Everything You Need to Know About Demisexuality

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Over the past few decades, more and more people have begun to recognize and appreciate the diversity of human sexuality. With this in mind, it should come as no surprise that people have begun to define their sexuality in ways that go beyond the genders that they are attracted to.

Unlike bisexuality or heterosexuality, demisexuality doesn't refer to the gender(s) that a person finds attractive, but to the circumstances in which a person may experience sexual attraction. Demisexuals can only develop sexual attraction after they've formed an emotional bond with a person.

Let's explore demisexuality and how it's unique from asexuality, graysexuality, and pansexuality.

What Does Demisexual Mean?

The prefix "demi" is French for "half". The term is rooted in the idea that sexual attraction comes in two types — primary and secondary. Primary attraction refers to a person's initial attraction to another person. Secondary attraction develops over time as a result of an emotional bond.

Most people experience both primary and secondary attraction, asexuals typically experience neither, and demisexuals tend to experience secondary but not primary attraction. This means that, although demisexuals won't experience sexual attraction "at first sight", they may become sexually attracted to someone after they have developed an emotional connection.

This emotional connection may be the result of years of friendship, or it may stem from a brief but intense experience shared with the person. Emotional connection doesn't always lead to sexual attraction, but sexual attraction can't develop without it.

Features of Demisexuality

Many people prefer to form an emotional connection before having sex with someone, but this doesn't necessarily indicate demisexuality. There's a difference between sexual attraction and sexual behavior.

Many people who aren't demisexual will still feel sexually attracted to people with whom they have no emotional bond, even if they choose to only have sex within a relationship. In some cases, they become sexually attracted to people they've never met — consider how many people become enamored with celebrities, for example. They may opt not to pursue these sexual feelings, but the attraction is still there.

For demisexuals, on the other hand, sexual attraction won't develop until after an emotional connection is already formed. Therefore, demisexuals typically won't be sexually attracted to strangers they walk past on the street or classmates they've never spoken to.

A few signs that a person might be demisexual include:

  • Mixed feelings about sex: Maybe you don't like the idea of sex. Or maybe you do, but can't think of anyone who you'd like to have it with.
  • Discomfort with flirting and casual dating: Flirting and casual dating can be uncomfortable for demisexuals who need to get to know and be friends with someone before they consider anything else.
  • Feeling alienated when other people discuss sexual attraction: Your friends talk about the people they find "hot", and you have nothing honest to add to the conversation.
  • Feeling confused when experiencing sexual attraction: Since demisexuals may experience sexual attraction so rarely, they can feel confused when these feelings do come up. In some cases, they may not even understand what the feelings are.

While these traits are common among demisexuals, they aren't universal. Demisexuals can have a variety of different feelings about sex — with some enjoying it (often for the purpose of bonding) and others being uninterested or repulsed by it.

What's more, demisexuals can be gay, straight, bisexual, or just about any sexual orientation. What unites demisexuals is their sexual attraction only to people with whom they have an emotional connection.

Is Demisexuality the Same as Asexuality?

Demisexuality and asexuality have many similarities, but they are not the same. While demisexuals feel secondary attraction, asexuals tend not to experience any sexual attraction at all — primary or secondary.

A 2023 study found that compared to demisexuals, asexuals often have less interest in sex and masturbation, which is consistent with their lack of sexual attraction. In addition, it's more common for demisexuals to adopt other labels of sexual orientation (such as gay, bisexual, or straight) to describe the gender(s) they are attracted to.

Demisexuality does fall on the asexual spectrum, which ranges from asexuality on one end and non-asexuality on the other. A 2020 survey found that 16.8% of people on the asexual spectrum identify as demisexual.

As the root "demi" (meaning "half") suggests, demisexuals often fall somewhere in the middle of the asexual spectrum — they are not completely asexual, but they only experience sexual attraction in limited circumstances. However, some demisexuals experience sexual attraction so rarely that they find it fitting to identify as asexual.

Demisexual vs Graysexual vs Pansexual

It can be easy to mix up demisexuality with other sexual identities, such as graysexuality and pansexuality. Here's what sets demisexuality apart.


Demisexuality and graysexuality are often confused, and it's easy to understand why. They're both on the asexual spectrum, and there's plenty of overlap between the two, to the extent that some people feel that demisexuality falls under the umbrella of graysexuality.

Graysexuals experience sexual attraction only rarely — but unlike demisexuals, their sexual attraction may or may not depend on emotional connection. Some graysexuals also identify as demisexual, but others do not.

According to a 2020 survey, graysexuality is slightly more common than demisexuality within the asexual community. Like demisexuals, graysexuals may have any sexual orientation.

A 2020 study found that more demisexuals than graysexuals were interested in having sex in the future, and that both graysexuals and (especially) demisexuals were primarily motivated by emotional connection.


While pansexuals are also part of the LGBTQ+ community, pansexuality is not on the asexual spectrum (although some pansexuals might be). A pansexual is someone whose attraction is not limited to people of certain genders. In other words, pansexuals may be attracted to people of any gender.

Pansexuality has nothing to do with whether or not a person needs an emotional bond to develop sexual attraction. Some do, in which case they may also identify as demisexual, but many others do not.

On the other hand, many demisexuals identify as pansexual. This means that they may develop sexual attraction to someone with whom they have an emotional connection, regardless of the person's gender. But this isn't the case for all demisexuals — as noted, demisexuals can identify with any sexual orientation.

A Quick Review

In a world that places so much emphasis on sexuality, it's easy to feel alienated if you don't experience sexual attraction easily or often. But for some, it could just mean that you fall on the asexual spectrum.

Being on the asexual spectrum doesn't necessarily mean you never experience sexual attraction. People may consider themselves demisexual if they experience sexual attraction only after they have bonded with someone emotionally. Different demisexuals can have a variety of feelings about sex and relationships, and some (but not all) demisexuals may also identify as graysexual or pansexual.

Demisexual communities can help a person feel less alone. Demisexuals may also feel at home in the broader asexual community, and may appreciate some of the resources provided by The Asexual Visibility and Education Network.

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