Has our society become oversaturated with sexual images and details about sexual pecadillos? Some days it seems like it — even to me, and I was raised in a sex-positive household (meaning we talked about sex openly as a natural and healthy part of life). I've never been ashamed or embarrassed about the subject, but I have to say, ever since "50 Shades of Grey" came out, I've been appreciating that "old-fashioned" idea some aspects of people's sex lives should remain a little mysterious. (Dare I say that seems sexier to me?)
Keeping that in mind, perhaps ironically, the newest talked-about sexual orientation is one that includes little or no sex at all. Demisexuality and asexuality have become popular subjects in recent years, as those who have low or no sexual desire are now find it easier to find others like them via the Internet. Lots of people are finding that they aren't alone and that there's a community of others who share their experience. Interestingly, the people who feel this way are viciously attacked for their sexual orientation — just as other minority groups have been attacked over the years.
And that just proves that when it comes to sexuality and public discourse, there's almost no way to do it (pun intended) that won't offend someone.
Other people's life choices will always bring out the rude comments and opinions, but I'm more interested in the people sharing how they feel about their lives and their bodies than I am in those who simply have opinions.
So, how does this group define itself? Demisexuality is defined as a person who does not experience sexual attraction until he has undergone an emotional bond. According to Demisexuality.org, "Most demisexuals feel sexual attraction rarely compared to the general population, and some have little to no interest in sexual activity."
Like other sexual orientations, these feelings are not a choice — whether to have sex or not is a choice, and who to do it with is a choice, but how you feel about it inside is not. That's the key. For a straight person, it's like asking them how they knew they weren't gay. As a straight person I would say: "I don't know how I knew I was straight, I just always felt those feelings for guys, and I've never felt them for a woman."
So, if you're demisexual, the answer is the same: You feel what you feel about sex, and while you might try things, in your heart of hearts, you know what you're into or not.
In other words, "Most people on the non-asexual side of the spectrum feel sexual attraction regardless of whether or not they have a close emotional bond with someone. They may have sexual feelings for attractive people on the street, classmates or coworkers they’ve barely spoken to, or celebrities." If you have ever had strong sexy feelings for a stranger, or slept with someone on the first date or meeting because, well, you wanted to, you are not a demisexual. (Demisexuality is not the same as enjoying sex more or differently when you are close with someone — it's is the lack of sexual feeling altogether for people you're not bonded to.)
Demisexuality seems to be a type of asexuality, which you may have heard of. The Asexual Visibility and Education Network (AVEN) states: "Unlike celibacy, which is a choice, asexuality is a sexual orientation. Asexual people have the same emotional needs as everybody else and are just as capable of forming intimate relationships."
Asexuals can still have romantic relationships, both with each other and with people they term "sexuals," though obviously expectations and communication are crucial in the latter situation for negotiating intimacy. According to AVEN, intimacy for asexuals takes place in many other ways than through sex. "Some asexuals enjoy physical closeness, perhaps cuddling or stroking, with their partner. Some asexuals express intimacy through talking, maybe sharing their innermost fears and secrets or by making each other laugh. Some asexuals feel intimacy with their partners by sharing common interests and activities or by working together toward common goals. Others experience intimacy in other deeply personal ways or by a combination of some, all or none of the above."
Both asexuality and demisexuality are "... a concept that is so foreign to most people that they believe there must be some pathological explanation," Lori Brotto, a psychologist and associate professor of gynecology at the University of British Columbia told Wired magazine. But Brotto has found that health indicators, puberty and other growth markers are similar to sexuals, and while there isn't proof one way or another that hormones are involved, it's telling that low- or no-sex people don't suffer from loss of libido (a medical condition) — they never had the desire in the first place.
Why these labels? Sexuality is a huge part of our culture, and those people who experience it in a different way can feel like outsiders, or at the very least, alone. Imagine being a teenager who is uninterested in sex and how that might make you feel like an outcast — like maybe you should fake it? A teen demisexual or asexual wouldn't be having the same feelings as sexual friends, and that can be confusing. "When the conversation turns to hot celebrities, for example, demisexuals may feel confused, and wonder what it is their friends see and feel. They wonder if they will eventually feel it too, and some even end up feeling 'broken.' Knowing that there are others like them helps demisexuals feel less alone," according to the demisexuality site.
And that's the reason for names and groups, Tumblrs and Twitter streams on this topic — so people out there realize there's nothing wrong with being who you really are.
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