The demisexual flag, in which the black chevron represents asexuality, gray represents gray asexuality, white represents sexuality, and purple represents community.[1]
The demisexual flag, in which the black chevron represents asexuality, gray represents gray asexuality, white represents sexuality, and purple represents community.[1]

Demisexuality is a sexual orientation in which an individual does not experience primary sexual attraction[2] – the type of attraction that is based on immediately observable characteristics such as appearance or smell and is experienced immediately after a first encounter. They can only experience secondary sexual attraction – the type of attraction that happens after knowing someone for a while.[3][4] The amount of time that a demisexual individual needs to know another person before developing sexual attraction towards them varies from person to person.[5] It is generally categorised on the asexuality spectrum.[6][7]


The term was coined on the Asexual Visibility and Education Network Forums in February 2006. Based on the theory that allosexuals experience both primary and secondary sexual attraction and asexuals do not experience either, the term demisexuals was proposed for people who experience latter without the former.[4]

Demisexuality, as a component of the asexuality spectrum, is included in queer activist communities such as GLAAD and The Trevor Project. Demisexuality also has finer divisions within itself.[8][9]

Post-doctorate research on demisexuality has been done since at least 2013, and podcasts and social media have also raised public awareness of demisexuality.[10]

The word gained entry to the Oxford English Dictionary in March 2022, with its earliest usage recorded as in 2006, as a noun.[11]

Since 2019, the app Tinder includes demisexual as an option for self-descriptors of one's sexual orientation on one's profiles.[12]


A common general definition of demisexuality states that "demisexuality is a sexual orientation in which a person feels sexually attracted to someone only after they've developed a close/strong emotional bond with them".[13]

This means demisexuals can experience sexual attraction that is formed from a bond they share with another person.

How much demisexuals need to know about a person before they feel sexually attracted to them varies from person to person. There is no specific timeline on how long it takes, either. There is also no way to determine what qualifies as a close or strong bond, which can cause confusion.[3]

Demisexuals can enjoy a person's presence or be attracted to some of their qualities without having an interest in dating them or building a romantic relationship with them.[14]

Primary vs. secondary sexual attraction model

After secondary sexual attraction is developed, demisexuals are not only aroused by personality traits. They also may or may not experience arousal or desire based on the physical traits of the persons they already experience secondary sexual attraction towards.[15][16]

Common misconceptions and sexual activities

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A common misconception is that demisexual individuals cannot engage in casual sex.[17] It is important to note that being demisexual refers to how an individual experiences sexual attraction; it does not describe a choice or an action, but describes a feeling instead.[3][18] While it is common for demisexuals to not desire sex without feeling sexually attracted to the other person, it is not a rule individuals have to follow to be considered demisexual. Demisexuals can choose to engage in casual sex even without experiencing sexual attraction towards their sexual partner.[19]

Another common misconception is that demisexuals disregard people's physical appearance.[citation needed] This confusion stems from the fact that demisexuals do not experience primary sexual attraction based on instantly available information, including appearance. However, demisexuals do experience aesthetic attraction and can have an aesthetic preference.[14] An aesthetic attraction is an attraction to another person's appearance that is not connected to any sexual or romantic desire;[20] it is so called because of its similarity to other aesthetic desires.[21]

Demisexuals can be attracted to fictional characters. Demisexuals can also be attracted to a character played by an actor but experience no attraction towards the actor themself when out of character.[22]

Attitudes towards sex

Demisexuals, gray-asexual and asexual individuals (commonly referred to as aces) often use the terms favorable, neutral or indifferent, averse, or repulsed to describe how they feel about sex. Nonetheless, these terms can be used by anyone, regardless if they are asexual or not.[23]

These terms are generally used to refer to someone's opinion about engaging in sexual activities themself. However, they might also be used to describe how they feel reading, watching, hearing about, or imagining these activities. The term -repulsed in particular is often used to refer to one's feelings about engaging in sexual activities or being around them. One's feelings can vary depending on the situation or other factors such as identity, societal context, common social understanding or intent of actions, and/or comfort level with another individual. For example, someone who is aegosexual may enjoy thinking about sexual activities involving others, but if they imagined being personally involved in those activities, they may feel sex-repulsed.[27][28][29]

In fiction

Demisexuality is a common theme (or trope) in romantic novels that has been termed 'compulsory demisexuality'.[30] Within fictitious prose, the paradigm of sex being only truly pleasurable when the partners are in love is a trait commonly associated with female characters. The intimacy of the connection also allows for exclusivity to take place.[31][32]


  1. ^ "Queer 101". Old Dominion University. Retrieved 2022-07-19.
  2. ^ a b "Explore the spectrum: guide to finding your ace community". GLAAD. 2018-06-25. Retrieved 2022-07-20.
  3. ^ a b c "What Is Demisexuality?". WebMD. Retrieved 2022-09-04.
  4. ^ a b c "No lust at first sight: why thousands are now identifying as 'demisexual'". The Guardian. 2019-09-07. Retrieved 2022-07-23.
  5. ^ "What Is Demisexuality?". Feeld. Retrieved 2022-07-20.
  6. ^ Decker, Julie Sondra (2015). "Grayromanticism". The Invisible Orientation: An Introduction to Asexuality. Simon and Schuster. ISBN 978-1510700642. Archived from the original on October 22, 2020. Retrieved April 24, 2020.
  7. ^ Kurowicka, Anna; Przybylo, Ela (2020). "Polish Asexualities: Catholic Religiosity and Asexual Online Activisms in Poland". In Buyantueva, Radzhana; Shevtsova, Maryna (eds.). LGBTQ+ Activism in Central and Eastern Europe: Resistance, Representation and Identity. Palgrave Macmillan. p. 297. ISBN 978-3030204013. Archived from the original on October 28, 2020. Retrieved April 24, 2020.
  8. ^ Pasquier, Morgan (2018-10-18). "Explore the spectrum: Guide to finding your ace community". Archived from the original on August 1, 2020. Retrieved July 22, 2020.
  9. ^ "Asexual". Archived from the original on April 6, 2021. Retrieved July 22, 2020.
  10. ^ Klein, Jessica. "Why demisexuality is as real as any sexual orientation". Archived from the original on November 6, 2021. Retrieved November 6, 2021.
  11. ^ "Content warning: May contain notes on the OED March 2022 update". March 15, 2022.
  12. ^ O'Brien, Sara Ashley (2019-06-04). "Tinder adds sexual orientation feature to aid LGBTQ matching | CNN Business". CNN. Retrieved 2023-01-06.
  13. ^ "Demisexual: Understanding What It Means & FAQs". Cleveland Clinic. Retrieved 2022-07-19.
  14. ^ a b "20 FAQs About Being Demisexual". Healthline. 2022-01-31. Retrieved 2022-07-20.
  15. ^ "Demisexuality: The Gray Area of Asexuality". Blood & Milk. 2018-04-08. Retrieved 2022-07-23.
  16. ^ "What demisexual means and how to be an ally". Newsweek. 2021-06-24. Retrieved 2022-07-23.
  17. ^ "5 Damaging Misconceptions About Demisexuality | HealthyPlace". Retrieved 2022-10-21.
  18. ^ White, Ro (2021-04-13). "You Need Help: How Do I Explore Casual Sex If I'm Demisexual?". Autostraddle. Retrieved 2022-07-26.
  19. ^ "Can Demisexuals Have Casual Sex? | Her Campus". 2019-09-13. Retrieved 2022-07-19.
  20. ^ "37 Terms That Describe Different Types of Attraction". Healthline. 2021-12-23. Retrieved 2022-07-26.
  21. ^ Magazine, Archer (2017-04-19). "Aesthetic attraction and being on the asexual spectrum". Archer Magazine. Retrieved 2022-07-20.
  22. ^ Karhulahti, Veli-Matti; Välisalo, Tanja (2021-01-12). "Fictosexuality, Fictoromance, and Fictophilia: A Qualitative Study of Love and Desire for Fictional Characters". Frontiers in Psychology. 11: 575427. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2020.575427. ISSN 1664-1078. PMC 7835123. PMID 33510665.
  23. ^ "Attitudes Toward Romance or Sex – The Ace and Aro Advocacy Project". Retrieved 2022-07-23.
  24. ^ Wynne, Griffin (2021-08-02). "Sex-Repulsed". Cosmopolitan. Retrieved 2022-07-20.
  25. ^ Wareham, Jamie. "How To Be An Asexual Ally: Learn Why Some Asexual People Have Sex (And Accept That Most Don't)". Forbes. Retrieved 2022-07-20.
  26. ^ "About Asexuality and Aromanticism – Asexual & Aromantic Community and Education Club". Retrieved 2022-07-20.
  27. ^ "Attitudes Toward Romance or Sex – The Ace and Aro Advocacy Project". Retrieved 2022-07-23.
  28. ^ Winter-Gray, Thom; Hayfield, Nikki (2019-10-22). "'Can I be a kinky ace?': How asexual people negotiate their experiences of kinks and fetishes". Psychology & Sexuality. 12 (3): 163–179. doi:10.1080/19419899.2019.1679866. ISSN 1941-9899. S2CID 210570094.
  29. ^ Bogaert, Anthony F. (2012). "Asexuality and Autochorissexualism (Identity-Less Sexuality)". Archives of Sexual Behavior. 41 (6): 1513–1514. doi:10.1007/s10508-012-9963-1. ISSN 1573-2800. PMID 22576251. S2CID 45261209.
  30. ^ McAlister, Jodi. "First Love, Last Love, True Love: Heroines, Heroes, and the Gendered Representation of Love in the Category Romance Novel." Gender & Love, 3rd Global Conference. Mansfield College, Oxford, UK. Vol. 15. 2013
  31. ^ McAlister, Jodi (1 September 2014). "'That complete fusion of spirit as well as body': Heroines, heroes, desire and compulsory demisexuality in the Harlequin Mills & Boon romance novel". Australasian Journal of Popular Culture. 3 (3): 299–310. doi:10.1386/ajpc.3.3.299_1.
  32. ^ "Asexuality, Attraction, and Romantic Orientation". The LGBTQ Center at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Archived from the original on November 19, 2019. Retrieved July 23, 2020.