Though relatively new terminology and not yet widely known and understood, demisexuality is a sexual orientation that falls on the asexuality spectrum.
By definition, generally speaking, demisexuals do not feel sexually attracted to anyone unless they have a deep, emotional connection with them.
When it comes to the gender of the people to whom they’re attracted, demisexuals can have any preference. They may identify as anything, including gay, bisexual, pansexual, or straight.
Aren’t a lot of people like that?
Emerging sexual orientations are often met with skepticism, and many people dismiss demisexuality on the basis that it is “normal’” not to be sexually attracted to someone until you get to know them.
Undoubtedly, some allosexuals - the term for people who are not on the asexual spectrum - enjoy sex more when it’s with someone they know and care about. But this is a preference or choice, rather than a total absence of sexual attraction. Of course, many allosexuals also feel sexually attracted to people they don’t even know or have just met.
Demisexuals can only feel sexual attraction if a strong emotional connection exists. As a result, they may only be sexually attracted to a handful of people, or even just one person, over their lifetime. That means that the majority of the time, their experience of the world is asexual.
So no, demisexuality is not just a preference for sex with a side of feelings.
How common is demisexuality?
We don’t know how many demisexual people there are in Australia. However, the percentage of asexual people is estimated to be around 1%. Of those, we can assume a portion identify as demisexual.
How long does it take for a demisexual person to feel sexually attracted to someone?
Sharing a short and intense experience with someone might lead some demisexual people to feel a deep, emotional connection in days or weeks. For others, the bond can take years to develop, even in the context of a romantic relationship.
Of course, just because a demisexual person feels an emotional connection does not automatically mean they are sexually attracted to them - that goes for allosexuals too.
How do demisexuals feel about sex itself?
Demisexual people hold a variety of attitudes towards sex and other sexual activities. Some have little interest in sex itself even when they feel attracted to someone. Others find that once that emotional connection is established, their sex drive continues to grow.
Where did the term originate?
Historically, mainstream establishments have failed to provide information about the many and varied types of sexual orientation that exist outside the heteronorm. Fortunately, the internet has made it easier than ever for people to share and access that information.
The term “demisexual” was coined in 2006 by a member of an online community known as the Asexual Visibility and Education Network (AVEN), to explain their own experience of sexual attraction. When the label resonated with many AVEN users, it rapidly gained traction online. The demisexual flag emerged in the early 2010s, and finally, the term is moving firmly into the mainstream.
Why label it?
The term “demisexuality” captures a specific experience. It offers demisexual people a sense of mutual understanding, community and a framework for navigating their sexuality.
Demisexuals may feel alienated from their allosexual peers because they do not experience sexual attraction in the same way. Knowing that there are others like them helps demisexuals feel less alone.
The label can also help demisexuals navigate other parts of society. For example, some dating apps make finding connection while demisexual easier, as you can often include your orientation in your profile.
It also allows other people, including the partners, family and friends of demisexuals, to research, self educate, and understand their loved one’s sexual orientation.
Where can I learn more?
By talking and learning about the variability of sexual orientation, we can prevent the inadvertent alienation of sexual minorities and better understand sexuality in general.
If you want to know more about demisexuality, we encourage you to read these articles published by the Guardian and the BBC, or visit the Demisexual Research Centre online.