What Is Demisexuality?

Medically Reviewed by Zilpah Sheikh, MD on August 17, 2023
8 min read

Demisexuality is a sexual orientation. When you're demisexual, you need an emotional connection to someone before you can feel sexually attracted to them. You may be gay, straight, bisexual, demiromantic, sapiosexual, gray asexual, or pansexual. You can have any gender identity. 

The prefix “demi” means half – which can refer to being halfway between sexual and asexual. 

When you're demisexual, you probably don't feel primary attraction – attraction for someone at first meeting. You're more likely to feel secondary attraction – the type of attraction that happens after you know someone for a while. You might never feel sexual attraction for anyone.   

Demisexuality vs. gray asexuality

While demisexuality is defined as needing an emotional bond in order to feel sexually attracted, gray asexuality or graysexuality is less specific. It can have many definitions. 

Gray asexuality describes those who identify with asexuality (meaning they have no or little sexual attraction), but who don't feel like asexual is the best name for them. When you're gray asexual, you might feel attraction toward someone but have no interest in acting on it. You might have ambiguous feelings of sexual attraction. Or you might feel like sexual attraction isn't meaningful to you. 

Demisexuality can be a type of gray asexuality. If you're gray asexual, you might experience sexual attraction only rarely, or you might feel sexual attraction but aren’t that interested in sex. You can be demisexual and gray asexual at the same time.

Demisexuality vs. demiromanticism 

Similar to the way demisexual people must feel a strong emotional connection before feeling sexual attraction, demiromantic people must feel a strong emotional connection in order to feel romantic attraction. Most people who identify as demisexual also identify as demiromantic, but you can be one without the other. 

Demisexuality vs. pansexuality 

With demisexuality, you need an emotional bond with someone before feeling sexual attraction or having sex with them. But pansexuality is where you feel sexually attracted to people of all genders and sexual orientations. You can be both demisexual and pansexual. 

Demisexuality vs. sapiosexuality 

While demisexual people must feel an emotional connection before sexual attraction is possible, those who are sapiosexual must first feel an intellectual connection with someone before they can be sexually attracted to them. They're mainly attracted to intelligence. You can be demisexual and sapiosexual at the same time.

There's no test to identify your sexuality, but it may help to ask yourself questions like these:

  • Who am I sexually attracted to? How do they make me feel?
  • Do I ever feel sexual attraction? How often? How strongly?
  • How important is sexual attraction in deciding who I want to date?
  • Do I ever feel sexually attracted to celebrities or other people I don’t know?

There are no right or wrong answers. But your answers may help you better understand your sexual identity.

Signs you could be demisexual 

There are no telltale signs that you're demisexual. Any of the experiences can happen when you're not demisexual, and demisexual people don't have all of these experiences. But some signs you might be demisexual include: 

You don't understand flirting. Flirting seems pointless to you, when a deeper conversation would be a better way to get to know someone. You avoid situations where someone might flirt with you. 

You have mixed feelings about sex. Research shows two-thirds of people who identify as demisexual are indifferent to sex or repulsed by it. Maybe you feel anxious when people talk about sex. You may not understand why orgasms should involve another person. 

You see sex as an obligation. Maybe you had sex with a past partner because it felt like you should, and you didn't enjoy it. 

You prefer to date your friends. Casual dating doesn't appeal to you. You're only interested in long-term relationships, where there's time to build intimacy. You can't understand people having sex after only a few dates. 

When you do feel sexual attraction, it's confusing. You don't feel sexual attraction often. So, when you do, you don't recognize it as sexual. It may feel the same as the warmth of friendship. 

No one can tell you whether you're demisexual. Every person's experiences are different, and every demisexual person's sexuality is different. You're the only one who can choose your labels, decide which ones fit you, and know which ones (if any) you're comfortable using. 

Don't date a demisexual if you're looking for a fast hookup or casual relationship. Dating them requires time to build a strong emotional connection

If you're demisexual and interested in dating, there are some things to consider:

Meeting potential partners. You might try meeting new people and making new friends. That way, you can get to know others in a low-pressure non-romantic setting. Or you might try online dating. Some sites now let you choose demisexual as an identifier. The online process can allow you to communicate with someone before meeting, to see if you have a connection. It may be a good idea to let them know you're looking for a strong emotional bond before thinking about sex. 

Demisexual and non-demisexual peoplecan date each other and have successful relationships. As with other relationships, they require communication and compatibility.

Coming out to your partner. You might choose to not come out to anyone, and that's OK. If you do, the most common times are at the beginning of dating or when the relationship turns serious. You might want to talk about what demisexuality means for your relationship, or explain you likely won't feel sexual attraction for a while. It may be an opportunity to educate your partner about demisexuality and share your resources with them. 

You can work together to decide what the sexual part of your relationship looks like. Sharing your orientation can build your self-confidence and strengthen your relationship.

Communicating often. Beclear with your partner about your boundaries. They should respect the limits you place and the pace you prefer. Maybe you're ready for kissing, but not oral sex. Maybe you want to have sex once, but no more. You may enjoy masturbating, but feel repulsed or indifferent about sex with another person. Make your wants and needs known, and encourage your partner to communicate theirs.

Demisexuality is the only term defined as needing an emotional connection before you can feel sexual attraction. But you might use terms for other modes of gray asexuality to refer to demisexuality. These include:

  • Gray-A
  • Hyposexual
  • Semisexual
  • Low sexual intensity
  • Asexual-ish
  • Sexual-ish

Demisexuality doesn't mean you're prudish or afraid of sex. It means you don't feel sexual attraction to new people or others to whom you aren't emotionally connected.

Demisexuality isn't related to a moral or religious belief about sex. 

It's a myth that demisexuality is a sign of low sex drive. Once demisexual people are in a sexual relationship, they have varying levels of sex drive. Some may have sex often, while others may not. Demisexuality only refers to the type of attraction that person feels, not how often they have sex.

A common misconception is that demisexual people are LGBTQ. They might be, but they can also be straight. 

It's also not true that when you're demisexual, you need to be in love to feel sexual attraction. Demisexuality requires a connection, but that can be a close friendship or another type of non-romantic relationship.

If you choose to have sex only with people you’ve known for a long time or have a close connection with, you’re not necessarily demisexual. This isn't a casual preference – it drives the attraction that comes before sexual encounters.

Coming out as demisexual is a personal decision. You don’t have to come out if you don’t want to. Your sexual orientation is your business. If you decide to tell others, your friends and family members may have a lot of questions after you come out to them. It may help to put together a few online resources about demisexuality that you can share. This will help answer their questions and will take some of the burden of explanation off of you.

Even with a prepared list of resources, you may still need to explain some things about demisexuality to your friends and family. It may help to compare it to other sexual orientations. For example, gay people are attracted only to people of the same gender. Demisexual people are attracted only to people with whom they have an emotional connection. This comparison may help them to better understand demisexuality. 

The most important thing you can offer someone who's demisexual is your acceptance. If they want to talk, listen. If they want space, that's OK, too. They'll feel supported knowing you're there. It's best to let them tell others, if they so choose. So, don't tell anyone about their sexual orientation, unless they ask you to. 

If your child comes out as demisexual

Children as young as 10 can have crushes and feel sexual attraction. Experts believe that's not too young for a child to identify as demisexual. But sexuality can be fluid and change during your lifetime, so be careful of labels. 

If your child tells you they're demisexual, they may have friends who talk about sexuality, and they may sense they're different. Maybe the label of demisexual gives them comfort and security. Labels can be tools to help them better understand themselves. Encourage them to explore their identity, and provide safety for them to do so. Your child's feelings may change as they get older, but most sexual orientations don't change due to puberty

Sending your child to a therapist to sway them away from demisexuality can be harmful. Demisexuality is recognized as valid in the DSM-V, the latest version of the American Psychiatric Association's handbook. 

Some key takeaways about demisexuality are: 

  • It's a sexual orientation, not a choice.
  • When you're demisexual, you need an emotional connection with someone before you can feel sexually attracted to them. But you might never feel sexually attracted to anyone.
  • You can be demisexual regardless of your gender identity or other sexual orientations.
  • There's no test for demisexuality, but there are some signs to look for.
  • The most important way to support your demisexual child, or other loves ones, is to accept them.  

Why am I rarely attracted to anyone? Feeling no or little sexual attraction is called asexuality. There's no underlying reason you're asexual. Being asexual isn't in your genes and it isn't a medical condition, though these are common misperceptions. It also isn't true that past trauma makes you asexual. These myths can be harmful. Asexuality is a sexual orientation, and it can change during your life. 

Can I be sexually attracted to someone but not romantically? Yes. Sexual attraction and romantic attraction aren't the same things. 

How do I know if I'm sexually attracted to someone? Not everyone's experience is the same, but some signs of sexual attraction include:

  • Your heart rate and breathing get faster. 
  • Red blotches appear on your chest and back. 
  • Your nipples become hard and erect.
  • Blood flow to your genitals increases.
  • If you're a woman, your breasts become fuller and your vaginal walls swell. 
  • If you're a man, your testicles swell, your scrotum tightens, and you secrete a lubricating liquid.

You may have some, all, or none of these signs when you're sexually attracted. They vary widely from person to person. You may even have different signs of sexual attraction at different times and for different people.