To you, emotional intimacy is paramount.

Steph Barnes
Updated Oct 09, 2020 @ 4:51 pm
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With so many dating apps currently at our fingertips, quickly swiping right for a potential relationship or hookup has never been easier. But sexuality is a wide spectrum of preferences, and not everyone is turned on by the same things. In fact, many people seek out deep, emotional connections with a person before they feel ready to get physically intimate. This is normal, especially since trust and emotion are a huge part of sex. However, if you view emotional connection as a necessity for getting physically intimate (meaning kissing, touching, and casual sex is off the table until you feel deeply connected to someone) you may identify as demisexual. To answer your questions about demisexuality, what it means, and signs you may identify as demisexual, keep reading.

What does demisexuality mean?

According to the Demisexuality Resource Center, the definition of demisexuality is “a sexual orientation in which one feels sexual attraction only after forming an emotional connection.” The term comes from being "halfway between" sexual and asexual, says the Asexual Visibility and Education Network. For those who identify, an intense emotional bond is needed as a precursor to any kind of sexual attraction or stimulation. This goes beyond just needing to like someone before diving in physically, it means that virtually no attraction can be achieved before there is an established emotional bond. This makes it difficult for people who identify as demisexual to feel attracted to someone without being friends first.

Holly Richmond, Ph.D., a certified sex therapist and marriage and family counselor, explains it like this: “The typical person is going to meet someone and there is usually some degree of physical attraction we form within seconds. With demisexuality, there’s no physical pull at all. It’s really about romantic feelings, love, and friendship, that really come first. The sexual attraction and desire would come second and is certainly not the driving force.”

While everyone's experience is different, this can often make it challenging to find a partner in today's dating world of swiping and scrolling.

Additionally, according to asexuality.org, people who are demisexual don’t generally have a specific gender that they are attracted to, their attraction just depends on who they find an emotional connection with. The more specific name for this is panromantic demisexual, where panromantic means your attraction is unrelated to gender and orientation.

How is demisexuality different than gray asexuality?

If you’ve heard of demisexual, you may have also heard of gray asexuality. This is another term that often gets tossed around when discussing demisexuality. According to demigray.org, gray asexuality is “a catch-all term for people who aren’t quite asexual or non-asexual. There are a variety of reasons someone may choose to identify as gray; these include experiencing sexual attraction infrequently, experiencing it under specific circumstances, and more.”

While both demisexuality and gray asexuality encompass only feeling sexual attraction under specific circumstances (with demisexuality meaning that you need an emotional relationship first), they do differ. People who are gray asexual could have occasional sexual attraction, a low sex drive, or do not feel strongly about sexual attraction (even though they do feel it). People who identify as gray asexual are not necessarily demisexual, but many demisexual people do identify as a subset of gray asexuality.

Am I demisexual? 5 signs you might identify:

1. Looks are mostly irrelevant.

For most people, looks—while maybe not the most important part of a relationship—are important on some level. In fact, plenty of us swipe right based solely on an attractive photo before even reading a profile. But for demisexuals, physical appearance is a non-factor. Demisexuals are attracted to personalities over faces and are more interested in creating authentic connections based on similar interests above all else.

2. Most of your relationships start out as friendships.

Because completely getting to know a potential partner is of immense importance to demisexuals, they often find themselves developing feelings for their friends. Which could mean, most, if not all, of your relationships, blossom out of friendships.

3. You enjoy sex, but it’s not super important to you.

Unlike a lot of people, sex isn’t particularly high on many demisexuals’ list of priorities. That’s not to say they don’t enjoy sex, but the physical act holds significantly less importance than, say, intellectually stimulating conversations. As YouTuber Christi Kerr says, while you might find yourself thinking about having sex with one specific person, you don’t think about it or fantasize in general terms.

4. First dates are a huge deal for you.

First dates can be significant for anyone, but for someone who identifies as demisexual, they’re kind of a big deal. If you’re demisexual, you probably like to talk about deep topics on the first date in order to understand the other person’s personality, check your compatibility, and just not waste your time.

But this may also be a negative thing. Your desire to get to know someone may lead you to obsess about everything concerning your upcoming date. It’s almost as if your first date will be a sort of interrogation, and you’re just in it for the information. You don’t want to hurt anyone by dating them unless you know for sure you’re attracted to them, and you can’t be sure unless you continue to date them for a while…which, ultimately, leaves you in a tricky position.

5. You’ve probably been called a “prude.”

If those around you have called you “old-fashioned” or accused you of being a “prude” when it comes to sex and dating (whatever the heck that even means anymore…you should always do you, whatever that may be), it could be because of your demisexuality. Demisexuals aren’t usually super sexually active and aren’t generally interested in one-night-stands (because again, they need to know someone well before feeling a strong attraction).

Just remember: No one else’s opinion matters except your own when it comes to sexual partners and orientations. Figuring out your sexuality and navigating the dating world is hard enough without the unsolicited “advice” from others. Stay true to yourself and the rest will fall into place.