What is sapiosexuality, what does it mean, and how can it affect our relationships?
Attraction. Sometimes it can be hard to define but there’s no denying that we like what we like, and exploring and embracing those desires can be great not only for our relationships, but our mental health, wellbeing, and sexual satisfaction.
If you’ve ever found yourself feeling more attracted to someone’s mind over their body, it could be a sign that you may be sapiosexual.
What does it mean to be sapiosexual?
Sapiosexuality means that you find intelligence sexually attractive or arousing. A type of sexuality, in order to feel sexually attracted to someone, sapiosexuals first have to feel intellectually stimulated.
In use since 1998, the term has become more mainstream since the mid-2010s, when dating sites began including sapiosexual as a sexual orientation option. The term itself is derived from the Latin sapere, meaning to be wise or to have sense.
If you are sapiosexual, the first thing you might notice about a potential partner is likely to be their intelligence. You find the way other people’s minds work, or how intellectual they are, to be attractive. You may not find other common points of attraction people talk about (e.g. height, shape, hair colour, humour, body type, facial features) to be something that you find attractive or stimulating in and of itself. Sapiosexuals often do not feel lust, desire, or sexual gratification without first being stimulated on an intellectual level.
Can anyone be sapiosexual?
Anyone can identify as sapiosexual alongside being heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual, pansexual, or any number of other sexualities. You may find yourself attracted to men, women, those who identify as trans, nonbinary, genderfluid, or those of any gender or sexual identity.
One 2011 study revealed that intelligence may actually be one of the top three traits we look for in a potential partner – meaning attraction to intelligence could be a lot more common than we realise.
Is sapiosexuality the same as demisexuality?
Being demisexual is not the same as being sapiosexual. Someone who is demisexual needs to form an emotional bond before they can feel sexual or romantic attraction. A sapiosexual may immediately feel attraction if they experience intellectually stimulating conversations or debates.
Is sapiosexuality really an orientation?
As a relatively new term, it does come with some controversy, as some believe sapiosexuality is not an orientation, but a type of attraction (alongside types of attraction such as romantic, emotional, sexual, physical, or platonic). However, many who describe themselves as sapiosexual say that intelligence, for them, is more than just one quality they appreciate in a potential partner: it is the driving force behind their sexual attraction.
For some, using the term can be seen as controversial, as some critics have called sapiosexuality a form of discrimination, as well as calling it elitist, classist, racist, ableist and euro-centric. As intellect can be hard to quantify, some people believe that sapiosexuality is ‘pretentious’ and, while it’s OK to find intelligence attractive, you should be mindful of how you are judging that intelligence.
For example, some critics worry that those who identify as sapiosexual may assume or believe that everyone who has not been to university is not intelligent, or those who are neurodivergent cannot be intellectual. Critics worry that, by focusing purely on cognitive abilities, we may be devaluing others.
How do I know if I am sapiosexual?
There are a number of different signs you can look out for to better understand if you may be sapiosexual or not. If you find yourself identifying with most or all of the signs below, you may be sapiosexual:
- you find intelligence sexier than physical appearances
- you enjoy listening to those who are passionate, knowledgable, and able to articulate themselves
- you prefer engaging in deep conversations over small talk (with your partner or in general)
- the potential for intellectual conversation and stimulation matters more than what your partner does for a living or their earning potential
- you are always looking to learn and expand your knowledge in new ways (be that through reading, documentaries, lectures, panels, further education, online discussions, or more)
- you love to debate things or have thought-provoking discussions
- you find yourself becoming more attracted to someone the more you get to know them (e.g. their emotional intelligence, how they resolve conflict, their wit, their thought process)
- you find things (or people) you consider to be foolish to be extremely frustrating and a turn-off
Does being sapiosexual impact your relationship?
It can impact relationships for some people. You may find that how you communicate is different, as your relationship with a sapiosexual partner may be based more around intellectually focused activities or interactions, as well as how foreplay may look for you. For some, it can mean relationships may be slower to develop as it can take time to get to know someone on an intellectual level. While for others, it can create a sense of pressure to ‘live up’ to their partner’s expectations, potentially creating a sense of stress, being on-edge or anxious.
As with any relationship, it’s important to focus on healthy communication, openness and honesty. If you feel uncomfortable, pressured, or have any worries about your relationship or partner, it’s important to speak with your partner. Counselling Directory member and MBACP(Accred) Counsellor, Graeme Orr, explains more about communication and how to better communicate in your relationship.
“Communication is the key to a good relationship. Yet, good communication does not come without making time for each other and practice. To create the foundations of a strong relationship, it is critical that you and your partner learn to effectively listen and talk to each other. Getting it right can make the difference between a relationship that works, and one that breaks down. If communication is a difficulty in your relationship, you might want to consider getting help.”
Do we even need labels to define our sexuality?
Some people find that labels can help them to better understand themselves, as it gives them a more concrete feeling of what they want, as well as a way to share with others their wants and needs.
Others find that labels can be restrictive, that they pigeon-hole them, or make them second-guess themselves and if they are ‘enough’ to use a certain label. Some find that labels make them question themselves, or even worry that others will judge them for using a specific label.
There’s no right or wrong when it comes to deciding if using a label is right for you. It’s more important to figure out what you are comfortable with, explore what you do and do not enjoy, and gain a better understanding of your wants, needs, and desires. It’s OK to identify with some, many, or all aspects of a label (or more than one!) without feeling the pressure to use that label yourself, in private or public. There is no rush to do anything faster than you feel comfortable with.
Becoming comfortable with your sexual identity
Our sexuality can have a huge effect on our identity, and how well we feel we can fit in with others. For some, it can lead to self-doubt, as well as facing issues from others, such as a lack of understanding, discrimination, or even bullying. Self-acceptance can be a huge step towards better understanding and embracing your sexual identity. When we try to ignore a part of ourselves or suppress it, it can lead to other issues, such as damaging your overall sense of wellbeing and can even negatively impact your mental health.
Find out more about how sexuality counselling and therapy for LGBTQ+ mental health can help and support you with Counselling Directory.