Navigating relationships and romantic attraction can be mystifying terrain, full of questions and gray areas when it comes to our orientations, interests and boundaries. If you've ever felt a disconnect with friends who eagerly pursue hookups, or if you’ve found yourself needing an emotional foundation before you feel a sexual spark, you may be curious if the term "demisexual" resonates.
Visibility and understanding around demisexuality has expanded in recent years, though many still find it an ambiguous identity. This guide aims to illuminate what it means to be demisexual, key signs and indicators that you may relate to this end of the orientation spectrum, and vital insights from human sexuality experts to contextualize the experience.
What Does 'Demisexual' Mean?
"Demisexual means needing an emotional connection with someone before having sex with them," explains sex therapist Jackie Golob, founder of Shameless Therapy. "Honestly, for heterosexual people who haven't explored their sexuality more, I wouldn't be shocked to see demisexuality more common in the future. A lot of times, people want to have sex, but have that emotional connection with people first."
Essentially, demisexuality refers to only experiencing sexual attraction after forming an emotional bond. While this may sound common, what sets demisexuals apart is that they often lack sexual interest entirely until that closeness has developed.
According to sexologist Rhiannon John, "This emotional bond doesn't necessarily need to be love or romance but could be friendship."
She adds that demisexuality is a spectrum—some form intellectual connections, others bonds of kindness and care. The key thread is the emotional foundation that must precede romantic interest.
How Do You Know if You're Demisexual?
If you're wondering whether you fall under the demisexual label, sex and relationships expert Zach Zane offers this tip: "If you’re someone who doesn’t like having casual or anonymous sex and prefers to get to know the person before having sex, you may be demisexual."
Relationship therapist and psychotherapist at The Racial Equity Therapist, Domenique Harrison notes some other signs: "Demisexual folks rarely experience sexual attraction and may have very few examples of sexual and romantic feelings to reflect on in their life... They rarely initiate conversations about sex and don’t often have thoughts, feelings, and actions involving sex that match their peers."
Zane clarifies that "you shouldn't let demisexual define your behavior; rather, it should be reflective of your behavior." The label reflects overall patterns rather than absolutes, so don’t let yourself be limited by what’s considered “normal” for demisexuals.
14 Signs You Might Be Demisexual
1. You Need To Bond Mentally
Zane shares that if you need to have an intellectual conversation with someone before feeling a spark of attraction, unable to connect sexually without a mental bond first, you may be demisexual.
2. Casual Sex Lacks Appeal
"The idea of causal or anonymous sex doesn’t arouse or excite you sexually," says Zane.
3. Observing Attractiveness Stops There
"While you can acknowledge a stranger is attractive, you don’t find yourself fantasizing about having sex with them," says Zane.
4. Emotional Connection Is a Main Priority
"You need to feel emotionally connected and safe with someone before you have any desire to have sex with them," Zane explains. Safety enables vulnerability.
5. You're Not Into "Friends With Benefits"
"Friends-with-benefits arrangements or having sex early on in a relationship doesn’t feel appealing,” explains Harrison. “Sex and instances of sexual and romantic intimacy are not high on the list of importance."
6. Your Romantic Feelings Take Time
"Your feelings for someone may take longer to develop, and your emotional connection isn’t rushed," says Harrison.
7. Attraction Can Also Take Time
Attraction comes through shared experiences over time, says Harrison. It's not instant nor fleeting.
8. You Likely Lack a "Type"
Harrison explains that this can be because "emotional bonds define attractions more" than appearances.
9. Non-Sexual Connections Get Prioritization Early On
Conversations and common interests thrive first.
10. Physical Touch Requires Extra Comfort
As Harrison says, "Demisexual folks may need time to warm up to physical touch and touch intimacy."
11. You Don't Need To Talk About Certain Topics
11. You may have felt isolated among sexually-vocal peers, or that you needed to mask your discomfort, Harrison explains. Their constant sex chat felt foreign.
12. Crushing on Strangers Is Rare
Harrison states that demis "very rarely, if ever, develop crushes on strangers."
13. Romantic Attraction Has Been Rare Throughout Your Life
You have few examples of romantic attraction to reflect on over your life so far, says Harrison. These fleeting moments stand out given their rarity.
14. This Label Has Brought Clarity
The demisexual label brought you clarity after lifelong confusion, shares Harrison. Finally, an explanation clicked for your atypical attractions.
Just like with most labels, how one person identifies might not be what another person with similar feelings or experiences identifies with. There can be a million reasons why one of these points hits home with you, but it might not be based in demisexuality (trauma, confusion, sexual repression and taught behaviors are just some reasons behind a lack of interest). So if a lot of these points are relatable to you, but you don’t feel like demisexual is a good fit, that’s okay!
As The Trevor Project’s website reads, “demisexual” can fall under the asexual umbrella, but so do other labels. And if you identify as demisexual but don’t feel like asexual describes you either, that’s okay too. Sexuality is very personal and the most important person to understand one’s identity is themselves.