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In my dating life, I’ve often described my sexuality as “taking a while to warm up.” This is what I would say to men who tried to take things physically further — whether it was a first kiss or anything beyond that — with me on a fourth or fifth date. I would stop them, and they would often seem confused — or worse, angry.

“Well … how long?” some would ask. I’ve never known what to say. It’s been frustrating for me, too, but I’ve never felt ready for anything beyond a good-night hug until . . . suddenly I am ready. Sometimes it’s taken weeks, sometimes it’s taken months, sometimes I’ve never gotten there.

I’ve spent part of this year questioning my sexuality. After what had been nearly a year of feeling almost completely uninterested in dating, I told a friend that I wondered if I was asexual. My friend thought for a minute. “Obviously, you know yourself better than anyone,” she began. “But I’d be very surprised if that were the case. Just based on your previous sexual history, sparse as it may seem to you. I think you should do some research.”

A couple of weeks later, I was sitting in my apartment when I saw someone on Twitter reference demisexuality. I wasn’t familiar with the term, so I looked up the definition. Demisexuality is when a person doesn’t feel physically and sexually attracted to another person unless they feel a deep, emotional connection to them.

I thought immediately of my clumsy explanations to potential partners, and it hit me. Urban Dictionary defined demisexuality as the sexual orientation of a person “who does not experience primary attraction, the physical or sexual attraction, but does experience secondary attraction, deep emotional attraction. Like asexuals, demisexuals often don’t have sex due to lack of attraction but they can and some do, when with a person they most likely already have a deep emotional connection with.”

As I read about demisexuality, I knew immediately that the term described me perfectly. This was probably why so many of my relationships ended after several weeks or months of not feeling comfortable with a new person; it was also one of the reasons I’ve had fewer sexual partners than most other people I knew. I used to joke that I would only ever sleep with people I’d been dating for at least three months, or people I’d been friends with for three years.

Years ago, I would feel guilty for frustrating the people I was dating. I didn’t want to feel as if I needed to explain to people why I wasn’t ready to be intimate. But I felt that way anyway.

Even though I haven’t met any anyone else who identifies as demisexual, there’s at least one great resource I’ve found online: Demisexuality.org aggregates resources and articles and maintains a forum where demisexuals and their partners can chat and exchange information.

Figuring out that I am demisexual has been a relief, and it hasn’t changed much about how I date. I’ve never let physical attraction guide my dating decisions. I have a pretty clear idea about what kinds of people I do or don’t want to date; I generally put intellect and sense of humor over how “attractive” someone is. If a guy doesn’t say anything offensive and makes me laugh on a first date, I’ll probably go on a second. Still, I know that a person’s positive attributes don’t necessarily guarantee that a physical attraction will follow. I just have to be patient and see what happens.

Because I haven’t been dating this year, I haven’t yet discussed my sexuality with a potential partner. In the past, I’ve told people that I have to take things extremely slow. There have been times where I’ve really wanted to connect with a person I’m dating; I would spend a bunch of time with them but never really get there. It was frustrating for them, but it was hard for me, too. Still, I’d rather invest that time them than push myself to be intimate before I feel ready.

I’m just glad that a term for my sexuality exists, even if it’s one I’ll probably have to explain to my future partners. As I continue to date, that conversation will probably serve as a decent screening process.

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