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demisexual or demisexuality

What does demisexual mean?

Demisexuality is a sexual orientation characterized by not experiencing sexual attraction until a strong emotional connection is established with a specific person.

Demisexuality does not describe romantic feelings like other sexual orientations might. Instead, a demisexual identity is a useful indicator for where a person might fall on the asexual spectrum.

Where does demisexual come from?

The term demisexual was coined in 2006, by user sonofzeal on the forums of The Asexual Visibility & Education Network (AVEN). In the thread, sonofzeal described his experience of not experiencing sexual attraction without a previously existing emotional connection. A fellow forum goer mentioned a similar concept in the frame of an attraction-based model.

Sonofzeal thought his model was accurate and coined the term demisexual to capture this group of people who were neither completely asexual nor non-asexual, but needed an emotional bond to feel sexually attracted to someone. In fact, demisexuality exists on the asexual spectrum—a continuum of sexualities ranging from completely asexual to non-asexual with lots of in-between. Demisexuality is one entry on this spectrum. While sonofzeal coined the term, he says that another poster, OwlSaint, popularized the term by describing it once again on the forums, beginning in 2008.

A few things to note…

Demisexuality makes frequent appearances online. Most notably on AVEN, the Demisexuality Resource Center forums, Tumblr, /r/asexual, or other online asexual spaces. People use the term demisexual as a useful tool to describe their identity and how it might differ from other identities.

A demisexual person might also use additional labels in conjunction with demisexual to further describe their identity, as this one label does not tell the whole story. For some people, that means taking on a label like panromantic to describe who they are romantically attracted to (that is, who they would pursue a romantic relationship with), with the assumption that they might become sexually attracted to those types of people once a bond is established. The entire identity might be called something like panromantic demisexual. This naming scheme is incredibly common.

For other people, that might mean identifying as something like demisexual and heterosexual, since the label heterosexual describes romantic and sexual inclinations. It is up to the individual to describe which labeling scheme works for them. It may also depend on how much a demisexual person identifies with the wider asexual community. Does the person view themselves as an asexual person with rare sexual attraction or as a non-asexual person that requires a bond first?

When thinking about demisexuality, there is a common question that some people might ask: don’t all people need an emotional connection to be sexually attracted to someone? This is a common misconception. People who aren’t demisexual or asexual in some way can be and are attracted to people they don’t know, like strangers or celebrities. They might just choose not to act on it. Demisexuals cannot feel attracted to people they don’t know well.

Demisexuality has been gaining more recognition as the years go on. There are sites, blogs, and articles dedicated to discussing this sexuality. And since, the dating site OkCupid has officially recognized demisexuality and has allowed its users to select it as a sexual orientation on their profile.

For example…

“However, the key to remember is that you being demisexual doesn’t change anything about your relationship, because you just found a word to describe how you always have been.”

“Dating as a Demisexual,” Demisexuality Resource Center (2015)

“It's a unique perspective to be demisexual, and it's not something I'd ever really want to change. I'm happy that others can accept me for what I am.”

_V_ Asexuality.org [user comments] (January 25, 2017)

“I may work at a sex shop but don't get it twisted. This demisexual isn't down for random hookups and shit.. not how it works for me..”

matcha mochi yasriotgrrrl Twitter (April 2, 2017)

This is not a formal definition of demisexual like most terms we define on Dictionary.com, but is rather an informal word summary that touches upon the key aspects of the meaning and usage of demisexual that will help you expand your word mastery.