X Close

Sorry, kids, we were ‘demisexual’ years ago

A demisexual flag (centre). Credit: Getty

October 7, 2020 - 10:46am

I guess I’m old now. Not because the things young people do shock me with their novelty, but because I’m incredulous that they think any of it’s new. You’re “genderfluid”? Oh you mean you only wear makeup when you feel like it, is that an identity now? I used to call it “Saturday” – and so on, crankily, through the entire list of pret-a-porter, online-bio-friendly descriptors from which one may these days assemble a self.

But my least favourite of all these labels is “demisexual”. A demisexual — in the words of a HuffPo piece currently doing the rounds – is “someone who exists in between asexuality and sexuality, someone who needs a strong emotional bond to feel attraction.” Congratulations, goes my chippy old-person inner voice, you have invented “fancying people”. Liking someone before wanting to have sex with them is so stunningly banal, so epically un-noteworthy, that the need to turn it into an identity suggests something very wrong in our sexual culture.

And let me surprise you: young people didn’t invent our horrible sexual culture either. The “asexual to sexual spectrum” is a 21st-century do-over of the old “frigid or whore” dichotomy. Female sexuality has always been treated as a problem that needs nailing down — and I say female because the people who “come out” about their demisexuality are, as far as I’ve seen, all female.

The male default gets everywhere, even sex. If you don’t have the horn of a testosterone-drunk adolescent boy, you must be deficient. Meanwhile, pornography promotes a vision of the sexual woman as abject. Porn doesn’t show women as desiring subjects. It shows women who can’t say no.

Demisexuality is an opt-out. As one woman told The Guardian, discovering the label allowed her to feel “normal” about her lack of interest in one-night stands. Before she found it, she says, “I forced myself into situations that just ended up giving me a lot of emotional distress.” In other words, she had a bunch of sex she didn’t want because she felt obliged to. Is it really progress to replace “lie back and think of England” with “lie back and think you’re broken”?

So yes, I’m cranky about demisexuality. But I’m sad about it too. Wanting the sex you actually want and not the sex you don’t isn’t half-sexuality: it’s all of it, the whole deal, everything that matters. Women shouldn’t need a label to win special dispensation for their own desire.

Sarah Ditum is a columnist, critic and feature writer.


Join the discussion

Join like minded readers that support our journalism by becoming a paid subscriber

To join the discussion in the comments, become a paid subscriber.

Join like minded readers that support our journalism, read unlimited articles and enjoy other subscriber-only benefits.

Notify of

Most Voted
Newest Oldest
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
2 years ago

maybe youre just demisexual, lol, cus its a real valid identity. And genderfluid isnt makeup or no makeup. It actually depends on the amount of dysphoria on the day or hour. Its backed up by science, same with demisexuality. Do your research

Christine Ryan
Christine Ryan
1 year ago
Reply to  21isabejone

I am replying to the comment because we can never change unwilling minds
I’m an older writer than this person for sure. I am 56 . I would not know I was Demi until I learned more about what non demisexual / Asexual people experience. Being on the Asexual spectrum, Demisexual is not what this writer has described. As a matter of fact the writer is describing many of the reasons I always thought I was broken, this is what we learned.
No one can define or presume someone’s sexual identity, she could be Demi but maybe she’s generationally resentful.
Within the population of any generation in modern history, there is a fair to large percentage of folks who resent the next generation. It almost always is relates to progress or changing trends, often related to utilizing aspects of progress.
All we need is the willingness to have to remember is our own generation, whenever it was. There are certainly countless examples of rigidity and assumption about “kids these days.”
Many of us remember being exposed to the idea video games would cause the next generation to be infected with stupidity. I am old enough to remember gay folks were officially diagnosed with mental Illness, Trans folks were absolutely considered deviant. I remember experiencing the effects of this surrounding the explanation of “Autism.” The researchers had not yet progressed and we professionals were educated to believe autism comes with an inability critically think or develop insight into themselves. It was about changing behavior much like we do with our pets. I can’t Imagine the extent of the harm we did with many such belief systems which become more understandable through research
More recently, I was going to write a piece entitled “This Old Ace.” I have come to understand much about myself from respecting such progress, and having respect for the journey of our collective humanity .
I have made a lengthy start as a legtht response in the comment section here. The subject clearly begs to be addressed. Ageism is very real and has already touched my life. Ageism, however, travels in two directions.