[CW: This post isn’t about my writing, so if you’re not interested in discussions of sexual orientation or romantic attraction, please feel free to skip this one.]
A friend of mine recently asked me to explain demisexuality and asexuality, as I’d brought them up in a discussion. Since I am neither, I had to rely on what I’ve learned in working to understand these fairly recently identified orientations, research I’ve done in earnest since two of my three children identify as asexual. I wrote:
“Asexuals are people who aren’t interested in sexual relationships with other people. Demisexuals are people who aren’t interested in sexual relationships with other people unless they know a person really, really well and feel super comfortable with them.
“Demisexuals are sometimes referred to as falling into the “gray ace” category, which is murky, and I don’t completely understand it myself, but they fall into a spectrum outside of the usual straight to gay spectrum, and instead, are not generally sexually attracted to other people.
“What I have learned from my own questions about asexuality show that while they don’t feel sexually attracted to people, they can still feel sexual desire, but it’s usually focused on their inner fantasies and outwardly on fictional characters. Ace might also engage in self pleasure without the desire to share their bodies with other people.”
The discussion inspired the urge to create a chart. The following is a bit rough, given I whipped it up on PicMonkey in under fifteen minutes and not a more sophisticated piece of design software, but it sums up what I wished to show. (Explanation below the chart.)
Consider this as the two-dimensional shape making up the range of sexual attraction people can experience. The horizontal diameter of the spheroid sums up the familiar straight to gay spectrum (and every area in between, including variations of bisexual/pansexual), but where do demisexuals, asexuals, and beyond find themselves?
That’s where the vertical diameter comes into play. It explores the breadth of the desire spectrum. Another way to look at this is to consider the population of adults in the world, and the amount of those adults an individual adult might find sexually attractive. This range goes from asexuals who are not sexually attracted to other people at all to omnisexuals who find everyone sexually attractive in some way. Demisexuals, bisexuals, and pansexuals find themselves somewhere between the two polar opposites.
What’s an omnisexual? I’ve yet to meet one, but the term was used to describe the character Captain Jack Harkness of Doctor Who and Torchwood who quite literally finds everyone attractive (and is often found attractive in kind).
Now, the chart has small print stating that this spheroid can be reproduced to show one’s romantic desires. I had a friend who was pansexual (he was sexually attracted to people across the gender spectrum) and homoromantic (he only wanted to have romantic, long-term relationships with men), although he had made an exception for a long-term relationship with a woman who taught Tantra. Asexuals might not ever find themselves sexually attracted to people, but they can find themselves desiring a romantic, emotionally intimate, long-term relationship with one or more people, and they might even agree to engage in sex for their partner’s pleasure without feeling desire for it themselves.
If this chart showed both the sexual and romantic desires of a person, it would create a three-dimensional spheroid that would bisect one another and connect at the midpoints. An individual could then show within a globe-like model, exactly where their desires lie. But for now, we work in two-dimensional images to show the same.
This chart is intended to help people better identify themselves (and when necessary, explain it in a visual way). If I placed myself on both charts, I would be right on the pansexual spot where the vertical line passes through, but higher between panromantic and omniromantic, because I like to snuggle and flirt and develop long-term relationships with lots of people. Someone who is demisexual, but has only found themselves attracted to loved ones of a give gender, might move themselves closer to one or the other side of the horizontal line, while remaining on demisexual.
The one area where this would like cause the most confusion or contention are having two different sections for bisexual and pansexual. While most bisexuals consider themselves no different than pansexuals (and they’re generally not), there are some self-identifying bisexuals who have a fixed gender binary mindset who don’t accept transgender, agender, or non-binary identities as valid, or at the least, are not attracted to people whose gender isn’t either firmly female or male.
My hope is this chart will be of use to others. Perhaps someone can clean it up and make it cleaner and clearer in its depiction. I first hand drew this as something more akin to a seed, with fixed points on the horizontal line and sweeping arcs lifting like bell curves. Let me know what you think, and if I defined your sexuality poorly, or you have more to add, I’d love to hear it.