Many may not realize that there is a difference, but people really need to understand that there is a difference between split attraction as an experience and the act of “splitting” one’s identities. Also, that referring to “split attraction” as a “model” can sometimes be invalidating.
First, “split” can act as a verb to mean “to break apart.” In this context, one “splits” or breaks apart a larger identity category into smaller parts. As is the case with many systems of classification, there is much debate over the “lumping” and “splitting” of human sexuality (the larger category.)
When “split” is used as a verb, we’re talking about the act of someone dividing their identities into separate parts. While the “lumping” versus “splitting” debate wars on, it’s important to understand that the manner in which one classifies themselves and their experiences is dependent on context.
For example, I am aromantic and asexual. My romantic identity and my sexual identity technically “align.” They both have to do with a lack of attraction. I choose to “split” my romantic identity from my asexual identity because it enables me to articulate my experiences within my community.
Second, “split” can act as an adjective to mean “broken apart” or “divided.” In this context, one’s experiences do not align with a particular convention typically applied to their sexuality. Commonly, this refers to a disconnect or separation between one’s sexual identity and romantic identity.
When “split” is used as an adjective, we’re not talking about a model of identification being followed. We’re talking about a phenomenon, wherein someone’s experiences do not align with a standard assumption. Experiences with split attraction may result in someone using the “split attraction model.”
For example, someone who is asexual but who is not aromantic experiences split attraction. Their identities do not “align” because a common assumption regarding human sexuality is that sexual identity and romantic identity are always the same or always related to one another.
You can experience split attraction, without using the “split attraction model.” You can use the “split attraction model” without experiencing split attraction. This is because these two things are not necessarily the same thing. Since they are not the same, referring to split attraction exclusively as a model is invalidating.
The “split attraction model” surfaced in the asexual community out of necessity, because asexuals are commonly assumed to be aromantic by default which sometimes leads to intracommunity tension between aromantic asexuals and romantic asexuals and fuels arophobic attitudes in shared spaces.
This “model” can be misused if people do not understand its purpose, do not consider its historical importance to asexuals, and do not pay attention to the context in which it is used. Some may feel pressured to use it when they don’t need to, which can lead to people misidentifying themselves.
That doesn’t render it useless. The “split attraction model” enables people within asexual community spaces to articulate their experiences, and find resources that are relevant to them. It is not “inherently bad,” as it has been a necessary tool for discussion and nuance in asexual spaces.
Finally, by referring to the experience of “split attraction” as a model, you are assuming someone has control over a phenomenon in the same way they have control over how they identify. This is not a model, and forcing someone to refer to their experience as a model delegitimizes that experience.
We can choose whether or not we use a model of identification, but we cannot choose whether or not our experiences with attraction align according to human sexuality conventions. As an aromantic asexual, I can simply refer to myself as asexual as much as a romantic asexual person can.
The big difference is that my experiences with attraction align, whereas they do not align for someone who is romantic and asexual. A romantic asexual may use the split attraction model to articulate that their experiences do not align, as much as I may use it to articulate that my experiences do align.