Could You Be Demisexual?
JULY 18, 2017 11:00 AM
PHOTO: LEAH SCHRAGER
There’s no limit to the ways in which you can identify sexually, and it’s encouraging to see terminology try to keep up. The most recent label that's making the rounds—one that plenty of people probably feel describes them, even if they may not have heard of it—is demisexual.
Think of it as essentially the antithesis of “screwing without feelings.” If you’re demisexual, you want to have sex with and have feelings of sexual attraction only for someone with whom you have an emotional bond. Basically, it means you want to get down only if your heart's really, really in it.
That’s right: There is an actual, defined sexual orientation for people who exclusively have sex with feelings. If you identify as a demisexual, there’s a good chance you’re not down for casual sex. Sex needs to be intimate and emotional, and you have to care about the other person as a human, not just a quick lay. Otherwise, you aren’t going to have an orgasm or enjoy the experience.
“Demisexuality is about an emotional bond with someone, which might seem obvious as most of us need an emotional bond for either a sexual or romantic connection,” says Nikki Goldstein, sexologist, relationships expert, and author of Single but Dating. “However demisexuals require this first for anything else to develop.”
Demisexuals are much more about emotional intimacy than sex in general. According to a 2014 AVEN Community Census of Demisexuals and Asexuals, two thirds of those who identify as demisexual say they are uninterested in or repulsed by sex (leaving one third who are interested in sexual activity).
Most of us see someone hot on the street (or in a movie, or in a porn video, or it’s Harry Styles) and get turned on by that person. We can have feelings of sexual attraction for people we don’t even know. That’s not to say we necessarily act on those lusty feelings, but we feel some buzzing down under. For demisexuals, the gender of a person, how they wear their hair, the sound of their voice, the way they dress, or what they do for a living are not usually the main components of sexual attraction. Instead, what matters is the emotional bond the demisexual person feels. That means if you’re demisexual, you need to get to know someone before you feel any sort of sexual spark.
According to the Demisexuality Resource Center (DRC), the intensity of the emotional bond needed to enjoy sex varies from demisexual to demisexual: You don’t necessarily have to want to marry and make babies with the person you’re sleeping with in order to enjoy the sex. Instead, you’re basically attracted to emotional intimacy—it’s what turns you on the most.
The DRC also casts a wide net for how these emotional bonds can form, warning that not every emotional bond will cause sexual attraction. “However, forming an emotional bond doesn’t guarantee that sexual attraction will happen. It is just a prerequisite for it to occur at all,” it says on its site, adding, “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, and for others, it might be a short but intense experience, such as traveling abroad for a week with them.”
Likewise, Goldstein says, “some of these situations are not necessarily sexual and it might lead demisexuals to be drawn to familiar people in their life, like friends.”
Sex drives, identities, and the labels that manifest therein can be difficult to navigate or fit into properly. Demisexuals are those individuals who may or may not have a high sex drive but cannot unlock sexual desire without emotional connection.
In sum, being a demisexual is another way to sexually identify yourself if you’re feeling on the outs about casual hookups, but still want to own and be in control of your sexuality. Sexual empowerment comes in many forms, after all, and sometimes involves not having sex at all if you don’t want.
There is no hierarchy of sexual preference. Whether you identify as a demisexual, asexual, moderately sexual, or a highly sexual person, you have just have to do you.
This article is part of Summer of Sex, our 12-week long exploration of how women are having sex in 2017.