A friend and blog follower asked me the other day if I could write about the unique and slightly controversial identity of demisexuality. I hesitated, however, because upon zer suggestion, I had NO IDEA what demisexuality was.
After some internet research, I found that demisexuality is a rather newly-coined (relatively) identity that falls within the asexuality spectrum, also known as the “Gray-A.” It’s difficult to talk about, much in the same way that the identity “queer” is difficult to talk about, because it has multiple meanings for different people.
The best summation I’ve found of what constitutes a demisexual is from the A-positive forums:
- Someone who, in Rabger’s model, only experiences secondary sexual attraction, not primary sexual attraction (ie attraction which is not based on instantly available information)
- Someone who only experiences sexual attraction to people who are emotionally close.
- Someone who only experiences sexual attraction following romantic attraction.
- Someone who only experiences sexual attraction only to one particular person.
One of the tricky things about definition number one, though, is this: if you try to look up Rabger’s model on the Asexuality Visibility and Education Network (AVEN) or anywhere else online, you won’t find it. The post most people reference it by was deleted by Rabger zimself, due to incorrect content.
My understanding of the model is that primary sexual attraction is referential to visible characteristics i.e. nice pecs, beautiful eyes, or a great smile, which allow sexual people to determine attraction to others without necessarily knowing them. Conversely, secondary sexual attraction refers to attraction based on personality, charm, shared interests, friendship, etc. – aspects that must be learnt by spending time and knowing a person more intimately. I cannot, however, say if this is entirely accurate, since the model is no longer available online.
Regardless of whether or not the definitions are accurately sources, demisexuality presents an interesting conundrum, and one that the LGB(T? I have no idea where the trans people are in this conversation)people are having a hard time coming to terms with.
There’s actually a LOT of very negative writing out there on the interwebs about the asexual community, and demisexuality has only increased the ire with which LGB people write because it infringes on the “sexualness” of their community. While enough people spew hatred and stupidity at asexuals for NOT liking sex, even more hate gets spewed at demisexuals, because they are perceived to be straddling that line between sexual and not-sexual, which, much like with biphobia of the 90’s, is a hard pill for hardliners in the community to accept.
Critics of demisexuality love to talk about the identity as if it was actually normative- that “regular” people often wait to become intimate with partners until they feel emotionally connected to them and need that romantic framework in order to make sex good and worthwhile. But, as I said, this is approaching demisexuality from the “sexual” direction. It presumes that sex is a natural product of a relationship, and that the instinctive urge for sex is always there, but needs to be coaxed into a comfortable operating space by romantic closeness.
However, for people identifying within the Gray-A/demisexual community, sex is not a foregone conclusion. In fact, it’s exactly the opposite. Sex will not happen, nor is there innate desire for it to happen. Sexual desire is rather an anomaly borne of a particularly strong or special emotional connection, and not the other way around.
“… in my case, [demisexuality] means that I have no interest in having sex with people I am not in love with. This is different from celibacy or “waiting for marriage” because it’s not that I want sex and I’m choosing not to do it; it’s more that sexual attraction for me is secondary to love. First I need to love you, then I will want to make love as an expression of that. The idea of showing my junk to someone I don’t have a bond with is frankly a bit weird. I don’t really identify as ace (asexual) because once I am in love, I have a lot of desire for sex with that person”
So let’s review. Demisexuality = Relationship –> Love –> Sex Drive –> Sex
It is NOT Sex drive –> Relationship –> Love –> Sex
Secondarily, critics of demisexuality like to talk about sex without talking about attraction, which is a huge pitfall when it comes to asexual/Gray-A/demisexual people in general. For instance, a sexual person may feel attraction for a hunky celebrity or a stranger walking down the street without bringing any of their fantasies to fruition and actually bedding them, or even knowing them. HOWEVER, when we talk about Gray-A people, attraction cannot precede some kind of relationship between the Gray-A person and the object of their affection.
Again: Knowing –> Loving –> Desire for Sex
But besides all this negativity about demisexuality critics, I really like this identity because it actually affirms the way that I talk about my own sexuality, by distinctively separating, but still acknowledging both romantic attraction and sexual attraction. As I’ve said before, I am sexually and romantically attracted to women, but ONLY romantically attracted to men. While this certainly doesn’t qualify me as demisexual, it does beautifully deconstruct the difference between romance and sex, without excluding either one. Yeah demisexuals!
PS: My first toy from Babeland is coming next week! Be on the lookout for a review, and if you haven’t already, check out their site here.