A demisexual is person who doesn't experience primary sexual attraction (based on sight or smell or other instantly available information). Demisexuals do experience secondary sexual attraction (after knowing more about the person than just their looks), how much demisexuals need to know about said person and for how long they need to know about them for secondary sexual attraction to develop varies from person to person.
The term was coined in February 8, 2006 at the AVEN Forums by a member named “Sonofzeal”. Based on the theory that allosexuals experience both primary and secondary sexual attraction and asexuals don’t experience neither, based on the need for a term to describe those who experienced one but not the other they proposed the term demisexuals.
A commonly found definition of demisexuality, but otherwise confusing an outdated is that “demisexuality is a sexual orientation in which a person feels sexually attracted to someone only after they've developed a close/strong emotional bond with them.”
This definition of demisexuality is considered confusing since the definition of the word bond, according to the Cambridge dictionary, is “a close connection joining two or more people” which is contrary to the fact that demisexuals are capable of developing sexual attraction towards people they don’t have a close bond with and even towards people they don’t personally know.
This means sexual attraction for demisexuals can be one-sided and not necessarily forming from a bond they share with another person. How much demisexuals need to know about a person, before they feel sexually attracted to them, really varies from person to person. There's no specific timeline on how long it takes either. There’s also no way to determine what qualifies as a close or strong bond, which causes confusion. The term can also be found to be confusing since it implies there needs to be romantic feelings involved for demisexuals to experience sexual attraction, which is not the case.
Demisexuals don't need to have romantic feelings for a person to be sexually attracted to them. It is common for secondary sexual attraction and romantic attraction to be develop in the same time frame, so it can be confused as both needing to be present for secondary sexual attraction to develop but it's not necessary. Demisexuals can enjoy a person’s presence or be attracted to some of their qualities without having an interest in dating them or building a romantic relationship with them.
Primary vs. secondary sexual attraction model
Primary Sexual Attraction: A sexual attraction to people based on instantly available information (such as their appearance or smell).
Secondary Sexual Attraction: A sexual attraction to people based on information that's not instantly available (such as personality, life-experiences, talents, etc.), how much a person needs to know about the other and for how long they need to know about them for secondary sexual attraction to develop, varies from person to person.
Common misconceptions and sexual activity
One common misconception is that demisexual individuals can’t experience celebrity crushes. Demisexuals can feel attracted to celebrities, with all the information celebrities usually share about their lives on interviews and their own personal platforms, it's easy to get to imagine how a person's personality is, without personally getting to know them. That doesn't mean that the personality celebrities portray on the media or that the information they share about themselves is genuine or not, but demisexuals can still develop secondary sexual attraction based on how they think these celebrities are.
On the same topic, demisexuals can be attracted to fictional characters, it's common for demisexuals to be attracted to a character played by an actor but to experience no attraction to the actor itself when it’s out of character. Demisexuals can also experience sexual attraction towards fictional characters in other media, like books, web comics, etc.
Another common misconception is that demisexual individuals can’t engage in casual sex, it’s important to note that being demisexual refers to how an individual experiences sexual attraction, it’s not describing a choice nor an action, but a feeling. While it’s common for demisexuals not to desire sex without feeling sexually attracted to the other person, it’s not a rule individuals have to fall into to be considered demisexual.
Demisexuals can choose if they want to engage in casual sex even without experiencing sexual attraction towards said person. The same thing happens with asexuals, there are asexuals who enjoy sex for different reasons (such as the feeling itself, the activity with their partners, etc). It more so depends on the individual's attitude toward sex. Demisexuality it’s also often mistaken as an admirable choice rather than an innate sexuality. Another common misconception is that demisexuals disregard people physical appearance, this confusion stems from the fact that demisexuals don’t experience primary sexual attraction, that is based on instantly available information, such as appearance. Whereas demisexuals do experience aesthetic attraction and can have an aesthetic preference.
An aesthetic attraction is an attraction to another person's appearance, that is not connected to a desire to do anything with them, either sexually or romantically. It is called aesthetic attraction because it is thought to be similar to other aesthetic desires, such as the desire to keep listening to a good song or to keep looking at a piece of art or a beautiful sunset.
While it’s common for demisexuals not give so much importance to appearances when choosing a partner, it’s not a rule individuals have to fall into to be considered demisexual.
Attitudes towards sex
Sex repulsed: Feeling repulsed, uninterested or uncomfortable by the thought of engaging in sex. Sex-repulsed aces don't want to engage sexually and that's okay.
Sex-indifferent: No particular feelings toward sex. You might enjoy it but you could also live without it. It could also mean literal "indifference": no positive or negative feelings toward it. Just neutral. Sex indifferent aces might not pursue sex but be okay with engaging.
Sex-favorable: You enjoy sex for multiple reasons and would seek it out (to get or give physical pleasure, as an activity with a partner, etc.).
The asexual umbrella
There are some people who may not fit the strictest definition of the word asexual but nonetheless feel their experience aligns with asexuality in some way. Gray-asexual (or graysexual) is a term that describes this experience. Gray-asexuality encompasses a wide range of experiences, including:
● experiencing sexual attraction rarely,
● only experiencing sexual attraction under specific circumstances, or
● fluctuating between periods of experiencing sexual attraction and periods of not experiencing sexual attraction.
There are also various terms that people use to describe more specific gray-asexual experiences. Demisexuality is one of them, as part of the people who only experiences sexual attraction under specific circumstances, demisexuals fall under the asexual umbrella.
Orientations and the split attraction model
According to the split attraction model, how someone experiences attraction can be split into categories. For some people romantic and sexual attraction are distinctly different experiences. The split attraction model recognizes that sexual and romantic orientations are not the same for some people. This paradigm recognizes that people can experience sexual and romantic attraction differently.
Terms for sexual orientation have commonly been understood as implying a corresponding romantic orientation; however, a person's romantic and sexual attractions may not exactly align with each other, and people can be attracted to different people in different ways.
The model was created by the asexual community as a way to help define their orientation more specifically. The purpose of the split attraction model was to help individuals understand themselves better and to have a framework to communicate this to others.
There are multiple ways individuals can experience their attraction orientation. The prefix of the sexual orientation is utilized for defining the romantic identification as well. People can experience romantic and sexual attraction to the opposite gender, the same gender or two or more genders or not experience romantic attraction towards any gender (in which case they’d be considered aromantics).
If they are demisexual and feel romantic attraction to the same gender, they would identify as homoromantic demisexual. Or, they could identify as demisexual and gay/lesbian. In this model, both their romantic and sexual attraction are expressed.
Like with sexual orientations, romantic orientations are most often expressed in what gender the person is romantically attracted to in relation to their own:
• Heteroromantic: romantically attracted to/desires romantic relationships with the opposite gender. • Homoromantic: romantically attracted to/desires romantic relationships with the same gender. • Biromantic: romantically attracted to/desires romantic relationships with multiple genders. • Panromantic: romantically attracted to/desires romantic relationships without gender being a factor. • Aromantic: not romantically attracted to or desiring of romantic relationships at all. • Demiromantics: don’t experience primary romantic attraction, but they are capable of secondary romantic attraction. Demiromantic people may also prefix a gender orientation to the label, as in "Demi-heteroromantic".