I’ve been busy fielding post-traumatic stress, having EMDR therapy. Oh, and recovering in turn from three bouts of surgery – my main Genital Upcycling Surgery last May, then a failed attempt in July to correct a bad prolapse, and then a second more but not entirely successful attempt to do the same this February past. I’m a little fed up with being sore and incapacitated, to be honest, and rather isolated by my distance from most of my people I care about. I’m looking forward to a time when I’m healed and not awaiting further surgery and can just get on with life. But meanwhile…
I’ve been thinking about my sexuality. For the last year or so, I’ve been identifying my experience as asexuality. People who police asexuality have “encouraged” me to call myself grey-ace, because I do experience sexual attraction, but I have no libido to go with it, and no desire to act on it. Or so I thought.
I’ve recently been having the kind of desire I thought I didn’t have, towards someone I’ve become involved in an asexual romance with. This has caused me to revisit the rich smorgasbord of [a]sexuality labels, to see whether any of them are a better fit now.
Once again, I’ve come across demisexual, and been bothered by it on both a gut and logical level. So I thought I’d have a crack at writing about it here to sort out in my head why the term bothers me.
Now then. Of course it’s already not as simple as all that, because I’m also romantically involved with someone else (because Polyamory) with whom I’m, well, reluctantly sexual on their behalf. To this plot twist, we shall return…
Most definitions of demisexual that I’ve found seem to revolve pretty much around two criteria:
• someone who’s demisexual being/feeling sexual only in the context of a romantic or otherwise intimate relationship, and
• said sexual response being “secondary”, i.e. only responding to the other person’s desire rather than primarily to one’s own.
As someone who’s in the polyamorous situation that I am, this raises an interesting question about sexuality labels in the first place, that has always bothered me. My basic assumption around sexual orientation, for example, has always been that it operates on a person-by-person basis, even if we have tendencies in certain directions. You respond to each person differently. And it seems the same for me around sexuality in general.
I’m in two romantic relationships. In one I’m definitely demisexual according to the aforementioned pair of criteria, but in the other… I’m something else. Because in the other, I’m definitely having a primary sexual response (and have no idea yet whether that’s reciprocated in any way, or whether either/both of us would want to act on that if it were).
So I’m demisexual with one person, and I’m… what? with the other. I’ve decided I need a new label. Heh, this is why there are so many already – because one size never fits all.
What defines my sexuality? That, regardless of whether it’s primary or secondary, for me it only exists in the context of romance. So here’s my shiny new label: pyladeasexual. Pyladea- is a Latin stem meaning simply “romantic”. That works. I’m only sexual (or feel sexual) with people I’m in love with, and sometimes it’s because they want it, and sometimes it’s because I do. Either way, it’s a tricky and tentative business, because abuse history, and because it’s likely I’m also on the Asperger’s spectrum, and for both those reasons have strong responses to physical intimacy.
Stepping back wider than my own stuff, though, there’s a thing that bothers me about the definition of demisexual. Since part of the default definition is this “only in the context of a romantic or otherwise intimate relationship” clause, something doesn’t sit right about calling it demi-.
Does it mean that a secondary sexual response outside of such relationships makes you not demisexual? You never hear of (for example) someone who doesn’t have a primary sex urge, but is willing to be sexual only in casual situations, being described as demisexual.
This implies to me that even asexual/demisexual people treat “full” as opposed to “demi” sexuality as being synonymous with “is able to have casual sex”, which I suspect is a byproduct of our very sexualised society.
There, I’ve finally put my finger on what’s been bothering me – it’s a Golden Mean Fallacy. Buried in the generally accepted definition of demisexual is the assumption that not being up for casual sex is “halfway” between sexuality and asexuality. Pff… I’ll stick with calling myself pyladeasexual – “is sexual (or willing to be so) only where love is involved”.