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A visual representation of the SAM using a modified Kinsey scale. Someone can fall anywhere on the two scales. For some, their placement on the two scales is the same, for others they have two different placements.

Another SAM infographic[1]

Romantic and sexual diversity[2]

The More Complicated Attraction Layer Cake, by Luna Rudd[3]

The split attraction model or SAM is a model of attraction used by many ace-spec and aro-spec individuals to describe their identity, although it can also be used by those who are not a-spec. The SAM states that for some, sexual attraction and romantic attraction are two different things. For example, an asexual may feel romantic attraction, and an aromantic may feel sexual attraction. In those cases the a-spec individual may describe their identity using the SAM in order to express both aspects of their identity. Some may also include their tertiary attractions in their use of SAM.[4]

If someone's sexual and romantic orientation are the same they can simply use one word (this is called perioriented). For example, one would not have to say "pansexual and panromantic", as they could just say they're pansexual. The exception to this is aroace, which is often said together because only saying one could imply that one is alloromantic asexual or allosexual aromantic or lead to other confusion. Someone whose sexual orientation and romantic orientation don't match might identify as varioriented.

Not all a-spec individualsuse the SAM, and one should not assume that another uses the SAM until the other individuals say so. Most notably are non-SAM aros, but some prefer more precise terms including "romantic orientation" (or "romantic orientation labeling," for the personal use of terms like aromantic) and "attraction types," "attraction subtyping," or "differentiating types of attraction." Not everyone who experiences different types of attraction necessarily has a distinct romantic orientation, and not everyone who has a romantic orientation necessarily experiences multiple types of attraction.[5][6]


The first recorded instance of a model of orientation taking into account split attraction was in 1879, by Karl Heinrich Ulrichs, a German writer, who published 12 books on non-heterosexual attraction. In those books Ulrichs came up with various classifications of orientations which are fairly similar to modern LGBTA+ identities. Among his works he described individualswho are 'konjunktiver and disjunktiver' or 'conjunctive and disjunctive bisexuality'[7]. The first is described as one who has both 'tender' and 'passionate' feelings for both men and women. The second is one who has 'tender' feelings for men, but 'passionate' feelings for women (if the individual was a man- the reverse if they were a woman). However, Ulrichs' model never caught on due to the complexity.

The next instance of separating sexual and romantic attraction was in 1979 by the psychologist Dorothy Tennov. With the publication of her book 'Love and Limerence: The Experience of Being in Love'[8]. In the book Tennov described 'limerence' a form of attraction which could be described as a crush, or an infatuation with someone. Although Tennov viewed sex as being a part of limerence she acknowledged that it was not the main focus of it.

The first hints of what would become the modern SAM began with 'affectional attraction/orientation' which was coined at some point in the 1980's. It's unclear when the term was first used. Coining for the terms as often attributed to Curt Pavola, a gay rights activist from Washington, and to Lisa Diamond, a psychologist. However, there are instances of the phrase that predate both of these individuals.

Around 2001 there was a push for a way to classify asexuals. One of the earliest instances to still is the ABCD classification system on AVEN[9], which recognizes that some asexuals may feel romantic attraction. Around the same time there was a Yahoo e-mail group known as 'Haven For The Human Amoeba'[10], where in 2001 there was discussions of terms like 'hetero-asexual', "bi-asexual", etc. It wasn't until 2005 that the modern form of the SAM was created on AVEN[11]. By 2009 the terminology was commonly used in a-spec circles.

Other asexuals also began using additional attraction terms, such as emotional attraction, sensual attraction, and aesthetic attractions, starting in the early 2000s.[12][13] These attraction types could also be paired with parallel orientation identity terms (ex. pansensual, panaesthetic), but that application of them wasn't necessarily as common.

The specific term "split attraction model" being used to describe this concept originated on Tumblr in 2015. The original use of the term was from aphobes and exclusionists talking about how the ace community supposedly required that everyone (including non-asexuals) split their orientation into multiple parts[14][15][16]. The argument had some grain of truth to it, as a-spec communities often take SAM to be the default, although this typically only considered the default within the community. The term “Split Attraction Model” was adopted by a-spec communities in order to talk about the issue.