From the inbox #868

“there’s a lot of debate and misunderstanding about demisexuality, which makes sense and also is shitty but you know. one thing there isn’t debate about is demiromanticism because no one seems to know how to describe it. i’m here today to tell you that i Have The Answers or at least the ones I made up after knowing people who leaned toward the demiromantic label but didn’t know how to describe what it meant

so quick rundown:

split attraction model = differentiating between sexual and romantic attraction. this is most commonly used for asexual people

demi- folks ALSO use a split attraction model, but instead of -sexual and -romantic, it’s primary and secondary attraction

i’ll get into the similarities between primary and secondary attraction within demi- identities once i’ve explained both demisexuality and demiromanticism and their differences, at which point you will be able to better envision what makes them similar

demisexuality is based on a lack of primary sexual attraction, which can be summed up as innate attraction you feel just by seeing someone.

secondary sexual attraction is feeling sexual attraction based on an emotional, psychological, or other mental connection

a common and toxic attack on demisexuality compares it to slut shaming, implying that splitting primary and secondary attraction implies that everyone who has sex without a romantic connection is a slut. i’ll explain why that’s an extremely toxic comparison

primary sexual attraction has nothing to do with sexual activity; it is a simple reflex. you don’t have to act on it, it just exists.

if you hypothetically see a hot person standing on the street and then later go home and masturbate thinking about this hot person, that’s primary sexual attraction. if that person was into you and you’d have sex with them without knowing anything about them, that’s great! that’s also primary sexual attraction.

now, some people say: secondary sexual attraction is just a special snowflake term for what everyone does, getting to know someone before they fuck them! which is literally the slut shaming they were complaining about

you don’t HAVE to know someone to fuck them! you don’t HAVE to know someone to respect them and enjoy sex and then walk away!

similarly, secondary sexual attraction doesn’t need to take six years and a christian marriage before it’s established. secondary sexual attraction can happen over one powerful emotional encounter at a book club when you had the same complaints about libtertarians

so, examples to make sure everyone understands:

– if you see someone, think they are hot, and want to fuck them (or think about it) & would fuck them if they consented, this is primary sexual attraction.

– if you meet someone and form a psychological bond, whether that takes six years and a christian marriage or one particularly steamy book club meeting, and after that you want to fuck them when you didn’t before, that is secondary sexual attraction

MOST people experience both primary and secondary sexual attraction. DEMISEXUALS identify as never experiencing any kind of primary sexual attraction, and ONLY experiencing secondary attraction.

easy enough, right?

now, demiromanticism. you’re probably trying to figure out what primary romantic attraction and secondary romantic attraction are — well, stop. it doesn’t work the same way.

for demiromanticism i want to be clear — this does not have a classic agreed upon meaning like demisexuality. these are my own words and conclusions that i’ve drawn from keeping close quarters with people who said they felt demiromantic but didn’t have the words to describe what that meant.

i am here to suggest some words

for demiromantics, primary = romantic feelings they initiate, secondary = romantic feelings someone else initiates

my favourite example of this is my brother!

my younger brother is autistic. he is also queer. pretty much a good way to envision my brother is: every identity you can put an a- in front of, that’s him.

he is asexual and agender… and i invented my own term for his romantic orientation because it’s so obnoxiously complicated: pandemiromantic. in his own words, he experiences no sexual attraction, but if someone were to have romantic feelings for him, he would be interested in reciprocation regardless of their gender. for me, this was the lightbulb moment in answering the questions that demiromantics had been asking me and themselves for years

if you’re demiromantic, you don’t form your own romantic bonds, you simply respond to others’ pre-established romantic attraction.

again, examples:

– lily and tanya are friends. lily has no feelings for tanya. tanya develops feelings for lily, and expresses them. lily is interested in reciprocating tanya’s feelings. lily may describe her feelings in this case as demiromantic.

– lily and tanya are friends in an alternate reality. lily likes tanya, and tanya likes lily. they date. lily and tanya are both romantically inclined.

– lily and tanya are friends in yet another reality. tanya likes lily, but lily feels nothing romantic for tanya, even though she enjoys their friendship and may find her sexually attractive. lily may be aromantic.

obviously demiromanticism is even more niche than demisexuality, but as i have literally experienced people who grapple for a label that they can’t put into words, i would like for people to think positively about giving others a context in which to process their unique feelings

to wrap up, what’s the connection between demiromanticism and demisexuality if what defines ‘primary’ and ‘secondary’ attraction differs in both situations?

in both cases, “primary” indicates feelings that come from yourself. your innate sexual attraction, or your innate romantic attraction.

then, “secondary” indicates an external instigator; your sexual connection with a separate person, or a separate person’s romantic connection to you. as you can see, while each phenomenon has more variation than asexuality vs. aromanticism, they still have a similar basepoint

as a final note, i would like to stress that this post is comprised mostly of theory, and should not be used as a litmus test for who is and isn’t demiromantic. i’d love to see more people share and discuss their experiences along aroace-spectrum and how it conflicts with traditional cisheteronormative dialogues. in the meanwhile, i simply hope my postulating helps some people figure out who they are”
By Jem Z

Here are the replies