Sensual vs. Erotic

Someone asked me recently whether I (paraphrasing) engaged in sexual activity just to please my partners, or whether I also enjoy “sensual/erotic” things.

It’s interesting to me that sensual and erotic here are used as synonyms, or near-synonyms. To me, they’re not. I know what sensuality is, and I definitely do enjoy it, but I actually had to look up the definition of “erotic” before I started writing this (“You know you’re asexual when…”). As I suspected, the word does not apply to me, since the key component is sexual desire, which I do not have.

Or to be more accurate, I suppose it could apply to me, to my body, as perceived by someone else, but I would never use the word to describe anything but someone else’s perceptions. It just doesn’t have a place in my personal lexicon.

But I do enjoy sensuality, and part of that involves touching, and being touched by someone else. Sometimes that results in physical arousal, but I have an odd habit of not even noticing when I’m aroused. The goal for me is not arousal and physical release, but just to luxuriate in the senses.

I suppose for a long time, I mistook this sensuality for sexuality. It took me a while to realize that other people didn’t think the same way that I do. But that doesn’t change the fact that for me, the idea of sharing a nice, long, hot bubble bath with someone I love strikes me as infinitely more intimate and fulfilling than having sex.

2 thoughts on “Sensual vs. Erotic

  1. Ooh, bubble bath. A few months ago, I had the opportunity for a free chair massage, which I quickly grabbed, and after a few minutes of it, I started thinking how wonderful it would be to learn basic massage with a partner and have some intimate touch that way. It appealed to me about nine million times more than sex. :) I started thinking then about what “fantasies” asexuals (and like folks) might have in place of sexual ones. Your bubble bath strikes me as in that vein, and seems thoroughly lovely as well.

    p.s. “You know you’re asexual when…” made me chuckle. True story!


  2. I use the term “erotic” for things which arouse me. I don’t mean just physically…. or at least, not the kind of physical arousal that I don’t also notice mentally… My partner found it odd in the past that I said I was not mentally aroused when he touched me, because he said he could tell that my body was physically aroused. He thought I had some kind of mind-body disconnect. Whereas, when I actually feel aroused, I usually feel it mentally as well as physically. I term the things that make me feel that way “erotic”. For me, the word erotic does not indicate I have sexual desire… something being erotic doesn’t make me want to have sex, but it makes me feel good in a sexual way.

    Sensual things on the other hand, just feel good in a physical way.


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