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The Demisexual Phenomenon

It seems like every week we’re hearing new terms for people that are on a fluid sexual scale. The latest to make headlines is the term “Demisexual.”

Demisexuals define themselves as people who become sexually attracted to someone the longer and deeper they know them. Demisexuals need to be close to a potential partner, they need the element of friendship in order to access their sexual desire.

A recent article in the New York Times talks about the experience of identifying as a demisexual and how they negotiate relationships and friendships.

It harkens back to the 50’s when people “went steady,” gradually developing their attraction to their partner and falling in love over time. The notion of “love at first sight” or chemistry the way that we think about it — an instant dopamine hit — does not exist for this population.

Our culture puts a great deal of pressure on people to be hot and attractive and sexual immediately — so fast that it leaves out a whole group of people sitting on the sidelines saying, “I’m not that.” Unfortunately, these people become pathologized and feel abnormal, when really, there may be more people like them out there — and they have always been around.

So what possible downside is there to this perfectly normal seeming/healthy relationship to sexuality? The conundrum for Demisexuals is that this gradual development of sexual feelings can disrupt their existing friendships.

Let’s say a female Demisexual in college makes a male friend; they study together in biology class, they hang out and watch movies together and he thinks she’s just a friend, but over time she begins to feel a sexual attraction to him as a result of their friendship.

For people on the receiving end of attraction from a Demisexual, they may not even know it, as they thought the terms of engagement were simply friendship. That woman from biology class didn’t just see a guy across the room and feel her heart beating. So for individuals who find themselves engaged with a Demisexual, the evolution of the friendship into something romantic can feel like a bait-and-switch.

Varied categories for all things sex, love, and gender will continue to be defined as we realize that our preferences and expressions are as unique as fingerprints.

The Demisexual Phenomenon

Alexandra Katehakis, Ph.D., MFT, CST, CSAT

Alexandra Katehakis, PhD, MFT, CST, CSAT is the founder and Clinical Director of Center for Healthy Sex in Los Angeles, where she and her staff successfully treat a full spectrum of sexual disorders, ranging from issues of sexual desire and dysfunction to the treatment of sexual addiction. She is the author of Erotic Intelligence: Igniting Hot, Healthy Sex While in Recovery from Sex Addiction and co-author of Making Advances: A Comprehensive Guide for Treating Female Sex and Love Addicts. Her free Daily Meditations on healthy sex and love are open to the public. Since 2006, Ms. Katehakis has studied affective neuroscience with Allan N. Schore, incorporating regulation theory into her treatment of sexual addiction. Alex is the 2012 recipient of the Carnes Award, a prestigious acknowledgement for her contributions to the field of sex addiction.

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APA Reference
Katehakis, A. (2018). The Demisexual Phenomenon. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 29, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Jul 2018 (Originally: 20 Jun 2017)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Jul 2018
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