What Is Demisexual? Definition and How to Be an Ally

Demisexuality comes under the LGBT+ umbrella and, as such, is part of Pride Month celebrations. Many people take Pride as a time to learn more about different sexual orientations about which they are not familiar.

Here is a breakdown of what demisexual means, and how you can support those you know who are demisexual.

What Is Demisexual?

Demisexuality is a sexual orientation where sexual attraction comes after emotional intimacy.

It is on the spectrum of asexuality, meaning while sexual attraction is something which a person who identifies as demisexual can feel, this is not a primary feeling, and comes after connection has been found.

The phrase was first coined in 2006 by a member of the Asexual Visibility and Education Network (AVEN).

Asexual is a description for someone who does not experience sexual attraction, whereas demisexual is further along the spectrum to sexual.

AVEN defines demisexuality by explaining how sexual attraction comes at a secondary, rather than a primary, stage, as "primary sexual attraction is an instant attraction to people based on instantly available information such as their appearance or smell, which may or may not lead to arousal or sexual desire.

"Secondary sexual attraction is considered to be an attraction that develops over time based on a person's relationship, an emotional connection with another person...

"Most sexuals in romantic relationships feel both primary and secondary sexual desire.

"The term demisexual, under this model, tends to refer to people who experience secondary sexual attraction but not primary sexual attraction."

Other orientations, like asexuality, gray-asexuality, sapiosexuality and pansexuality are similar to demisexuality, but have small differences.

Asexuality, as previously mentioned, is the lack of sexual attraction, while gray-asexuality is infrequent sexual attraction or low sex drive.

Sapiosexuality is sexual attraction by someone's mind, rather than an emotional bond or connection, and pansexuality is attraction to someone regardless of gender, gender identity or sexual orientation, but their attraction level can differ.

In the case of demisexuality, sexual attraction and sex drive can be high, but it is the secondary attraction through emotional bond and connection which drives this, rather than primary sources.

Asexual Outreach executive director Brian Langevin, speaking to The Guardian about demisexuality in 2019, said: "Demisexuality is a sexual orientation like gay or bisexual.

"It's very true that demographics skew far younger and the primary reason is that the asexual community grew up on the internet.

"It wasn't until 2001 that asexual people came to discuss what had always existed but now had a language."

At the moment, the number of posts using the demisexual hashtag is approaching 2.1 million.

How to Be An Ally to a Demisexual Person

LGBT+ charity Stonewall shares its guidelines on how to be an ally to a person on the asexual spectrum, which begins with celebrating and believing them if they come out to you.

Stonewall also suggests to read up on this identity, as you are doing now, and from here it is important to avoid the assumption that everyone needs sex or romance to be happy, allowing the person close to you to choose their own path in this way.

Other important tips are to accept their relationship choices; remember they may have an additional identity like gay or pansexual; do not ask intrusive questions about their sex life and be there to help educate and call out discrimination towards them.

More information can be found at AVEN and Stonewall.

File photo of LGBT flag with hands
File photo of members of a gay rights organization hold hands during a protest over LGBT rights. Getty Images