Well, here’s my “coming-out”. I’m demisexual. I’d like to explain what this means, and why you should care.
A lot of readers are definitely asking themselves what “demisexuality” means. It’s an offshoot of asexuality, which is a general lack of sexual attraction to others in almost every situation or relationship. Demisexuality, on the other hand, is defined as “a sexual orientation in which someone feels sexual attraction only to people with whom they have an emotional bond”. It’s similar to asexuality, but the difference is that demisexual people are capable of experiencing attraction — after an indefinite period of time spent getting to know another person. Sexual attraction, then, stems less from finding someone attractive, and more from trust and friendship.
Now’s the part where I tend to lose people. Anytime I’ve ever “come out” to people to tell them I’m demisexual, they assume I’m just telling them that I’m a prude. They see my identity as a way of saying I don’t like to move fast in relationships, or that I like to know the person I’m sleeping with. Honestly, it’s very different. It’s not a preference for when I would move forward in a sexual relationship; it’s the only way I can move forward. We have these pop-culture images of the sweet, innocent virgin being forced to question her pure morals, who must decide whether to succumb to her desires or push away the other person who cannot bear to not be with her sexually. Demisexuality means that I’m not one of those images. I’d be the image of the girl who either ignores, or completely misses, the sexual advances of others due to my own lack of attraction — a situation that has happened to me many times, especially in a society that stresses the “impending” sexual relationship attached to all aspects of the dating world. Or, I’d be the image of the girl who is forced to tell her partner that she’s not interested in sex at that point in the relationship, and then reckon with the consequences when the other person’s expectations are not being met. Basically, I’m not choosing to abstain from sex with others; I can’t have sex with most people — because, like most of us, I don’t want to have a sexual relationship with someone I’m not attracted to. For demisexual people, this takes a little bit of work to overcome.
So, what must there be for a demisexual person to become sexually attracted? Most importantly, a bond. This is purposely vague. Demisexuality is widely varied and changing among people. There are people who focus on that “third date” rule for initiating sex, because it takes them about three dates to feel comfortable with someone else and to establish some level of trust. Others, it takes months, some, years. Personally, it takes anywhere from 1 year to longer for me to form a bond that leads to me being sexually attracted to them. I’ve dated someone for almost three years, while never developing any sexual feelings for them. And it wasn’t because I didn’t love or care about them—it was just because I never had that level of trust or care for my sexual life with them. And this experience, while similar, is different for everyone. Some people take only days, and others decades, to form a bond with someone else in order to be sexually attracted to them.
This is why demisexuality matters more today than in past years. We are living in the world of “hook-up culture” that thrives on Tinder and other dating apps and websites. We are living in a world where we swipe to express interest, based solely on scarce resources like a few selected pictures and a three-line bio. And from this, we initiate a relationship with another person, be it romantic, sexual or otherwise. This works for some people; but being demisexual, this is a nightmare. I often find myself in that awful situation where I either need to write a disclaimer across my profile screaming NO HOOKUPS, or immediately inform people who ask me when I’d like to swing by their place (with a sideways smiley face) that I’d be coming over to Netflix, but not to chill. I’ve been insulted by many people, mostly men, for not wanting to initiate a sexual relationship on these apps and sites that I’m using genuinely to just meet new people, instead of someone to spend the night with. And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with people that use Tinder for these purposes—but I don’t want to, nor would I be happy doing so. When my friends and family use these apps with a lot of success to find dates and relationships, I’m always happy for them finding people they connect with so easily on a readily-available interface. However, it’s a bummer when I try again, and again, to use these tools to reach out to new people, only to find that these tools really just are not meant for me.
And that’s okay, because I’m not alone in these hardships. Demisexuality is more common than you’d think. Asexuality itself accounts for between 1-5% of the world’s population—which translates to about 70 million people who face similar issues as me with their identity and forms of attraction. The important thing to remember, in the face of harassment or discomfort with ourselves and the world around us, is that demisexuality is valid. We are all valid. And regardless of what anyone tries to tell me, I’m demisexual. And I’m pretty proud of it.
For more resources on demisexuality, please see these websites with great definitions and testimonials. Here is also an article written by another girl on her experiences coming to terms with her demisexuality.
Photo Credit: Cover.