What Does Demisexual Mean?

People who are demisexual link emotion with desire

Demisexual is a sexual orientation that is sometimes considered to fall on the asexual spectrum. A person is considered to be demisexual if they only experience sexual attraction and desire in the context of a strong emotional and/or romantic bond.

A person can be demisexual and heteroromantic, homoromantic, biromantic, or panromantic. Sometimes, demisexuality is considered to be part of gray asexuality, where gray asexuality is the gray area between sexuality and asexuality.

People who are not on the asexual spectrum or demisexual are more likely to experience sexual attraction and desire. This does not necessarily mean that they act on that sexual attraction.

However, they may feel stirrings of desire for strangers, celebrities, people they don't know, and even potentially people they don't like. In comparison, demisexuals are only sexually attracted to people once they have formed a strong bond with them.

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

What Is Romantic Orientation?

People's sexual orientation may or may not be the same as their romantic orientation. Romantic orientation refers to the gendered way in which people experience romantic attraction.

People who are heteroromantic are attracted to the other gender, while homoromantics are attracted to the same gender. Panromantics and biromantics are attracted to a range of gender.

Because demisexuals only experience sexual attraction in the context of romantic or emotional connection, their romantic orientation generally determines the genders to whom they are sexually interested.

What Says Demisexuality Research?

There is not a great deal of research about demisexuality. Although the orientation of demisexuality is not new, having a word for it is. The term is widely believed to have been coined only in 2006. It has grown substantially in use since then.

One study that looked at the identities and behaviors of those on the asexual spectrum found that demisexuals had a broad range of romantic orientations. In addition, many were in romantic and sexual relationships or seeking such relationships.

Can Men be Demisexual?

There is a cultural stereotype that women are only interested in sex when they're in love but men are interested in sex all the time. However, that is both inaccurate and reflects problematic gender essentialism. Gender identity and sexual orientation are two very different things.

Both men and women, cisgender and transgender, can be demisexual. Some people just don't experience sexual attraction until they have an emotional connection. Others experience sexual attraction easily and often. Both are part of a normal range of sexual interest.

Do Demisexuals Enjoy Sex?

As with people of other sexual orientations, demisexuals vary in their enjoyment of sex and their desire for sex. In the context of a romantic relationship, some demisexuals may experience high sexual desire and great enthusiasm for sex.

Others may enjoy sex, but primarily experience interest in the context of their partner's desire, rather than spontaneous desire of their own.

In general, sex is less important to demisexuals and other people on the asexual spectrum than people who identify as fully sexual. However, that does not mean that they can not and do not experience sexual enjoyment.

What Are Signs of Being Demisexual?

Trying to figure out if you might be demisexual? The biggest clue is if you don't experience sexual attraction to people unless you're already emotionally attached to them. Other signs could include:

  • Your sexual relationships always start as friendships.
  • You become more attracted to people you're involved with the longer you know them (not unique to demisexuality).
  • 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're in a relationship.

Is There a Demisexual Flag?

The demisexual flag has a black triangle or chevron starting at the left edge. It is on a field that consists of three vertical stripes—a wide white stripe, a narrow purple stripe, and a wide grey stripe.

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

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

Are Demisexuals LGBT?

There is not consistent agreement about whether people who are on the asexual spectrum, including demisexuals, belong under the LGBT umbrella. Many people do consider demisexuals part of the LGBT community, but not all.

Demisexuals who are homoromantic, biromantic, panromantic, and/or gender diverse may be more likely to think of themselves as part of the LGBT community. There's no right answer for everyone.

What Is Compulsory Demisexuality?

In 2014, a researcher from Australia described a concept they referred to as "compulsory demisexuality," as a component of many popular romance novels. Compulsory demisexuality is the idea that, at least for women, sex can only be truly pleasurable when it is in the context of love—ideally true love.

In many romance novels, previously fully sexual men become demisexual when they fall in love. In other words, they no longer experience sexual desire towards any woman other than their partner.

Although this may occur for some people, in the real world, it is potentially a highly problematic narrative contributing to rape culture. It may feed into notions that people who experience sexual desire, particularly men who experience sexual desire, are helpless to do anything but act on it.

In reality, people may choose to be romantic and sexually faithful while still experiencing sexual attraction to others—regardless of their sex or gender.

A Word From Verywell

Not all people who fit the definition of demisexual identify that way. For some people, the fact that they only experience sexual attraction in the context of romantic or emotional attachment doesn't feel like an important component of who they are.

They may identify instead as having a different sexual orientation, where the context of their desire is just that—context. For others, the fact that they experience sexual attraction only in the context of connection is critical to how they see themselves.

Neither way that people think of themselves is right or wrong, better or worse. What's important is that people are given the space to understand and define themselves—rather than having definitions or labels applied 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 build a friendship first before having 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. They often start as just friends before the relationship becomes sexual. 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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  1. Hille JJ, Simmons MK, Sanders SA. “Sex” and the ace spectrum: Definitions of sex, behavioral histories, and future interest for individuals who identify as asexual, graysexual, or demisexual. The Journal of Sex Research. 2020;57(7), 813–823. doi:10.1080/00224499.2019.1689378

  2. McAlister J. ‘That complete fusion of spirit as well as body’: Heroines, heroes, desire and compulsory demisexuality in the Harlequin Mills & Boon romance novel. Australasian Journal of Popular Culture. 2014;3(3), 299–310. doi:10.1386/ajpc.3.3.299_1