In an age in which we are constantly one swipe away from our next relationship, the idea of romance is rushed and convenient in a way that it never has been before. Apparently, you should be able to follow your gut, or some mystical inner voice that tells you whether you're right for that person. But it's impossible for some people to operate that way. If you've ever found yourself wondering what it means to be demisexual, and whether or not the term applies to you, then read on.
"The broad definition of demisexual is that you only experience sexual attraction in the context of a close, emotional bond," Jennie Steinberg, LMFT, LPCC, a licensed marriage and family therapist, tells Bustle. "In other words, a demiseuxal is a person, unlike asexual people, who experiences sexual attraction, but needs to form an emotional relationship first." And the term applies no matter what your sexual orientation may be. Put into layman's terms, it's the difficulty in feeling sexual attraction to someone you're not friends with first.
When dating in a big city or online, the primary way to meet people is through apps, followed by meeting up in person. And while you can generally tell on a first date whether or not you'd want to be friends with someone, it's nearly impossible for a demisexual person to decide whether or not you'd be sexually attracted to them without the element of friendship and trust already in place — despite the fact that this seems to be the expectation of modern dating.
The current climate demands that at the end of a date, you know right then whether you're in or out. And you can't exactly explain your feelings to someone you just met, particularly in an age when not engaging in romantic or affectionate activity on dates is considered a rejection.
It can be hard to explain to someone who doesn't feel this way, because demisexuality is actually quite subtle if you're not aware of it. If you're still unsure whether or not this applies to you, then see if you relate to some of the other hallmarks of being demisexual.
Most, If Not All, Of Your Relationships Have Started Out As Friendships
There is an element of complete trust and security that attracts you to them. It's not just the feeling of safety, or the sense of being able to predict what they'll do or how they'll react. It's bone-deep, an attraction for who they are as a whole, that makes you see them in an entirely different light than you did when you first met.
There is no honeymoon phase in relationships for you, because what other people typically refer to as a "honeymoon" phase is more of your "uncertainty" phase. As Indigo Stray Conger, LMFT, CST, a certified sex therapist, tells Bustle, "Demisexuals typically develop relationships over weeks or months before seeing a person as attractive and associating that person with arousal cues."
You're much more comfortable and attracted to someone long after you know all the little details about their lives, how they feel about things, and what makes them tick.
You Frequently Put More Pressure On First Dates Than Other Friends
While the rest of the world seems to be moaning about how commitment-phobic our generation is, you feel an entirely different kind of pressure, because you know that when it comes down to it, people expect you to have a genuine gauge for how you will proceed with them after a first date. So you focus too much on everything.
You nitpick, or you look for cosmic signs. You talk to too many people about it, or you're so afraid of getting influenced that you don't tell anyone at all. If you've ever ghosted, it isn't out of disinterest so much as out of being at a complete and utter loss. You don't want to waste their time or hurt anyone by continuing to date them unless you're sure you're attracted to them, and you can't be sure unless you continue to date them for a while, so BOOM. You are a human catch-22.
You Still Feel Primary Sexual Attraction To Strangers — But It's Fleeting
A misconception about demisexuals is that they only feel the one kind of attraction toward best friends, but the truth is that they feel other kinds of attraction, too. Asexuality.org explains, for instance, that there is "primary" sexual attraction — the attraction to what you see first, like a person's looks, aesthetic, and/or the way they carry themselves — and secondary sexual attraction, which is more rooted in personality and the way you connect with someone.
In relationships, demisexuals operate almost solely on secondary attraction, while people typically are first drawn in by primary attraction. This is why you might not be able to relate when your friends talk about a hot celebrity, or point out an attractive bartender, Steinberg says. "If you can't imagine what it would feel like to want to have sex with a good-looking stranger, you may be demisexual," she adds. "You might even feel like you need to agree or invent attractions in order to 'fit in."
That doesn't mean that you won't occasionally see a hot person on the subway and start to sweat. It's just fleeting, is the thing — and if you ever actively pursued it, chances are the attraction would be gone almost immediately.
Your Crushes Seem Like A Really Big Deal
It's not often that you're attracted to anyone in the first place, so when you feel that way, the feeling is monumental. Everyone seemed to think we'd all grow out of "having crushes" in adulthood that had the same intensity as the ones we had in junior high or high school, but if anything, yours only seem to have more depth to them than they did when you were younger.
You Have Found Yourself Very Confused In Friendships
Particularly in friendships involving the gender(s) you're attracted to. Most, if not all, of your unrequited crushes have been born of friendships — ones that you embarked on without any other agenda whatsoever.
It gets to the point where you are genuinely surprised to find that you are attracted to them, and even more surprised by how irreversible it seems. At least a few friendships have gotten awkward in situations when the feelings went unreciprocated, although you find that you can usually work past it to preserve a friendship.
People Often Dub You A "Prude"
"Prude." "Ice queen." "Sandra Dee." "Goody-goody." You've heard it all before. These are just a few of the problematic labels people assign to those who aren't having as much sex as what's considered "average," despite the fact that it's completely healthy and OK to feel that way. (And really, there is no "average" when it comes to sex.)
Some people certainly do refrain from sex for their own moral reasons or beliefs, and some (including demisexuals) just have a lack of interest. Regardless, these labels are not just inappropriate and offensive, but inaccurate — no matter what reason a person has for refraining from sex.
In the end, though, you can only do what feels right for you, even when other people project their own feelings and insecurities on your choices. The romantic world is difficult to navigate, no matter how you feel or don't feel about sex, so the best thing you can do for yourself is trust your gut and stick to it.
Jennie Steinberg, LMFT, LPCC, licensed marriage and family therapist
Indigo Stray Conger, LMFT, CST, certified sex therapist