Demisexuality + You: Understanding the Spectrum

by | Jan 14, 2022 | Personal Style

This post may include affiliate sales links.
Please see our full disclosure policy for details.

“I don’t want to have sex right away”– this is not what your Tinder date wants to hear on your first meet-up. 

Especially not after two cocktails and a shared plate of nachos. 

But when I was in college? I told this to every person I went out with. Buzzed on local hazy IPAs, my lightweight self always confessed this desire to not be sexually desired first.

And every date respected this boundary… by never asking me out again.

After each date fizzled out because I didn’t want to put out, I came home to peel off my skinny jeans, pet my dog, and listen to the quiet. I’d sit there in the empty house and think: 

It can’t feel like this forever, right

Who was I even asking? The silence? God? I’d cry to myself wondering if anyone would ever just… “get me”. 

I felt out of place. 

It wasn’t a morality thing. I didn’t believe sex before marriage was bad. But all those experiences made me think something was wrong with me because I wasn’t ready to just jump into having sex after a plate of nachos. 

The good news: Someone did get me- and someone will get you too.

Demisexuality: Woman Reading Have you ever felt like love is out of reach because you’re not on the same ‘wavelength’ as everyone on Tinder? Is it actually possible to create or grow in a meaningful relationship when sex isn’t the focus?  

You might be like me. You might be demisexual. 

When I found out about demisexuality and asexuality, I felt heard. Before, I felt like a failing queer Millennial. But it turns out my loneliness came not from something that was wrong with me- but from my own misunderstanding of myself. 

If you’ve ever felt out of step with the rom com or Tinder hook-up culture of romance- let me show you what I’ve discovered as a demisexual.

What it Feels Like to Be Demisexual

Two men in paintingThe Demisexuality Resource Center has this to say about demisexuality:

“Demisexuality is a sexual orientation in which someone feels sexual attraction only to people with whom they have an emotional bond.

The definition goes on to say what I dreaded hearing as a college kid…

“Most demisexuals feel sexual attraction rarely compared to the general population, and some have little to no interest in sexual activity.

This is where things can hurt. This is why demisexuality makes dating difficult and why falling in love can feel so out of reach.

Today- sex comes first. Genuine connection and love? It always comes second. 

Thankfully, demisexuality is becoming more well-known. Just as The New York Times recognizes the infinite possibilities of the human experience, demisexuality is recognized as a legitimate- and widely claimed- orientation.

What can make it confusing is that, like so many things, demisexuality exists on a spectrum which varies from person to person. Given the close link between demisexual and asexual experiences, many people questioning their identity tend to find out about asexuality first

Like many demisexuals, I identified as asexual the moment I discovered the term. My college campus was showing (A)sexual . But the term didn’t quite fit. I still, sometimes, had sex (and wanted to). 

But it wasn’t easy- even after finding a long-term intimate relationship with my partner. 


Demisexuality involves a level of sexual attraction- but only after an emotional and intimate bond has been established with a person. Think of this emotional intimacy as a prerequisite of demisexuality attraction. Everyone has a ‘list’ of what they need in a relationship, and for me? Sex was further down the list than most people. 

For my partner and I, friendship came first.

Attraction came second, or third, or fourth even. 

This is the case for many demisexual people- maybe even for you. 

If you are wondering about how demisexuality may feel for you, read on to hear more about my experience…

You Know Me So Well

People sharing an intimate momentI knew my partner had a big stupid crush on me the day they agreed to build my Ikea Hemnes bed all on their own. I laughed. Then, I offered to help. After all, the manual explicitly says you should have two people to get it done!

You sit down, they chided me, you’re busy with schoolwork.

Let me do this for you.

I let them. 

We talked and laughed and I brought them snacks when they needed a break from the hell that is assembling any Ikea furniture. Little did I realize my partner was speaking my love language by performing this act of service– and it was sexy.

If you’ve ever felt turned on by this level of understanding, then you may be demisexual…or maybe you have a thing for people who can build Ikea furniture. Either way, this was one of my many “ah-ha!” moments of discovering my demisexuality. My soon-to-be-partner knew me well enough to care for me in a way very few people considered

This felt like love. 

This felt safe. 

This turned me on.

They built the damn bed all on their own, and yes- we slept together. 

Emotional intimacy and understanding is a key piece of demisexuality.

It could be something you have already begun to recognize in yourself. By forming a close bond or intimate understanding with someone else, your attraction to them blooms.

However, this attraction may not always be a mutual thing. As this story from The New York Times’ Modern Love section illustrates, demisexuality can feel complicated and difficult to navigate, especially in our modern world of dating.

Knowing someone well and allowing them to know you is key to a demisexual person’s attraction. But the amount of time it takes to meet someone at this level can be daunting in the age of instant gratification. 

Although we didn’t get together until well into our adult years, my partner and I met in the fifth grade. That is a long time to get to know someone!

While I want you to find someone who will always build your Ikea furniture for you, demisexuality often requires a level of intimacy most first (or second or third…) dates can’t offer

Trust is key to demisexuality and forming a bond of trust takes time. Even more challenging? There is no set timeline for when that bond can happen with any given person you date. That means you can’t give the person a set “goal” for when sex will happen as part of your growing intimacy. 

Sexuality Should Be Fluid (And Celebrated!)

People holding handsYou know you don’t have to identify as one particular thing your entire life, right?

That’s the thing about sexuality as a whole: your orientation and sexual preferences can change throughout your lifetime. It’s not only normal, it should be celebrated and embraced. 

Much like this article from The Washington Post illustrates, demisexuality is not always something you have always known about your sexuality. Like the author, you may have written yourself off as just “taking a while to warm up” before you’re attracted to someone. For me? I didn’t even know the word until I was in my twenties.

People often experience demisexual feelings later in life- and after they have already experienced meaningful or long-term relationships. 

Big changes in your life, such as divorce or parenthood, can absolutely influence your demisexual identity. It makes sense. Of course people seek partners who can connect on a level equal to or greater than your ex- especially if trust has always been high on your list of values.

The important thing to remember is this:

Demisexuality is unique from person to person.

Moreso, it means you have a wholly unique experience with the person or people you are attracted to as well.

Your attraction could click at any moment, often during deep conversation or intellectual bonding (read this Guardian article talking about demisexual fantasies). Your demisexual feelings and attraction can even influence or change your sexual orientation- and that’s a beautiful thing.

If I learned one thing from falling for my best friend it’s that attraction happens in unexpected ways.

No matter how demisexuality influences your attraction, every single person experiences attraction at different levels and rates. It may take years for you to feel physically attracted to your most recent Tinder match, despite them ticking all of your supposed “boxes”. And by the same token, it may only take a few intimate weeks of conversation to feel turned on by your new friend or housemate.

Take it from me, a 6’ theatre nerd who used to only be interested in tall funny dudes. I fell for an introspective shorty who barely tops 5’ with a love of crafting and puzzles… because they took the time to get to know me so much more than anyone else ever had.

Purity Culture and Demisexual People

Demisexuality: Boy Reading “So- you’re just saving yourself for marriage?” 

That was another big Tinder date question that needs to be answered.

Identifying as demisexual has nothing to do with purity culture.

Purity culture refers to the abstinence taught by many mono-thestic religions. It often emphasizes that a woman’s value is her modesty or purity, and can be deeply traumatic for women who are taught their worth is tied to their adherence to these practices. 

Let me tell you: I was raised by practicing Mormons. Cheers to all of you who have survived organized religion of any sort, let alone the hell that is the 3-hour church service Mormons have… 

My experience with the Mormon church delayed my self-discovery. I thought my aversion to sex was caused by trauma: a mix of purity culture and fear that I would end up pregnant at 17 like my mother. I assumed my attraction and sexual feelings would magically manifest once I left the church.

So, I stopped believing in organized religion as a whole, came out as queer, and moved away to college. 

But nothing happened. 

As my freshman year roommate brought guys back to our room, I found myself just waiting to feel the same interest in a one-night stand.

Just waiting to feel normal…(sound familiar?)

Despite renouncing Mormonism and going on many dates throughout my entire 4-year college experience…I never once had sex. It had nothing to do with feeling impure. I just didn’t feel connected enough to have sex with anyone.

That, my friends, is demisexuality. And let me be the first to tell you:

Your demisexuality is valid.

But what does “feeling normal” feel like if abs and asses don’t turn you on? Discovering what attraction is when you’re on the asexual spectrum can feel overwhelming! 

Want to know what attraction can feel like if you are demisexual? Here are some experiences you may have already had…

Demisexual Attraction: Get Turned On Without Getting Physical

Demisexuality: People spending time togetherIn my own personal experience, intimacy and true connection are key to my attraction to others.

This can look like a number of things. I’ve been most attracted to friends who can cook a good steak or take the time to ask about my dog. The friends who talk with me for hours and never ask where the time has gone…because they mutually feel the time was well spent.

You may be thinking: most people need connection before having sex. It isn’t silly or weird to want emotional intimacy before physical intimacy.

And of course, you’re correct. But demisexual people don’t experience any level of physical or sexual attraction toward other people without this intimacy.

Curious how demisexuality manifests in your life? Here are some things you can look for in your own dating experience…

Intimacy and Connection are Key

Demisexuality: People sitting togetherMy partner and I watch Love Island to bitch about hot people and also laugh about the unrealistic expectations some of these hot people have.

How are they attracted to one another so fast? I say about the contestants- knowing full well they are all supermodels with really really good plastic surgeons. Of course these hot people are all into one another- they’re all so hot!

But I always end up rooting for the contestants who struggle on the show, the ones seeking a deeper intimacy and connection… despite their choice of vapid, hot, reality-TV-star dates. 

It may not need saying, but I think it is important to mention: intimacy does not equal sex, and sex does not equal intimacy.

If Love Island can teach you anything it’s that time and talking brings us closer together- a perfect recipe for demisexual attraction. 

Many people associate intimacy with whether or not they have had sex or a physical relationship with someone. But demisexuality is proof of legitimate intimacy without sex. How? Because as a demisexual, it’s critical to be able to trust someone with your most intimate thoughts and experiences before it’s possible to be attracted to them.

Finding someone you feel safe and connected to is not unrealistic.

It isn’t too much to ask for, nor are you a prude for craving intimate conversations over intimate acts in the bedroom. There’s simply more than one type of intimacy (as this article from Elle discusses).

The dating world can feel a lot like Love Island: you only have a certain amount of time to couple up before it’s too late…

Demisexuality doesn’t make good television. But it can bring you to the right person, just like it did me. My partner and I are so far from supermodels it’s not even funny- but we make each other laugh, we share an intimate connection, and we share an ironic hate-love of reality TV.

You aren’t foolish or out of touch for wanting true connections with others, whether it be on an intellectual or emotional level, I promise. It just might take time.

How can you bridge the gap between friendship and intimacy? Say it with me now: communication, communication, communication

Communicate Your Intimacy Expectations

Boy with instrumentI was always too nervous to tell my Tinder dates I identify as asexual, with strong demisexual leanings. 


Well, probably because the average person still doesn’t know what either of these things mean.

Now, I wish I had opened the discussion while dating- because I understand so much more how important communication is.

Communication is key to dating or finding intimacy as a demisexual person.

Telling someone you hope to connect on a deeper level before sex is even on the table is a good idea, both for your peace of mind and relationship boundaries.

These college dating attempts made me realize how much I craved the friendship and connection I had with my soon-to-be-partner. Because we had communicated so much and we knew each other so well, I felt like finding intimacy with them was possible.

But I was still afraid. How could I ask my best friend to date me, to love me on another level, even if I still couldn’t guarantee sex in return?

If there’s one thing I have learned from demisexuality, it’s that intimacy isn’t transactional.

My partner and I started dating years ago. It felt obvious and natural. We had found a level of intimacy that feels safe and turns me on… but our relationship has taken our entire lives to feel like this.

And it took the both of us time to realize sex is only fun if we both feel connected, desired, and emotionally entwined.

This article from the Demisexuality Resource Center may help when it comes time to consider having sex with a partner or friend. Always remember: your needs for intimacy and connection are valid. You should never feel ashamed or afraid to speak up.

Finding Intimacy on Your Own Terms

I hope this article brings you some understanding and peace regarding your demisexual experience. We all deserve true connection and trust, whether it involves sex or not. 

May you all find a person who loves you enough to build your Ikea furniture and binge watch Love Island with you- no questions asked.