I’m a demisexual. Most of you probably haven’t heard of a demisexual before and neither had I until last year; only 13 years after I first started having sex.
I always knew there was something a little different about me when it came to dating, ever since I was a young teen talking about boys with my girlfriends at school. My friends were all (worryingly) obsessed with the boys from Busted and McFly, skipping class to go to signings at HMV, saving lunch money to buy concert tickets instead of eating, plastering their bedroom walls with posters of their favourite band member. I never believed the hype – not because I was too cool for teeny-bopper bands (I was), and not because I didn’t think Charlie from Busted had a dreamboat face (I did); it was just impossible for me to get excited about someone I’d never met.
A demisexual needs to have an emotional connection with someone before any sexual feelings can appear.
Back then, if Charlie from Busted had walked right off the stage, parted the crowds to find me, and led me by the hand to the green room for a snog, I’d have felt nothing. If, however, he’d spent weeks chatting away to me about how difficult it was to keep up with all his homework while on tour, I’d have been all for it.
Looks don’t matter as much to a demi. I couldn’t tell you ‘my type on paper’. A demisexual needs to have an emotional connection with someone before any sexual feelings can appear. That’s why demis often fall for friends and coworkers. In those set-ups, there are grounds to establish an emotional connection first, which paves the way for all the crushes and sexy feelings to happen later.
Finding out, at 27 years old, that I identify as a demi – through conversations with my best friend and fellow demi (goddess!) about the struggles of dating – has changed the whole game for me. Since I’ve known, I’ve stopped forcing things with typically 'hot' guys who I have no connection with, just because I should fancy them. I’ve also managed to preserve friendships that I would have otherwise jeopardised by introducing romance.
Being a demi can be a serious exercise in patience and restraint. Because primary sexual desire (wanting to have sex for pleasure) is back-to-front with this kind of sexual attraction, fancying people is a lot more complicated and happens far less often than for most. In fact, I can count the amount of times I’ve 'fancied' someone on one hand.
For this reason, break-ups can take an extra toll on a demi. It once took me three years to stop having sexual feelings for an ex and move on, simply because the experience of physical attraction was so rare, it felt too precious to let go of.
One-night stands have zero appeal for me, even when I’m gagging for it.
I can certainly recognise hot guys when I’m out and about. I also get all the same sexual urges as everyone else, and just as often. I just don’t feel at all inclined to 'do it' with said hot guys. As you can imagine, this can be pretty frustrating. One-night stands have zero appeal for me, even when I’m gagging for it. Tinder? Forget it. Selecting a partner from a phone-sized photo is simply impossible – and believe me, I’ve tried!
When I’ve told people about my demisexuality, they’ve usually dismissed it as being 'normal' for a woman, or just a bit 'prudish'. This is a common misconception that comes from how women, historically, are often expected to have feelings about sex that have been dictated by certain religions and cultures which believe that female sexual desire and sex before marriage is sinful.
But men can be demisexual too (although I’ve yet to meet a male demi), as can lesbians, gays and bisexuals. Demisexuality falls at the halfway mark on the asexual-to-sexual spectrum – hence the 'demi', which comes from the Latin for 'half'. Because of this, demisexuality can technically come under the queer umbrella, and even has its own flag! While having a flag is pretty cool, I choose not to identify as queer. Being demi has affected my experience of love and dating but, for me, it simply doesn’t come with all of the troubles the LGBTQ+ community still sadly faces. For this reason, I prefer to be an ally rather than claim to share in these experiences. That said, I totally encourage each demi to identify as they see fit, if it offers a source of comfort and provides a support network!
You are far more likely to make an emotional connection by having a good conversation at a dinner party, or hanging out with friends of friends in places where you can actually hear each other speak.
If reading this has given you pause for thought about how you approach sex and relationships, try taking this test. The pass mark for being a demisexual is 50 points; I came away with 86. I’m not sure who created the test, or if it has any credibility, but the questions resonated with me and I appreciated being asked them! Visit demisexuality.org for lots and lots of info, links to other articles and forums.
On a more personal level, here are a few tips I picked up along the way, which might (hopefully!) be helpful to some of you out there, too.
Patience is a demi’s virtue
If your rate of fancying people is anything like mine (approximately one man every five years), it can be hard not to get a bit desperate to meet people you might, eventually fancy. Instead of going clubbing anywhere that’s open on Monday to Wednesday evenings or swiping furiously through Tinder and setting up eight dates a week (I have attempted this), which is expensive and exhausting, try to think of it as 'quality over quantity'. You are far more likely to make an emotional connection by having a good conversation at a dinner party, or hanging out with friends of friends in places where you can actually hear each other speak.
Give it a chance…
Even though you find it a little bit harder to fancy people, that doesn’t mean people will find it hard to fancy you. If you are approached or invited out for a drink, don’t point-blank refuse just because you don’t feel the sparks flying. Remember that demis need secondary attraction (emotional connection) before the sexy feelings can happen. Give it a chance, go on a date that allows you to get to know that person and spend some quality time together (I like art gallery dates, personally). Who knows – hearing them talk about how much they adore their French Bulldog puppy might make you start to see them in a different light.
If having sex with someone you don’t fancy isn’t fun and doesn’t give you pleasure, why do it? Save yourself the spine shudders of thinking back on sex with people that give you 'the ick'.
...but don’t force it
The art gallery sucked and you’re allergic to dogs. They’re really, really hot but you just feel nothing. Do not proceed to get drunk (even though alcohol can 'help' make people more sexually attractive) and have sex with them. If having sex with someone you don’t fancy isn’t fun and doesn’t give you pleasure, why do it? Save yourself the spine shudders of thinking back on sex with people that give you 'the ick'.
Don’t ruin your friendships for romance
As a demi, it’s easy to get excited when you finally fancy someone. This is way more likely to happen with friends and coworkers because you naturally spend time getting to know them and forge emotional connections. But this doesn’t mean you should try to have sex with your friends or colleagues. As with anyone, having sex can complicate and endanger friendships and working relationships, so move carefully and only proceed if it really feels worth taking the risk!
One year into my identification as demisexual, I am a lot happier being single than I was before. Of course I would love to meet someone, fall in love and have lots and lots of sex but, until that does happen, I’ve learnt to be more patient with myself, to respect how I feel and ultimately, to stop forcing myself to have sex I can’t enjoy with people I just don’t fancy. My friendships with men remain intact, I have more space on my phone now that I’ve deleted all the futile dating apps, and I value and enjoy opportunities to get to know men in healthier settings than nightclubs.