I grew up assuming that I was "normal." I thought that other people were like me and that I was like them. As I got older, though, I realized that something just wasn't quite right.
I felt different about crushes and relationships than those around me. I didn't understand the other girls' obsessions with celebrities. I was grossed out when people would date just for the attention or experience. I got awkward stares when I admitted that I didn't have a crush on a single one of the boys I knew.
Then one day I figured it out. I've been attracted to guys before, and I'm never attracted to other girls, but I'm not quite heterosexual either. I'm what they call a demisexual.
You’ve probably never heard of demisexuality. Very few people have. What it means is that I don’t feel sexual attraction to someone unless I’ve first developed a deep emotional connection to them. That doesn’t mean I’ll become attracted to everyone I get that bond with, but it is a prerequisite.
Many people I’ve spoken to mistake this for being "normal." They think I only mean I wouldn’t sleep with someone before I got to know them, which they themselves would not do.
For one thing, tons of people have flings, so being more selective isn’t always the norm. For another, most people feel sexual attraction to others, regardless of whether or not they would rationally act on those feelings. I, on the other hand, just barely understand what it means to feel sexual attraction.
As you might assume, demisexuality has kind of stunted my ability to be in relationships. While I’m open to casual dating in theory, it doesn’t really appeal to me. Since I don’t know the person, I feel no attraction to them and don’t care to date them.
Because I am not usually interested in the men around me, I don’t really make an effort to flirt with them or to encourage them to flirt with me. I still want a relationship as much as the next person, but it’s a lot harder for me. Most people use dates to get to know the person, whereas I need to really connect with someone on a much deeper level to even want to date them.
One memory really stands out to me. It happened about seven-ish years ago when I was in middle school, and I didn’t yet know I was demisexual. I was standing in the lunch line, and two popular girls were in front of me, giggling about boys. They turned to me and asked me who I "liked" in our school. I didn’t have any close guy friends at the time, so I naturally had no interest in a single one of them. The question itself seemed so foreign and even rude to me. Why would they just assume automatically that I had to like someone? I told them I had no crushes, and they stared at me as if I was as alien to them as they were to me.
“Well then I guess you’re a lesbian,” one accused with disdain in her voice.
There was a moment of silence before they erupted with laughter and went about their business.
That is one of the many struggles of living in such a sexually charged culture. I’m expected to be sexually interested in at least one guy.
For years before I knew about demisexuality, I felt like something was wrong with me. I knew I emotionally desired relationships and marriage, but I never felt aroused.
Others would gush over celebrities, saying things like "I don’t care how old he is, he’s so hot I’d bang him if I got the chance." I was, and still am, fundamentally incapable of understanding the sentiment.
I couldn’t join in on conversations about the most attractive boys in school or the "hottest" actors. I don’t even understand what "hot" and "sexy" are supposed to mean. I can see people as cute, charming, attractive, or handsome, but hot and sexy…? It never made sense to me.
This incomprehension pushed me away from others my age for a long time -- mostly in middle school and high school, but in college as well. Being alienated from others made it even harder to develop the emotional bond I needed to feel sexual attraction.
Until I heard about demisexuality, I had become convinced that I literally had a hormonal imbalance that was keeping me from feeling sexually attracted to others or even just being interested in sex in general. I felt like an out-of-order vending machine. Society had a purpose for me that I could not fulfill, and it meant I was broken.
But people aren’t machines, and they don’t owe attraction to anyone else. You, not society, define your purpose in life. I am the way I am, and absolutely nothing is wrong with it.
Our culture acts like "getting laid" is a right of passage that makes you a "real" adult. People say things like "make a woman out of me." We have many sex-related phrases such as "sex appeal" and "sex sells"; sex is anywhere and everywhere in our culture!
It’s treated like the most important thing a person can experience. People act like the physical passion, and sex, is what keeps relationships alive.
But no matter how strange it all sounds, demisexuality is completely valid. It’s less common, yes, but that doesn’t mean it’s less real. Demisexuals’ relationships are no more or less valid than anyone else’s, and people like me have just as much of a chance of experiencing happy and successful partnerships as anyone else.
Everyone who relates to my experiences deserves a safe environment in which they know that there are others like them and that they’re not dysfunctional. If you think someone you know might be demisexual, save them some of the trouble I had to go through in discovering and embracing my obscure identity. Let them know you’re OK with them being who they are.
Just because someone feels sexual attraction differently from you does not mean either person is wrong.