I Was 29 Years Old Before I Knew My Sexual Orientation (Or That It Even Existed)

Photo: courtesy of the author
how I discovered I was a demisexual
Love, Sex

Most people have never heard of this sexual identity.

When I was in middle school, I noticed I wasn’t interested in the boys in my classes. I briefly wondered if I might be a lesbian, but I didn’t like girls, either. By the time I hit high school and felt like all my friends were dating, I’d concluded there was something fundamentally “off” about me.

I didn’t have an explanation for my sexual orientantation (or lack thereof) until my freshman year of college, when a fellow student leading a Bible study explained, “Sexual desire is a sin. If we pray hard enough and commit ourselves to growing in our Christian faith, God will remove the temptation of lust.”

While I never meant to think of myself as better than everyone else, the evidence of my superior religiosity was apparent.

My few forays into dating were characterized with constant fights about sex. I didn’t want it often enough, I didn’t seem to enjoy it enough, I wasn’t willing enough to try new things. I wondered if a “normal” relationship would ever be possible or if I was doomed to leave all my partners dissatisfied.

RELATED: 3 Ways Sexuality And Gender-Variance Is Partly A Soul Decision

Shortly after I moved to Los Angeles, friends of mine formed an intentional community in a neighborhood of West Adams known for its modern-day hippy lifestyle. Twelve people crammed into a five-bedroom house to keep the rent cheap.

One house on the block had built a reputation for its monthly open-mics in the backyard, where guests would read poetry about the patriarchy set to acoustic improvised guitar. The street always reeked of weed and patchouli — not my scene at all.

Fresh off a painful breakup and feeling bereft of friends, I went to the parties and open mics and dinners and found myself exposed to a community of aggressively progressive liberals who were always ready to talk about identity politics. A steady exposure to anti-establishment free spirits combined with aggressive Googling on my own part led me to the best explanation for my unusual sex drive — and it didn’t involve being a super-Christian.

That's how I discovered I was demisexual.

Demisexuality is a subset of asexuality. While asexuals may never feel any romantic or physical attraction, demisexuals typically feel sexual desire in the context of an existing relationship. Check.

Demisexuals don’t develop crushes very often, but when they do, those crushes tend to be of the head-over-heels, can’t-breathe-without-thinking-about-that-special-someone variety. Check.

Demisexuals don’t tend to have flings, don’t watch porn, and one-night stands are out of the question. Check.

The first person I came out to was my best friend. Over pizza one evening, she launched into a familiar line of questioning: Why are you so pickyAren’t you worried that if you don’t lower your standards you’re going to end up alone?

A perfect opening.

I explained how I discovered I was a demisexual and that sexuality works differently for me than for other people. She hadn’t heard of demisexuality, so I summarized it to the best of my ability: There is an asexual spectrum that influences a person's identity. The majority of humanity is at one end, with a typical sex drive.  At the other end of the spectrum were people with no sexual or romantic desires whatsoever. I was somewhere in the middle; I enjoyed dating and felt physical desire, but only under specific circumstances. Otherwise, I was immune to romantic and sexual attraction.

She thought it over, then asked, “But why would you want to be a demisexual? I’m sad for you that you chose this.”

After that disastrous conversation, I decided to keep my thoughts on my orientation to myself. Demisexuality was perhaps too obscure for anyone to “get it” right away. 

My struggle to define myself reached a boiling point when I fell for an amazing, sweet guy — hard. Our first dates featured intense make-outs and late nights cuddling in bed. The developments felt natural. Even though we’d only been dating for a short while, we had a foundation of a friendship that predated our foray into dating. Dating friends is characteristic of demisexuality.

When the question of physical intimacy reared its ugly head, I tried to explain myself in a way that wouldn’t make me look overly prudish. “Sorry to be a buzzkill,” I explained after putting a halt to some racy talk he had initiated. “I don’t do that. I don’t know. My sex drive is weird.”

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I waited for the inevitable accusation that I was messed up, frigid, withholding, faking it, any other claim I’d heard over the years. Instead, he thought it over and observed, “I’ve never heard of that before. But it sounds interesting. I won’t pressure you, so let’s take our time until you’re totally comfortable with whatever happens.”

As we discussed our sexual boundaries and quirks, he’d stop to clarify, “Does that work differently for you as a demisexual?” and “How does this intersect with your identity?” My boyfriend genuinely recognized that I wasn’t playing games or making things up — my sexual identity was a part of who I was and respecting that was synonymous with respecting me.

While I’ll probably never face the trials or overt discrimination that are familiar to LGBTQ individuals, I know the relief that comes from finding that rare person who can accept my unique sexual identity for what it is. While I don’t know what the future holds for us as a couple, recognizing the reality of my orientation has helped me to communicate my needs to help the both of us build a healthier relationship.

Check out the video below to see what it's like dating a demisexual:


Angela Jorgensen is an Iowa native and current resident of Koreatown in Los Angeles, California. She's a writer and film maker, and her feature documentary The Longest Straw is set to release later this year. Visit www.thelongeststraw.com for more information.