‘Now I understand why I’ve always been mystified by pornography.’ Illustration: Lo Cole/The Guardian
My life in sex

My life in sex: ‘I can’t feel sexual attraction without an emotional connection’

The person who identifies as demisexual


At 69, I have learned something about myself that has given me a new understanding of my sexuality, and prompted me to re-evaluate large parts of my adult life. I’ve learned that I am a demisexual: a person who doesn’t experience sexual attraction without emotional connection.

Now I understand why I’ve always been mystified by pornography, and uncomfortable with the idea of casual sex. Friends assumed this was because I was either inhibited or overly moralistic – but I’ve never thought casual sex is wrong in any way; I just can’t understand why anyone would want to have it. For me, sex fits only into the context of an intimate relationship. There is clearly a lot about how sexual attraction works for most people that I have never experienced, and only barely understand.

When I was young, I suffered several relationship failures, and tried counselling, before deciding that I was just unlucky. I dated women in the hope that sexual attraction would develop. In some cases it never happened; in others it did and, since that was rare for me, I tended to become deeply attached to the women concerned, and that drove some of them away.

Am I comfortable being demisexual? Yes, I enjoy sex very much and am now blessed with a life partner who greatly enjoys it with me. I find it comforting to know now that I am not an outlier, but part of a group. I’ve read that millennials are more comfortable being demisexual. Maybe I was just ahead of my time?

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