Demisexuality: How a word let me know I’m not alone By KatWritten by Kat Stephen
It’s a term I hadn’t even heard until about a year ago, when a friend tweeted a link to an article about LGBT issues and I idly scrolled through. I don’t even know what half of these terms mean, I was thinking, disappointed in myself for not being more on top of it all, when the description for demisexual caught my eye. Wait, hold on. What?
I did some more research about what being demisexual meant, and realised it described me well. It’s considered to be on the asexuality spectrum, which confused me at first – I can and do enjoy sex as much as the next person. Asexual means someone who has no sexual desire, but it’s also used as an umbrella term for a number of related ideas.
Demisexuality, sometimes known as a kind of “grey asexuality”, is this: a lack of sexual desire until/unless you know someone well, and you have a romantic or emotional bond.
It wasn’t a big revelation; I’ve always been like this, and being a hetero cis woman has never been at odds with that part of me. I come across as perhaps more picky, or cautious, than others. For me, that there is an actual name for it, and a list of conditions, is more interesting than it is anything else.
But having that solid, specific definition can be key to feeling comfortable with yourself, and being able to explain yourself to others, in the context of society. As this is Asexual Awareness Week, it feels right to talk about how that definition can manifest itself.
First, it’s rare that I’m interested in that way in someone. When I am, it’s after I’ve either known them a long time, or had a very intense introduction. It doesn’t mean that I fancy everyone I know very well – what a headache that would be – just that, if I’m going to be sexually attracted to someone at all, I need to feel like we have a deep bond in other ways first.
I’ve felt guilty for asking some boyfriends to wait a long time, when knowing the right word would have helped (and how ridiculous that I still had to stop myself saying “sorry guys” in brackets here). I can only understand in theory what my friends mean when they “really fancy the new guy in the office but they haven’t spoken to him yet”.
Second, if I’m in a proper relationship, I have a completely normal, enjoyable sex life (whatever that means). But when it’s not available to me – when I’m single, or if my partner isn’t around – I don’t really think about sex. Porn isn’t interesting to me, I don’t desire sex, I don’t feel the need to find someone to sleep with, I don’t masturbate. It just isn’t part of my life or my thought process.
I had a couple of one night stands when I was younger, which happened because I was in a weird mood and wanted to do something stupid; sex was the method rather than the aim. It’s pretty easy to just lie back and think of something else in that situation. That might sound flippant, so I want to make the point here that I’m lucky enough never to have had non-consensual sex.
I had full agency in those situations, and I wanted to be there – I was disinterested in that particular bit of it, rather than having a bad time. I had no problem pretending on the outside, while inside I was that gif of Alan Partridge shrugging.
Third, I do get crushes. They’re like the ones I had when I was nine years old, though. I enjoy looking at someone’s face for a bit, then I get distracted by a sandwich or a movie.
I was unsure whether to write this at first, as to some it will undoubtedly make stronger the old-fashioned message that sex is for men to enjoy, and women to endure. Hopefully as you read this you’ll understand that my lack of sexual desire is unusual (but not “weird”), and is nothing to do with my gender.
But to others it might be a comfort to know they aren’t alone, and the more we understand the ways people go against the grain, the less exoticised and othered they will feel, and the more harmonious and stronger our communities will be.
Kat Stephen is a freelance proofreader, a publisher of lost classics on ebook at Abandoned Bookshop, and a postgraduate student in Careers Guidance at UWS. In her spare time she collects whisky, enjoys eating, making and talking about food, and endlessly quotes The West Wing and The Thick Of It. You can find Kat on Twitter @katobell