[UPDATE: 5/19/20: Coyote was kind enough to make a brief history summary of the term “split attraction model” and I highly recommend taking a look at the post series specifically this post and this post. My post will remain in its original form (with the exception of grammar corrections and update notes) but my opinions will likely change as I encounter new and updated information.]
See: Apology Statement
Something I didn’t know until recently is the split attraction model (or SAM) has a bit of a PR problem. If you type “split attraction model” into the search bar on Twitter, here’s what comes up. Yikes.
There’s probably several reasons that the SAM has a bad rep, but a key reason I think is how most people learn about the SAM, it’s history, and how it’s used, which is probably the same way I did- by word of mouth. There’s not really an easily accessible good source on the split attraction model outside of ace resources and blogs. Occasionally you’ll find a pop psychology article on split attraction, but in the most public cyber spaces, social media like Twitter and Instagram, trying to find any positive posts about the SAM is hard and experts are met with scorn and an accusations of homophobia.
The most common arguments against the SAM that I’ve seen are 1) the split attraction model is only for aces and aros (if aros are even mentioned), 2) the split attraction model is inherently homophobic/transphobic/lesphobic or is very harmful to the LGBT community, and 3) the split attraction model reinforces internalized homophobia. That last point is usually expressed as a personal claim that the split attraction model “fucked me up in the head”.
My biggest pet peeve is that whenever the SAM is mentioned it almost is always presented as a dichotomy between sexual and romantic attraction and that is very much not how I use the model personally.
I personally use split attraction as an aromantc and not as an asexual. I’ve mentioned previously that my aromanticism is my most dominate trait; it’s the one I’m most aware of, it has the most impact on my behavior and relationships with others, and I’m slightly romance-repulsed. I use the SAM to emphasis my non-romantic attractions, specifically sensual and aesthetic. Other aromantics use the SAM to emphasis that QPRs are worth talking about and celebrating as much as romantic partnerships. I see the SAM as a tool to critically think about and describe human bonds and feelings without the lens of amatonormativity placing a false and inflated value on certain kinds of relationships.
So when somebody comes in and says that the split attraction model “fucked them up in the head” or that the the split attraction model is “useless” or “harmful to the lgbt community”, I feel like that is just as much an act of bigotry as if someone had come in and said that my nonbinary gender wasn’t real and valid because I’m not doing HRT. Bashing on the split attraction model is inherently arophobic.
The SAM is not exclusively for aces and aros. That is a prescriptive notion, not a descriptive one. When I first learned about the SAM the way it was explained to me was that sometimes sexual and romantic attractions don’t line up, somebody could be homosexual and biromantic. I learned that before I learned was aromantic was. The SAM is known and talked about in the bisexual community. It’s not talked about very favorably it would seem based on my Twitter search, but it’s still known and talked about.
The argument that the SAM is inherently transphobic and homophobic because people will use it as an excuse to just fuck who they want without dating them is just recycled biphobia garbage and arophobic. People say they don’t want to date bi men and women all the time because “what if they leave me to go be het”. They’re not subtle about it either because it pops up in my feed because they say that crap in public were everybody can see them. That’s not the SAM, that’s just people being assholes who lack the skills to have honest conversations about what they need and what they expect from a partner. Aromantics will be the first to tell you that you do not need to have romantic attraction to have a fulfilling and meaningful relationship nor is romantic attraction even a good marker of what makes a fulfilling and meaningful relationship.
I am very sympathetic to everyone who says that the split attraction model fucked them in the head and instead of having a clear path to finding their identity they had to try out different labels and slowly get over there internalized homophobia. You want to know who also didn’t have a clear path to finding their identity and had to try out different labels and get over some internalized BS? Me. I was 25 years old before I even learned the word asexuality and I had to look it up myself to find it. I had to do my own research without an SGA or LGBT group to reach out to because I wasn’t in school and didn’t own a car. I had to find online spaces where I could safely talk to other aces to compare experiences. It took me what I would consider a ridiculous amount of time to accept that I was aromantic. So I really am very sympathetic, but also very frustrated because somehow their personal struggle with internalized homophobia or transphobia should not justify their blatant arophobia.
Changing the narrative about the Split Attraction Model is a bigger job than I can do by myself and my little blog. I unfortunately don’t have the connections to be like “hey can we get a spot light on some aromantic visibility outside of awareness week because we need some STAT”. I think the SAM’s PR problem is linked to lack of aromantic visibility and understanding of non-ace aromantics especially.
The SAM’s PR problem is at its heart an ace, aro, and bisexual problem, so because of that is anybody really listening?