We all are attracted to intelligence, or like to think we are. But, when choosing a dating partner, if we have to pick between someone who’s physically attractive but has an average IQ and someone who’s average in the looks department but has a high IQ, 80% of us would go for physical attractiveness. This is not vanity. It’s genetics. Evolution guarantees procreation and the continuation of the species by making humans value a healthy gene pool more than original thoughts.
Nowadays, saying that one is sapiosexual, meaning sexually aroused by intelligence (sapio means wisdom) rather than physical appearance, has become common on online dating apps. The term sapiosexual is fairly new to the sexuality lexicon. Merriam-Webster dates its first known use to 2004, though a LiveJournal user claims to have come up with it in 1998. And it denotes attraction that’s different from simply admiring someone with an intellect that could charm a room or cut through stone.
What Does It Mean To Be Attracted To Intelligence?
When people identify as sapiosexual, meaning they value smarts over looks in potential partners, they mean to say:
- They find high levels of intelligence or IQ the single most sexually attractive trait in a partner
- They only feel aroused by people they feel intellectual attraction toward, irrespective of gender; emotional connection and physical attractiveness rank lower for them
- In fact, for sapiosexuals, intelligence trumps every other desirable partner trait, like kindness, and it’s the first thing they look for in a potential partner
- They get into a relationship to connect with someone at a higher level, not just to appear as or be with the smartest person in the room
There are often big differences in what kinds and levels of intelligence sapiosexuals value in a partner. Psychometric evaluation by researchers has found that people tend to rate an IQ of up to 120 as the most desirable in a long-term partner but find an extremely high IQ (135+) a turn-off. The reason behind this is open to debate – which, by the way, sapiosexuals would rate as foreplay.
Saying that your kink is intelligence can be perceived as a way of saying you possess intelligence, too. But many people feel it devalues neurodiversity since intelligence is subjective. For instance, someone may consider the knowledge of potato varieties fascinating, while someone else may think it is good enough only to know what would make the best fries.
Related Reading: The Different Types of Attraction And How To Recognize Them
17 Signs You Might Be A Sapiosexual (Attracted To Intelligence)
In 2018, a study was conducted to determine whether sapiosexuality should be counted among valid sexual orientations or as a fetish. Because sapiosexuality has garnered notoriety for being a pretentious term, anyone saying, “Why am I so attracted to people with high IQ?” tends to invite eye-rolls. Another term used interchangeably with sapiosexuality is sapiophile. However, a sapiophile’s attraction toward intelligent or smart people is romantic rather than sexual.
In 2017, a dating app called ‘Sapio’ was launched to connect people with the same intellectual level. The app handed people who ranked the brain as the sexiest organ in the body a dating questionnaire of around 300 questions. Though intellect can’t always be measured through questions, a sapiosexual person would surely love the idea of answering a questionnaire, instead of adding emojis while writing their dating profile. Here are some more signs and characteristics of a sapiosexual:
1. You seek deep and intellectual conversations
You hate small talk and prefer economy in the words that come out of your mouth. This means:
- Any talk about the weather, unless you’re discussing climate change, is out the window
- The question “How are you?” is not a phatic phrase for you, meant only for a social function
- When you ask people about themselves, you do it with genuine interest, which is why it is so excruciating for you to talk to random people
At the same time, when you like someone, you fantasize about having stimulating conversations with them and not just superficial exchanges. When you have a thing for intelligence or smart people, conversations are like intellectual journeys from which you emerge with new knowledge. And, with every new word your partner or date says, you are not frowning, wondering what it means, but you’re appreciating the use of a word most people wouldn’t use or know.
2. You don’t do run-of-the-mill romance
People attracted to intelligence have a hard time finding love using traditional methods. So if you are a sapiosexual, there’s a big chance:
- You don’t know how to hook up on Tinder
- Your dating game isn’t very good in fact
- You are never really happy with your matches and long to go back to your apartment post first dates to read a book
- You have no respect for people who try to hit on you at a bar
You are also ambivalent about casual sex, but you’d be completely okay putting off sex for some great conversation. After all, the first step to turning sapiosexuals on isn’t seduction, but mental stimulation.
Related Reading: 110 Conversation Starters For Couples
3. You appreciate semantics
Which is just a fancy way of saying that you’re a grammar nazi. In fact, people who identify as sapiosexual are more likely to tell people:
- The difference between there, their, and they’re
- The correct pronunciation of jalapeño
- That stadia is the plural of stadium, not stadiums
They are also willing to spare time to run fact-checks on social media posts and leave lengthy comments. All this makes their family and friends worry that they’re going to die alone. But they don’t care.
They’re happy being the only ones laughing at sapiosexual jokes. Or, correcting anyone who says sapiosexuality isn’t a sexual identity and a sapiosexual flag isn’t a thing. (By some counts there are anywhere between three to twenty versions of the sapiosexual flag. The original has three horizontal stripes: dark green, brown, and blue.)
4. Your idea of a first date is a discussion
When you are attracted to intelligence, your idea of a successful first date is an intense conversation about your life or life as a concept. While people think about what to talk about on a first date, you probe each other to find out what you like and why you like it.
This is why you hate going to bars or clubs on a first date. You’d rather go to a museum and pick each other’s brains about the impact of the Second World War on Picasso’s art. You are also less likely to get sexually involved on the first date. You would much prefer to get to know your date first.
5. You are turned on by knowledge
The romantic or sexual attraction you feel depends on perceived intelligence. Intelligence here often doesn’t mean IQ, but possession of knowledge that you would value. If your partner or date’s explanation of subjects such as quantum physics and their intellectual curiosity are huge mental turn-ons for you, then it’s possible you could identify as sapiosexual.
Related Reading: 18 Scientifically Backed Things That Turn Women On
6. You look for culture instead of partying on vacations
Attraction to intelligence means that your idea of the perfect vacation includes exploring the culture of a new place, instead of drinking and partying. So, when you travel with your partner, you’re likely to go to a place with museums and old villages and places of historical importance. While everybody would be hunting for crop tops to wear to Coachella, you’re likely to be sewing a historically accurate Anne Boleyn costume for the Renaissance Fair.
7. Your idea of a great date is challenging each other
Couples who identify as sapiosexual love to challenge each other in the growth of their intellect. People who are turned on by intelligence love to do things that they have not done before, like learning a new language or taking online classes in photography.
Heard of couples who like to organize treasure hunts for anniversaries? Or, those who, at a pool party, criticize the decision to award both Atwood and Evaristo the Booker Prize? Chances are they might not be uppity as everyone claims, they could just be sapiosexuals. And if you are interested in that sort of thing, you may be, too.
8. Your attraction to intelligence doesn’t get affected by other factors
Because sapiosexuals are attracted to the contents of someone’s mind and not their physicality:
- They’re likely to fare better in long-distance relationships
- They’re also less likely to get jealous or insecure since for them, the relationship is not about belonging to someone, it’s about having an intellectual connection
People who identify as sapiosexual also care little about other people’s opinions about their partners. This means that the crazy things people do to impress others don’t have an impact on sapiosexuals. They’re only impressed by what people say, and not their possessions, age, or gender.
9. You love learning new skills
One of the defining characteristics of a sapiosexual is their love for learning new things:
- They love studying new languages and skills that people often consider unnecessary
- They are often found in self-help and do-it-yourself sections
- When they travel, they research the hell out of the place
- Friends often turn to them for tutoring because they know of their thirst for learning
10. You find people more attractive as you get to know them more
In a standard relationship, physical attractiveness is a big turn-on and physical touch is an important part of building intimacy. However, both these factors tend to change or wane over time. But, the connection that sapiosexuals feel with their partners keeps on getting stronger, like a twin-flame connection. This is mainly because sapiosexuals grow intellectually in the relationship.
11. Your arguments are like discussions
Sapiosexuals arguing with their partners could be the most hilarious thing if you’ve only witnessed drama in normal couples’ fights. Think of every time Captain Holt and Kevin fought in Brooklyn Nine-Nine. They may even go to the extent of:
- Holding debates with points for every round
- Drawing pro and cons lists
- And referencing Plato and Camus to prove their point
However, sapiosexuals do not resort to passive-aggressive tactics. They believe arguments in relationships can be healthy and approach them as healthily as possible.
12. You have little patience for silly things
This doesn’t mean that sapiosexuals are killjoys, it just means that they have a hard time finding slapstick humor funny or laughing at politically-incorrect jokes. This also means that your biggest turn-offs are millennial abbreviations (who invented BTW, by the way?), lack of punctuation in texts, or excessive use of emojis.
13. You don’t do simple
People who have a thing for intelligence play to win. So, if you’re asked to plan a baby shower, or gifts for a dad and mom-to-be, or help with a little model of a digestive system, you’re likely to go all out on it, even if it means organizing color-coded decorations for the entire street or using real acid to demonstrate the workings of a stomach. You’re also the one who is assigned the important tasks at weddings because everyone knows you are going to get that thing done while everybody else is getting drunk.
14. You have great listening skills
It is important to be a good listener in a relationship. Sapiosexual people live by this advice. In fact,
- They are often the person friends and family members turn to talk about their problems and ask for advice
- They have great reverence for what their partners talk about and so, they have great listening skills. They do not get into a relationship to just vent off steam
15. You believe in a long-term relationship
Since it’s the brain that holds a sapiosexual’s attention in the relationship, they’re often less likely to focus on a casual relationship. Also, their relationships grow stronger over time so they’re less likely to gradually drift apart from their partner. Even when sapiosexuals take a break from the relationship and see other people, they still feel intellectually attracted to their partners and are more likely to look for ways to get back with their ex.
16. You engage in art to learn rather than being entertained
Sapiosexual people do not watch movies to pass the time or keep up with memes. They watch movies to:
- Improve critical thinking
- Or to learn a foreign language
Sapiosexuals are also passionate about art and often, high cultural art. They are far more likely to find sapiosexual jokes in a Shakespearean play than in a stand-up routine.
Related Reading: How Gen-Z Uses Memes To Flirt
17. You don’t like the traditional idea of sexy
Since sapiosexuality is an orientation in which attraction is not dependent on gender, it is often misappropriated by people who treat it as a fetish. However, a sapiosexual will always find intelligence sexier than washboard abs or a peachy butt. They could simply be attracted to highly intelligent people and not be influenced to form a relationship just because of the physical features that attract a man or woman.
- For sapiosexuals, intelligence is the most desirable trait in a partner
- For them, lust and sexual gratification come after intellectual stimulation
- They crave deep conversations and are genuinely turned on by knowledge
- Typical romance and seduction aren’t for them. In fact, their idea of a good date is one where they can exercise their intellect
- They love elaborate arguments but have little patience for lowbrow jokes, millennial abbreviations, too many emojis, and lack of punctuation
- They are good listeners and don’t take relationships lightly. However, they prefer to move slow so that they can bond with their partners better
Sapiosexuality is often dismissed as a pretentious behavioral tactic and has been subject to controversy due to its ableist and elitist connotations. That’s because people rarely consider intelligence as a major factor in a relationship. But, if a deep and meaningful connection is what one’s after, wouldn’t a beautiful mind fit the bill?
This article was updated in May, 2023.
They are called sapiophile if they are romantically drawn to intelligence or sapiosexual if their attraction is sexual. Sapiosexuality is considered to be an orientation independent of one’s gender and is a sexual identity in its own right. Straight or LGBTQIA people can also identify as sapiosexuals.
Evolution suggests that physical factors such as strength and health are what a person may look for in a mate to guarantee a healthy offspring as that offspring will have a higher chance at natural selection. But, with the passage of time and a decrease in primitive behavior, intelligence has also become another favorable factor. That’s because of the halo effect around highly desirable qualities like intelligence or kindness. It’s also because of arousal transfer, where one strong emotion, say the thrill of being with a highly intelligent person, begets another, like sexual arousal.