What Is Demisexuality?

Writer Sophie Lou Wilson explores the question of what is demisexuality, and how might you know if you are demisexual? 

Throughout human history, there have been many different, and changing understandings of sexuality that have coexisted across the globe. Sexuality has always been expansive, unique to each person, and there is no “norm”. There is only what we impose on ourselves based on what is “expected” by the society we live in at any given time. 

That being said, there are many different sexualities that are only now beginning to be understood and explored in the mainstream as being part of the human experience, one of which is the focus of this article: demisexuality

As you learn and explore through different sexualities, you may find something which feels closer to what you experience than other sexualities you have come by before- and that’s ultimately the goal: to find something that resonates with you, and if not, then to understand what resonates with others, and to respect that everyone will have a unique relationship to sexuality. So, without further ado, let’s get into our exploration of demisexuality. 

What is demisexuality? 

Demisexuality falls under the asexual umbrella because demisexual people rarely experience sexual attraction and desire. However, unlike most forms of asexuality, demisexual people can experience strong sexual attraction, but only once they’ve formed a solid emotional connection with someone. Demisexual people can be any sexuality or gender and emotional connection is usually more important than physical attraction. “Demi” means half and demisexual can refer to being “halfway” between sexual and asexual.  

It is estimated that around 1% of the population describe themselves as demisexual. However, it’s possible that the real figure is higher because the term itself is relatively new. While demisexuality has always existed, it wasn’t until 2006 that the word was coined on asexual internet forum, The Asexual Visibility & Education Network (AVEN). By 2008, use of the word had become more widespread, if not mainstream. However, there’s still little mainstream representation of demisexual people, and lots of myths surrounding demisexuality. 

The Importance of Emotional Connection

Being demisexual is different from just having a preference for emotional connection before having sex with someone. Some allosexual people – those who experience sexual attraction to others – might prefer to wait until an emotional connection has been established before having sex. But, unlike demisexual people, allosexual people can sometimes still feel sexual attraction to someone straight away, whether they then seek to develop and emotional bond or not.  

A demisexual person might form an emotional bond with someone quickly or it might take years of friendship. The important thing is that, for a demisexual person, this emotional bond will need to be in place before they can feel sexually attracted to someone. 

Emotional connection is more important than physical attraction for most demisexual people.

Demisexuality is a sexuality, meaning it is a way in which people relate sexually to others. It is different from having a naturally low libido. A demisexual person may continue to have a relatively low sex drive once they are in a relationship with someone with whom they have an emotional bond. Alternatively, their libido might increase once that emotional connection has been formed. Everyone is different. As with any relationship, communication about physical and emotional needs, desires, and expectations is key, especially as they can shift or change over time. 

What is the difference between demisexual, asexual and graysexual?

The spectrum of sexuality has more than two dimensions. It does not just include, as was a narrative for some time, heterosexuality and homosexuality on a flat line, but also includes feeling intense sexual attraction versus little to no sexual attraction, the number of partners you have, and more. Demisexuality itself is a spectrum: you and your friend, for example, could both be demisexual but to varying degrees. 

Demisexuality exists on the asexual spectrum, meaning that demisexual people tend to experience lower levels of sexual attraction than allosexual people. However, it is different from asexuality. Demisexual people do experience sexual attraction, just less frequently than the average allosexual person and only when an emotional bond has been established. Demisexual people might notice changes in their libido throughout their life depending on their relationships with the people to whom they’re closest.

Demisexuality vs. Graysexuality

Demisexuality is sometimes confused with graysexuality. Graysexuality is also on the asexual spectrum. Graysexual people are largely asexual in that they experience infrequent sexual attraction and low levels of sexual desire. Unlike demisexual people, graysexual people don’t need to have an emotional bond with someone in order to be sexually attracted to them or to have sex. Some ace (asexual) individuals who do not experience sexual attraction can also choose to have sex. Each individual will have their own relationship to sex, and whether or not they are sexually active will be dependent on what sex is like as an experience for them. Some people will have sex with a partner because it is important to that partner, some will have sex because they enjoy the emotional intimacy. Again, asexuality is a spectrum, and the motivations for having or not having sex are as varied and as valid as the individuals who define as asexual. 

Demisexuality vs. Pansexuality

Demisexuality is also sometimes confused with pansexuality, though they are in fact different sexualities. Pansexuality is an attraction to all genders. Anecdotally, many pansexuals note that attraction and connection is more important than gender when choosing a partner, but a strong emotional bond isn’t required to form that attraction. Demisexual people can be any sexual orientation, or similarly attracted to be people of any gender, like pansexual people, but they still need an emotional bond in order to feel that sexual attraction. 

What does it mean to be on the asexual spectrum? 

Asexual people experience very little or no sexual attraction or interest in sex. Some asexuals are also aromantic, meaning they have little or no interest in romantic relationships. This is different to just being asexual. Some asexual people do wish to form romantic connections with others. 

Some demisexual people are also demiromantic which means they don’t experience primary romantic attraction but only develop romantic feelings for someone after forming a strong emotional bond. 

Demisexual people are on the asexual spectrum because they rarely experience sexual attraction. However, they can feel sexual attraction and have an interest in sex once an emotional bond has been developed. Their libido can shift and may even be high at certain times in their life or with certain people. Because of this some demisexual people sometimes feel alienated from both the asexual and allosexual communities. 

This is why it’s important to remember that sexuality is a spectrum, and within that spectrum it can be fluid. Sexual attraction can shift throughout your life. Some demisexual people – and plenty of allosexual people, for that matter – might go years without experiencing sexual desire or attraction. Their libido might go up and down depending on who and what is in their life. 

Explore and embrace your sexuality. There’s no pressure to label it unless you want to, but giving a name to these feelings can help contextualise your experiences.  

What is a demisexual relationship?

A demisexual relationship is a relationship with one or more demisexual people in it. Demisexual people can have relationships with people who sit in different places on the sexuality spectrum, which, as mentioned above, can include many different axes from the number of partners one has, to the intensity of sexual attraction they as individuals experience and why. 

Each demisexual relationship will be as unique as the people within it, and will therefore look and be different. Some demisexual people form strong emotional connections with people quickly, while others build them over a number of years. Demisexual people’s romantic relationships can often start off as friendships where an emotional bond has deepened over time. They are less likely to hook up with someone they’ve just met because the sexual attraction to strangers is not there. 

As with any relationship, it’s important for all partners to openly communicate about their needs and wants, and to tune into what is going on for them as they change and grow over time, and as their relationship changes and grows alongside them. 

Why does the demisexual label matter?

Identifying as demisexual gives people a context for their experiences and a sense of belonging. Before discovering demisexuality, some people may have felt isolated from both asexual and allosexual communities, feeling as though they didn’t identify with either. The demisexual label helps people who identify with it feel understood. 

Some allosexual people dismiss demisexuality because they think that most people need an emotional connection with someone before wanting to have sex with them. However, a preference for emotional connection before sex is different from experiencing little or no sexual desire towards someone until that connection is established. This is why the demisexual label is important. 

Signs that you might be demisexual 

      Most of your romantic and/or sexual relationships started as friendships

      You don’t ever have crushes on people you don’t know very well

      When friends talk about hookups and one night stands you can’t relate 

      You’ve never experienced instant attraction or “love at first sight”

      You don’t have a high sex drive most of the time

      You have always assumed you just have a low libido but your sex drive around certain people you’re close to makes you question that 

        You couldn’t imagine initially befriending someone just because you want to have sex with them

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