Demisexual and Grey Ace: The Sexual Orientations We Don’t Discuss Enough

We may be more comfortable talking about sex than previous generations, but there are still some aspects of sex and sexuality that don’t get discussed enough. One of these is the question of demisexuality – and whether it should be included under the rainbow umbrella of the LGBTQ+ community. To be demisexual is to be invested in emotional monogamy as the foundation for sexual activity.

Demisexuality, by definition, is a sexual orientation in which a person, unlike an asexual, is capable of feeling sexual desire only if they share a strong emotional bond with the other person. Some people find the term problematic because a demisexual person doesn’t identify as sexual or asexual.

I consider demisexuality closer to the asexual side of the spectrum but the differences between demi and asexuality are too obvious to ignore. Asexuality is the complete lack of sexual desire. For some people, sexual desire is not a basic human need (sorry, Freud). Whereas demisexuals can, and might, feel sexual desire. They don’t lack a sex drive, they just don’t tend to experience sexual desire without an emotional bond.

Yale Univertsity’s Robert Sternberg’s Triangular Theory of Love is a model which helps understand this concept. According to Sternberg, love is made up of three components: intimacy, passion and commitment. Intimacy refers to emotional closeness and commitment defines long-term dedication and passion deals with the sexual component. If you’re asexual, passion is absent, notwithstanding other components like intimacy or commitment. Such love is called Companionate Love. However, if you’re demisexual, you can feel passion in the presence of intimacy and commitment, but not without the two.

Passion, Intimacy, Commitment: Sternberg’s triangular theory of love is based on these three pillars. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Recently a friend pointed out that people tend to refer to demisexuality as grey asexuality. But, grey asexuality or ‘grey ace’ is very different from demisexuality.

To start, grey asexuality is used to describe someone who does feel sexual desire but has a really low sex drive. Sexual feelings exist, just their intensity and frequency is minimal. If you identify with being grey ace, your sexual desire isn’t tied to emotional attachment, unlike demisexuality. Masturbating and hooking up may be easier if you’re a grey ace, but not if you’re demisexual.

One important commonality between the two may be the consumption of porn. Speaking from anecdotal evidence, it seems demisexuals are unaffected by porn, much like asexuals, because there is little to no emotional attachment to be experienced in such viewing.

So it’s not fair to think of demisexuality as the middle ground between asexuality and the experiencing of sexual desire. It’s not merely a grey area. In fact, as I’ve just shown, the title of ‘grey asexuality’ is a different concept altogether. Demisexuality is a spectrum in itself and rightfully deserves a space under the ace umbrella.

Prithiva Sharma is a second-year student at Gargi College, Delhi University.