What Does Demisexual Mean?

People who are demisexual link emotion with desire

Demisexual describes someone who feels a romantic attraction to someone only after they've emotionally bonded. Demisexuality is part of the asexual spectrum. But where asexual people experience little or no sexual attraction at all, those who are demisexual are attracted to others in this very specific circumstance.

Demisexuals often form attachments differently than people who are fully sexual. People who are sexual may experience a sexual attraction for a variety of reasons, from looks to emotions to status and more. This may happen not only with people they know but those they don't, like celebrities or strangers. It may even happen with people they don't actually like.

By contrast, demisexuals are only sexually attracted to a person once they have formed a strong bond with them. In some cases, there may be a romantic bond but no sex.

Close-up of two women holding hands
Teraphim / Getty Images

This article takes a closer look at what demisexuality means and the different forms of demisexuality a person can experience. It also explores what demisexuality means culturally and which behaviors or feelings suggest you may be demisexual.

Demisexuality and the Asexual Spectrum

Asexuality describes a person who experiences no or low sexual attraction or desire toward individuals of any gender.

That may seem like a cut-and-dry definition, but there are actually many forms of asexuality. And being asexual doesn't mean you aren't attracted to others at all.

An asexual person may still be attracted to someone for reasons other than sex, including:

  • Romantic attraction: The desire for romantic interaction not involving sex
  • Aesthetic attraction: The desire for someone based on their physical appearance without any romantic interest
  • Intellectual attraction: The desire for someone based on their intellect
  • Sensual attraction: The desire for tactile interaction, such as hugging or cuddling, in a non-sexual way

With this, asexuality is sometimes defined as being either:

  • Romantic: In which the person desired intimacy or passion
  • Aromantic: In which there is no romantic desire, attraction, or interest in such relationships

Demisexuality is one of several forms of asexuality characterized by the romantic orientation. By definition, a demisexual person does not experience sexual attraction until after a close emotional bond is made.

Their romantic orientation may not always align with their sexual orientation. This differs from sexual people whose sexual orientation and romantic orientation often align.

Grey sexuality, another form of asexuality, is when a person may experience the occasional sexual attraction with or without romantic attraction.

Differences in Sexual Desire

In general, sex is less important to demisexuals than to those who identify fully sexual. However, that does not mean that they cannot or do not experience sexual pleasure.

Some demisexuals may not engage in sexual contact at all. They may even find the idea of sex repulsive. This is not the same as celibacy, in which a person chooses not to have sex irrespective of their sexual feelings

But others may be "sex-positive" and regard sex as fundamentally healthy. In fact, within the context of a romantic relationship, some demisexuals may experience high sexual desire and great enthusiasm for sex.

Others still may be "sex-neutral," meaning that they are not repelled by sex but don't actively pursue it. For example, some may only engage in sex simply as a means to satisfy the desires of or reinforce an emotional connection with a partner.

Within the context of demisexuality, there are no differences in a person's desire for or enjoyment of sex whether they identify as male, female, or non-binary.

Types of Demisexuality

Demisexuality may be described within the context of biological sex (the sexual organs a person is born with) and gender identity (how a person views or expresses themselves within the social construct of masculinity or femininity). Or, it can be described in the complete absence of sex or gender.

By way of example, a demisexual person can be

  • Heteroromantic: Romantically attracted to people of the opposite biological sex or gender
  • Homoromantic: Romantically attracted to people of the same biological sex or gender
  • Biromantic: Romantically attracted to people of both biological sexes or gender
  • Panromantic: Romantically attracted to people irrespective of their biological sex or gender
  • Polyromantic: Romantically attracted to people of some but not all genders

Both males and females, cisgender, and transgender can be demisexual.

Demisexuality and the LGBTQ Umbrella

There is not a clear consensus as to whether people who are on the asexual spectrum, including demisexuals, fall under the LGBTQ umbrella. Many people consider demisexuals part of the LGBTQ community, but not all. This is because demisexuals can be heteroromantic and only have interests in people of the same sex.

Either way, demisexual people have begun to stake their claim as a community. This includes the creation of a demisexual flag that has a black triangle pointing inward from the left edge and a field consisting of three vertical stripes: a wide white one, a narrow purple one, and a wide grey stripe.

These are the same colors as the asexual flag, although the design is different. This reflects that demisexuals are part of the asexual community, but that demisexuality is distinctive.

Rocky wall with a demisexual flag
The demisexual flag painted on a stone wall. Rafael Randy Cardoso Garcia / Getty Images

Culture and Demisexuality

There is a long-held cultural stereotype that women are only interested in sex when they're in love and that men are interested all the time. This is not only inaccurate but reflects a potentially harmful belief system called gender essentialism which contends that men and women are fundamentally different due to their biology.

This problematic and outdated notion is reflected in many romance novels that researchers in Australia dubbed "compulsory demisexuality." According to their study, romance novels are largely based on the conceit that sex can only be truly pleasurable for women when it occurs within the context of love. By contrast, fully sexual men only become demisexual after they fall in love.

According to the researchers, beliefs like these undermine the sexual autonomy of people who identify as female. They also say that they encourage attitudes and behaviors that contribute to the rape culture.

Am I Demisexual?

Demisexuality is a concept that's intended to help people have a clearer, healthier vision of who they are as individuals.

The biggest clue that you may be demisexual is if you don't experience sexual attraction to people unless you're already emotionally attached to them.

Other signs may include:

  • Your sexual relationships always start as friendships.
  • You become more attracted to people you're involved with the longer you know them. Although this is not unique to demisexuality, it is characteristic of it.
  • It takes you a while to warm up to the idea of sex with someone, even if you like them a lot.
  • Sex isn't that important to you, particularly when you're single. You may not think about sex much unless you are in a relationship.

Summary

Demisexuality is a form of asexuality in which a person does not develop a romantic interest in someone until a strong emotional bond has been built. The romantic attachment may not involve any sexual contact, or it may involve sex as a means to strengthen the emotional bond.

Anyone can identify as demisexual irrespective of their biological sex or gender identity. These include people who have a romantic attraction to individuals of the same biological sex, different biological sex, or any range of gender identities. The attraction can occur without any consideration to a person's sex or gender.

A Word From Verywell

Not all people who fit the definition of "demisexual" identify as demisexual. For some, the fact that they only experience sexual attraction within the context of a romantic attachment is not central to how they view themselves. This is no different than a man who has sex with men but doesn't identify as either gay or bisexual.

There is no right or wrong way to how people see or identify themselves. What's important is that people are given the space to define themselves in a way that feels true to who they are, rather than having definitions or labels assigned to them.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What does demisexual mean in a dating profile?

    Demisexual means the person only experiences sexual attraction to someone they have a strong emotional or romantic bond with. If a person identifies as demisexual in a dating profile, it typically means they take things slow and will build a friendship first before considering a sexual relationship.

  • Can demisexuals be straight?

    Yes. Demisexual is a romantic orientation and not a sexual orientation. People who identify as demisexual can be straight, gay, bisexual, pansexual, or any other sexual orientation.

  • How do I know if I am demisexual?

    Demisexuals only experience sexual attraction to people with whom they have an emotional attachment. It is common for people who are demisexual to take things slow in relationships. It is also common for demisexuals to become more attracted to someone the longer they know them. When single, demisexuals often have little or no interest in sex.

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6 Sources
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