Demisexuality: When Emotional Bonds Are Essential For Sexual Attraction
The sexual orientation where emotional intimacy is essential for any feelings of desire.
Part of self-discovery is understanding your unique expression in all areas of life. Whilst the ultimate truth of who you are resides within, language offers various frameworks of what’s possible. Nowhere else is that more integral than sexuality. In recent years, an increasing number of sexual orientations have been identified, far beyond labels such as straight, homosexual, lesbian, or bisexual.
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The human experience is varied and expansive, and that includes sexuality. A label is only a point of reference, a way to understand, a way to feel validated or seen by a society that has long overlooked many people’s experiences. Demisexuality, in particular, is a sexual orientation that helps many understand the significance of emotional connection and attraction. It’s often misunderstood and even ridiculed. But for many, the label is liberating.
What Is Demisexuality?
LGBTQ+ charity Stonewall describe demisexuality as “someone who only feels sexual attraction to someone after they feel an emotional bond.” This isn’t to be confused with someone who only engages in sex or physical intimacy with someone they feel an emotional connection with; for demisexual people, sexual attraction, on a physiological, emotional, and intellectual level, doesn’t exist without an emotional connection.
Demisexuality as a term is thought to have originated around 2006, and still faces wide-ranging misconceptions. It is a recognized sexual orientation, not a way of describing people who want an emotional connection to feel attraction.
Where Demisexuality Lands on the Sexuality Spectrum
People who are demisexual experience different levels of sexual attraction. Generally, demisexuals have lower levels of sexual desire, because that desire is linked to emotional connection. Demisexuality is closely related to asexuality, where people have no desire for sex. The Demisexuality Reddit, which has over 75,000 members, explains this orientation:
“Some demisexuals may feel very close to asexuality and experience attraction to extremely few people in their entire lifetimes, and each may take a very long time to develop, while others may find attraction develops more frequently and often find themselves crushing on their friends.”
Unlike someone who may experience sexual attraction, but chooses not to act upon it without an emotional connection, demisexuals’ experience of sexual attraction is explicitly linked to how they relate to others. The quality and intimacy of their relationships will largely dictate their level of sexual interest. Without those connections, they won’t experience attraction.
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For some demisexuals, however, the frequency of feeling sexually attracted to others remains low, and sex isn’t a priority when compared to ways of forming emotional intimacy, such as cuddling, non-sexual touch, care, and affection. The length of time it takes for someone to cultivate a bond that leads to attraction varies person-by-person, too.
The Difference Between Demisexual and Sapiosexual
Demisexuality has some association with sapiosexuality. Whereas demisexuals require deep emotional bonds before sexual desire surfaces, a sapiosexual is sexually attracted to someone based on an intellectual connection. There is some controversy, however, as people have argued that sapiosexuality is a sexual preference and not a sexual orientation.
Either way, you can understand demisexuality and sapiosexuality as being linked to the four main types of intimacy: physical, emotional, intellectual, and spiritual. It’s safe to assume that there are also people who find attraction based on physical or spiritual connection, too.
Signs of Being Demisexual
Many people who are demisexual initially believe they may be asexual, due to their distinct lack of desire. Growing up as a demisexual can be alienating, and people struggle to connect to the experiences of their peers. In an interview with The Guardian, demisexual Lidia Buonaiuto explains the experience as not developing crushes or finding people “objectively hot,” in the way the majority of people do. Other signs of demisexuality include:
- A history of relationships starting as friendships: rather than one-night stands of impassioned but fleeting sexual flings, most demisexuals will develop romantic or sexual relationships with people only once an emotional connection.
- You may feel “overly picky”: societal expectations, especially an oversexualized culture, set a standard for being attracted to a wide range of people. However, demisexuals may question why they are so specific about who they’re attracted to and may have experienced being called “picky” or overly selective when it comes to partners.
- You may lack objective attraction: or, in other words, looks alone aren’t enough. Whereas for many people attraction can be ignited by visual stimulus, for demisexuals, attraction is exclusively subjective, based on the quality of the relationship, not physical traits.
If you experience some of these signs, but still fail to experience sexual attraction after forming intimate connections with people, it could be that you’re asexual, not demisexual. A little inquiry into your history, and your inner experience of your sexuality, can help shine a light on your unique expression.
What to Do if You Think You Might Be Demisexual
Regardless of how society views the increasing amount of definitions when it comes to sexual attraction, what matters, above all else, is your ability to feel at ease within yourself. A label, such as demisexuality, may feel liberating or affirming, allowing you to find a sense of peace with the way you relate to sex and intimacy. If you start to feel a sense of relief as you explore this topic, take that as a positive first sign.
Any orientation that sits outside of convention can feel isolating or difficult to fully accept. This is part of the process. But know there’s nothing wrong with you for feeling how you feel. In fact, there’s a lot of beauty to be found in the fact that, for you, sexual attraction is so closely linked to emotional connection.
Embracing your sexual orientation begins with honesty.
Have you been trying to create a sense of sexual desire, even if it’s lacking? Have you been avoiding what feels authentic for you through fear of judgment? Have you compared yourself to others and questioned why you’re different?
Self-understanding and self-acceptance are liberating to the extent that it allows you to stop using energy trying to suppress, deny, or force yourself to be something that you’re not. Embracing your sexual orientation begins with honesty.
Remember that no label defines you. Your sexual orientation is part of a much bigger, complex, fascinating personality. The clearer you are about what you like, and what you want, the easier it’ll be to cultivate the right relationships, that allow you to explore what feels good for you, with patience, understanding, and tenderness.