What is Alterous Attraction | Is it Genuine or Feigned?

Alterous Attraction- Tree Graphic
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Have you ever imagined or experienced a non-romantic / asexual type of attraction? Some people would snap back and ask – is there such a type? 

The fact is – there exist other types of attractions that cannot be classified as romantic or sexual. If you really think about it deeply, it is not difficult to recognize and appreciate a faraway feeling of being drawn toward a person in a way that is neither romantic nor sexual, but emotional. 

People are calling it – Alterous Attraction. Curious word, alterous, isn’t it?

Alterous Meaning | Etymology of Alterous

The word alterous has been derived from the root word ‘alter’, borrowed from the Latin word ‘alter’ (spelt identically), which means “the other”. As you know, the -ous suffix is used to mean full of something. So, when the root word ‘alter’ is modified using the -ous suffix, the resulting word “alterous” would mean something like “full of the other kind (of something)”. The otherness when combined with attraction gives us a sense of what alterous attraction actually means.

What is the meaning of Alterous Attraction ?

Alterous attraction is defined as the desire to develop an intense emotional connection with a person, characterized by the absence of romantic or sexual feelings. It is one of the four types of tertiary attractions, the other three being – aesthetic attraction, platonic (and queerplatonic) attraction and sensual attraction. 

Alterous attraction is classified as lying somewhere in the middle of platonic and romantic attractions. The reason being that it involves much deeper emotions than platonic but does not go as far as the romantic level in terms of physical manifestations. 

Alterous attraction is a neologism developed for the a-spec community, i.e., people who identify themselves as aromantic and/or asexual, colloquially referred to as AroAce, to describe one of the particular types of attractions they feel toward another person. 

In fact, alterous attraction, along with the other tertiary forms of attraction mentioned above, is the reason why a new label, ‘oriented aroace’, was created for people to identify with. Does it mean that such an attraction is felt exclusively by aroace people?

Who can experience alterous attraction ?

Answering this question becomes necessary because I just mentioned above that this term was created for a-spec people to address their experience of an ‘in-between’ feeling that was neither platonic nor romantic. 

By definition, alterous attraction qualifies the desire experienced by an individual as something that is inclined towards emotional closeness without feeling any romantic or sexual attraction whatsoever. So, there is no condition that would exclude any person of any orientation or identity from experiencing alterous attraction. 

While it is more likely for aromantic and asexual (aroace) individuals to experience alterous attraction, it is possible for any person to feel so irrespective of their gender identity or sexual orientation. 

What does alterous attraction feel like?

Alterous attraction feels like a strong urge to get emotionally close to someone. It makes a person experience much more depth of emotions than there is in a platonic relationship. 

A person experiencing alterous attraction would feel like aligning with the soul of the other person. They typically wish to have a connection close enough for them to understand and appreciate unspoken words effortlessly. 

When people were asked this question – What does alterous attraction feel like? – these were some of the responses that I received.

Response 1

“It makes you feel interested in the little things in the other person’s life. How they grew up and life they had so far. You feel like learning about how the day went by for them and to comfort them if they had a bad day”.

Response 2 

“You feel like doing things for them…feel a close affinity for things associated with them. You tend to their children as you would your own…”.

Response 3

“You wish that they preferred you over others to the extent that even when they have a romantic relationship, you feel uncomfortable at the thought of some having replaced you from the top spot. All this when there is nothing romantic going on between you”.

Response 4

“It feels so different from the OTT (over-the-top) relationships that I see around me. Alterous attraction is an understated feeling which overwhelms me”.

Response 5

“I have experienced this. I wanted to be the first person he called when in some sort of trouble. I would feel jealous if I found out that I wasn’t told something before every single person”. 

Response 6

“This alterous thing is beautiful ’cause even the most routine conversations become important. You look forward to having the daily cup of coffee together and listening to their diary entry for the day”.

Alterous Couple Talking
Source: Canva

Response 7

“I have struggled with this form of attraction. It was very confusing. I am straight…but then I started feeling strongly for a next door neighbor of the same sex. It felt like something was missing if we didn’t meet in the park for an evening walk. There was nothing romantic about it, but there was something. That ‘something’ has driven me for such a long time and I feel so much more alive when we are together”.

Response 8

“For me the best way of describing alterous attraction is to use the word ‘kinship’. This person became like family to me. But we understood each other and had our separate lives”.

The real-life responses above give us plenty of insights for further discussion on how alterous attraction feels like.

Does it occur to you that an allonormative person might mistake the above respondents as cold, for the lack of romance in them. However, if you read through responses close enough you will feel passion and emotions gushing out of their words. It should be evident that some of these respondents are getting candid about their most fulfilling relationships without an inkling of romance or sex in them. 

Another very interesting fact is that during interviews, some of these respondents admitted to having a romantic partner with whom they were having sexual intimacy, while they were experiencing the alterous attraction towards another person. It almost settles the debate over whether people from outside the aromantic or asexual spectrum can experience alterous attraction. 

Read also: How Long can a Woman Stay without a Man

What do you call a person to whom you feel alterous attraction ?

The way you call the object of your romantic infatuation “crush”, there are specific terms for the sudden non-romantic attraction that you feel for someone. There are separate terms for platonic and alterous attractions.

Squish is the term used when you say that you have a strong non-romantic attraction towards a person. Therefore, it is used as an umbrella term for all non-romantic attractions.

Somewhere between a crush and a squish falls “Mesh”, which is the term used to describe a person that you are experiencing a strong alterous attraction for. So, your “mesh” is a person with whom you are keen to have an alterous relationship.

It is important to know that these terms, squish and mesh, are not in much popular use, except for the LGBTQ+ community in general and the aroace community in particular.

How is Alterous Attraction different from Platonic, Queerplatonic and Romantic Attractions?

Alterous Attraction Vs Queerplatonic

Platonic or queerplatonic attraction is a non-romantic, asexual attraction leading to something more than friendship of the regular kind. Those who feel it may even elevate themselves to the status of partners. Queerplatonic relationships (QPRs) have a stronger sense of commitment than ordinary friendship and have some sort of structure similar to a romantic relationship. 

What sets alterous attraction apart from queerplatonic is the deep emotional connection that characterizes the former. A queerplatonic relationship (QPR) is a commitment between two people who agree to be partners and see each other that way minus the romantic and sexual aspects of being partners and write their own rules for the conduct of the relationship. 

However, after a lot of research and thought I came to the conclusion that you can feel an alterous attraction towards a person while still being in a romantic and/or sexual relationship with a third person and still have a very fulfilling experience with the former. 

Romantic Vs Alterous Attraction

If one goes merely by the image that the two words – romantic and alterous attraction – evoke, romantic attraction may get counted as the more intimate kind. However, if you study the responses from the people interviewed (mentioned in the previous section), you would agree that the non-romantic intimacy experienced in an alterous relationship seems equally deep as there is an intention to connect with the soul. 

Romantic attraction evokes certain nervous feelings which are described variously as – “feeling weak in the knees”, “butterflies in the belly”, “heart skipping a beat”, etc. By contrast, an alterous relationship is more mature and there is much more room for the individuals to be themselves. It feels more selfless than a romantic relationship which obviously has its motivations. 

Alterous attraction can be felt concurrently and also in addition to romantic attraction, which is generally not true for the latter. The resonance of emotions in an alterous relationship is because the mental frequencies exactly match between the two individuals.

What is the difference between Alterous and Exteramo ?

Exteramo attraction is said to be a subset of alterous attraction, a view that I do not subscribe to. While alterous attraction is agreed to be somewhere between the platonic and romantic range, exteramo attraction is neither platonic or romantic and not anywhere in-between. Therefore, exteramo attraction is off-spectrum as far as platonic-romantic range is concerned. 

What is the symbol of alterous attraction? – Alterous attraction Flag

Some people like to use flags as a symbol to represent affiliation with a community. I am not too sure whether a flag would serve any purpose as a rallying point for alterous people at all as practically anyone in this world can feel alterous attraction and form alterous relationships. 

Nevertheless, a Tumblr user – Alterous-Albatross proposed a flag for the alterous community in January 2016. The flag has four stripes with colors yellow, gray, pink and red from top to bottom. The creator of the flag mentioned in the post introducing the flag that yellow represents platonic, gray represents the gray area occupied by alterous attraction between romantic and platonic, pink stands for affection and red stands for romantic.

There have been many variations suggested to the flag, however there is no unanimity as to which one should be used and therefore the original one is being mentioned.

The alterous attraction flag continues the tradition of flags getting designed by Tumblr user, other notable mentions being the Sapphic Flag and the Butch Lesbian Flag.

Alterous Attraction Test

Take this self-administered simple test to find out if you have alterous attraction towards someone.

  1. Do you think about having physical intimacy with the person you are attracted to, in the form of kissing, cuddling and having sex? 
    • If yes, please quit the test as alterous attraction is ruled out.
    • If not, please continue to the next question.
  1. Are you attracted to the other person’s physical appearance or beauty only and do not feel much beyond the aesthetics? 
    • If yes, you may discontinue the test as alterous attraction is ruled out.
    • If not, please continue to the next question.
  1. Do you feel attracted to a person to the extent that you wish to have a strong bond of friendship and may agree to call each other partners, however, the strong friendship rests on the mundane aspects of life sans deep emotional, romantic and sexual involvement? 
    • If yes, please continue no further as the attraction seems to be platonic rather than alterous attraction.
    • If not, please proceed to the next question.
  1. Does the attraction experienced by you compel you to get emotionally closer to the other person? 
    • If not, please quit. 
    • If yes, please continue to the next question.
  1. Along with the strong urge for deep emotional connection, do you feel like having physical intimacy in the form of kissing, cuddling and having sex with this person?
    • If yes, alterous attraction is ruled out.
    • If not, you will be glad to learn that you are experiencing Alterous Attraction.


People were largely unaware of alterous attraction, however it is gradually becoming a part of the discourse. The credit goes to the aroace community that has been refining the concept and talking about it.

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