If you’re demisexual, it means that you can typically only be attracted to a person after you’ve formed an emotional connection with them. Here’s what you need to know about demisexuality and some common myths around it.
What does demisexuality mean?
Demisexuals generally don’t feel immediate sexual desire. “They lead with emotional connection, not sexual interest,” says Holly Richmond, PhD, LMFT, a certified sex therapist in private practice.
But over time, emotional connection can lead to feelings of sexual attraction. “For some demisexuals this may be a matter of several weeks, for others, several months,” Richmond says.
Here are some signs you may be demisexual, according to Casey Tanner, MA, LCPC, a certified sex therapist and founder of The Expansive Group:
- You’ve had the experience of not being attracted to someone at first, but felt attraction build up once you felt an emotional connection.
- You’ve never felt sexual desire for someone you weren’t close to.
- You can’t relate when friends are sexually attracted to a celebrity or someone they’ve just met.
- You have trouble relating to people who enjoy casual sex.
Pansexual vs. demisexual: Pansexual people are attracted to others regardless of their gender or biological sexual orientation. Pansexuals can be demisexual if they need an emotional bond to feel attraction, but pansexuals can also be asexual or feel immediate sexual attraction.
At the beginning of a relationship, a lack of interest in sex may cause challenges for demisexual people.
“There needs to be open communication about what the expectations are early in the relationship,” Richmond says, so the demisexual person doesn’t feel rushed into sex and their partner doesn’t feel rejected.
“It is also important that they clarify to their partner that it isn’t a lack of sexual attraction, but rather that the sexual attraction takes longer to grow,” Richmond says.
Myths about demisexuality
- Myth 1: Demisexual people don’t like sex. Demisexuality isn’t the same thing as asexuality, in which a person has no sexual attraction or interest in sex. “On the contrary, just like anyone else, demisexual folks are capable of full, exciting, passionate, and wide-ranging sexual dynamics,” Tanner says.
- Myth 2: Demisexual people are attracted to everyone they’re close with. Just because sexual attraction can grow out of an emotional bond doesn’t mean it always will. “The same way that gay people aren’t attracted to everyone of the same gender, demisexual folks aren’t attracted to everyone they’re emotionally investing in,” says Tanner.
- Myth 3: Demisexuality determines sexual orientation. Demisexuality doesn’t affect which genders you’re attracted to, only the way your attraction develops. You can be bisexual, straight, gay, or any other sexual orientation at the same time as being demisexual.
- Myth 4: Anyone who doesn’t like casual sex is demisexual. Many people choose to wait until they get to know someone to have sex, but this isn’t the same thing as demisexuality. “Demisexual individuals are not making a choice; they cannot experience sexual attraction without that bond,” says Tanner.
How to support someone who is demisexual
It’s not always easy to come out as demisexual, and having the support of friends and family can play an important role. Here’s how you can support someone in your life who is demisexual:
- Do your own research. The person coming out may explain how their demisexuality works, but it helps to do some reading on the subject so you don’t bombard them with potentially hurtful questions or ideas, Tanner says. You can find more information on the Demisexuality Resource Center website.
- Believe them. It’s important to listen to your loved one when they tell you about their experience. Remember, everyone knows themselves best, Tanner says.
- Ask how you can support them. Let them make the decisions about what they need, Richmond says. You can ask questions like:
- Do you want to talk about it more?
- Do you want help sharing this with other people?
- Let them know that you accept them. If your loved one feels accepted, they may be more open to talk about their experience of being demisexual.
Being demisexual doesn’t mean you don’t feel sexual attraction, just that your attraction can only grow after forming an emotional connection.
Just like anyone else, demisexual people can have strong relationships and rich sex lives, so long as you keep up good communication with your partner.
If someone you love is demisexual, educate yourself on the subject and offer them your support and acceptance.