Identifying sexual orientation can be overwhelming. Whether you think you might be demisexual or just want to find out more about what it is, we’re here to help.

By Anna Davies
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Human sexuality is diverse, dynamic, and, as you’ve likely noticed, full of different terms, labels, and definitions. And while you may be familiar with some frequently used identifications, like straight, gay, and bisexual, some other terms popping up in the news and media may have you scratching your head. One of these is “demisexual.” Here, we break down what a demisexual is, what the label means, and some common misconceptions about this sexual identification.

What Is the Definition of Demisexual?

Broadly speaking, a demisexual is someone who does not have sexual feelings for anyone unless they are emotionally attracted to them. A demisexual can also identify as gay, straight, or bisexual, and may not have a gender preference when it comes to sexual attraction—a demisexual is initially attracted by the emotional connection they have to a person, and the sexual attraction stems from that initial, emotional connection. Demisexuality has often been confused with asexuality, but unlike asexuality—in which a person does not feel sexually attracted to anyone, regardless of how emotionally close they may feel to that person—a demisexuality can and does have sexual feelings for other people, but it may take awhile for them to take shape. This sexuality is also known as “gray sexuality,” as it exists in between “typical” sexual attraction and asexuality, according to the Demisexuality Resource Center.

What Is Gray Sexuality?

The terms “gray sexuality” and “demisexuality” may be used interchangeably, and sometimes the word “semisexuality” is used. The definition of “gray sexuality” is someone who doesn’t feel sexual attraction unless they are emotionally connected to their partner. This is different than asexuality, in which a person can be very much in love and attracted to a partner, but never desires sex with them. This is also different than having a low sex drive, which may be a result of physical or hormonal factors. Demisexuals, or people who identify as having a gray sexuality, tend to see their sexuality as a part of their identity. Their sexual drive doesn’t fluctuate; they never feel desire for someone unless the emotional connection is there.

Signs You May Be Demisexual

Demisexuality or gray sexuality is not diagnosed; it is a label that people use to define themselves. Because of that, and because sexuality is so unique to each person, there is no definitive checklist. That said, there are some commonalities. If you are wondering if you’re a demisexual, it can be helpful to speak with a therapist or counselor who has experience working with questions related to sexuality. Talking through your concerns, desires or relationships can help you more clearly understand yourself and share your needs and wishes with a partner. Here, some potential signs.

You’ve never felt sexually attracted to a celebrity.

You may identify with demisexuality if you’ve never felt strongly sexually attracted to a stranger or someone you’ve just met. A demisexual may not think of someone sexually until they feel love for the other person, and likely won’t fantasize about an ex partner or celebrity.

You’ve felt “different” from your peers.

A demisexual may not have experienced crushes on classmates or celebrities the way their peers did in school and may have felt different. A demisexual can be attracted to any gender, and being a demisexual does not indicate whether a person is gay, straight, bisexual or anywhere else on the spectrum of sexual attraction.

You’re not bothered by your sex drive.

The one thing that tends to differentiate demisexuals from people with low sex drive is that people with low sex drive may have experienced fluctuations in their sexual desire in the past. People with low sex drive also may feel distressed about their sex drive, while demisexuals are not concerned with their lack of initial attraction to other partners.

Your relationships have started off as friendships.

Because demisexuals are sexually attracted once an emotional connection is forged, it’s not uncommon for a demisexuals relationship to begin with a friendship.

You don’t mind going without sex.

Sexual desire is a spectrum, but some demisexuals identify more strongly with asexuality in that they don’t “need” sex. They like sex when they are in a strong relationship, but when they’re not, they may not feel like sex is missing the way others might.

Common Misconceptions About Demisexuals

Because demisexuality is such a new term—the first recorded use of it was in 2006, according to the Demisexuality Resource Center—there are many common misconceptions about what demisexuality means. Here, some common misconceptions about demisexualitys.

Myth: Demisexuals are prudish or choosy.

One common misconception about demisexuals is that they are simply more choosy or “prudish” than other people who identify with mainstream sexualities. This isn’t the case; it’s that a demisexual does not feel any desire until an emotional connection is present.

Myth: Demisexuals are scared of their sexuality.

Another common misconception is that a demisexual is scared of sex or is hiding their sexuality. Again, a demisexual simply sees sex in a different way than other “mainstream” sexualities, and because of that, may not place a high importance on sexuality unless they feel emotionally connected.

Myth: Demisexuals don’t like sex.

Demisexuals do like sex—but only when they are attracted to their partner.

Myth: Demisexuals are boring in the bedroom.

Just like anyone with a mainstream sexuality, some demisexuals are “vanilla,” while others are interested in experimenting. Demisexuals are all unique, and some may be more sexually adventurous than others.

Demisexuals have a low sex drive.

While demisexuals may not have a high sex drive throughout their lives—when they’re not in a relationship, they may not desire sex—that may not be the case when a demisexual is in a relationship. A demisexual may have a high sex drive with a certain partner, or they may not. Again, it’s all dependent on the individual.

Coming Out as a Demisexual

If you think you may be a demisexual, there’s no “need” to come out to others unless you wish to do so. If so, it may be helpful (though not necessary) to speak with a therapist or counselor to become more familiar with your feelings and to potentially practice conversations with others. You may want to share your knowledge with your partner, who may need some time to process what this means for them. Giving them time and space, and allowing them to ask you questions, is key. It may be important to clarify to your partner that nothing has changed between the two of you, especially if you already have a sexual relationship. You may also want to share this information with your friends and family. Family may wonder if anything “causes” demisexuality; it’s important to note that demisexuality is an identity that you may feel you were born with. Keeping the conversation open can be helpful in making sure all questions are answered.

Bottom line: It’s important to share what you’re comfortable sharing, but not feel like you need to disclose anything beyond your comfort level, or answer any questions you don’t wish to about your sexuality.