This is a guest post written by SlightlyMetaphysical of Asexual Curiosities.
Following on from Swank Ivy’s excellent tumblr post, I just wanted to develop and draw out some of the logic in her arguments.
One of the common reactions to the idea of demisexuality is that it’s a made up word which people use to make their normality seem special. Hit the link above for Swank Ivy’s on-the-nose dismissal of this argument.
I think it’s worth pointing out how odd it is to claim that everyone’s demisexual. While I find it difficult to distinguish between my sexual and non-sexual attraction sometimes, it’s clear to me that, when I do experience sexual attraction, I can experience it towards a stranger. It’s obvious to me that there is a cultural assumption that people can, and do, experience sexual attraction to people they don’t know well. It’s also obvious to me that there’s the odd multi-million dollar industry (most of the sex industries, for a start) which cash in on the premise that people experience sexual attraction to people they don’t know well. There are alternative explanations- it’s possible that all those industries actually rely entirely on a combination of sexual arousal and aesthetic attraction, propped up by social norms. But the burden of proof is with the people saying that people like me just don’t exist, and the burden is pretty high.
So let’s work on the assumption that the majority of people can experience sexual attraction to people they don’t know well. In those circumstances, it makes complete sense to make a word for ‘someone who only has the capacity to experience sexual attraction to people they know well.’
The idea that it’s arrogant to create a label for how your brain works differently from everyone else’s… I can’t follow the logic for that without my own brain frying slightly. I have spent so much of my life, in the ace community and in general, pushing against the idea that people think like me. It’s a difficult and bewildering process, it’s painting painstakingly around an invisible object, it’s trying to map the unmappable, and it goes against every instinct and bias that we have. For me, figuring out the ways people are different from you and respecting and working with those differences is the opposite of arrogance. To assume that people think like you and not to question it is the height of egotism.
So when demisexuals say that probably a tiny proportion of the population is demisexual, I see that as humility, not arrogance. They see the general insistence that everyone is non-demisexual, and define themselves against it. There is nothing wrong with this. In fact, the opposite.
But pushing further, there’s no reason that demisexuality can’t be something that 30% of the population can identify with, not 0.5%. There’s no reason that demisexuality can’t be something that 60% of the population can identify with. I’d stop a way before 100%, because I sure as heck am not demisexual, and I’m sure there are others like me (there’s that bias again).
But let’s say, for the sake of a hypothetical, that the naysayers are right, demisexuality is ‘nothing special’. It’s 30, 40 years down the line, and the word demisexual has spread, with record numbers of allosexual people saying, ‘yeah, that’s how I work too!’ 90% of the grey-a/allosexual population doesn’t experience sexual attraction (however we’re defining that this week) to people they don’t know very well. In the past, the non-demi 10% had been vocal enough that it looked like we non-demi’s outnumbered you, but that turned out to be wrong. Basically the naysayers have been right all along, and every demisexual who has ever proposed that they were among the 0.5% of the population with special attraction rules has been proven laughably wrong.
Great. Seriously, great. That is ridiculously awesome news.
Not because it’s inherently better to have an almost entirely demi population than the other way round, but because it’s inherently better to know. Because it’s awesome to have words to express how we think differently from each other and it’s awesome to know roughly how many people think one way and roughly how many people think the other. Because people can lead better-informed lives. They don’t feel the pressure to act non-demisexual. They can discuss their attraction styles with their partners and dates. They can happily have sex or a romantic relationship without having to fake sexual attraction if they want to (and, in mainstream society, I’m pretty sure sexual attraction is currently assumed in both of those things). It’s not a utopia, but everyone understands themselves and each other just that tiny bit better.
So when someone reveals that they’re demisexual, and the response is ‘You don’t need a word for that. That’s just what everyone is!’ I just don’t understand it. Not only because it’s patently obvious from being inside my head, or from just being in the world and looking around me, that it’s not true, but because if it were true, that would be even more reason to talk about it. If everyone was demisexual, and we were all absorbing this cultural baggage that makes us pretend to be non-demisexual, in the belief that that’s normal, how on earth is that an argument that the demisexual people who are just beginning to speak up and self-identify should sit down and shut up? That’s an argument that they should be singing from the rooftops.