Let me preface this piece with a bit about labels: Sexuality is fantastically complex. If labels are used purely to pigeonhole people into certain categories, then we’re really taking away from the beautiful intricacies that come with describing the human experience. I am focusing on demisexuality in this particular piece, but keep in mind that this is only one label amongst a slew of others that I can use to describe myself.
I am an incredibly introspective person. As such, I spend a great deal of time trying to figure myself out.
Over the last few years I’ve been trying to understand my sexuality. I can’t help feeling like I experience sex differently than how I see it portrayed most of the time. Now I know everyone has their preferences, but what I’ve felt is much more alienating than just having a different preference. I feel like I’m on a completely different planet, or that I’ve missed something that everyone else seems to be operating on.
I don’t remember how I first came across the term ‘demisexual’, but I did feel an immediate connection with it. I’ve felt inadequate and broken regarding my sexuality for quite a while now; my research into demisexuality has resonated with me in a way that has made me start to feel whole again.
So, what is it?
A demisexual is a person who does not experience sexual attraction unless they form an emotional connection. It’s more commonly seen in, but by no means confined to, romantic relationships. The term demisexual comes from the orientation of being “halfway between” sexual and asexual. Nevertheless, this term does not mean that demisexuals have an incomplete or half-sexuality, nor does it mean that sexual attraction without emotional connection is required for a complete sexuality.
Primary vs Secondary Sexual Attraction
The definition of demisexuality goes on to say that demisexuals do not experience primary sexual attraction, but they do experience secondary sexual attraction.
Primary sexual attraction is based on instantly available information (such as appearance or smell) which may or may not lead to arousal or sexual desire.
Secondary sexual attraction develops over time based on a person’s relationship and emotional connection with another person.
This “sexual attraction model” really hit home with me. I am pretty sure I don’t experience primary sexual attraction, and I’ve been trying to wrap my mind around that for quite some time. I do experience primary aesthetic or objective attraction, if you will, but that never translates into a sexual attraction until I have formed some sort of emotional connection with the other person.
Here’s what I mean: I find certain people, both men and women, aesthetically pleasing. I like looking at faces and bodies. I enjoy the curves and softness portrayed by women and the hard lines and structure I see in men. I will ogle people in real life or in photos just because I enjoy looking at them, but I don’t experience any sort of sexual desire. I never get riled up or wet, if anything I’ll just become really intrigued. I become interested in people like they are artwork. I experience attraction but I’m not sexually stimulated at all.
It’s not until I get to know a person that I get curious about what’s in their pants. It’s as if my sexual self lies dormant until the right trigger comes along to wake her up. And boy, when that trigger hits, I feel it. It’s like sex doesn’t even exist in my world and then all of a sudden it does.
Impact of Social Media
I’ve elected to place myself in a highly sexualized online community. I receive sexually suggestive comments nearly every day. While I think it’s logical for me to get frustrated with lewd remarks, I’m beginning to think that there is something deeper at play.
With the sexual attraction model in mind, I’m now realizing why I feel disconnected with so many of my followers. Other people experience primary sexual attraction, and often I am the target of said attraction. The comments I get are ways of expressing that attraction. But from my perspective, as someone who doesn’t experience primary sexual attraction, I find such comments to be misplaced. And while I’m thankful for and sometimes flattered by the things people say to me, I’m often left a little dumbfounded. I wouldn’t say those things to a stranger on the internet, so why are so many people saying them to me?
Perhaps I’ve been too self-righteous in the past. I’ve written people off for being too sexually forward, and I often talk about how wrong it is to make sexual comments toward someone before establishing a sexual connection with them. While I maintain that people should be cautious, perhaps my perspective was more biased than I thought. Perhaps I lack proper empathy for people who experience primary sexual attraction. It’s such a foreign concept in my world that my natural reaction is to be a bit defensive and even slightly hostile when such feelings are directed towards me.
Since I’ve discovered that demisexuality is actually a thing, I’ve felt a huge weight lift off my shoulders. It’s incredibly relieving to finally understand why I feel the way I do, and it’s great to know that I’m not the only one in my predicament.
But even so, I’m still uncomfortable with aspects of my sexuality. The biggest thing is that I feel like I falsely advertised myself. I used to define myself as slutty. I used to pride myself in sleeping around a lot and being sexually explorative. And now it’s been a few years and I’m halfway towards being asexual? I’m grateful that I am figuring out who I am, but I’m scared that you want what I tried to be. I’m scared that you sought me out for the slut feature and now that I have only under-performed in that area, I feel like I’ve been a disappointment. I’m just dreading the day that I’ll get returned.
I was planning to dissect an article titled “15 Signs You Should Identify as Demisexual” in this writing, but it ended up going in a different direction. Nevertheless I think that will be an interesting piece to write, so if you’re interested, stay tuned.