners, friends and family.
If you find that it is something that may be tricky do accomplish alone, there are ways that I can offer help. You could schedule a call with me, join the next class in the REALationships course or watch one of the recorded webinars. If you are not sure, just message me through the contact form and I will be in touch.