'This Is What It's Like to Be Sapiosexual'

I'm in my late 40s, and I would say my career trajectory has been a process of elimination, which hasn't been a good strategy, in retrospect. I tried many different fields, including digital communications, which finally fit. I had to learn everything as I went, but I was amazed I would get paid while I did—for me, learning and discovering is both fun and something I really value in life.

Eleven years ago, I got a Master's degree and about four years ago, I decided I wanted to teach post-secondary full-time. I'm based in Canada and so at the moment I'm teaching from home, thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic. I've also chosen to self-isolate because I have asthma, so I'm not currently dating.

I don't think I can place in time when I heard about sapiosexuality. I probably encountered it in my early 30s, but I parked it and didn't really think of it as an identity.
Then, when I started dating after my marriage ended in my mid-40s, I noticed somebody had it written on their dating profile.

Around a year ago I really started to embrace that I was a sapiosexual, as I was meeting a lot of guys who didn't share my love of learning (one guy asked me to not use big words) or who really didn't seem self-aware enough to know they were saying something sexist, and I felt I was educating them, which isn't a date; it's my day job. I wanted to date people who liked thinking about new ideas. In my experience, curiosity keeps the relationship alive. Also, people who are articulate are a big turn on for me.

Sapiosexuality is defined as someone who finds intelligence more sexually attractive than physical attributes, but I think if you asked 100 different sapiosexuals what sapiosexuality meant, you'd probably get 100 different answers, just like any other label we assign to a sexuality. If someone didn't know what sapiosexuality was, it wouldn't put me off dating them.

I have trouble using the label on dating profiles, though. For me, I see sapiosexuality as looking for an alignment with my values, a sense of complete and utter curiosity about the world and the grace to understand that you don't actually know everything.
Albert Einstein has this great quote: "As our circle of knowledge expands, so does the circumference of darkness surrounding it." He was talking about how the more you learn, the more you realize there is so much that you don't know. Someone who has a pinhole for a circle of knowledge just isn't for me, because I feel that there is just so much to know and learn and understand.

Sapiosexuality, relationships, dating
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For me, and possibly other women who are sapiosexual, part of it is also wrapped up in the fact that institutionalized racism, sexism and classism are all issues at the moment, and I'm learning how I've been complicit in it—and actively trying to change and grow. I want a partner who is aware enough to understand that the world isn't working, and would be open to changing and growing, too.

I do think it's also worth mentioning that some of the most interesting, articulate, smart people I've dated are not necessarily book learnt. Sometimes they are, but not always.
Of course, looks are appealing to me, but someone's attractiveness grows for me when I see they are curious, articulate and clever. It's like they actually get better looking to me.

I can recall several times where I have looked at a picture on a dating app and not necessarily been attracted to that person physically, but I have scrolled through and the way they described themselves in their profile is what made me swipe right.

I'm not putting a lot of time and effort into dating at the moment, as I'm still isolating as much as possible, and that's not really fair to others who might want to meet up. But the idea that the pandemic could be a good time for sapiosexuals to connect, with the focus perhaps more on conversations than meeting up, is interesting, and I might consider revisiting dating apps.

However, I am a little reticent about having long, text-based conversations before meeting somebody. At one of those eliminated careers some years ago, one of my regular contacts was someone in a different city, and we only ever talked on the phone. I'd never seen a picture of this person, I'd only heard his voice.

Dating, relationships, Sapiosexuality
Kathleen van Dusen is a post-secondary instructor based in Canada. She identifies as sapiosexual. Kaitlyn Petry Jewell

We built up this great rapport, but it was so awkward the first time we were at the same office, because we'd built up an image of each other in our heads. It wasn't that we had created a romantic thing, but we'd developed this whole relationship via the phone, with friendly flirting and banter. So when we finally met, it was incredibly awkward—until we laughingly acknowledged that we weren't attracted to each other and some crazy workplace romance wasn't going to happen.

I actually know someone who approached dating like a business plan: set objectives, criteria and deadlines, and set about getting them done. But that's not for me. I prefer things a little (lot) less structured; I don't know where or what I'll be teaching next term or where I'll be living, and if I'll even have time for dating. I'm just focusing on being the best I can at my chosen field. From a "Maslow's hierarchy of needs" perspective, I've got some physiological elements on the bottom of the pyramid that I need to sort out before I get to the next stage.

Although I identify as sapiosexual, the concept of an ideal partner is a lot more complex than just ticking intellectual boxes. I like tall guys, and there's nothing sapiosexual about that! And I'd like to meet someone who is a non-smoker and loves dogs. Ultimately, I hope to meet someone who is a good conversationalist, has opinions, is open minded and is curious about the world—once it's healthy to date in real life again, so when I do meet them, I don't have to stay two metres away.

Kathleen van Dusen is a post-secondary instructor with 12 years of teaching experience and 20 years of work experience in digital marketing, PR, and communications. She lives and works in Alberta, Canada.

All views expressed in this piece are the writer's own.

As told to Jenny Haward