In a previous post, I discussed sociosexual orientation. Sociosexual orientation is the willingness to engage in uncommitted sex or not. There are two types:
- Unrestricted sociosexual orientation: these are individuals who are more willing to engage in uncommitted, casual sex that doesn’t have to involve emotions or intimacy.
- Restricted sociosexual orientation: these are individuals who are unwilling to engage in casual sex and prefer to have sex that involves love, commitment, and emotional closeness.
These are unlikely the only two options. After all, if sexual orientation, gender, and relationship style is on a spectrum, then sociosexual orientation could also be on a spectrum too. We could say that some individuals are somewhat restricted in varying degrees.
In our culture, we can readily see these different approaches to sexuality. And we usually associate like with like: those who enjoy casual sex tend to sexually associate with those who also enjoy casual sex, and those who prefer committed sex tend to sexually associate with those who prefer committed sex. With these two different approaches to sexuality, we can see the spectrum. This will follow suit with the Kinsey scale:
But we seem to only focus on the sexual aspects. Is it possible that love or perhaps being emotionally involved with someone could fall in the same scale? If you want, we could call it the “socioamorous orientation.”
There are people who readily enjoy being in love and can do so with ease. They seem to be swept up by love casually and, perhaps, even enjoy falling in love easily. In other words, they can casually love easily. They readily agree that “love at first sight” is a truism and that if there was no instant chemistry at the beginning, then it was a sign that love would not develop. Perhaps the best description of these people are that they have unrestricted socioamorous orientation.
And then there are people who prefer to take their time when falling in love. It’s more of a process rather than an instant for these people. They still enjoy the company and find pleasure in the person they are intimate with, but to love that person is a slow rise, a bubbling up instead of a quick-paced movement. We could describe these people as having restricted socioamorous orientation.
And just like sociosexual orientation, it seems that socioamorous orientation could also be on a spectrum.
The difference is that “orientation” may have different meanings. In sociosexual orientation, the people are oriented toward a certain disposition. They could go the other direction, but they prefer not to. I think mainly it’s because goes against their values, and it may also find the other side unfulfilling.
Socioamorous orientation, on the other hand, almost feels innate, as if going the other direction is not something they could enjoy.
Of course, people may not be stable in these positions, or they may change over time. People can be flexible and they may change positions due to context, age, biopsychosocial circumstances, and other variables.
Now, what if we could combine these features to give a grid?
Let’s see what we can make of each of the squares.
In grid A, individuals have both restricted orientations. People in this category consider loving someone as a slow process and not something to be rushed. They want to get to know the person and spend time with that person and through their activities, the emotion of love shines through. Indeed, we could possibly say that the activities and the time constitute the emotion of love. Likewise, individuals would not want to rush to having sex with this person either. They are the type that waits to have sex until, at least, they are in love, and/or in some committed relationship. With the buildup of both the loving emotion and having sex, these individuals prefer to take their time and let the emotion “slow cook” as it slowly peaks out. Indeed, they may find out that they are in love as a something they slowly realized instead of some specific event. And they may see themselves getting more and more intimate until they feel ready to have sex.
In grid B, individuals can easily love or have an emotional attachment to another with ease. In a sense, maybe they “wear their hearts on their sleeve.” Also, they wait until they love the person or have some sort of emotional attachment before they have sex with that person. But here’s the question: do they wait until some time frame in order to get to know the person before they have sex? Or is the emotional attachment the tipping point? Those who have restricted sociosexual orientation typically prefer for a commitment to happen. But if they love someone or have developed an emotional attachment, could this be enough? This is where the fluidity comes into play and those that are somewhat restricted may be comfortable having sex if love or an emotional attachment develops, but no commitment. Granted, it seems unlikely that any type of relationship like this happens. After all, why would the people who are in love not get in a relationship? Of course, there are numerous factors as to why, but these seem to be mitigating circumstances, or perhaps it’s just the preferences of the people involved. Whatever the case may be, it seems that people in this grid are similar to the individuals in grid A in that they will wait to have sex until they love or have developed some emotional attachment. But if this comes about sooner and quicker than those in grid A, the waiting period may not be that long, especially if both individuals are in grid B. Many people may think that these people “rush” into having sex so soon or that they declare their love so soon and that they mistakenly think they are doing this to have sex. But I think it’s more complicated than that. People can easily fall in love or have loving attitudes and simultaneously prefer to wait to have sex until they love someone. The love, however, just happens quicker and people may take this as a sign of immaturity. But I don’t consider this a problem with the people in grid B; rather, it’s a problem of those who regard people in grid B.
In many ways, grids A and B are probably the most traditional view of relationships, sex, and love. Indeed, these types of sexual and relationship style is so pervasive, it may be considered the default structure. There is nothing inherently wrong with this structure, but with this picture being the default, it is rather heteronormative and so the danger is to know whether people are in either A or B because they genuinely desire so, or if it’s an expectation based on social norms. Perhaps with A, the story is that people are carefully collected in loving someone and so that may make the love better so that they are not rash in their decisions. However, there is a lot of support for B in that love is a frenzied, blind, perhaps irrational monster and we can’t help but fall in love. And having sex with someone we love makes the whole thing better. In either case, we have an interesting contrast of stories, but they both fit the heteronormative norm: as long as you’re falling in love or in the process, this structure is ethical. Indeed, the structure here is that sex is the aftermath of falling in love.
In grid C, individuals take their time to love someone, and the emotional attachments are a slow process. Indeed, they may not be conscious of their emotional attachment until some event makes them aware of their emotional attachment. This realization could be a particular person, but they may be aromantic or greyromantic. They are somewhere on the aromantic spectrum. However, they can still engage in causual or non-committal sex with ease. Involving emotions with sex is something that may or may not be possible, but there is no necessary connection between love and sex. Indeed, sex is something that is probably the closest to some sort of intimate connection. In our narrative, the person who engages in sex before love puts the cart before the horse. But maybe this is just the style that this person prefers. And if it’s an orientation, then it is either a strong desire claim and/or part of one’s identity. Now, off the top of my head, I can’t think of anyone like this in popular culture or in my personal life. But I don’t doubt that there are people like this.
In grid D, individuals love to fall in love and can do so easily. The emotional process is quick. They can also engage in casual sex with ease. What makes this complex is that these people must be super aware of what they are doing. After all, they may easily like this person to fall in love with them, but they may use sex as a tool or a substitute to make the emotions come into play. Indeed, people in this grid may have a hard time distinguishing between the pleasures of love and the pleasures of sex. But if they are critically engaged in what they’re doing, then they may distinguish between the two. For people in this grid, they may begin to love those who they are casually seeing. Perhaps they have to think if this is a sign that they ought to commit to this person, or if they’re comfortable seeing multiple people that they love. Of course, that is up to the individual, but it would be best if they were aware of their boundaries so that they can pullback if they know they’re engaging in something that won’t help them flourish, or perhaps adjust their standing so that they can be happy. On the other hand, people in grid D may realize this and can be happy knowing that they can love others and have sex with others without problems.
This is all just speculating as to whether the people in these grids actually experience the way that I’ve described. Of course, the best way to determine that is to do some studies and empirical research to capture their experiences and see if there are any patterns with these different combinations of sociosexual and socioromantic orientations. But the upshot is that sexual orientation and romantic orientation can be separated, even practically. And that there could be this new concept called “casual love,” at least in the best way that I could have described it.