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Auntie SparkNotes: Is Everyone Demisexual?

Auntie SparkNotes: Is Everyone Demisexual?

Dear Auntie,

I come to you with a question about sexuality. You see, I just heard about demisexuality a few days ago. When I read the description of it, I thought to myself "That is definitely me, wow!" but then I also thought, "I thought everyone was that way." And some people are saying it's people trying to be "special snowflakes" by putting a label on this kind of attraction. So I'm just trying to figure it out right now before I claim to be demisexual because there is always the chance that I'm not.

Do you think you could help me with this a bit? Is demisexuality even a thing? Because I thought everyone was this way.

First things first, for those not in the loop on all the latest sexuality buzzwords: A demisexual is most commonly defined as a person who does not experience sexual attraction unless they first form a strong emotional connection. (Although it's worth noting that even people who identify as demisexual don't seem to agree on just what the word means.)

And sure, that's a thing—as in, some people feel that way and it's perfectly normal. But no, not everyone requires emotional connection to feel sexual attraction. Some people can feel very attracted to someone who they feel only a little emotionally in tune with; some people prefer to have casual sex without any emotional connection at all; some people catch the merest glimpse of Channing Tatum and feel like their undergarments are about to burst into flame. And even among those who require (or at least prefer) serious emotional intimacy to want or enjoy sex, some will also end up feeling differently as they get older, and grow more comfortable with the idea of having sex without an emotional safety net.

In short, there are all kinds of people out there doing the HND. (Or not, or only under very certain circumstances.)

But the truth is that up until recently, the use of terms like "demisexual" or "panromantic" to describe one's sexual proclivities were not, in fact, a thing. That's a result of the current generation of teens and twentysomethings—who've come of age in the midst of a gigantic shift in the overall cultural awareness and acceptance of sexual minorities—having created a whole new vocabulary for defining their own sexual identities. For most of history, people just didn't talk about this stuff in such depth; it was socially unacceptable to be anything but straight, and frowned upon to be anything but monogamous. But lately, sex and sexuality have become just another venue in which you can safely express and explore who you are.

And of course, figuring out who you are is what being a teenager is all about.

That said, because all this sexual labeling has come about as a direct result of the greater visibility of LGBT and queer folks, it is important to think about the implications and the usefulness of any labels you might adopt—and personally, I think that "demisexuality" is a label that requires more thought than most. For one thing, this is a word that describes your sexuality. It is not a sexual orientation, and it doesn't have a public component the way sexual orientation does. The only people who ever need know about it, or to whom it could possibly matter, are people you might be romantically/sexually involved with. And if you're going to use the word, it should be with the understanding that public declarations about your sexuality are not necessary, or always necessarily appropriate. Particularly, you should avoid like the plague any notion of "coming out as demisexual"—which appropriates the language and cheapens the struggle of LGBT people who've faced persecution, discrimination, and an ongoing battle just to be treated like human beings.

I know this is a lot to think about, and some of it may feel like I'm telling you not to call yourself "demisexual"—but I promise you, that's not the point. You can use the word if you want to, if it's helpful to you, and as long as it makes sense to do so. The point is only to be thoughtful about why you're using it, to be considerate when you use it, and to be aware that the labels you apply to yourself now won't necessarily stick with you forever. As long as you're comfortable with the idea of impermanent stickiness—that the way you identify someday may not be the way you identify now—then there's no harm done. But if you ever find yourself rejecting something you know to be true about yourself, because it's not true of the label you chose to describe yourself, then it's time to forget about picking the perfect term to encompass something as complex and evolving as your identity, and focus on just being who you are.

Got something to say? Tell us in the comments! And to get advice from Auntie, email her at
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Topics: Uncategorized, Advice
Tags: auntie sparknotes, sexuality, sex

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About the Author

Kat Rosenfield is a writer, illustrator, advice columnist, YA author, and enthusiastic licker of that plastic liner that comes inside a box of Cheez-Its. She loves zombies and cats. She hates zombie cats. Follow her on Twitter or Tumblr @katrosenfield.

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