Is Attraction Always Sexual?

Can an initial attraction be something else?

Posted Feb 13, 2020

In my life I have been attracted to heterosexual men, bisexual men, gay men, and transmen; straight women and gay, bisexual, and trans women. No, I am not pansexual.

I am a heterosexual woman open to all my feelings. Being attracted does not necessarily mean I want to take them to bed, and that’s the point of this article.

When my granddaughter was in nursery school, about 3 years old, she was inseparable from a boy our family privately called “potato head”.  He was not a good looking little boy and he was mostly silent, but to my granddaughter he was the whole point of nursery school, as she was to him.

At that young age attractions are clear and demonstrable.  Something about this young kid spoke to my granddaughter and that was that.  It was inexplicable, and that’s what attraction usually is. Had she had this response to another little girl it would have been just as inexplicable and not at all lesbian.

People understand these attractions in little children much more than in teens or adults because they are clearly “nonsexual” to their minds.  But what happens if a lesbian who publicly identifies as such finds herself attracted to a man?  Does that mean she is changing orientations and is “really” bisexual?  Maybe, and maybe not.

I remember being attracted to an obviously gay man. In a class of 100 or so my eyes kept turning to him for no reason I could explain.  I kept asking myself why and came up with no answer.  At the end of the class he approached me, stood there awkwardly for a few seconds and then said.  “I’m a gay man.  I’m generally not interested in women but I find myself attracted to you.” I confessed the attraction was mutual and that it need not necessarily involve sex.  We smiled, shook hands, and were friends until his death several years later. His partner, a quiet man, accepted me totally as no threat to their union, so sometimes the three of us hung out but mostly it was just J.C. and me. And I never found a good reason.

I could tell several stories like this—about a transwoman who, when I turned down her pass, became one of my closest friends; about the female boxer at an event who had all the straight women in a tizzy, even me. There is a straight man in public life where I live whose closest friend is a gay man and the two are inseparable at local pubs and events.

As a therapist I sometimes got asked by a troubled client about the meaning of an attraction that did not fit his or her worldview, about a straight woman who was attracted to another woman at work or a straight man who wanted to know the meaning of a dream about another man. Many people are afraid of attractions, afraid that it means they are other than they know themselves to be:  “This happened, am I gay?”  “I had a dream about a guy, could I be straight”?

A dream does not make you anything, nor even does a waking attraction.  If you are open to exploring these occasional magnetisms with another person outside your usual frame of attractions, life could be much richer.  Even a clearly sexual attraction need not be acted upon.  A pull toward another person is there to be explored if you dare. I wholeheartedly recommend it.