What is demisexual? To answer this question, let’s go back to the famous film, Her. The protagonist Theodore Twombly falls in love with his AI operating system, Samantha. He falls in love with a computer, and why so? Not because of the looks for sure. Simply because he can talk to her about anything under the sun! That’s what the demisexual definition boils down to – being attracted to personality more than looks or appearances.
Still confused, and wondering, what does demisexual mean? Don’t worry, we’ve got your back. We’re here to help you in your endeavor to understand the demisexual traits, backed by expert insights from sexologist Dr. Rajan Bhonsle (MD, MBBS Medicine and Surgery), who specializes in pre-marital counseling and has over three decades of experience as a sex therapist. Let’s dive into everything you need to know about this sexual orientation and ways to figure out if you identify as one.
What Does Demisexual Mean?
Before exploring the demisexual meaning, let’s look at the definitions of some other sexual identities:
- Asexual: A person who experiences little to no sexual attraction but may engage in sexual activity (asexual spectrum has a wide range of identities)
- Sapiosexual: A person who feels attracted to intelligent people (subjective over objective intelligence)
- Pansexual: Can be sexually attracted to anyone, regardless of gender/orientation
You’ll see why these are relevant to the way we define demisexual. The Demisexuality Resource Center describes this sexual orientation as one where a person “feels sexual attraction only after forming an emotional connection”. This form of sexuality falls somewhere in the middle of the sexual and asexual spectrum. A demisexual person does not experience any arousal until they are emotionally bonded to someone.
The trait can overlap with other types of sexualities. So, can you be straight and demisexual? Yes. Just like you can be gay or bi and demisexual. The preference for the gender of a sexual partner has nothing to do with demisexuality. This orientation only links sexual desire to an emotional connection. A demisexual can experience sexual attraction but only toward their specific partner or partners.
Dr Bhonsle points out, “Demisexuality is not an abnormality. It is just a variation of the normal. Demisexuals don’t experience sexual attraction instantly. Meeting a person at the bar and immediately sleeping with them is so not their style. Demisexuals need to get to know a person better in order to have a sexual relationship with them. Their sexual attraction generally depends on aspects of the personality that are not conventionally ‘sexual’ in nature.”
How Do You Know If You’re Demisexual?
Demisexuality can be hard to explain as well as understand. It is such a subtle dimension of sexual compatibility that it may take years for a person to realize that this inherent leaning has been the driving force behind their sexual behavior. If you can relate to this sexual identity but aren’t quite sure if you fit the bill, these 5 behavior patterns can settle the how do you know if you’re demisexual dilemma for you:
1. Your relationships are based on friendship
You cannot just jump at the prospect of going out with that hot person everyone around you is swooning over. You need to form a strong bond with a person to even be able to think about taking things forward. That heady rush of romance, complete with butterflies in the tummy, doesn’t come easily to you. That’s why most of your relationships move from friends to lovers. Even if you’ve tried making a dating profile, the attempt may have fallen flat on its face.
Dr. Bhonsle explains, “Demisexual couples generally start as close friends/acquittances/colleagues. For example, you attend a conference in your education network, which is full of people with relevant experience. And you start feeling attracted to someone because of the way they talk. You go and strike up a conversation with them at lunch. And eventually, you both start referring academic cases to each other. This right here is the beginning of a romantic relationship for a demisexual.”
2. You’ve been labelled as ‘cold’ or ‘frigid’
Since demisexuality is marked by an inability to feel sexual attraction until you’ve developed a deep emotional connection with a person, you may have found yourself unable to reciprocate a date’s or crush’s sexual advances. This may have resulted in you being labeled as a cold, frigid, or even an asexual person on the sexuality spectrum.
All this while, you have been beating yourself up about your low sex drive coming in the way of successful relationships. Now, that you know what is demisexuality, you can rest easy knowing that this tendency is just a manifestation of how you’re wired. Next time, maybe you’ll be able to explain your romantic orientation better.
Dr. Bhonsle emphasizes, “The biggest myth about demisexuality is that demisexuals have low libido or that they are asexual people. On the contrary, demisexuals are extremely good in bed and very passionate about sex. The only difference is that they are not impulsive about their sexual choices/preferences. They show a sense of maturity and stability and don’t jump the gun when it comes to sexual activities.”
3. Looks don’t matter to you
How do you know if you’re demisexual? Pay attention to what leaves you feeling all warm and fuzzy about a person. Another key trait of demisexuality is that physical appearances are not a factor in igniting a sexual spark. You attach more value to the intellect, wit, and sensitivity of a person than physical attraction. In other words, you’re attracted to personality.
If someone makes you laugh on the first date and doesn’t make offensive remarks about you or another person, you will look forward to seeing them again. As you get to know them better, you will be romantically inclined. Until that happens, you won’t even be able to bring yourself to make out, let alone go all the way. That’s just how your sexuality type works.
Dr. Bhonsle points out, “Don’t get mistaken into believing that demisexuals don’t have a sense of aestheticism or that they don’t appreciate beauty. That’s a misconception. A demisexual can easily become the judge of a beauty contest. The only difference is that their aesthetic attraction doesn’t immediately get translated into sexual attraction.”
4. You’ve never been sexually attracted to a stranger
Okay, maybe an absolutely drop-dead gorgeous person did make your heart skip a beat. But that feeling is rare and fleeting. You don’t recall getting all sexually fired up by a stranger, no matter how attractive or appealing they seem. When your friends talk about a casual hookup or a Tinder date they’re looking forward to, you just can’t wrap your head around the idea of getting under the sheets with someone you don’t know. Click on this ‘demisexual test’ to know more about your sexual orientation…
Dr. Bhonsle explains, “It is a big myth that demisexuals cannot have casual sex. They can but for that also, they would like to observe specific qualities in a person. A demisexual might find it very attractive that someone is good at public speaking or conducting astrophysics research – this can arouse them a lot more than the perfect body.”
5. You enjoy sex but don’t prioritize it
When you are with that special person you feel an emotional bond with, you not only feel aroused but also enjoy sex. But sexual activities aren’t ever a priority for you in a relationship. On the contrary, they are a by-product of a deep emotional connection with your loved one. In other words, you can be sure of your demisexuality if having sex is literally making love for you.
Dr. Bhonsle says, “Among my clients, there was a couple who had initially started out as friends. They didn’t even feel sexually attracted to each other in the beginning. But eventually, one of them started realizing how safe and comforting the other’s friendship was. The bond grew and later translated into a passionate relationship. They didn’t even expect the sex to be so good but it was, owing to the emotional intimacy.”
Related Reading: 10 Useful Tips For Dating Your Best Friend
Embracing Your Demisexuality
Dr. Bhonsle emphasizes, “If your romantic orientation is demisexual, there is no reason for you to feel out of place in the gender population. People feel safe around you and your slow/gradual approach toward romantic attraction can, in fact, be a turn-on for many. Love at first sight is a puppy/teenage phenomenon anyway. The best relationships are the ones that grow on us, over the course of time.”
As the demisexual flag symbolizes, you don’t see the world as a black triangle (asexual community) or white (sexual). You see the world in shades of grey. You are the perfect blend of emotional and physical intimacy, of lust and love. If your partner has trouble understanding you, try communicating with them specifically about all your needs/desires and expectations from intimacy. You can also join Facebook groups dedicated to demisexuals and connect with like-minded people. Also, check out podcasts like Sounds Fake but Okay and Gender Fluids…
- Demisexuals are people who don’t feel like having sex with someone until they have bonded/connected with them emotionally
- Some of the myths about demisexuals are that they are asexual, have low libido, and don’t appreciate beauty
- One of the classic demisexual traits is that they generally end up dating their friends
- The perks of being with a demisexual are that you feel safe/comfortable with them and they don’t jump the gun when it comes to sex
- If you give them enough time, demisexuals grow on you and turn out to be extremely good partners in bed too
In the emotional connection vs physical connection debate, you instinctively lean toward the former. In a world where dating has become a lot like fast food – readily available, full of choices, and quickly chomped down without being savored – you may feel (or be made to feel) like quite the oddball for being attracted to personality.
But remember, you are the only one who gets to control your sexual preferences and romantic orientation. Stay true to how you feel to be at peace with yourself. Embrace your demisexuality and wear it on your sleeve with pride. You don’t need to conform or succumb to the pressure of social norms. If not today, then at some point, you will find that special person with whom you feel a strong, unshakable emotional bond. Your dating life will take off like never before.
Finally, sexual identities are complex and there are way too many layers involved. It is always wise to seek advice from a certified therapist. If you’re struggling with coming to terms with your sexual orientation, experts on Bonobology’s panel are always here for you. Don’t shy away from seeking their support.
This article has been updated in November 2022.