As a sex and relationship coach, people are often surprised to find out that I am demisexual, a term that describes someone who identifies as only being sexually attracted to people they are emotionally invested in. Often, people assume that because I teach others about sexuality, it must be really easy to get into my pants. The reality is, the more that I study sex, the less I want to have it unless I feel emotionally connected. For me, it makes the experience much more profound and fun.

Demisexuality is a category of self-identification. It is just who you are. Though the identity may oftentimes be confined to romantic relationships, but it doesn’t need to be. Meaning, you can still identify as demisexual and hook up or engage in sex with someone you’re not in a partnership with. However, the emotional attraction presupposes any physical attraction.

After almost a decade of dating and hooking up, I realized that unless I felt deeply and completely safe with and connected to someone, I couldn’t have an orgasm. I would often also feel depressed after casual sex, as if something had been taken from me that I didn’t want to give. I might even be a little bit disgusted if I didn’t have the sense that the other person truly saw all of me and my power as a sexual being. (It’s important to note that I believe people can find that in casual sex, but I was unable to access it for myself.)

I also realized that when I would self-pleasure, I would only fantasize about people who I felt I could realistically be emotionally connected to. This created a little mind trap for me where I would get stuck thinking about exes, because they were the only people I felt compelled to be physical with. (This was until I taught myself to self-pleasure to energy and Tantra, but that is a story for another article.)

Dating as a demisexual, particularly as a sex coach, has had its own interesting path to navigate. It sometimes seems contradictory to people who I date, which actually makes it easier for me to see where we are not aligned. Men, after asking about my profession, often turn our entire date into a conversation about how “we have things to teach each other.” This is a very immediate turnoff for me, beyond my identity. I don’t enjoy being confined to my profession as the only means through which someone wants to explore my depths. Being a sex coach does not equal me giving you a lesson. People book appointments for that. It seems to be especially difficult to grasp that my actual sexual essence feels very personal and is only for people who inspire that response in me through a very particular path of respect and recognition.

This makes demisexuality, and claiming it as an identity, a really empowering experience. I have had the opportunity to practice staying in my power in understanding my desire while focusing on getting to know someone instead of wondering about when or how I will feel comfortable being intimate with them. The last guy I liked ended things when I did not want to get physical after several dates. I was very interested in him, but I did not feel safe expressing my desire with him quite yet. Several years ago, I am sure I would have slept with him sooner to conform to social norms and his expectations, and I would have felt depleted and used afterward. I see my lack of interest in escalating things physically as a sign from my body that I am not yet ready to be with a person in that way.

Claiming this identity has helped me stop sleeping with people out of fear, loneliness, self-deprecating thought patterns, and any other reason that isn’t I actually like this person. Some people who identify as demisexual need to get to know a person over an extended period of time in order to feel any attraction. I still get crushes, but they are very rare and are often inspired by deep and profound conversations about philosophy or spirituality, not by how someone looks (this caused a seven-month long infatuation with my barista, for example).

In continuing to date as a demisexual, I don’t feel a need to “come out” on dates. But I do set clear physical boundaries with people. Simply being open about where your level of comfort is will likely end some of your relationships on date one. To me, that is a great thing; it leaves more space for the person you do want to date to find you. It saves you from lackluster sexual experiences with people who don’t fully honor your unique sexuality. And if you are someone who can have sex without connection, I celebrate that, too. But embracing that my desire comes from emotions has truly changed my life and made me comfortable in my power. If you’re leaning that way, I sincerely hope it can offer the same for you.