5 things you need to understand about demisexuality
We’re constantly expanding our understanding of sexuality — and that’s such a great thing. Sexualities that used to hardly ever be mentioned, like asexuality or pansexuality, are now a normal part of our discourse. But there are some that we’re still just beginning to talk about and understand. One of those is demisexuality — and, in a way, it’s surprising that we don't talk about it more because it applies to so many people. Demisexuality may not be a word you've heard of before, but a lot of people, as soon as they understand it, burst out with “That’s so me!”
So, what is demisexuality?
Well, to keep it simple: demisexuality is when you only feel sexual attraction to someone once you already feel an emotional connection. I know — it probably sounds like someone you know, because it’s actually really common. And it makes total sense — sexuality comes in so many different forms, so why wouldn’t emotions have some bearing on that? There are people (like me) who can have great sex with someone they have no emotional connection with and some people who need to be emotionally tuned in before that attraction can even happen. And neither way is better or worse, it’s just how we’re wired. The brain is a huge part of our sex drive, after all.
So here’s what you need to know about demisexuality because it’s probably more common than you realize:
1. Demisexuals can still be kinky AF
Now some people hear the words “emotions” and “sex” in the same sentence and assume that demisexuals must be really prudish or really vanilla — like they don't like sex unless it’s under a waterfall or on a bearskin rug. But that’s not the case- at all. Needing the emotional attachment is only about establishing a sexual attraction — once that’s there, it can go in any direction. Some demisexuals will be vanilla, some will be kinky. Some will have a really high sex drive, some will be more toward the asexual side. So just because someone says they’re demisexual, don’t assume you know exactly what they’re like.
2. You may hear it referred to by other names
OK, this might seem a little confusing at first — but stay with me. There’s another term, known as gray-asexual, which can mean that someone is demisexual, but not always. "A gray-asexual, gray-ace, gray-a, or grace fall under the big umbrella of asexuals and demisexuals but have a different process for realizing sexual attraction," Holly Richmond, Ph.D., a certified sex therapist and marriage and family counselor, tells Women’s Health. "A gray ace doesn’t view sexual attraction as black and white (as in, yes I can be attracted to someone, or no I cannot be sexually attracted to anyone), but rather they utilize a gray lens that creates space for the idea of 'sometimes.'" I know, it seems confusing. But the more you talk about it and ask questions, the more it starts to make sense — and it’s worth talking about.
3. Looks don't play as much of a role
This might not come as a huge surprise, but it’s so different from how we normally think about sex that it’s worth mentioning. If you’re someone who normally feels a spark or a sexual attraction within seconds of meeting someone — or just from seeing them across the room — you need to open your mind to understand demisexuality. Because it comes from the emotional attachment, often looks won't have anything to do with it, at all.
4. But friendship normally does
Most, but not all, demisexual relationships will start as friendships. It’s not because they have to be friends first, but in order to form an emotional connection that’s strong enough that a sexual attraction to develop, it’s probably going to be a friendship. As people, we just don’t establish deep emotional connections in that many other ways — but of course, it does sometimes happen.
5. Coming out as a demisexual is tricky
Being a demisexual isn’t easy. A lot of them will have been called “prudes” or teased about their preferences — which is not OK. And some of them will have opened up to people about their sexuality only to hear, “Wait, isn’t that everybody?” Because people often downplay demisexuality. They don’t recognize the difference between finding an emotional connection attractive and not being able to develop any sexual feelings without an emotional connection. It’s a big difference. A lot of us think the sex is better or get more turned on if the emotional connection is there — but that’s not the same as needing it. So if someone comes out to you as demisexual, don’t take it lightly. Listen to what they have to say and make it clear that you’re there for them.
Demisexuality is a sexuality that we’re finally starting to learn more about — and it’s so great that we're talking about it. But just because someone says they’re demisexual, don’t make assumptions. Everyone is different, so let the person explain what that means for them.
Cover image source: Lea Brisell