Recognizing demisexuality

I am demisexual.

ace flagThis is a topic that you would think might fit pretty well into my general blogging oeuvre, and yet here we are a good eighteen months after I started blogging, and this is the first I’m saying about it.

The thing is, I discovered the concept of demisexuality, and realized that it sounded an awful lot like me, quite some time ago. But it’s taken me until now to decide that I actually feel comfortable owning it. And I kind of want to examine the things that made it difficult for me to get to this point.

To begin with, I am pretty sure that my reaction is very strongly rooted in issues brought up by The Ace Theist regarding some of the factors that prevent people from realizing that they are asexual. I have definitely gone through phases of feeling broken because of the ways in which my sexuality works. However, in addition to the very important observations in that post, there are aspects specific to the demisexual experience that can further complicate self-realization. The factors I can identify in my own delayed realization are as follows:

  • I thought I did experience primary sexual attraction… don’t I? (Spoiler: nope)
  • I really like sex!
  • I have had (and enjoyed having) sex with people that I didn’t have strong emotional bonds with
  • I really want to be a person who has casual sex with lots of people

So:

I thought I did experience primary sexual attraction… don’t I?

Actually, I kind of do. But not in the ways I thought I did.

The thing is that in many ways, my experience of the world and the way my sexuality works isn’t all that starkly different from allosexuals. And it’s been easy for me to round my experiences into an approximation of allosexuality; or rather, I think I spent a large part of my life rounding other people’s described experiences into something resembling my own.

Thus, when people talk about having crushes, I assumed that their crushes looked the same as mine. Because I am familiar with the experience of being fascinated by and drawn to new people, of wanting to be close to them, of wanting them to notice me, and to like me back (romantic attraction). I am even familiar with the experience of finding someone somehow aesthetically pleasing, of enjoying looking at them and wanting to see them (aesthetic attraction). If you need clarification on what I’m talking about here, The Ace Theist provides a good examination of some of the different kinds of attraction.

demiOf course, you may notice that none of this involves actually wanting to have sex with these people. And in fact, I have never had that experience, of meeting someone and simply being sexually attracted to them. I can be attracted to them in many ways, but never sexually. When I daydream about crushes, it involves having awesome conversation, and maybe, maybe cuddles, but the story always ends long before sex happens.

But the thing is: I really, truly thought that everyone was like this. I interpreted expressions of overt sexual desire for near-strangers as sort of bravado, a way of expressing the same thing I felt (which I now understand to be romantic attraction) without being vulnerable. I just somehow didn’t believe that what other people experienced was different from the thing I thought of crushes as being.

Ultimately, however, my experience is different. My crushes don’t have an explicitly sexual element to them (though a desire for intimacy is common), but they are wonderful and fun and I enjoy them greatly, so whatevs, I guess?

It is also true, though, that once I actually establish a sexual relationship with a person, something that I can only identify as that elusive-for-me primary sexual attraction *does* develop. And when it does, boy howdy, is it intense. It’s just not, I guess, primary for me?

I really like sex!

The core of my resistance to owning my demisexuality lays here, really. I figured I couldn’t be on the ace spectrum, because I like sex so damn much. I like to have lots of it, with great frequency and variety. And so I can’t be even remotely asexual, right?

The thing is that demisexuality really has nothing to do with how much sex person wants to have, or how sexually expressive they are. It’s about the way we experience sexual attraction to other people, and the circumstances under which that occurs.

For the most part, my sexual interests and libido just aren’t directed at particular people. In fact, I very rarely have sexual fantasies about people. Or rather, I have fantasies that necessarily involve people, but usually they will be super generic, and lacking and defining characteristics; they are only people insofar as people are required to create whatever erotic scenario/dynamic my mind wants to construct. More often than not, *I* am not even featured in these fantasies, really. And in the (rare) instances when I do fantasize about actual, specific people they are almost exclusively people with whom I already have a sexual relationship.

So sure, I want to have sex all the time, but the fact still remains that I’m really only attracted to people with whom I feel a certain level of emotional affinity Plus whatever magic is required to buffer that into sexual attraction. And it is this aspect of my sexuality that sets me apart from allosexuals. There is an aspect of the allosexual experience (that of feeling purely physically attracted to another person) that I simply have never personally felt. This is what puts me on the ace spectrum. This makes sense to me when I think about it this way, and I am ok with it.

I have had sex with people that I didn’t have strong emotional bonds with

Ok, this is a little more complicated to untangle. A more direct way of putting the point would be to say that I am capable of enjoying sex with people without actually feeling sexually attracted to them. Which, I mean, I think most people can do this? Some asexual people engage in sexual activities with their partners, and get various kinds of enjoyment or satisfaction out of doing so. And allosexuals also, for various reasons, sometimes have sex with people they don’t find attractive. But, I mean, unless there’s something else going on in terms of an emotional/romantic connection, masturbation beats out sex with people I’m not attracted to any day.

Also, cake.

Also, cake.

That said, I can happily have sex as a way of experiencing intimacy with someone I am romantically attracted to (this can actually be a way of solidifying the necessary emotional bonds to kickstart feelings of sexual attraction for that person). And I can get sexual satisfaction out of doing so, because my physical sexual response happens to allow for that. But, I have actually come to understand that this experience tells me nothing either way about whether I am demisexual.

I really want to be a person who has casual sex with lots of people

Ok, again, this actually says nothing about whether or not I am demisexual. The fact is that I envy people who can happily and comfortably have casual sexual experiences. It seems like fun! I like sex, and if I had casual sex, then I could have more sex, so that seems like an awesome idea.

However, extensive failed dating attempts, and just the sheer discomfort and confusion I often feel at being on the receiving end of someone else’s primary sexual attraction (I just don’t understand why random strangers sometimes seem to want to have sex me. They don’t even know me! How does that work?) has made it clear to me that this is simply not to be. Seeking out casual sex doesn’t make me happy. Ultimately, it stresses me out, because on some level I just fundamentally don’t get it, no matter how badly I would like to. I have a lot to say about this, actually, so expect more posts on the ways my demisexuality has affected me, the ways I interact with others, and ultimately, how I feel about those interactions.

So, in conclusion…?

Who doesn't love a spectrum?

Who doesn’t love a spectrum?

Here’s the thing. My experience is not as extremely different from the allosexual experience as some other demisexual people’s. Demisexuality is sometimes described as only feeling sexual attraction to people after falling int love with them. This is some people’s experience, but very much not mine. I am probably more allo- leaning than many demisexual-identified people (yay spectrum!) And I think it would be reasonable for someone with experiences similar to mine to decide against identifying as demi.

But, that doesn’t really matter. I know that a demisexual identity is right for me in much the same way I know that a genderqueer identity is right for me. Because when I allow myself to interpret my own experiences through that lens, and when I model my interactions with other people in ways that honour those identities I feel happier, more comfortable in myself, less stressed out and confused, and just, better about myself in many inarticulable ways.

So, yeah. I am demisexual. And I can (and do, really!) have a fulfilling sexual life as a demisexual. I know that this is true. I just have to change my expectations for myself, and for what that will actually look like.

I haven’t entirely figured this out, but at least I have finally dug my way through all the mental barriers around owning this part of who I am and how I work sexually. There’s nowhere to go from here but up!

10 comments

  1. “Asexual people engage in sexual activities with their partners, and get various kinds of enjoyment or satisfaction out of doing so.”

    Some. Some do. It’s important to clarify that this is not true of most asexual people, since ignoring sex-averse aces has been kind of a widespread problem in the community for a while, as Queenie recently wrote about.

    1. Oh my glob, thank you for pointing that out. I really only meant to imply that that was only true for some asexual people, but was clearly sloppy on my wording. Fixing now!

  2. Thank you. I’m going through a process a lot like you went through, and I’m in a stage of questioning if I’m demisexual. This post was really helpful and uplifting, and I thought it was really well written to boot.

  3. I had never read this post of yours, Kasey! I’ve loved your blog for a little while now but never actually caught up on some of your older posts. I’m glad I finally did, though. The rainbow makes me happy and the post itself… well weirdly most of the specific-pieces-on-how-demisexuals-experience-their-demisexuality that I’ve actually come across, or at least that stick out in my mind, do fall into this broad type of narrative of “but my experience of demisexuality is kind of different than how an average demisexual describes it”. I would love to know what is typical of demisexuality for a few different reasons, if there even IS a “typical of demisexuality”… mainly to be a better ally/to understand the world around me more, but also for the sake of potentially writing demisexual characters in fiction, etc.

    By the way… I’m really glad this section:

    “A more direct way of putting the point would be to say that I am capable of enjoying sex with people without actually feeling sexually attracted to them. Which, I mean, I think most people can do this? Some asexual people engage in sexual activities with their partners, and get various kinds of enjoyment or satisfaction out of doing so. And allosexuals also, for various reasons, sometimes have sex with people they don’t find attractive.”

    Includes both the “think” word/the question mark (about most people being able to do this) and the “Some” qualifier (as I see in the comments was later edited in) for asexual people engaging in sex and getting enjoyment out of it. Because it is just… always gonna feel extra personal for me: https://luvtheheaven.wordpress.com/2015/09/05/non-libidoism-asexuality-aka-i-have-never-had-a-sex-drive-so-does-that-explain-why-im-asexual-2/ (and to a lesser extent too various other posts of mine, like: https://luvtheheaven.wordpress.com/2015/05/16/i-was-curious-so-i-chose-to-have-sex-then-my-curiosity-was-satiated-i-decided-never-to-have-sex-again/ are relevant to the conversation too). Anything that avoids generalizing that all asexual people still “can have” (or worse, that they all “can enjoy”) sex helps, in at least a small way. Anything that doesn’t just state “this is how it is” but instead says “I think maybe” to soften it helps too XD because idk, it feels less like a generalization of something “obviously true/fact” and more like a reasonable hypothesis/assessment of your general perception of the population as large.

    I don’t know why but the main posts I’ve seen around on the topic are ones you write, killerbee13’s here: https://yapbnweca.wordpress.com/2015/02/25/on-demisexuality-and-what-it-means-to-me/ and even Arf’s here: http://demigrayspeaks.tumblr.com/post/101639924724/thoughts-on-preliminary-data-from-the-2014-aven (as well as MANY other things Arf writes). I’m trying to think of other public pieces shared about an experience of being demi, but I’m blanking. I guess, looking now… there’s more here in queenie’s linkspam: http://queenieofaces.tumblr.com/post/94739752528/hi-if-you-have-time-would-you-please-consider but I’m just… It’s kind of hard sometimes to learn about what being demisexual is really like for people, and this post is a nice clarification of what the experience is like for you.

    I know I’ve read more from at least another person or two before but I’m forgetting where at the moment and anyway… I’m just really happy to come across this particular post now, even though I have read a bunch of your other posts that mention your demisexuality too. This particular post puts quite a bit into perspective.

    1. Thank you so much for this comment (and for the one on the other post, which I will almost certainly reply to seperately also! :P) I’m glad my writing was helpful/informative for you! If you’re interested in more reading, there’s also lots of good stuff over at (now defunct, I think, but still good archives) Demisexual and Proud.

      It is super interesting to me that most of the people you’ve seen talking about being demi have felt that they/we are non-typical. It suggests to me that the standard definition of demisexuality may not accurately reflect what it’s like to be demi, (or maybe that there is something about demisexuality that makes people more likely to have some sort of imposter syndrome around it – maybe just because it can be less clear cut than asexuality?), rather than that we are all just misfits.

      1. Oh yes I was following that blog too, I know I read multiple posts there, I’ll remind myself of her? posts later. Of her perspective on demisexuality. See if I missed any earlier posts like I had missed these two of yours. I have actually had her post on attending Pride:
        https://demiandproud.wordpress.com/tag/pride/ in my head a LOT lately as I’m more planning to attend my very first pride parade lol.

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