Sometimes I support the idea that proliferation of identities approximates deconstruction, but demisexual is the dumbest thing ever, right down to its etymology. Fair enough if you take an extended hibernation, limiting your sexual activity to summer and spring, but any non-temporal reading suggests that demisexual is halfway on “the asexual spectrum”, between the poles of asexuality and “full” sexuality.
a person who does not experience primary sexual attraction but yet still experiences secondary sexual attraction. Primary sexual attraction being sexual attraction based on outward qualities such as a person’s looks, clothes, or personality. Secondary sexual attraction being attraction to another stemming from emotional connection (usually romantic) or status or how closely the person is in relationship to the other.
Other definitions give primary attraction as based only on that which is immediately perceptible (looks, smell, clothes, etc), not personality. For some demisexual implies panromantic inclinations, while others use it with gendered orientations (eg a “heteroromantic demisexual” would be someone who only wants to fuck within the context of heterosexual romance).
It would be silly enough for a sexual identity to not only accept but reinforce a notion of normative sexuality, but the normative sexuality implied by demisexual isn’t even correct. For women at least, normative sexuality presupposes “deep emotional connection” as a requisite condition for sex — if it didn’t, we wouldn’t have concepts like “nymphomania”. Isn’t there enough slut-shaming in society as it is?
I don’t buy the argument that demisexual can exist without denigrating promiscuity. Even if individual demisexuals don’t use their identities as a value judgement on other people’s sexuality, demisexual already assumes a normative centre, and elaborates the sex of that centre as being based on “primary characteristics”. Never mind that the primacy of those characteristics (such as gender) might be something we actively resist. Never mind how we might understand our own motivations or attractions and the ebb and flow of desire. How does a demisexual differ from me (sexual, pan, poly, fussy)? Presumably I’ll want sex earlier in a relationship than they will, or with people I don’t know as well as they’d need to — but if I haven’t fucked someone by the third date I assume they just like to pay for meals and lose arguments. I hear that most girls work slower — apparently there’s even rules about it. So how is a demisexual different from your run-of-the-mill, sex-after-love romantic? And doesn’t demisexual deny the fluidity of sexual(ity)?
Even if all this is true, it may yet be insufficient grounds on which to deny anyone’s self-identification (though I don’t accept that it’s never justified to do so). And I realise that many other sexual identities involve similar value judgements: eg, when people talk about bisexual or pansexual as being attracted “to a person, not a gender”, when I think that describes people of all sexual identities, even if gender might be a factor (which it is for many bi and pan people anyway). Or how poly people talk about monogamy sometimes. I think it’s always rude to pretend your tastes are more profound and less superficial than others. Nevertheless, I feel that demisexual is especially problematic and I’d like to hear the rebuttal.
What does all this have to do with flagging? I think flagging is about communicating something that usually isn’t immediately perceptible, which destabilises the distinction between primary and secondary attraction. More than that, hanky code creates a sexual lexicography that enables a level of specificity and intentionality that I think is inherently queer, regardless of who practices it, while demisexual seems to me anti-queer in reinforcing fixed and stable sexual identities. This isn’t about sex positivity necessarily — I think dominant culture is both relentlessly sexual and particularly anxious about sex; I wouldn’t call it repressive or oversexualised – but a critical relation to normative sex.
In response to Pico the Great’s post:
I think your point that demisexual comes at sex and love “from an asexual, rather than sexual, perspective”, is pretty useful. This makes sense to me — that the resulting position might look the same to another person (in terms of stated desires and concrete action) but is coming from a different direction.
If there is a bell curve of human sexuality, zero to ten, then there will be folks all from one end to the other, from -1 to 11, expressing themselves and realizing themselves in a myriad of ways. [...] Promiscuity is simply on the 10 or 11 end of the bell curve, just as demi is on the 1 or 2 end.
As I said to Emma Rainbow below, I reject all views of sexuality as a spectrum or scale — I think this forces complex subjectivities into a binary opposition. But accepting this spectrum for the moment, I would have said asexual is all numbers ≤0, and everything above 0 is just sexual — a 1 or 2 isn’t “demisexual” any more than 10 or 11 is “hypersexual” (though “hyposexual” would seem more apt to me than “demi-”). I can accept though that someone who thinks of themselves as a 0 but sometimes ventures into positive integers will retain an asexual identity despite their actions, just as dykes can retain lesbian identity despite having sexual relationships with men. The “demi” etymology still bothers me but that’s just my pedantry at work. (To be fair, you used the words “anthypophora” and “apodioxis”.)
By the way, you used male pronouns for me: I’m a woman, which is why I’m positioning my sexuality in relation to norms of female sexuality. As a cis woman whose femaleness is rarely questioned, and whose preference for gender-inclusive pronouns is inessential, misgendering me isn’t a big deal, but I do think it says something about the way you read (ie, androcentrically). This criticism is valid regardless of your gender.