What Is Fraysexuality? Experts Explain the Sexual Orientation

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Like with every sexual identity, there’s a spectrum to asexuality. Asexual people might not experience any sexual attraction under any circumstances, or they might experience strong sexual attraction under certain circumstances but not others, or they might experience several other situations in between. The ace spectrum, as it’s known, houses folks who don’t engage in any sexual activity at all and folks who may have plenty of sex, but with certain parameters. Fraysexuality, or the identity associated with losing sexual attraction to a person once an emotional bond is formed, falls on the spectrum, too, as part of what’s called the grayscale.

Asexual sex educator Aubri Lancaster says micro-labels like these help to distinguish folks who may all fall under the asexual umbrella, but who have vastly different relationships to sex, attraction, and intimacy. Those who experience some sexual attraction, like fraysexuals, are considered graysexual—a little pocket on the asexual umbrella that encompasses fraysexuality and demisexuality.

Houston-based sex therapist Ty David Lerman, MA, LPC-S, CST, QTAP, describes fraysexuality as the counter-end of a continuum of graysexuality, “opposite to demisexuals”—a group of people who are only attracted to those with whom they do have an emotional connection.

But buried beneath all the umbrella and continuum analogies is a sexual identity that’s often misunderstood. Many fraysexuals are subject to negative stereotypes and assumptions about their ability to form meaningful bonds. Some are cast off or assumed to have intimacy issues. But in many cases, fraysexual folks are entirely able to bond—their bonds and relationships just may look different from others’.

If you or a partner identifies as fray, or you’re just hoping to learn more about the range of asexual orientations, keep reading for the low-down on fraysexuality.

Related terms:

    What is fraysexuality?

    The simple answer, according to Lancaster, is that fraysexuals “experience sexual attraction until they start to form an emotional bond, at which point it starts to go away.” This, however, does not mean that fraysexual people are unable to form attachments and bonds; it simply means feelings of sexual attraction decrease as those bonds grow. In some cases, Lancaster says, fraysexual people are more likely to feel sexually attracted to strangers or people they’ve just met than they would to a long-term partner.

    Fraysexuality is not bound by gender or sexual orientation; fraysexuals can have any gender expression and any sexual preferences. A bisexual woman can be fraysexual, or a gay man, or a pansexual non-binary person. “Any gender attracted to any other gender can be fray,” Lerman explains.

    Another important distinction: Fraysexuality does not necessarily indicate a drop-off in romantic attraction between partners. “Sex and romance can function separately from each other,” he says. “Just because you lose sexual interest as you get to know someone, does not mean you also lose romantic interest.”

    How can I tell if I’m fraysexual?

    Any sex therapist or educator will tell you that finding your place on the spectrum is a personal journey. You can’t be diagnosed as fraysexual; as Lancaster says, “it’s an intrinsic awareness, just as being gay, lesbian, bisexual, or pansexual.”

    But she says it can be especially difficult for graysexual people to understand their place on the ace spectrum, because it may feel counterintuitive to identify as asexual if you regularly experience sexual attraction.

    She does say, however, that if you crave sexual interaction with people you don’t know, or if you craved it intensely at the beginning of a relationship but felt the craving dissipate as you got to know the person, then this is a label you may want to explore with a sex therapist.

    What may be even more confusing is that feelings of what Lerman describes as “sexual discordance” between partners can be pretty common—even for allosexual people, or those who experience sexual attraction without parameters.

    “Sexual discordance is actually relatively common in the duration of relationships,” he explains. “Even with allosexuals, attraction towards our partners ebbs and flows over time for many reasons. However, for those who identify further down the continuum of fraysexuality, this is not just an ebb of sexual attraction in this one relationship, it’s every relationship.”

    If I’m fraysexual, at what point in a relationship will I lose sexual attraction to someone?

    For some fraysexuals, attraction falls off once they’ve established a deep emotional connection to a person. For others, just getting to know someone will make a big difference in their attraction.“How they experience it, whether it’s a hard stop or a gradual decline, all of that is more personal,” Lancaster explains.

    There may also be circumstances where a fraysexual person is able to be sexually aroused by an emotionally connected partner, but it will likely be the result of responsive arousal, or stimulation that leads to arousal, instead of the other way around.

    “Sometimes we are able to get aroused given the proper stimulation,” Lerman says. “Just because we are not aroused initially does not mean we are unwilling to be stimulated and aroused.” The degree to which a fraysexual person can be aroused by an emotionally connected partner will depend entirely on them.

    What if my partner is fraysexual?

    If you identify as allosexual and you entered into a relationship with someone you thought was also allosexual, but who later identified as fraysexual, your feelings about your partner’s sexuality may be complicated. On one hand, you may be supportive of their discovery and growth. On the other, you may feel abandoned or unfulfilled. But if you feel your relationship is worth maintaining, there are plenty of ways to work through it.

    First, acknowledge that it’s okay to mourn your sexual relationship as it once was. “Feeling sexually wanted and attractive by our partners is a large emotional need for most humans, particularly those practicing monogamy,” Lerman says.

    Licensed psychotherapist and founder of the Gay Therapy Center Adam Blum, MFT, elaborates on this: “If the person you love is fraysexual and you are longing for sexual contact with that person, it’s likely that you will feel abandoned,” he explains. “This is true even if you know intellectually that they love you. Most people feel rejected when their sexual advances to their partner are not welcomed.”

    Ultimately, he says, you may need to decide if you can be fulfilled in a relationship with a person who does not want to have sex with you. “A common strategy for successful fraysexual couples is to practice consensual non-monogamy so that each partner can express and enjoy their sexuality,” he says.

    If you decide to stay with your partner, Lancaster suggests educating yourself about the ace spectrum. Join community groups and read up on the literature; she recommends Ace by Angela Chen.

    Ace: What Asexuality Reveals About Desire, Society, and the Meaning of Sex

    With that, you can also learn to build intimacy in nonsexual or less overtly sexual ways. “What often ends up being the most supportive thing you could do is to de-center sex in your relationship and see what other ways you enjoy connecting and what other kinds of intimacy are fulfilling,” Lancaster says. Though sex and intimacy are sometimes considered analogous, intimacy is more about closeness and connection than it is strictly about sexual expression. Lancaster suggests building intimacy by watching a movie together, dancing, sitting all night and talking, or taking adventures together. Even cosplay, where you’re sharing an aesthetic that you both enjoy, can be a form of intimacy, she explains.

    “While somebody who is on the asexual spectrum may not want sex to be part of a relationship, they may find there are a lot of other ways they really enjoy connecting that are more fulfilling,” she says.

    Is fraysexuality just “intimacy issues”?

    Though it may seem like your routine case of intimacy issues, fraysexuality is something else entirely—and this equivocation can be harmful. Lerman says many fraysexuals “struggle with misunderstandings that they are just ‘sluts’ and can never hold a relationship, and often dodge accusations about having commitment issues.”

    The main difference between folks with intimacy issues and folks who are fraysexual is that one is a sexual identity while the other is something entirely different that can be worked out in therapy. “People with ‘intimacy issues’ are dealing with a form of anxiety,” Blum explains. “Anxiety can be reduced and managed through therapy and medication. The vast majority of psychotherapists agree that our sexual orientation cannot be changed with therapy or medication.”

    So how can you tell the difference in yourself? “If there is a pattern of struggling to be vulnerable and intimate with your partner(s), then it’s quite possible we are not talking about a sexual orientation here, but rather an avoidant attachment,” Lerman says. In which case, he recommends seeking a therapist, possibly a trauma specialist, to explore these feelings.

    “If, however, you’re able to have deep, meaningful connections with your partner(s) aside from sex,” he says, “then connecting with a sex therapist who is competent in these topics is the best course of action.”

    Does being fraysexual make me a bad partner?

    Within a culture where sexuality is compulsory, Lancaster says those who deviate from the norm—those who don’t want sex, either on occasion or ever—may think something is wrong with them. But really, there’s nothing to fix. It’s just a matter of perspective.

    “Fraysexual people have definitely been stigmatized by our society,” she says, “especially fraysexual people who may prefer short-term relationships or who find that casual sex, friends-with-benefits, or open relationships are more supportive of their needs.”

    Being fraysexual may also mean that you are able to be sexy with a long-term partner, even if it doesn’t lead to penetrative sex. Lerman and Blum both add that there are ways to be sexual around or with your partner without actually engaging in sexual activity together. “If you are monogamous, there is watching pornography together, mutual masturbation, or the use of toys separately or together,” Lerman says.

    Blum puts it another way. “Kinky couples understand that good sex does not always include orgasm or even touch. They use their imagination to role play fun and exciting scenes. Could you and your fraysexual partner be creative and develop sexy talk about what turns you on? This can be a very intimate and exciting way to be together even if you are talking about imaginary sex acts that don’t include each other.”

    Ultimately, Lancaster says being fray doesn’t mean you’re broken, and you don’t need to be fixed. It’s simply how you experience attraction. “Knowing there’s a label out there that describes you can help you move forward with more agency and choose the relationship styles that are most supportive of that,” she says.

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https://www.cosmopolitan.com/sexopedia/a39927546/what-is-fraysexuality/

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