What Is A Demisexual? Definition And Signs You May Identify As One

Updated August 16, 2023by Regain Editorial Team

New words for sexual orientations and identities are making their way into modern vocabulary. Terms like asexual, demisexual, and others are helpful additions to the language we know today. After all, having a term for something you’ve been feeling for a while but never been able to put words to can make you feel less alone in the world. Once you can say to yourself, "I'm demisexual,” it may lead to greater self-acceptance and understanding. Here's more about what it means to be demisexual and how to know if this identity might apply to you.

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Define: Demisexual

The word "demisexual" came into the modern language in 2008. The definition of demisexual is simple. A demisexual is a person who only becomes sexually attracted to someone only after forming an emotional bond with them.

Demisexual refers to sexual orientation, usually placed on the asexual spectrum. This word uses the prefix "demi" to express the idea that this orientation is halfway between sexuality and asexuality. It can be important to remember that a demisexual can and does feel sexual attraction. However, they must know a person very well before they can become physically attracted to them.

Attraction And Desire

One model of asexuality sorts out primary and secondary attraction and desire. In this model, a person who is demisexual does not experience primary sexual attraction based on information about appearance and other details that are instantly available. They do, however, experience secondary attraction based on a personal relationship.

Desire is a different subject. The demisexual may feel both a primary desire to have sex for pleasure and a secondary desire to have sex for other reasons, such as to make the other person happy.

The identity model of asexuality says that asexual people disidentify with sexuality only because society makes it an issue. They call themselves "asexual" or "demisexual" solely because the cultural expectation is that people experience sexual attraction and intimacy in the same way.

If you describe yourself as a demisexual under this model, it's because you have something in common with other people who identify this way but not with the dominant culture. So, if the dominant culture were demisexual, there would be no need to identify this way. As people talk about the demisexual orientation more, the dominant culture could change the meaning of the term.

Signs You May Identify As A Demisexual

The American Psychological Association Dictionary says that sexual identity is your sexual orientation. However, one thing to remember about this subject is that no one can decide how you should identify yourself except you. The lines between the different types of sexuality are not so distinct that someone else can look at you and determine that you are a demisexual. It's completely up to you whether to give yourself that label or not.

That being said, many people want to have a word that describes their sexual orientation to feel okay with it and to be able to talk about it with others. Only you can decide whether to identify as a demisexual. First, though, it can be important to understand for yourself whether the label fits. It might help you decide whether to use this label if you know some of the common signs that indicate that someone is demisexual. You may notice all of these signs, or only a few might ring true for you. No matter how you choose to identify yourself, it's always up to you to decide what that orientation means to you. Here are some signs demisexual people may recognize.

  1. When You Were Growing Up, You Always Felt Different

There may be nothing unique about feeling different. In fact, it's amazing how many people grew up feeling out of step with their peers in one way or another. When it comes to being demisexual, you might have felt different than others because they thought about sex more than you did, even at an early age.

  1. You Often Feel Uncomfortable With Physical Touch

If you're a demisexual, you might find pleasure in touching and being touched after you've developed a strong emotional connection with someone. However, in other situations, being touched might make you feel awkward or even anxious.

  1. The Most Important Thing About Your Relationship Is Strong Emotional Bonds

Having a strong emotional bond with someone may be the most important part of any relationship for you. You probably want to know the other person deeply and intimately and desire to feel you understand them and appreciate them for who they are. Nothing else may be as important to you in a relationship as this.

  1. You Like Sex But Only Under The "Right" Circumstances

If you’re demisexual, sex likely carries a special meaning for you. You don't engage in it indiscriminately. After you know someone very well, that’s when sex may start to make sense. Before that happens, or if that never happens, you don't like having sex with another person at all. You'd rather pleasure yourself than have sex with someone who means nothing to you.

  1. People Call You A Prude

Many people who have come out as demisexual talk about how others would call them a prude or similar terms. Terms like “prude” express the idea that someone thinks sex is immoral or distasteful, which isn’t in line with what being a demisexual means. It's not that you're opposed to sex, you just don't feel the same way about it as others. These terms can be unfortunate and inaccurate labels that can make you feel bad about yourself.

  1. Touch Is Optional For You; Relationships Aren't

Although you can take or leave being touched, you may have a very strong need to be in a relationship. What you want more than anything is a relationship where you can experience emotional closeness. Physical intimacy might come later, or it might not.

  1. You Don't Want To "Hook Up" 

In today's dominant culture, many people "hook up" for sex very quickly and easily. They may get together solely for that purpose. They might go out to a bar so that they can meet someone and have sex as soon as possible. Or they may use a dating app to find someone and get together for sex. This may not be something you want to do, and you may not understand why others find it to be pleasurable. 

  1. Even When You Are Aroused, You Don't Rush To Act On It.

Sometimes it seems to you that everyone is in such a big hurry to have sex. You may be aroused less often, but you don't hurry sex along even when you are. It's important to you, but not important enough to chance ruining the relationship.

  1. Rating Online Dating Profiles Makes No Sense To You

Since you're most interested in relationships, dating someone who is "hot" just from the look of a dating app profile makes no sense to you. Any one of those people might be hot after you get to know them, but when you only see their picture and a few facts about them, it isn't enough to tell you whether you would eventually be sexually attracted to them.

  1. You're Not Interested In Flirting

You like to have real conversations with people so that you can get to know them better. Flirting doesn't accomplish that purpose, and you may prefer to talk about things you're interested in or have in common. You might not enjoy flirting at all and may feel uncomfortable when someone flirts with you.

  1. Your Romantic Relationships Start As Friendships.

As a demisexual, your best relationships may start as friendships. You get to know the person on that basis, perhaps not even thinking that anything more will ever develop. But with some friends, the closer you get to them emotionally, the more you become attracted to them—this may be how your romantic relationships usually begin.

  1. When The Attraction Arrives, Your Friend Is Confused

Sometimes, when friendship leads to attraction, the relationship may flourish. However, what often happens is that the person who thought you were only a friend is baffled when they realize you're sexually attracted to them. The friendship may end, or it may just become awkward. This is quite common among demisexuals because most of your sexual fantasies have an emotional component to them. You're not very likely to have a fantasy about having sex with a beautiful stranger, but you might have a fantasy about having sex with someone who has the emotional characteristics you enjoy.

  1. You're More Attracted To Personality Than To Appearance

You're much more interested in who someone is than in what they look like. You're attracted to people that have certain types of personalities. If you don't care about their personality, you probably won't ever be attracted to them.

  1. You Aren't Alone

More and more people who identify as demisexual are talking about their unique perspectives on sexuality and there is a growing community of people who identify this way. There are many more people who either haven't told anyone about their sexual orientation or don't understand it yet themselves. By being open about how you are, you can encourage others to do the same. 

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Online Counseling With Regain

If you're feeling different or alone because of your sexual orientation, confiding in a professional could help. With Regain, an online counseling platform, you can match with a counselor who has experience with issues of attraction and has worked with those in the LGBTQIA+ community before. An online therapist can talk to you through video chats, phone calls, or in-app messaging, which may make it easier to be more open and vulnerable about your feelings. No matter how you choose to identify, it can be important to learn how to understand and accept yourself as you are. To get started on your own journey to self-discovery and self-acceptance, consider connecting with a licensed therapist. It could transform you individually and have an impact on your romantic relationships. 

The Effectiveness Of Online Counseling 

Those questioning their sexuality may experience higher rates of anxiety or depression. Online counseling can be an effective tool for addressing each of these mental health concerns. In a study performed by the University of Pittsburgh, doctors found that online cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) was “a more effective treatment for anxiety and depression than doctors' usual primary care.” The more CBT sessions that participants completed, the more pronounced their results were. CBT is a therapeutic approach that helps people learn how to identify their unhelpful thoughts and reframe them into more helpful ones. 

The Takeaway

Figuring out your sexual identity may be confusing at times and could require a level of self-reflection beyond what you’re used to. While many individuals have a sexual identity that is set in stone, others experience changes in theirs over time. If you’re struggling to determine whether you’re demisexual or something else, it could be beneficial to consider talking to a professional. Feeling unsure about your identity can be normal, but a therapist can help you accept yourself as you are. They can also assist you in ridding yourself of any shame you may be experiencing. Your individuality can contribute a lot to the world; if you need help identifying what makes you unique, don’t hesitate to reach out to Regain to forge a new path for yourself. 

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