I didn't know I was demisexual until one day, browsing memes on Pinterest, I read the official definition:
Demisexual: "A person who doesn't experience sexual attraction unless they form a strong emotional connection with someone."
I stopped dead in my virtual tracks. What? Wait—there is a name for that?
Certainly, I'd been confused many, many times when people made offhanded comments about wanting to do sexy things to a stranger upon first sight. At first, I thought it was just a thing people said, then I was told (and believed) it was just the way "guys and girls are different" (BS about so many things btw, but not the point), and THEN I began thinking maybe I was just broken.
Everyone can look at people and know they're attracted to them upon first sight, or at least after the first date. But I had multiple relationships where I didn't even know I was attracted to the other person for months. In one case, a person had been my friend for years before he initiated a romantic interest with me and I realized I found him attractive. It was weird to sometimes not know you're attracted to someone for months. Apparently "normal" people could figure this out by the first date or two.
But this little Pinterest meme flung me into an online search that gave a name to this "weirdness", and concurrently made it less isolating. Other people experience this too. Which meant it is normal - or at least, I wasn't "weird" and broken for being this way.
There are a couple of different types of attraction: aesthetic and tangible/visceral. Many people can apparently experience both fairly close together. I, however, upon meeting someone, can find them aesthetically attractive, but don't find them personally attractive: I can recognize a certain person is beautiful, but I don't want to do anything about it. Bodies—great boobs, butts, etc—are nice to look at, us demisexuals can remember what it's like to be attracted to someone and find these things attractive, but unless we concoct some fantasy about the person behind it, we're unlikely to be attracted to them for their own sake.
Demisexuality is pretty simple, really: your body doesn't viscerally respond to someone unless you have some sort of additional connection with them. This can be from something as simple as finding you share a favorite author, to something as complicated as months to build a deep, trusting, emotionally connected relationship.
Demisexuals rarely experience falling in love (or lust) at first sight. Eyes meeting across the room with fireworks and all that is rare, if not nonexistent. Our fireworks happen over the third cup of tea, after a beautiful weekend of dancing, or a couple of months into a trust-filled friendship.
It's not uncommon to have a shortcut: a card that lets you cut across the circuitous Candy-Land style road of attraction and hop a bridge to get closer to the endpoint. For some people it might be enthusiasm over a nerdy, underappreciated topic, for others, it might be finding out they had similar childhoods.
I'm a dancer, and for me, it's a particular sort of dance: the sort of gorgeous, rare, beautiful dance where I feel like my body is being entirely cared for, respected, and protected by my lead, where I feel warm and all wrapped up and not at all having to worry that I'll be forced or even prompted into moves that hurt me or make me uncomfortable, where I feel completely and utterly safe.
I've definitely left the dance floor thinking "Oh, hell yeah," when before the dance if the person had asked me out, I would have been uninterested.
I definitely think actors are hot and have my own celebrity freebie list—yes, even though I've never met the actors. But my crushes only develop after falling for the characters they play, not just after seeing their beautiful bodies.
Demisexual sadly means people will think you're being prudish or coy when really you just don't know if you like someone that way or not. You have nothing against kisses and physical intimacy, you just happen to not want them unless you really like the person first.
Demisexuals typically don't get random hookups. They frankly can't even grasp that hooking up with a random person you met five minutes ago could be appealing to anyone. I have had multiple conversations with people who do have incredibly casual experiences with virtual strangers to try to get into their brain and understand how, and why - I still barely get it. We don't get one-night stands. Even when we try to have one-night stands, they often morph into more-night stands.
Friendship can, and often does, lead to romance for demis. I'd say this is great news for all those assholes who whine about being friend-zoned, except I don't want the assholes who whine about being friend-zoned when they're the ones fuck-zoning us to be anywhere near me. But the greatest romantic relationship for a demi is one that develops from a friendship. Many demis actually can't date someone unless they've had an explicit friendship first.
Some demis are almost asexual in the rarity of their sexual attraction to someone, some need a deep friendship before they can experience attraction, others need to just have a meaningful connection - whether it's on an emotional, intellectual, personality, ethical, or psychological level. Being demi is in the gray-asexual, or "grace", area of the sexuality spectrum: somewhere in between totally sexual and totally asexual.
Left to their own devices, a demisexual can take a very long time to determine if they're attracted, and how much they're attracted, to someone and whether they want to do anything about it. Responsive demisexuality is one of those shortcuts I mentioned earlier: when I know another person finds me attractive, I am more likely to consider a reciprocal attraction sooner than I would if left to my own devices. This is a tricky balancing act because if someone comes on to me too hard, they'll push me away, even if I would have considered them otherwise. But if a person shows clear interest in me, as long as they're also being respectful and letting me make my own decisions on timing, it takes away part of the guessing game of attraction for me - it's easier to focus on "am I actually interested in this person?" if I don't have to worry about their side of it too. It also quickens my naturally slow pace a bit, if I know someone's interested in the finish line.
A lot of demis find being desired an especially intense aphrodisiac. I've certainly dated people who I might otherwise never have gotten involved with, simply because they were so assertive* about wanting to date me that I gave it a second thought and then decided yeah, I think I'd like this.
A thing that burns us demis is that, since physical attraction always goes hand-in-hand with a genuine deep appreciation for the other person as a human (not just as a sex buddy or someone to fill a specific significant-other slot), when someone is interested in us, we often think this interest means the same thing to them as it does to us.
If someone wants to kiss us, we think they genuinely care about us as a person, because that's how we have to feel about someone before we want to kiss them. If someone wants to be intimate, we think they see who we really are, and want to dive in deep and learn everything that's in our heart - our quirks, our flaws, our childhood traumas, our personal demons - because that's how we are with them. It can be difficult, even devastating, for a demi to realize that a romantic or sexual experience may just be a person blowing off sexual steam with whoever was available and attractive.
I've taken to telling dudes right off the bat that I'm demisexual. A quick google search of demisexuality shows scores of articles with demis complaining about the anxiety they feel over revealing this landmine too early, and how badly they want to wait as long as possible before "scaring off" potential dates - but come on, demis. If a person won't respect that you want to move at your own pace and make sexual decisions on your own time, let's be real: you don't want them around anyway. If someone's going to run because you're demi, they're going to run at some point anyway. The right person will encourage you to be comfortable and move at your own pace, without pressuring you or whining about it otherwise. (You know: just like any decent human, demisexual or not, should do.)
But telling dudes* I'm demi before we even go out has been insanely helpful. That way when a dude I'm genuinely interested in initiates some sort of physical contact (hand-holding, cuddling, a kiss) that I would like to be open to at some point, just not now, the demisexual label is a really easy reference point to gently point out that my desire to move slow is not based on lack of interest, but on the way I am.
*this could be applicable to other people/genders, but my experience here is mostly with cis dudes, and that's what I'm referring to.
Really, being demi is just one way to be a very normal human: sexuality is a spectrum, and everyone's attraction to other people happens at different paces. Our pace just tends to take longer and is much more contingent on late-night-chats, bonding over favorite nerdy subjects, emotional intelligence, and personality.