Many people talk about having a true, deep and meaningful connection with a person before wanting to get physically intimate.
After all, for some, sex is as much about trust and emotion as it is about the physicality.
'When we feel empowered, advocate for our needs, and have self-acceptance, we are more likely to have enjoyable sex,' says sex and relationship therapist Shadeen Francis.
However, there's a select few members of society who don't just strive to attach feelings to sexual attraction, but view it as a necessity, which means casual sex, a one-night stand or - in some cases - a kiss with a stranger is pretty much a no-go.
If this sexual orientated lifestyle sums up your feelings towards sex, emotion and relationships, you might be what is known as a demisexual.
Here is everything you need to know about demisexuality:
What is demisexuality?
According to resource website demisexuality.org, the meaning of 'demisexuality' can be defined as: 'A sexual orientation in which someone feels sexual attraction only to people with whom they have an emotional bond.
'Most demisexuals feel sexual attraction rarely compared to the general population, and some have little to no interest in sexual activity.'
To put it simply, demisexuals only like someone once they've formed a strong emotional connection. Then, and only then, can the possibility of sexual attraction arise.
Francis notes: 'If sexual attraction matters to you for sex, great that you know that. If not, that’s great too. What is most important is to know yourself and honour your needs.'
Lidia Buonaiuto, 30, explained to The Guardian: 'I don’t fancy people. I don’t have a primary sexual attraction to anyone the way most people do, ever. I identify as straight and I’m not in any way a prude, but I need to have a deep emotional connection with someone before any sexual feelings appear. Demisexuality is not a preference or personality trait.'
At school, Buonaiuto didn’t have crushes, couldn’t relate to her peers conversations about sexual desire and didn’t feel anything for “objectively hot” boys who tried it on with her.
'I can’t have one-night stands or sexual escapades or fancy a random person who is interested in me,' says Buonaito. 'I don’t have that desire at all, my brain doesn’t work that way and I forced myself into situations that just ended up giving me a lot of emotional distress.'
Buonaito stresses that she isn't celibate though. 'I have sexual urges but it’s only when I’m in a relationship that has come out of an intense emotional connection first. I don’t have a physical "type", it doesn’t matter what they look like,' she says. 'My sexual fantasies are never physical, it will be about a guy coming over to me in a library, having the same favourite author, talking, bonding … I can’t feel an urge for anyone without that, and it’s so rare for me to find it at all.'
Is demisexual a new term?
The Independent reports the term 'demisexual' first came to light in 2006 on the website of the Asexual Visibility and Education Network – a website designed in 2001 to provide a resource on all things asexual – and has been gaining traction ever since, with more and more people identifying with the orientation.
'It’s very true that demographics skew far younger and the primary reason is that the asexual community grew up on the internet. It wasn’t until 2001 that asexual people came to discuss what had always existed but now had a language,' Langevin told the Guardian.
Struggling to identify with her sexuality for years, in 2016 Washington Post writer Meryl Williams detailed how she came across the term 'demisexuality' on Twitter and started an investigation into what it meant, which ultimately helped her come to terms with her own sexual orientation.
'I'm just glad that a term for my sexuality exists, even if it's one I'll probably have to explain to my future partners,' she wrote.
'As I continue to date, that conversation will probably serve as a decent screening process.'
After stating that she was queer during Pride Month, 56th governor of New York Andrew Cuomo’s daughter Michaela Kennedy-Cuomo announced in July 2021 that she identifies as demisexual.
During an Instagram Live conversation with activist Donato Tramuto, the 23-year-old said: ‘When I was in elementary school, I feared that I was lesbian. When I was in middle school, I came out to my family and close friends as bisexual. When I was in high school, I discovered pansexuality and thought, “That's the flag for me.”’
She added: ‘I've recently learned more about demisexuality and have believed that that identity resonates with me most.’
Cuomo continued, noting that she’s long dreamt of a world in which no one needs to come out, ‘because everybody's sexuality will be assumed fluid and none of our business’.
‘But in a world that force-feeds cisgender heterosexuality, coming out of the closet is a lifelong process of unpacking internalized social constructions and stigmas.’
What are the signs that you might be demisexual?
'Language helps us describe our experiences,' explains Francis. 'If folks find the definitions of demisexuality or read the stories of demisexual folks and feel like it resonates with them, they might decide to identify as demisexual themselves.'
Francis suggests asking yourself these questions if you're wondering whether you might be demisexual:
Is sexual attraction important to me in general?
Is sexual attraction important to me in the relationships I have or want to have?
Who have I felt sexually attracted to in the past? What was our relationship? Did I feel attracted to them in the beginning as I was getting to know them, or not until later?
Do I ever feel attraction to strangers or people I don’t know well?
How well do I have to know someone before I feel interested in them?
When I imagine my future, are relationships an important part of the story? If so, what kinds of relationships am I in (familial, platonic, romantic)?
In December 2016, Tinder launched almost 40 new gender and sexual orientated definition options, welcoming users of all demographics – be it transgender, gender-nonconforming, bigender or pangender – into a social dating community that previously disregarded just how wide-ranging sexual identities can be.
The same week, Williams wrote an article about finding her sexuality and what life is like being a 'demisexual'.
Here are five signs, according to Williams, you might be demisexual:
1) You've probably been called a 'prude'
Explaining her experience of demisexuality, Williams wrote: 'In my dating life, I've often described my sexuality as 'taking a while to warm up.
'Years ago, I would feel guilty for frustrating the people I was dating. I didn't want to feel as if I needed to explain to people why I wasn't ready to be intimate.'
If you've been labelled an 'ice queen' or 'old-fashioned' when it comes to sex and dating, it could be because of your demisexuality, she says. Williams argues that demisexuals aren't generally interested in one-night stands as they need to really know someone well before feeling a strong attraction.
2) Looks are mostly irrelevant
For demisexuals, physical appearance is a non-factor when it comes to forming romantic feelings.
'I generally put intellect and sense of humour over how "attractive" someone is,' wrote Williams.
'If a guy doesn't say anything offensive and makes me laugh on a first date, I'll probably go on a second. Still, I know that a person's positive attributes don't necessarily guarantee that a physical attraction will follow. I just have to be patient and see what happens.'
Demisexuals are attracted to personalities over looks and more interested in authentic connections.
3) Most of your relationships start out as friendships
A level of complete trust and security is one of the biggest attractions for you for demisexuals. Those who identify in this was feel safe and are much more attracted to someone once they feel comfortable sharing details about their life.
Despite dating in a society that is increasingly more open to the 'hook up culture' from online dating, Williams admits that: 'Figuring out that I am demisexual has been a relief, and it hasn't changed much about how I date. I've never let physical attraction guide my dating decisions.'
4) You put a lot of pressure on first dates
When it comes to demisexuality, it's less likely that a demisexual will want to waste their time - or that of another person - by continuing to date unless they're quite sure they're attracted someone.
However, they can't be positive that an attraction truly exists unless they give them a chance. As a result, demisexuals may find themselves in a tricky situation when it comes to knowing how much time to invest in a potential relationship and might tend to come across slightly intense on a first date.
In 2019, one demisexual explained their frustration with dating on asexuality.org, writing: 'I hate dating. I always feel pressured because the other person seems to get much more quickly attached than me.'
Another wrote: 'I just don’t get how to meet people with the sole purpose being the possibility of a relationship.'
While demisexuals might want to discuss topics in-depth in attempt to really understand another person's personality and their compatibility, it's important to be aware of when this process can turn into an interrogation of sorts.
5) You enjoy sex but it isn't the most important factor
Unlike sexual behaviour, sexual attraction can't be controlled or forced to happen.
Contrary to asexuality (the absence or low interest in sexual activity), demisexuals are capable of feeling sexual attraction but only when they form a deep emotional bond with another person.
So, sexual attraction is possible but it might take a little longer to develop for demisexuals than for most people.
And, let's be clear, this isn't about sex or a lack of libido, rather the need for emotional intimacy to feel attraction.
'Identifying as demisexual doesn’t change how you experience sex, it makes it clearer when or how you might be interested in sex!' explains Francis.
She adds: 'It’s important to note that attraction is not required for sex, and it isn’t necessarily better to have sexual attraction than not.
'If sexual attraction matters to you for sex, great that you know that. If not, that’s great too. What is most important is to know yourself and honour your needs.'
Is there a demisexual flag?
Due to the similarities with asexuality, the demisexual pride flag has been designed using the asexual flag's colours, but arranged in a different pattern.
While the asexual flag is formed of simple, horizontal strips of black, grey, white, then purple, the demisexual flag has a black triangle on the left hand side as seen below.
For both flags, black symbolises asexuality, purple symbolises community and grey represents 'Grey-Ace' (those falling between sexual and a sexual, they have some or occasional feelings of sexual desire) and demisexuality, according to Entity magazine.
Meanwhile, the meaning of white represents sexuality on the demisexual flag. However, it represents 'non-asexual partners and allies' on the asexual flag.
Unfortunately, iPhone users are unable to find the demisexual flag as an emoji, as the only pride flag available for use is the general rainbow flag.
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