Do you find yourself uninterested in jumping random men at your local coffee shop? Have you ever become interested in a person after getting to know them? Do you like to have a conversation with a person before ripping off all your clothes and showing them your most intimate body parts? Maybe even several conversations? Does the idea of having a strange dick in your mouth give you the yucks? Congratulations — you are completely normal. Which is, apparently, the worst thing to be in this day and age. So much so that the notion that one would form romantic connections after, not before, getting to know a person has been given its own special category on the LGBTQI&%$! spectrum. That’s right, your completely healthy behavior makes you a ‘demisexual’.
According to the Guardian, the demisexual ‘falls on the halfway mark on the asexual-to-sexual spectrum.’ Reporter Nosheen Iqbal spoke with a young woman called Lidia Buonaiuto, who said, ‘I don’t have a primary sexual attraction to anyone the way most people do, ever. I identify as straight and I’m not in any way a prude, but I need to have a deep emotional connection with someone before any sexual feelings appear.’ This makes her feel she is not ‘normal’.
While it is easy to mock the multitude of identities people take on these days in order to confirm their non-normie status, the fad of labeling oneself a ‘demisexual’ is actually quite sad, and certainly speaks to the ubiquity and normalization of some pretty troubling trends.
Buonaiuto explains that she can’t have ‘sexual escapades’ with random people, saying, ‘I don’t have that desire at all, my brain doesn’t work that way and I forced myself into situations that just ended up giving me a lot of emotional distress.’
On what planet does a woman feeling anxious about the idea of having sex with a random person mark them as an exception, rather than the norm? Well, one where porn culture and dating apps like Tinder have taught a generation that they should not only be up for sex at any given moment, but that they should be able to determine who might be a good candidate for an intimate relationship based on little more than an image, attached to information that often does not extend beyond age and location.
If we were to take porn at face value, we would learn that sex happens in an instant: a man you’ve never met before shows up at your door, and the next minute his penis is in your throat. Sex, of course, rarely happens this way, outside the sex industry and rape-type scenarios. Indeed, most people do develop feelings of attraction after talking to, engaging with, and getting to know a person, at least a little bit…
Attraction is a complex thing, and while I might consider someone objectively attractive, that does not always or even often translate into a genuine desire to jump into bed with them. It takes all sorts of other factors, including subconscious things like pheromones and the sound of a person’s voice, as well as other more personal variables like appropriate shoe game, an ability to understand that I am being sarcastic 100 percent of the time, and good shoulders.
While apps like Tinder don’t necessarily hurl you into bed with strangers, they do give the (confounding) impression that we should be able to determine who we want to have intimate relationships with in a mere moment, without having ever engaged with the face on screen in real life. And while swiping-based dating apps have become the new normal, they aren’t primarily about helping people meet potential partners. Certainly, many people do meet through Tinder, but its real purpose is to keep you swiping, kind of like a slot machine. It encourages a kind of addictive behavior that releases dopamine in the brain, keeping users using. While it might seem like these kinds of apps expand the possibilities of meeting a match, we are actually missing out on key information we need to determine whether we are interested in a person and whether they might be a good partner — information we receive when we engage with people in real life. I mean, who of us haven’t had the experience of following or interacting with someone online, only to discover they are completely different (and sadly, much lamer) in person?
For women in particular, the idea that they should feel completely comfortable having sex with strangers is even more odd. Clearly, there are great risks in doing so. You simply can’t determine whether a man is safe and trustworthy over a screen or within a matter of minutes. There are very good reasons to get to know a person and connect with them emotionally and otherwise, before sleeping with them, and the normalization of the opposite strikes me as something that endangers women, pushing them into situations their gut tells them to be wary of.
Lest I begin to sound like a crotchety old prude, I don’t believe it’s unnatural to desire people we don’t know very well. I have lived in this world for several years now, and have, during this time, hooked up with people who had not divulged their family history or the fact that they listen to Coldplay deliberately (surely a form of rape by deception). At the same time, I’m confused and troubled by the normalization of concepts like ‘demisexuality,’ which posit that the ‘norm’ is something that isn’t necessarily normal or healthy. I’m even more concerned that young women like Buonaiuto feel a sense of shame and embarrassment because they want or need a genuine connection with a man before entering into a sexual relationship. Anyone who has been in a relationship before knows that, generally, the sex gets better as you get to know a person. Indeed, it makes perfect sense that in getting to know a person and getting more comfortable with them, you also connect more deeply, on a sexual level.
Comparing a person who doesn’t experience sexual desire separate from genuine human connection to an ‘asexual’ (i.e. a person who does not experience sexual attraction at all), as Seventeen magazine did last year, explaining that, ‘demisexuality is within the asexuality spectrum,’ signals to me that we’ve gone way too far down the porn culture rabbit hole. If I can offer any advice as the wise elder I am, it is to get off your phone and interact with people in the real world. If nothing else, you’ll learn a lot about yourself and others, and will at least be able to avoid wasting your time DM’ing someone who you can’t have a conversation with in person, never mind make out with. I may be pegged a radical for saying this, but let’s normalize humanity, not objectification.
Meghan Murphy is a writer in Vancouver, B.C. Her website is Feminist Current.