What does that mean? While asexual means that someone doesn’t feel sexual attraction at all, being demisexual means that I do not feel sexual attraction to a person unless there is a strong emotional connection.
The inevitable response to this statement is generally, “But I don’t think that anyone has sex unless they’re emotionally connected to the other person!” Putting aside for now the fact that one night stands would not be a thing if this were true (and there wouldn’t be so many songs written about taking home a stranger you met in a bar), being demisexual isn’t about the act of sex proper. It’s about sexual attraction and feelings. Demisexuality is part of the asexual spectrum, which is itself part of a sexuality spectrum ranging from sexual to asexual, with a wibbly wobbly area in between (to steal a phrase from the Tenth Doctor).
Confused yet? Let me illustrate.
As you’ve probably already deduced, I fall somewhere in the wibbly wobbly area.
My Asexual-Spectrum Adolescence
Many people who fall somewhere on the asexuality spectrum say that they’ve known all their lives that there was something “off” or “wrong” about them. It wasn’t like that for me. I got crushes on guys. I thought some guys were fairly good looking. I had my first kiss at the age of thirteen, because it seemed like the thing to do. I showed my breasts to a boyfriend at age twenty for similar reasons, not because it was something I particularly wanted to do.
Nevertheless, I had a smattering of boyfriends — more than my other friends, in fact. I assumed I was straight because I felt romantic attraction to guys. It had never dawned on me that romantic attraction and sexual attraction were different things, or that what I felt might be different from what other people felt.
Besides, I was busy trying to figure out my ever-changing disability identity. Someday, I figured, I’d surely want to have sex with someone.
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It wasn’t until the tail end of college that I started suspecting that I might actually be different. I had a friend who would always complain that she was “soooo horny.” I felt confused, as I was pretty sure I’d never had the experience of being horny. Sex scenes in movies had always annoyed me. I watched Sex and the City almost religiously, but for the gal-pal friendships that reminded me strongly of my relationships with my three best friends. I never really masturbated or felt an urge to check out what was happening “down there.” I couldn’t understand what the big deal about sex was, beyond the obvious baby-making process. It just wasn’t on my radar.
Frustrated, I turned to my friends in order to pin down what was so great about sticking a penis into a vagina and other forms of sex. Why was sex this huge thing that everyone wanted to talk about? Why were people willing to do almost anything for sex?
“It feels good!” they told me. Well, sure, I thought, but so does eating chocolate or taking a hot shower. It seemed to me that there was no way sex could feel that good.
Around that period, I was spending a lot of time on Tumblr. Tumblr is often derisively referred to as the home of all the “social justice warriors,” and that’s exactly why I like it. Only on Tumblr can you find passionate and deep social justice conversation existing side by side (and sometimes simultaneously) with passionate and deep conversations around various fandoms, liberally interspersed with reaction GIFs.
It was on Tumblr that I first stumbled across asexuality and all its variations. I followed the links all around the Internet, read up on asexuality, wandered around the Asexuality Visibility and Education Network (AVEN) website, and began to feel like that identity might fit me. I especially appreciated the asexual in-joke of presenting cake to those in the community, because asexuals would rather have cake than sex. I’d take cake over sex every time!
Still, I felt uneasy. I didn’t want to appropriate other people’s identities, and it’s not as though a sexuality fairy would come from the sky to crown me as asexual. What if I wasn’t really asexual? What if I were just oblivious? It had happened before, with other things. I have a reputation for being somewhat oblivious and missing things that are (sometimes literally) right under my nose.
Then, one day, I came across this incredible essay on trying to figure out sexual attraction titled If You Can See The Invisible Elephant, Please Describe It. It hit me like a punch to the stomach. It’s a feeling I recognized from reading certain pieces about disability: the feeling of “Yes! This is me!” It was like a beautiful sunrise, and it was the closest I was getting to a sexuality fairy telling me how to identify. From that day forward, I began to identify as asexual.
About a year and a half ago, I met a wonderful man through a mutual friend. We bonded over our shared love of Doctor Who and, though I had just gotten out of a relationship and wasn’t looking for another, I found myself falling for him. And more than that, I realized I wanted to do more with him.
With him, I’ve gone further than I ever have before. He’s helped me to learn a lot about my body. I’ve figured out more of what I like sexually and what I don’t. I now understand a lot more what the “big deal” is about sex. It does feel good! While I still don’t plan on having “traditional” p-in-v sex any time soon, I’ve learned that there’s a lot more out there in the realm of sexual fun.
This doesn’t mean I’ve revoked my “ace” card, though. I identify as demisexual because of the emotional connection I’ve had with my one and only sexual partner. I could also identify as grey-A, another common term for those who fall in the middle of the sexuality spectrum. I generally tell people I’m “asexual-ish,” both because it’s more understood than demisexuality and because I’m still not sure where on the spectrum I really lie.
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Sex still isn’t really my thing. I describe it as kind of like dessert: It’s a good thing when it happens, but it’s not something I would actively seek out. (Of course, this is a bad analogy when applied to me, because I’m one of those people who always wants dessert, but hopefully you get what I mean.) I would rather cuddle on the couch and watch Netflix any day than have sexy times, but if it happens, it happens, and I’m not opposed to it.
Coming out is a process, and I’m still wishing for that sexuality fairy to come down from the heavens. But with the support of other asexual people, I’m starting to feel more comfortable. If you’re asexual, or any variations of it, feel free to share your experiences! The only way we’ll ever increase understanding is to speak out.
[Feature image: Photo of a couple holding hands while walking outside on a sidewalk. The camera is zoomed in to focus on their torsos, legs, and linked hands. The person on the left is wearing a beige top and white shorts, while the person on the right wears a light denim top and dark pants. Trees are in the distance.]