Today’s demisexual kids are swimming against the tide of hookup culture. Good luck to them


If you’re of an age to remember LGB marches and felt perplexed when the T and the Q folk joined the throng, but are now up to speed, I bring you news of another letter. D, for demisexuality. Or D for, “Duh, well, of course demisexuality, you antique,” because in the main, it seems to be teens and twentysomethings doing it. Or more accurately, not doing it unless they really want to.

Demisexuality means – loosely speaking, since capturing any sexuality in a neat definition is like herding cats – being only sexually attracted to people you already know. Hookup culture leaves demisexuals bewildered. For them, blind lust for strangers on dating apps or in the street does not often, or ever, occur. They need friendship first, before sexual feelings awaken.

They are not asexual, or just “going through a dry patch”. Demisexuals require an authentic bond with a person before things get upfront, squelchy and personal, which in the current dating climate leads them to feel doomed to walk the planet alone. “Oh for goodness sake,” you might be harrumphing, “why do we need more labels? Is sexuality not in enough of a palaver? Aren’t the Ls already scrapping with the Ts? Can’t these D folk just blend in anonymously like the Bs, who probably represent half the planet, but nobody mentions? Aren’t they more like a subsection of the Qs?” Meanwhile there are possibly Ls, Bs, Gs, Qs and Ts shouting: “Oh my God, this is Straight Pride again! Babe, you don’t get a letter for being a straight person who isn’t shagging.”

Still, demisexuality gives me an odd sense of hope. Modern sexuality was supposed to be easier to navigate, after mobile phones put us at liberty to exchange pictures of our glistening genitalia under the guise of light flirting. Technology allowed us to get straight to the point. Why not send 2am emoji bursts of chocolate doughnuts and ripe aubergines to semi-acquaintances, asking “U UP?” Why not hit the apps and have sex with five people, at least, this weekend? Schedule them in like an air traffic controller, then sit on frozen peas to soothe the chafing. It’s exhilarating. No, empowering.

While some people thrive under these heady conditions, the D kids are brave, I reckon. They’re swimming against the tide. They’re sexual Luddites. If they can find each other, via a collective term, then why not wish them well? The sexual landscape that demisexuals are politely excusing themselves from is indeed a puzzling one. Yes, of course sex was not invented in the 21st century; but there has been a huge shift over the past 10 years with regards to how turned on and slavish to our lust we should report to be.

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Consider the explosive moral topic that will ruin a dinner party, right now, quicker than Brexit or religion: work wanking. Sorry, work what? Bear with me: work wankers are the opposite of demisexuals. They are so insanely turned on by the sight of colleagues, porn on their phone, and the bling of Bumble matches, that, well, it all has to go somewhere, doesn’t it? “Yes, I know Hong Kong are dialling in about the acquisition, Sheila,” they shout through the toilet door, “I’ve sort of got my hands full in here.” This topic, or rather, people’s current reaction to it, is fascinating. Many people see it as a harmless, modern by-product of our horny, app-filled, want it now society. No, HR should not be involved! What exactly is your problem?

On the other side of the spectrum are the demisexuals. These comparatively radical, buttoned-up types would like to have several cups of tea with a real human being, with a view to maybe one day holding a hand. In a world full of send-nudes-please and faux-intimacy that shifts to ghosting on orgasm, the Ds are like time travellers from a forgotten age of romance (AKA, the 80s). A time where, although Club 18-30s adverts seemed to be selling the dream of seven nights of wild action, for the other 51 weeks a year, young sex lives were at the mercy of landlines, patchy access to contraception and dodgy makeup from Boots.

Sex, by default, just seemed to move more slowly. Friendships had time to form before pants came off, as IRL was the only option. Sometimes I miss those days, although this instinct is steeped in sentimentality (don’t forget, y’know, Section 28, near-constant slut-shaming and people believing ribbed condoms were sexy).

So three cheers for those coming out as demisexual, whatever form that might take. We are all completely different, regardless of the labels we use to help us feel understood. Personally, I endeavour to be kind and tolerant of everyone. I am an accepting and zen-like spirit. Except for you, in the work toilet, grunting. No mate, you are bloody disgusting.


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