There’s an episode of Sex and the City where Carrie tells Samantha that she usually needs to be in love with someone to orgasm during sex. Samantha replies by saying, “You might want to see someone about that.” I’m with Carrie all the way, and despite Samantha’s quip, needing to feel a strong emotional connection to a person in order to be physically attracted to them or enjoy sex is totally normal. There’s even a name for it: demisexuality. Have you ever wondered if you are demisexual?
Perhaps you, like me, can’t wrap your head around how Samantha could bed a different man every night because you have to be emotionally invested in a person to have sex. Maybe the idea of online dating fills you with dread and going on a date with a stranger feels like walking the plank to your death. If you’re nodding your head, there is nothing wrong with you.
Demisexualty is on the asexuality spectrum, and according to the Demisexuality Resource Center it’s defined as “a sexual orientation in which someone feels sexual attraction only to people with whom they have an emotional bond.” While it’s defined as a sexual orientation, people can be demisexual in addition to being bisexual, pansexual, heterosexual, etc. Technically, the difference between sexuality and asexuality is that asexuality indicates "the lack of sexual attraction to others," but don't get it twisted because demisexuality is not always that. It can be far from it.
“Most people on the non-asexual side of the spectrum feel sexual attraction regardless of whether or not they have a close emotional bond with someone. They may have sexual feelings for attractive people on the street, classmates or coworkers they’ve barely spoken to, or celebrities,” the Demisexuality Resource Center explained. “However, they may choose to wait to have sex for a variety of reasons: it might not be feasible or appropriate, they want to make sure the person is respectful and kind, it’s against their religious beliefs, they only want to have sex in a romantic relationship, etc. The difference is that demisexuals don’t start out with these sexual feelings at all.”
A lot of people with demisexual traits likely felt different growing up because they didn’t fit in with the crushing and gushing cultural norm. Personally, I didn’t understand why all my friends were so into hooking up or how they could have a new romantic partner every few months. The first time I fell in love, it was with my best friend, which a lot of demisexual people on Reddit say also happened to them. Same? If you think you might be a demisexual person, here are 10 things to consider.
Your Sexual Attraction To Others Is Not Based On Physical Appearance
If you’re demisexual, you likely don't experience sexual attraction at first sight (let alone love), and your friends who swear their undying love to someone after only a few weeks are curious creatures to you. For demisexuals, romantic attraction to others is not based on physical appearance but on strong emotional bonds. You could meet someone and initially have no sexual feelings for them. Over time, though, after you develop a deep emotional connection, you could begin to have sexual feelings for that person.
“I never understood when my friends talked about hot guys and made innuendos. I understood intellectually, but not instinctually. I didn't feel what they were feeling. I knew it wasn't that I didn't want sex, because I definitely did. I just didn't want it with any guys that I knew. There was a disconnect somewhere and I didn't understand. I just thought something was wrong with me and left it at that,” one Reddit user said. “Then I accidentally fell in love with my best friend. Whoops. I became sexually attracted to him, like very attracted. For the first time in my life, I knew what it meant to want someone. It was liberating and overwhelming and confusing all at the same time. Luckily, this was when I came across the term demisexual. I finally understood what was going on in my head. My past experience suddenly made sense.”
You’ve Likely Been Called A “Prude”
Because you’re not into the hookup culture and you can go long periods of time without sex, your friends might tease you or call you a prude. If you are dating someone, it could take months for you to be ready for physical intimacy of any kind. In an essay for the Washington Post, self-identified demisexual Meryl Williams wrote, “Years ago, I would feel guilty for frustrating the people I was dating. I didn't want to feel as if I needed to explain to people why I wasn't ready to be intimate.”
You Felt Different Growing Up
OK, who didn’t feel different growing up? Most everyone has felt out of place at one time or another. However, demisexuals may have grown up feeling like there was something wrong with them because they weren’t interested in dating or first kisses or school dances. My first kiss was with my best friend and neighbor, and even though I was forming an emotional connection to him, the kiss was awful. In fact, I never wanted to kiss anyone again after that.
But two years later, I kissed someone else, and it was a whole different story. This is where it can be hard for people to understand. Being demisexual doesn’t mean you will feel sexually attracted to everyone you have a strong emotional connection with. It just means that connection must be present for the possibility to exist in the first place — you need it for a primary sexual attraction to develop. Even though it’s not stated outright, in the British Netflix series Sex Education, the character Otis is grappling with the same feelings and challenges experienced by demisexuals.
Going On A Date With A Stranger Is Super Stressful For You
I don’t know about you, but I can’t think of anything worse than going on a date with a stranger. In fact, I’ve only done this about three times in my entire life. First dates come with expectations, like your non-demisexual date might go in for an end-of-the-night kiss. This happened to me once. We were sitting at a table in a restaurant and my date leaned in for a smooch. I turned my head and he kissed my hair. It was awful.
“Dating can be difficult for demisexuals, even daunting, because of the sexual expectations and fast pace. For a demisexual, it can be nearly impossible to find a partner through the normative method of dating,” self-identified demisexual Arf Gray wrote for Vice. “It can take a long time to develop feelings of sexual attraction, if it happens at all, and by that point, the other person may have lost interest.”
Your Romantic Relationships Tend To Start As Friendships
How many demisexuals out there have been in a romantic relationship with someone who started out as a close friend? Me, too. It’s very common because strong emotional bonds are required for demisexuals to desire someone. And who do you have a strong emotional bond with if not a close friend? “The length of time required to develop an emotional bond may vary. For some demisexuals, it’s after several years of being close friends with someone,” the Demisexuality Resource Center noted on its website.
At Lady Gaga’s recent Jazz & Piano show in Las Vegas (which I attended), before she played “Bad Romance,” Gaga told the audience she wrote the song about falling in love with her best friend. As far as I know, Mother Monster has never said she is demisexual, but “Bad Romance” is certainly a demi anthem.
You’re Not Into Random Hook-ups
I’m not going to say I’ve never had a random hook-up, but they are few and far between, and the conditions have to be very specific for it to happen. For demisexuals, random hookups and one-night-stands hold almost no allure. My random hook-ups, which I can count on one hand, all included three things: alcohol, hours of intense conversation that made me feel emotionally connected, and traveling, which meant I knew I would never see those people again.
Demisexuality is a spectrum, so some people who identify as demisexual might never even consider a random hook-up, or perhaps they try it once and never do it again. In an essay for Elite Daily about her first one-night-stand, Sydnee Lyons said, “It wasn't just that I had absolutely no desire to hook up with this person again — I had no desire to do this again with anyone. Ever. In that moment, I realized something I had suspected for years: I identify as demisexual.”
Stimulating Conversation Turns You On More Than Physical Touch
Hey, that hand you’re putting on my leg makes me feel hella uncomfortable. It’s loaded with expectations and it’s not turning me on at all. You know what was turning me on, before you touched me? The conversation we were having about music. The fact that you knew the song “Black Magic Woman” was actually written by Fleetwood Mac and not Carlos Santana. That you knew Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones plays a five-string guitar. That you knew Lady Gaga writes all of her songs at the piano.
In her song “All I Really Want,” Alanis Morissette nails it when she sings, “All I need now is intellectual intercourse. A soul to dig the hole much deeper.” I’m not saying Morissette identifies as demisexual, but those lyrics describe what it feels like for me.
Crushing On Someone Is A Big Deal For You
If you’re demisexual, you’re probably not going to develop a crush on someone you know nothing about. Your crushes are few and far between, so when you do become smitten with someone, it’s a pretty big deal. In addition, that crush doesn’t have to include sexual attraction. In a thread on the website Asexual Visibility & Education Network (AVEN), many people said they do develop romantic crushes on strangers but don’t feel any sexual attraction unless they know them really well. This is mainly how celebrity crushes play out for me.
You Don’t Understand Online Dating
For some demisexuals, online dating can be a disaster. It’s difficult to know if you’re going to connect with someone IRL by scoping out their online profile. In a Reddit thread, a lot of demisexuals said that while they've tried online dating, they ended up meeting romantic partners other ways, like work, school, or social gatherings. Personally, that’s how all of my long-term relationships have started.
Relationships Can Be Confusing AF
According to AVEN and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill's LGBT Resource Center: “Individuals who identify as being demisexual, usually are not sexually attracted to anyone of a particular gender.” Being demisexual can be confusing. Even though demisexuals are attracted to people they have deep emotional connections with, a deep emotional attraction doesn’t guarantee sexual attraction.
A number of friendships have been ruined for me when I didn’t return the romantic feelings of a close friend. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve beaten myself up for not being romantically and sexually attracted to so and so. Like, things would be so much easier if I could just return the feelings of this amazing person whom I love but am not attracted to. But guess what? You and I are not alone, and you don’t have to label yourself as anything if you don’t want to. Let’s all just love each other (and ourselves) the best we can and let that be enough.
(Psst... if you feel like you're mostly attracted to intelligent people, read about sapiosexuality here.)