Demisexuality as a concept is not “appropriative” of asexuality

I once had a non-asexual-spectrum person tell me via a private message that because asexuality meant “not experiencing sexuality” and demisexuals “experience sexuality,” demisexuality as a concept was appropriative of asexuality.

I think that “experiences sexuality” or “experiences sexual attraction” are phrases that describe a very broad category, as The Ace Theist points out in their post “Experiences attraction infrequently” doesn’t cut it. While The Ace Theist’s post is about gray asexuality, demisexual people get a very similar “That’s just Allosexuality Lite” response when trying to describe their experiences.

My “experience” of sexual attraction is very similar to The Ace Theist’s. They write in the above-linked post:

For me, sexual attraction is infrequent, yes, but it’s less infrequent than it is faint and fickle — ephemeral — some kind of unstable compound with a brief half-life, one that catches my attention but then starts to evaporate just as soon as I try to seize my attention on it in an attempt to analyze it for the benefit of humankind, since “what does sexual attraction feel like?” is ever-popular question in the asexual community. I don’t “experience” sexual attraction so much as I have brushes with it. We bump shoulders in the hallway as we head in opposite directions, or it rings my doorbell and then runs off, or occasionally appears on my doorstep unannounced, and then just as soon as I get out the words, “What are you doing here?”, it’s taking off and leaving me there with my head stuck out the door watching it speed away, saying to myself, “Oh. Um. Alright. Well, see you again in a few months, then.”

Compared to what allosexuals feel, this is much quicker to fizzle out and has much less of an effect (read: none at all) on how I form relationships. It’s like the difference between the feeling of holding a solid object in your hands and reaching your fingers out into a cloud of fog. Not the same thing as a pure nothingness, but not weighing as much on your perception, either.

Also, yeah, I experience it “infrequently”, whatever that means.

My brushes with sexual attraction seem to only occur toward people with whom I’ve been best-friends for a long time, so I’ve referred to myself as demisexual for a while. The fact that my brushes with sexual attraction, similarly to the Ace Theist’s, are faint, quick to fizzle out, and have no impact on how I form relationships, is why I additionally have a very strong asexual identity. I can only really tell in hindsight that I ever experience anything that can be called sexual attraction, because in the moment when it’s happening, I am very confused about exactly what it is I’m experiencing.

I’m not entirely sure, for example, if I’m sexually attracted to my fiancé, although I love him very much, and we’re much closer to each other than I’ve ever been to the previous partner I was sexually attracted towards. If I’m not entirely certain that I’m having an experience or not, it doesn’t make sense to me to say I’m experiencing it. Experiencing something requires being aware of the experience at the time of its happening, and my awareness always comes after the possible-sexual-attraction is over. The possible-sexual-attraction is not a coherent experience for me, but more like an event, to describe it like The Ace Theist does.

Though my demisexuality is most definitely heavily tinged with gray, I suspect that it’s a common experience among demisexual people that sexual attraction often doesn’t influence how they form relationships. If a demisexual person starts a romantic relationship, there’s no guarantee that they will develop sexual attraction at all, and that uncertainty makes the presence or absence of sexual attraction an unreliable indicator of whether they want to continue the relationship. I imagine it is very common for demisexual people to form relationships without reference to sexual attraction–just like asexuals do.

To go back to the person whose private message about demisexuality appropriating from asexuality began this post, only a lack of understanding of demisexual experiences could lead to the conclusion that demisexuality “appropriates” from asexuality. Not to mention a lack of understanding about how the term came into existence, gained visibility, and was accepted as a valid identity label on the largest asexual forum in existence.

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Talia C. Johnson

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