Sapiosexual: What It Means

Medically Reviewed by Carmelita Swiner, MD on July 05, 2023
2 min read

Sapiosexuality means that a person is sexually attracted to highly intelligent people, so much so that they consider it to be the most important trait in a partner. It is a relatively new word that has become more popular in recent years.

Both LGBTQ+ people and heterosexual people may identify as sapiosexual.

However, some people who identify as sapiosexual do so in order to claim a sexual identity that’s outside of traditional binaries such as heterosexual/homosexual and male/female. This approach seems to be more common among younger people interacting in digital spaces.

There is debate over the precise nature of sapiosexuality. Some claim it as a sexual orientation or sexuality, and certain dating apps even allow users to identify as sapiosexual. Other people say it’s an inappropriate bid for queerness from a community that is not marginalized the way other sexual orientations are.

Others see sapiosexuality as a fetish, specifically for intelligence. Still others think it straddles the two categories: orientation and fetish.

The ultimate meaning of “sapiosexuality” depends on the intention of the person using the word. It can suggest anything from a general preference for smart partners to a type of pansexuality in which intelligence trumps everything and makes gender irrelevant.

People who consider themselves sapiosexual often find themselves in relationships with people who have a similar fetish/orientation. These couples often enjoy intellectual activity as an integral part of emotional bonding and even physical foreplay.

If a sapiosexual person is in a relationship with a partner who doesn’t share these interests, it’s important for both people to work together to make sure that everyone’s needs are met.

What’s the difference between sapiosexuality and simply preferring to date smart people?

While many people want mates who are smart, sapiosexuality focuses on intelligence to a much stronger degree.

Don’t most people find intelligence attractive?

Yes, to a point.

A team of Australian researchers developed the Sapiosexual Questionnaire (SapioQ) in order to test whether people were sexually attracted to intelligence (which they defined with an IQ score) and whether they wanted an intelligent person as a partner. They found that the participants seemed to be sexually and romantically attracted to people with above-average intelligence, up to an IQ of about 120.

Above an IQ of 120, both sexual and partner interest decreased. Very high IQs were not perceived as particularly sexually attractive or as the most desirable quality in a partner.

Why has sapiosexuality been criticized as ableist or elitist?

Some people believe that sapiosexuality devalues people with different mental abilities. Those who label it as elitist or Eurocentric claim that it over-values Western education and IQ while ignoring other forms of intelligence.

Defenders of sapiosexuality claim that it’s based on relationship compatibility rather than a judgment of absolute worth.