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Sapiosexual (Sapiophile/ Echpnophile), Demisexual: Does Intelligence or Emotional Intimacy Turn You On?
Sapiosexual(Sapiophile/ Echpnophile), and Demisexual people are not ‘arrogant,’ ‘unrealistic,’ or ‘weird.’ Your sexual orientation is not something you can control. You do not owe anyone an explanation, but you do owe yourself a chance to live your truth.
When we look for a partner, consciously or unconsciously, we may have a list of criteria that we want fulfilled. This list may include many qualities such as similar values, likes and dislikes, kindness, intelligence, and sexual attraction. For sapiosexuals, the trait that is the most crucial in a potential mate is intelligence. The ability of a potential partner to engage in thought-provoking, creative, or intellectual conversations is a genuine turn-on.
“Love looks not with the eyes, but with the mind,
And therefore is winged Cupid painted blind.”
Intelligence and Being Sapiosexual/ Sapiohile/ Echypnophile
The word ‘sapio’ is derived from the Latin word ‘sapere,’ which means to be wise. The word Sapiophile [seɪpɪofaɪl/sapiofaɪl] comes from the Latin sapiō and the Ancient Greek φιλέω (phileō – I love). The idea of being attracted to someone’s mind rather than their body is not a new concept in the realm of romantic relationships. From an evolutionary perspective, being in a relationship with an intelligent person have certain benefits, such as potentially higher socioeconomic status or heritable advantages for your offsprings. But for the sapiosexual, intelligence itself is the genuine ‘switch’. It is the key on its own without any added benefits.
Interestingly, according to research, the desirability of a partner based solely on their intelligence usually peaks at the 90th percentile. In the normative world, attractiveness drops as intelligence pass a point— a person who is more intelligent than 99 percent of the population is less attractive as a partner. Therefore, possessing extraordinary levels of intelligence is not as appealing to the general public. This general trend, however, does not apply to those who are sapiosexual. Regardless of where they fall on the bell curve, an intellectually intense person who is also a sapiosexual is likely to be attracted to someone with a similar intelligence level.
An IQ test does not describe the parameters emotionally sapiosexuals seek in prospective partners. For the sapiosexuals, intelligence is not a number. The ability for a person to have unique, incisive, deep and inquisitive conversations is highly attractive. As a sapiosexual, you may also be physically attracted to someone, but if you later find out that the other person lacks curiosity, intellectual rigour and open-mindedness, these things can be deal-breakers. As an intellectually intense person, you constantly crave new knowledge and experiences that widen your horizons. It is likely that you have had rich life experience, so when a person exhibits a general lack of awareness about many things in the world, you may quickly feel let down, frustrated, or lose interest.
What happens when an intense sapiosexual person or echypnophile meets ‘their people’?
Sometimes a sapiosexual person would want to test their own limits by becoming sexually intimate with someone they are not really attracted to from their core, but they will soon see that the relationship is unviable. Sapiosexuals who know themselves well would say that they are sceptical about investing in a relationship unless they know they can have many good conversations with the other person. In an ideal scenario, their life partner would be their intellectual equal.
The attraction to your intellectual equal can even be intuitive and bypass your conscious awareness. This is especially true if you had not yet realized your own gifts. For example, you might have found yourself being drawn to particular people without knowing why only to later realize this is because you have unconsciously picked up on subtle signs of their intelligence. The qualities that you are looking for can manifest in many obvious and not-so-obvious ways, such as their humour and thoughtfulness.
When you finally meet someone who is your intellectual equal, your immediate feeling will be a sense of relief, followed by excitement, hope, and anxiety. You may also suddenly feel insecure and needy as the possibility of intimacy triggered your attachment system to become activated.
You may marvel in excitement as you realize this person in front of you does not find your quirks to be ‘too odd’. They do not see being a ‘geek’ or a ‘nerd’ as something negative as they, too, identify as one. They delight in your humour and reciprocate with a joke that only a few people would get. Your conversation is electrifying, energizing, and you may even interrupt each other constantly in excitement.
You can talk about a wide range of subjects, from politics to science to pop culture. You don’t feel the need to edit yourself or dilute your message. You are not afraid to express an opinion, take a stance, pass a critical judgment. You do not dread that they would see your natural excitement as an ‘exaggeration’, or your’ quiet confidence as ‘arrogance.’
‘Finally, someone gets it!’, with this reassuring realization, you will feel liberated to open up and reveal more and more parts of yourself. In the best-case scenario, through such an exchange, you can gradually heal from the wound of being called ‘too much.’
If you are a sapiosexual, the brain is indeed the largest sex organ. When a person starts sharing unique insights on a topic, your full-body arousal goes to the next level. You enjoy listening to a person’s deep-rooted ideas and wildest dreams. You are mesmerized when you hear a person talk knowledgeably and passionately. If they counter your beliefs with logic or teach you something new, you find that alluring like nothing else. When two intense sapiosexual beings get together, their shared desire for cerebral stimulation becomes an integral part of emotional bonding.
“To fall in love with someone’s thoughts – the most intimate, splendid romance.” – Sanober Khan
Being Misunderstood When You Are Sapiosexual
Over the last two decades, sapiosexuality has been used for defining preferences in the internet dating world. Adopting a specific term for ‘attraction to intelligence’ reflects a desire to broaden our understanding of sexual preferences or orientation. While a few dating apps allow for ‘sapiosexuality’ as a sexual orientation, some people call it a fetish. Sadly, because of the lack of understanding and awareness in the world, people who identify as sapiosexuals also face marginalization and difficulties in finding suitable partners. In truth, a sapiosexual can identify as heterosexual, pansexual, or LGTBQ. Sapiosexuality explains ‘how’ the attraction occurs; it is not about ‘who’ the sapiosexual is attracted to.
These days, dating is by, and largely defined by the ‘swipe left or swipe right’ phenomenon. A sapiosexual may feel alone and lost within such a dating environment because they value intellect and communication more than appearance and usually want to spend time getting to know the person before assessing the possibility of a relationship. You tend to seek uniqueness in your dating experience. Rather than doing what the rest of the world is raving about, you may prefer to experience the offbeat. Instead of dining at popular cafes or going to loud concerts, you would much rather visit a quiet restaurant where you can have a good conversation or visit small live music venues. What you value is communication and the company, rather than the activity itself.
Whilst the intellect is the most important for you, it does not mean other qualities don’t matter. Long-term relationships require a host of compatible attributes between two people, and physical attraction can be a part of it too. As an intelligent, worldly, and emotionally sensitive sapiosexual, it is not easy to find a person who is compatible with you both intellectually and also emotionally, sexually, and romantically.
It can be challenging to explain your expectations to family and friends or potential partners. You may have been told that your standard is too high, or that you ought to compromise. Having had an emotionally tumultuous experience in the dating scene or successive short-term relationships can also leave you feeling lost and confused.
However, being a sapiosexual does not make you an ‘arrogant’ person, an ‘unrealistic’ person or a bad person. While it comes with its difficulties, it does not have to lead to despair or loneliness. This is a preference or an orientation, and it is not up to you what you are attracted to.
If you have been repeatedly disappointed and criticized, you may begin to doubt yourself.
You may look at your peers and wish your path to romance is simpler.
You may begin to wonder if there really is something wrong with you that your standard seems so high or strange.
You might have been tempted, again and again, to give up on owning your genuine desire and settle for something more normative.
However, if you hide, skew the presentation of who you are, or succumb to society’s standards, those who are seeking you will not be able to see you, and you miss the opportunity to have a lasting and fulfilling relationship with someone who is equally interested in your soul.
Trust yourself. You cannot help who you are attracted to, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that.
The best thing you can do, on realizing who you really are, is to embrace it and make the best of it. Remember, even you belong to the minority, the ones you are looking for are also looking for you.
“This is love, I think. A place where people who have been alone may lock together like hawks and spin in the air, dizzy with surprise at the connection. “
Maybe You Are Demisexual?
What is ‘Demisexuality’?
Is emotional bonding a prerequisite for you to be sexually attracted to a person? Is the concept of so-called “love at first sight” unfathomable for you? Are you the odd one amongst your peers because of your inability to fancy a complete stranger?
Demisexuality is a sexual orientation in which you are sexually attracted only to a person only when you share an emotional connection. The prefix ‘demi’ is derived from Latin, which means ‘half,’ connoting that demisexuality lies halfway on the asexual- spectrum. A person can identify as demisexual irrespective of gender or sexual orientation.
Demisexuality is not a conscious choice or being picky in romantic relationships; it is a fundamental orientation that requires you to have an emotional bond before you feel sexually drawn to a person. An emotional bond does not guarantee sexual attraction, but for demisexuals, it is a prerequisite.
The time a demisexual person takes to bond emotionally varies. For some, it may take a few years to develop a deep emotional relationship, and for others, a few deep emotional experiences or good conversations can trigger passionate fondness towards another person. As a demisexual, you don’t have sex on your mind when you go on a first date; you just want to get to know the person. In fact, according to a Census, almost 67 percent of demisexuals are uninterested in and/or repulsed by sex.
“Haunted by the longing to feel something real, deep and magical; I searched for a shared ecstasy… that’s when you came along.”
Signs You May Be Demisexual
It is not necessary to put a label on everything but knowing where you are on the sexuality spectrum will help you become comfortable with who you are.
Here are a few signs which might strike a chord if you are demisexual.
Physical appearances do not beguile you.
It’s only when you start to find a person attractive emotionally that you feel a physical attraction. Your idea of beauty may not corroborate the typical ideas about beauty and good looks that most people have. That does not mean that you are not looking for an aesthetically appealing partner. It’s just that the physical desire is a secondary stage in your attraction towards your partner. The problem is that internet dating sites only offer images and a short personal bio of the other person for an initial connection. As a demisexual, you need to feel a lot more than that to go on a date.
Your relationships often begin as friendships.
As a demisexual, you prefer to develop a close friendship before taking a step towards intimacy. Your demisexual orientation means you may often be attracted to your close-circle friends. You usually steer clear of casual hook-ups or feel disgusted when you have sex outside of a relationship.
Your approach to dating is misunderstood and rejected.
When you like a person, you take it seriously because you seldom feel that way about someone. As you develop deep feelings towards the person, you want to do your best to make things work. You are emotionally honest and vulnerable and would express your affection in a tender way. This is absolutely normal and healthy, but in today’s fast-paced dating world, your genuineness may not be appreciated. Your expressiveness may even be unfairly deemed as ‘too much’ for those who are not ready for emotional intimacy.
Intimacy to you does not revolve around sex.
In pop culture, the start of a relationship is often depicted as sexual chemistry between two people. As a demisexual, such a lopsided view of romantic attachments places your preferences outside the dating norm. You enjoy sex, but it is not what excites you the most about being in a relationship. Being in a committed relationship with a person with whom you have an emotional attachment is what keeps you blissful. Your lack of interest in casual sex is heavily misunderstood. As a demisexual, you enjoy a healthy sexual relationship with a steady partner. But you do not project a ‘desire for sexual intimacy’ typical of most people who are actively dating. For you, there are many ways of sharing an intimate moment, from listening to music to running errands. Since you don’t subscribe to the norm, your peers may taunt you for being a prude, for having impossible relationship standards, or for being clueless when someone shows interest in dating you. You might feel out of place when your friends talk about celebrity crushes and sexual desires.
“I’m not so weird to me.”
What Being Demisexual is Not
There are a lot of misconceptions about demisexuality. The fact that you want to first get to know the person and then be sexually intimate is not a novel idea. But what people do not realize is that just like other sexual orientations, demisexuality is not a choice. Most demisexual people are genuinely unable to be attracted to another person unless there is an emotional connection. Many demisexuals have had casual sexual experiences, but no matter how many times they try, those experiences are not fulfilling.
A demisexual is not a prude; they do not fear sex or have a low sex drive. They are not abstaining from sexual intimacy because of religious or moral beliefs. It is also a myth that a demisexual must feel in love to want to have sex, as a demisexual may choose to be involved sexually with a close friend or a known person. The arousal varies depending on the relationship shared with that person. However, a preference to be sexually intimate with known people does not make you a demisexual.
Some sexual identities on the asexual spectrum might appear similar to demisexuality but are actually different. Asexuality is a polar sexual orientation in which there is no desire for physical intimacy, which is different from demisexuality. Sapiosexuals are like demisexuals as both are attracted to people with specific qualities, but the basis for attraction is different.
“I want to be the friend you fall hopelessly in love with. The one you take into your arms and into your bed and into the private world you keep trapped in your head. I want to be that kind of friend. The one who will memorize the things you say as well as the shape of your lips when you say them. ”
Being a Demisexual
It is not easy to find a partner who resonates with you and understands your desire for an emotional connection before sexual intimacy. It can be tedious to explain yourself to others, who may quickly jump to conclusions and label you as indecisive or choosy.
Bonding at a deeper level is a process that requires time, courage, and authenticity on both sides. As you take the time to know someone, the other person may lose interest in the relationship. Your natural responses can be misinterpreted as a rejection or lack of interest.
It helps to be upfront about your desire to take a new relationship slow or that you would like to be friends for a while. However, as much as it is tempting, try not to yourself to be sexually involved in a relationship before you are ready for the sake of conforming or pleasing your partner. And when you are in a relationship, there is no reason for you to feel guilty when you say’ No’ to what makes you uncomfortable.
Start by creating a safe space for yourself to clarify who you are and your values, potentially with a therapist or a trusted friend. From there, you have a foundation to work from. When you enter the relational world, try and be as honest and as clear as you can, knowing that there is absolutely no shame in having particular sexual preferences.
Coming out to your partner can be the foundation for a healthy relationship. But it is not mandatory to reveal everything before you are ready. You also do not necessarily need to use the demisexual label.
“True love is usually the most inconvenient kind.”
Trusting Yourself as a Sapiosexual or Demisexual
In the last decade, a new discourse of sexuality and gender identity has emerged in society. This is a discourse that marks itself outside of and challenges that old, binary framework of masculine/feminine, hetero/ homo, and LGBT/straight. This new taxonomy has provided a whole new way of thinking about sexuality and gender identifications, and it can be utterly liberating.
But our society has not yet caught up to the many colours of a rainbow and has little understanding of the many nuances that exist in the sexuality spectrum. Imagine, in some years time, people will look back at where we are today and be shocked by how limited our society’s perspective is.
You have the right to live life your way. Just because your preferences are outside of the norm does not make you any less entitled to joy and fulfilment. As much as anyone else, you can and deserve to have comfort, ease, and happiness in sex and romance. You do not owe anyone an explanation, but you do owe yourself a chance to live your truth.
I was always hungry for love. Just once, I wanted to know what it was like to get my fill of it — to be fed so much love I couldn’t take any more. Just once. ”
(For more on this topic, you may also want to check out my interview with Sexologist and Relationship Therapist Becky Crepsley-Fox. )
Imi Lo is a consultant and published author with extensive and international experience in mental health and psychotherapy. Her books Emotional Sensitivity and Intensity and The Gift of Intensity are available worldwide and in multiple languages. Imi has two Master’s degrees; one in Mental Health and one in Buddhist Studies. She works holistically, combining psychological insights with Eastern and Western philosophies such as Buddhism and Stoicism.