Demisexuality is a sexual orientation where people only experience sexual attraction to folks that they have close emotional connections with.
In other words, demisexual people only experience sexual attraction after an emotional bond has formed.
The prefix “demi-” means “half” or “partly.” While asexual people experience little to no sexual attraction and allosexual people do experience sexual attraction, demisexuality implies a sort of middle ground.
According to a Wired article from 2015, the earliest recording of the term “demisexuality” dates back to 2006, when a user coined the term on an Asexual Visibility and Education Network (AVEN) forum.
This isn’t to say that demisexuality is something new. Although the term has only been around since 2006, it’s likely that some people have always had this experience.
This emotional bond isn’t always love or romance, although it can be.
For some demisexual people, it may be friendship — including platonic friendship.
They might not necessarily love the person — whether romantically or platonically — at all.
Your orientation describes who you’re attracted to. Demisexual people experience attraction to a select group of people.
You might wonder, “But don’t many of us wait to feel an emotional connection to someone before having sex with them?”
Yes, many people do choose to only have sex with people they have a bond with — whether it’s marriage, a committed romantic relationship, or a happy and trusting friendship.
The difference is that demisexuality isn’t about having sex. It’s about the ability to feel sexual attraction to specific people.
You can be sexually attracted to someone without having sex with them, and you can have sex with someone without actually feeling attracted to them.
Demisexual people aren’t simply people who decide to date someone for a long time before having sex with them. It isn’t about deciding to have sex, but rather feeling sexually attracted to someone.
That said, some demisexual people might choose to wait a while before having sex with a romantic partner — but this is independent of their sexual orientation.
At the moment, there are no widely used terms that mean the same thing as demisexuality.
However, demisexuality is often associated with the following terms:
To use an example, heterosexual men are sexually attracted to women, but they’re not necessarily attracted to every woman they meet.
Similarly, demisexuality doesn’t mean that a demisexual person is attracted to everyone they have a deep emotional bond with.
This question is cause for a lot of debate in the asexual, graysexual, and demisexual communities.
An asexual person experiences little to no sexual attraction. “Sexual attraction” is about finding someone sexually appealing and wanting to have sex with them.
The opposite of asexual is sexual, also referred to as allosexual.
Graysexuality is often considered the “midpoint” between asexuality and allosexuality — graysexual people rarely experience sexual attraction, or they experience it with low intensity.
Some people argue that demisexuality doesn’t fit under the asexual umbrella because it only refers to the circumstances under which you feel sexual attraction. It doesn’t necessarily comment on how often or how intensely you experience sexual attraction.
Somebody who tends to feel intense sexual attraction toward nearly all of their closest friends and partners — but not toward acquaintances or strangers — might feel that they are demisexual but not asexual at all.
Someone who is only sexually attracted to one or two close friends or partners, but not often and not intensely, might identify strongly with graysexuality or asexuality.
On the other hand, people argue that demisexuality falls under the asexual banner. This is because demisexuality does describe a situation where you only experience sexual attraction in limited circumstances.
At the end of the day, it doesn’t particularly matter what anyone else thinks about where this orientation falls on the asexual-allosexual spectrum.
You’re allowed to identify however you’d like, and you’re welcome to choose multiple labels to describe your sexual and romantic orientation.
Demisexual is different because it refers to the nature of our relationship to the people we’re attracted to. It’s OK to want to use a description that refers to gender orientation too.
So yes, you can be demisexual and also homosexual, bisexual, pansexual, heterosexual, and so on — whatever best describes your individual orientation.
Being demisexual looks different to different people.
If you’re demisexual, you might relate to the following feelings or scenarios:
- I seldom feel sexually attracted to people I see on the street, strangers, or acquaintances.
- I have felt sexually attracted to someone I was close to (such as a friend or romantic partner).
- My emotional connection with someone affects whether I feel sexually attracted to them.
- I’m not aroused or interested in the thought of having sex with someone I don’t know well, even if they’re aesthetically beautiful or have a pleasant personality.
That said, all demisexuals are different, and you might be demisexual even if you don’t relate to the above.
Demisexual people only experience sexual attraction after a close emotional bond has formed. This is different from seldom experiencing sexual attraction.
Demisexual people might experience sexual attraction often and intensely, but only with people they’re close to.
Similarly, graysexual people might find that when they do experience sexual attraction, it isn’t necessarily with people they have a close emotional bond with.
Yes. You can simultaneously identify with being demisexual and graysexual or demisexual and asexual. It’s also totally OK to fluctuate between orientations.
Yes. As mentioned before, demisexual people might identify with being asexual, graysexual, or allosexual.
Sexuality and orientation are fluid. You might find your capacity for sexual attraction shifts over time. For example, you might go from being allosexual to being graysexual to being asexual.
Interestingly, the 2015 Asexual Census found that over 80 percent of its respondents identified as another orientation before they identified as asexual, which demonstrates how fluid sexuality can be.
Remember: This doesn’t mean that they weren’t necessarily whatever identity they identified with before, and it doesn’t mean they’re not asexual now.
Fluid orientations aren’t any less valid than non-fluid ones.
Yes! Demisexual people can experience other forms of attraction. This may include:
- Romantic attraction: desiring a romantic relationship with someone
- Aesthetic attraction: being attracted to someone based on how they look
- Sensual or physical attraction: wanting to touch, hold, or cuddle someone
- Platonic attraction: wanting to be friends with someone
- Emotional attraction: wanting an emotional connection with someone
Demisexual people might or might not desire romantic relationships and partnerships.
In relationships, demisexual people might or might not choose to have sex. To some demisexual people, sex might not be important in relationships. To others, it’s important.
Some demisexual people might feel that their bond with their partner isn’t necessarily close enough for them to feel sexually attracted to their partner.
Some might choose to wait until they feel close enough to their partner, and some might opt out altogether.
Some might have sex with their partner without feeling sexually attracted to their partner. Every demisexual person is different.
Yes. Many people — including demisexual people — don’t want relationships and that’s totally OK.
Remember that having an emotional bond with someone isn’t the same as having or wanting a romantic relationship with them.
So, a demisexual person might have an emotional bond with someone and feel sexually attracted to them, but not necessarily want a romantic relationship with that person.
Yes. Being demisexual isn’t about your capacity for sexual enjoyment, only sexual attraction. And we all tend to experience sexual desire with someone we’re attracted to.
Demisexual people can also feel aroused, of course, even if they aren’t currently sexually attracted to a particular person.
There’s also a difference between sexual attraction and sexual behavior. You can be sexually attracted to someone without having sex with them, and you can have sex with someone you’re not sexually attracted to.
There are many reasons why people have sex, including:
- to become pregnant
- to feel intimacy
- for emotional bonding
- for pleasure and fun
- for experimentation
So, demisexual people — like any other group of people — might have sex with people even if they’re not sexually attracted to them.
As for people who are asexual and graysexual, they’re all unique, and they can have different feelings about sex. The words used to describe these feelings include:
- sex-repulsed, meaning they dislike sex and don’t want to have it
- sex-indifferent, meaning they feel lukewarm about sex
- sex-favorable, meaning they desire and enjoy sex
This is common, but it’s not the case for everyone. Many people enjoy sex without long-term commitment or one-night-stands for example, but others don’t. Some people want sex before they get to know someone, while others don’t.
Remember, there’s a difference between wanting sex and feeling sexually attracted to someone. You might feel sexually attracted to someone but not want to have sex with them for a number of reasons.
So, if you only tend to want sex after getting to know someone, it’s not necessarily a reflection of whether or not you’re actually attracted to them.
Similarly, if you happen to only want sex after getting to know someone, that doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re demisexual, although you may be.
Asexual and graysexual people might masturbate.
This includes demisexual people who may also identify with being asexual or graysexual. And yes, it can feel enjoyable for them.
Again, every person is unique, and what one demisexual person enjoys might not be what another person enjoys.
There’s no test to determine whether you are asexual, graysexual, or demisexual.
You may find it helpful to ask yourself questions like:
- Who do I experience sexual attraction to?
- How do I feel about these people?
- How often do I experience sexual attraction?
- How intense is this sexual attraction?
- Is sexual attraction an important factor in choosing who I date?
- Do I ever feel sexually attracted to strangers or acquaintances?
Of course, there are no right or wrong answers. Every demisexual person would answer differently based on their own feelings and experiences.
However, asking yourself these questions can help you understand and process your feelings about sexual attraction.
Coming out can be challenging for anyone. It can be even more challenging when people don’t understand your orientation.
As a result, you might have to help your loved ones understand demisexuality better.
Here are some ways to do so:
- Share articles and videos with them that describe demisexuality. If you find it difficult to describe demisexuality yourself, offer them informative resources.
- Talk about your own experiences (if you want to). They might want to know how it’s affected your daily life and relationships.
- Tell them how you’d like to be supported. What would support look like for you?
- Let them know whether it’s OK to tell others about your orientation.
- Remind them that they don’t have to understand demisexuality completely in order to support you.
Lastly, remember that you don’t have to “come out” unless you feel comfortable doing so. It can be great to share your identity with your loved ones, but if you don’t want to, you don’t have to. It’s your choice!
You can learn more about demisexuality online or at local in-person meetups. If you have a local LGBTQIA+ community, you might be able to connect with other demisexual people there.
You can also learn more from:
- Asexual Visibility and Education Network wiki site, where you can search the definitions of different words relating to sexuality and orientation.
- Asexuality subreddit
- Demi Grace, a forum for demisexual and graysexual people
- Demi Gray, an advice space for demisexual and graysexual people
- Asexuality Archive
- Demisexuality Resource Center
- podcasts like “Sounds Fake But Okay“
- forums like AVEN forum and Demisexuality subreddit
- Facebook groups and other online forums for demisexual people
Sian Ferguson is a freelance health and cannabis writer based in Cape Town, South Africa. She’s passionate about empowering readers to take care of their mental and physical health through science-based, empathetically delivered information.