Demisexuality: debunking a common misconception

So, sometimes this thing happens when demisexuality gets talked about, where someone will say something along the lines of “well, that’s just normal; most people don’t want to have sex with people they just met!”

Which, I mean, this is true for many people, for sure! I can’t say whether it is most or not, but it is certainly a large number of people! The thing is though, that demisexuality is not just about whether or not you will feel up for having sex with new people – it’s about whether you feel any sexual attraction for them *at all* without knowing them well/forming an emotional connection.

There are, in fact, a lot of reasons why someone might feel a basic level of physical sexual attraction to someone, but still not want to have sex with them. Particularly for women or members of any marginalized group, trust is incredibly important to ensure one’s physical and emotional safety, and often the level of trust required to feel safe to have sex with someone can require a strong emotional bond, much like that which demisexuals require to feel attraction.

So, for instance, if Person A is sexually attracted to Person B, Person A may not know for sure whether that attraction means they want to have sex with Person B until they know more about them. Because physical sexual attraction isn’t the only or even necessarily the most important part of the equation, for lots of people, for lots of reasons.

But I don’t think that’s the same thing as not being attracted to the person until you get to know them. And the thing that generally defines demisexuality as I understand it is the complete lack of this initial sort of physically-based sexual attraction, and not simply taking time to decide whether to act on that attraction.

I’m not saying any of this to try to invalidate anyone’s identity, either. If the way your sexuality works resembles what I’ve described above, and it is useful to you in any way to call yourself demi, please by all means do!

I just think that it is very important to make it clear that that is not all the demisexuality implies, and that the demisexual experience is very often extremely different from the way most people experience sexual attraction.

The thing is that for me, until I reach a point at which I have formed a bond with a person and suddenly all the lights of “want to have sex with this person” go on in my head, I have literally no idea whether I could ever possibly want to have sex with that person. I can’t tell you whether they are attractive to me based on what they look like, because that is pretty much irrelevant to me, I think?

There are, of course, aspects of people’s *chosen* personal presentation (make-up, hair, clothes, etc. – things that carry information about personality/interests/aesthetic preferences) that will make me more likely to want to get to know them, or make me think there’s a possibility of something there.

If I’m being totally honest, though, those appearance-based hunches rarely actually go anywhere; the sexual connections I have formed seem to have had no real correlation with whether or not I had an initial aesthetic attraction to a person.

To be totally clear, I can absolutely identify whether people are conventionally attractive in accordance with the standards of the culture I grew up in, and I’ve definitely developed certain aesthetic preferences from being immersed in that culture; it’s just that none of that has any impact on whether I have sexual feelings about anyone ever.

And I mean, I guess I’m not really sure if my experience is all that different from a majority of people. I know it is significantly different from the conception of sexuality and sexual attraction portrayed in the media, though I also know to take that with a grain of salt.

I know that in adolescence I found myself totally at a loss when friends would comment on other people’s “cute butts” or whatever, because it never occurred to me to be looking at people’s butts, and I never found the spark of any kind of attraction there when I tried (though I am extremely fond of the butts of the people I’m into, that comes along with the development of attraction, and not before).

And that could have just been me being a late bloomer, I guess, except I never grew out of it, and I am quite confident that I have bloomed as a sexual being by this point, so.

That’s what demisexuality is like for me, anyway.

6 comments

  1. I am exactly as you described yourself. Sometimes the attraction comes quick but I fall-in-friends with people very fast but that spark just isn’t there until it happens. It’s like the pilot light is out until I recognize the bond and then poof, it’s on. I know people are conventionally attractive, but that doesn’t matter to me at all. I thought I was asexual for most of my late teens but the more I think about it now, the more I realize I was just going through the motions of Having a Boyfriend and did not actually feel bonded to any of them. Once I finally dated someone I felt completely bonded to, bam, sex drive. I think that’s why I end up dating my friends, or at least sleeping with them. Then, once the bond is broken, I can’t even tell that they were ever attractive. They look like completely different people.

    1. Oh, wow, yeah, actually that point about the broken bond and evaporation of attraction isn’t something I’ve ever thought about. I think it’s only something I’ve experienced once – I’ve continued to be extremely fond of most of my exes, but for sure it’s amazing how totally that switch can flick off, too!

      1. Fond is definitely the word I’d use. I’m friends with all of them except the one that cheated on me. But the attraction isn’t there for any of them. There is no risk of that weird on again off again sleeping together that some couples have because my switch is OFF. Even though we’re friends, we’re not bonded like we were, I have strictly platonic feelings for them.

  2. “The thing is that for me, until I reach a point at which I have formed a bond with a person and suddenly all the lights of “want to have sex with this person” go on in my head, I have literally no idea whether I could ever possibly want to have sex with that person. I can’t tell you whether they are attractive to me based on what they look like, because that is pretty much irrelevant to me, I think?”

    That is so totally what it’s like!

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