How Dating Apps Uncovered My Demisexuality
I have always thought of myself as quite an allosexual, sexual in general, human.
I love sex, and I love experiencing and creating new sexual experiences with a wide variety of different partners. I love the exploration, the deepening of my relationship to my own body as well as my ability to relate to, and understand, the bodies and experiences of others through sex, and this had lead me through a rather diverse, emotional sexual development.
As a sexually relational being, I identify as polyamorous, and I had always just assumed that I felt sexual attraction on the same frequency as other sexually enthusiastic humans as I have never experienced any particular lack of libido or lack of ability to experience arousal for time enough that has called my sex drive to question. My desire waxes and wanes with the phases of the moon, the phases of my cycle, the phases of life, and I have experienced sexual relationships in this way as well, though people often think I am having much more sex than I actually am based on the work that I do.
What did call my sex drive into question however, was the use of dating apps.
I have been in and out of monogamous relationships throughout my adult life and had never really explored the world of dating apps until about a year ago. When I say I identify as poly, often folks assume this means that I like to have lots of one-night-stand types of sex with many people all the time. If this is your jam, then I love that for you, but to be honest this has never been my style. Though the poly experience can be different for everyone, being poly to me simply means that my love does not equate to ownership. This approach to relationships invites the recognition that the way I feel for one person is by no means threatened by the way I feel for others, and in return, my security in relation with another is never threatened by their other connections. My love is not a finite resource, my love for one does not take away from my love for another, they are completely separate entities co-existing in my heart, and through this I flow in and out of partnership, relationship, connection, as feels aligned with where I’m at, and this flow simply cannot be dictated by an external party.
That said, I have been committed in monogamous relationships over the years and more than happy at those times, though I had always wondered what it would be like to explore the world of dating. So, after my last long-term partnership ended and I moved across the country, I decided to give dating apps a try.
Many of my friends used dating apps frequently as a way of accessing sex in an otherwise challenging social climate (the pandemic). Many folks I know are in the habit of connecting with someone over an app, sharing brief conversation, and then meeting the person, sleeping with them, and then never speaking to them again. Dating apps are great for one-night stands – easy, fast, commitment and emotion-free, good for scratching an itch. I realized quickly however, that not only did I find it challenging to motivate myself to meet up with people from apps, I found it even more challenging to feel sexual desire upon meeting someone for the first time. While I have heard a lot of people say things like “oh I couldn’t stand them, but they were so hot so we had sex and never spoke again.” I started realizing that I was having issues with feeling called to meet up with people based on a set of online images because no matter how attractive I may have found someone, I wasn’t able to access sexual attraction based solely from appearance. If they didn’t intrigue me on some other level, I would never feel desire. And then I realized something else, I have never had a proper one-night stand.
At first I thought I was using the apps wrong. I wondered if I was just being uptight or picky or “prudish,” and I initially held a lot of judgement for myself about how I was navigating the world of dating. I would go into dates open-minded and ready to challenge myself to put myself out there, and then would still always make the decision at the end of the night to go home alone. I wasn’t necessarily feeling wrong for doing this, but I was recognizing that this was simply different than the way people around me were engaging with dating apps, including my dates. After a while I started reflecting; maybe I’m demisexual?
Demisexual refers to folks who experience sexual attraction only once they have felt a further connection with someone beyond just the physical. Demisexuality exists within the Ace spectrum, and it is important to note that there really are endless ways that folks identify with both of these terms. Personally, this “further connection” doesn’t necessarily have to be emotional (though again, different for everyone), this can also look more like an intellectual stimulation which leads to a sexual attraction or perhaps even a shared sense of humour. For the most part though, the connections that lead to my sexual attraction developing situate themselves somewhere in the emotional/intellectual realm. In proper Gemini Venus fashion, “you have to f*ck my brain before you can f*ck my body,” and that’s just the damn truth.
Now let me clarify, this does not mean that I intend to form a committed relationship with everyone I have sex with, that I have to wait X amount of time before having sex with someone, or even that I want to see the person again every time. This does not mean there are expectations, emotional commitments or contracts that come with sex for me, it doesn’t even mean that I feel romantically towards the person. It just simply means that for me to feel sexual desire, there must be something beyond the physical that intrigues me, and I may even go one step further and say that the physical attraction part, for me, doesn’t even play a main role. It is of course always present, I won’t be naïve, but it just never seems to be the driving force in my pursuit of sexual connections.
To engage in sex then, I found that prior to my recognition of my sexuality in this way, I used to have what I would refer to as a routine – a series of things that I knew usually did the trick for myself and the other and everyone would have a good time and that would be that. However, as I have come into dialogue with my own demisexuality, I have strived to take a more intentional, observant, intimate approach to sex, even when the sex is with someone that I am not planning to pursue, even when the sex is not about intimacy at all.
While at first, I felt some bizarre shame around recognizing myself as demisexual (this shame I believe coming from the overarching stigma and misunderstanding which surrounds the Ace spectrum as a whole), I have now started to feel a lot of pride here. Instead of forcing myself into having sex that I didn’t want to have because I feel I should be more “adventurous” or “spontaneous” or dare I say “chill,” I have started leaning into my sexuality as a way of being more intentional towards sex in general. I have been playing with integrating my demisexuality into all of my sexual encounters, even the less intimate, less emotionally-engaged ones, by committing more to the sex I am having with the specific person(s) I am having it with in that moment, rather than to having generic sex for sex’s sake by way of the “copy/paste” approach. Though I’ve said I’ve never had a proper one-night stand, there are many times when I have sex just once with someone, and many times when I have sex simply for pleasure without desire for any further intimacy.
By focusing more on the specific person I am with in each encounter however – their unique body, their rhythms, their quirks - I am able to show up as a fully present and connected partner, while also feeling aligned with my sexuality and sexual desire.
While I may be having less sex, the sex that I am having is much more engaged, intentional and present, and through this I am able to celebrate my sexuality in all of its uniqueness and nuance rather than feeling pressure to meet a certain sexual criterion that doesn’t match my truth. And when it comes to sexuality, we are here for the truth!
So here I am, about a year into my engagement with dating apps, and I have truly met some wonderful people, had some wonderful sex, and I am still yet to have a proper one-night stand, and that’s okay! There are no requirements/criteria to distinguish adequate sexual desire, so long as things are feeling healthy for you. Someone else’s “how often” does not at all influence how often you should be doing the thing, and your sense of attraction, or lack thereof, does not determine your sexual adequacy.
We are all here to just live our best sex lives and flow with our desire as it waxes and wanes like the moon.