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Black Experiences

Navigating Demisexuality as a Black Woman

"These days, casual hookups and one-night stands seem to be the quickest way to get to know someone. This was never of interest to me. Having sex didn’t scare me, it was the reality of not knowing someone for long and suddenly using our bodies to fulfill a need we both shared. It took me a while to get out of this mindset."

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Written by Britney Avila
Art by Jah’China De Leon

Demisexuality can best be described as a sexual orientation in which emotional connections are prioritized over a physical one. In essence, people who are demisexual experience attraction on a secondary level. This can mean a lot of things to a lot of people but for me, it’s the need to establish an emotional bond regardless if I choose to be physically intimate.

How I found demisexuality isn’t important, but what I learned from identifying as a demisexual for the past five years is that it isn’t a clear-cut sexual orientation. Though I’m only out to a few people, I’ve noticed my sexuality is constantly evolving. The thing is, I’ve been single for a long time. This has allowed me the opportunity to take the time to unravel parts of my identity that weren’t always so transparent. 

College was the first time I was surrounded by healthy and thriving queer relationships. My friends gave me room to explore my sexuality in a non-judgmental light. But then something hit me: everyone around me was either in a relationship or soon to be. Meanwhile, I felt my love life was stagnant and I began to wonder why?

I longed for a deep, loving connection with someone; yet at the same time, I also knew forming a connection like this would be hard unless I was already well acquainted with the person I was dating. 

Black people have been depicted as having an inherent sexual desire throughout history. Whether this manifests as the Jezebel stereotype or the Mandingo, the message is still the same. Some people think because I’m Black, I can’t also be demisexual. That’s a misconception. I’m here to explain to you why this is not the case–at least not for me. Before realizing my demisexuality, I identified as Pansexual because I felt personality was the basis of who I found myself attracted to. Later, when I found out the definition of demisexuality, I figured I’d struck gold.

These days, casual hookups and one-night stands seem to be the quickest way to get to know someone. This was never of interest to me. Having sex didn’t scare me, it was the reality of not knowing someone for long and suddenly using our bodies to fulfill a need we both shared.

As I grew older and settled into my identity as a demisexual, panromantic person, I realized that physical intimacy doesn’t have to feel daunting if, and only if, I understand that I can have both. Initially, I thought I could not be interested in someone sexually UNLESS I also shared an emotional connection with them. This kind of gatekeeping threw me for a loop. Why couldn’t I be demi and have safe, casual sex? Why did I feel as though I couldn’t hold space for both moods? Was the hook-up culture that deplorable? The truth is, I had no way of knowing. I learned I simply had to unpack these notions on my own and figure out what they meant for me as a person. 

As much as there is a spectrum within asexuality, there’s also a spectrum for the way ace-spec people feel about the subject of sex itself. This could range from having indifferent feelings, being neutral, and of course, there’s also sex repulsion and sex positivity. All of these nuances are as varied as the people themselves. That’s the beauty of it! I think given my overall feelings surrounding sex I’d say I’m somewhere between sex-neutral and sex-positive. 

Demisexuality has liberated me in many ways, but most of all it has allowed me to better understand the way my attraction to people forms.

The contradictory parts of being a Black woman who just so happens to be demisexual usually have to do with other people. I often think about the way people perceive me and what they make of my complex sexuality. Black women and femmes have a history of being hypersexualized and fetishized. Knowing this makes me conscious about forming connections that will last in a healthy relationship. However, I soon discovered that finding people with the same identifiers as my own (Black, demisexual woman whose also on the nonbinary spectrum) would be like trying to find a needle in a haystack. It seemed like there just wasn’t enough representation.  Then I found out about the BagLadiez Podcast and I was filled with excitement!

The hosts discuss the meaning of demisexuality on a different level than I had been exposed to. One guest on the show, Akua describes it as wanting to reach a “moral high ground” with another person before engaging in any sexual activity with them. Hearing Black women talk about their sexuality in this casual and laid-back way gave me hope that if and when I decide to begin my dating journey, I’ll at least have some kind of context as to what it’s like navigating the dating scene as a demisexual. Listening to another person’s perspective – especially people with more experience – helped me understand that I don’t have to submit to any of rhetoric I may have internalized about what it means to be demi and how I can or should navigate dating. 

Demisexuality has liberated me in many ways but most of all it has allowed me to better understand the way my attraction to people forms and as I get older, it helps me see that the way I love doesn’t always have to be aligned with the experiences I’ve had. To put it simply, just because someone identifies a certain way, doesn’t mean their expression of self has to be so boxed in. As a Demisexual, I don’t have to walk a straight path that tells me, Demisexuals only engage with sex in one way. I’m no longer limiting myself to this belief that I have to convey my sexuality in one light to be considered exactly as I exist.  And that in itself is freedom.


Britney Avila (she/they) is a Black Queer writer based in NYC. Britney is a lover of books, podcasts, and astrology. Britney usually spends her time with friends or on Netflix and doing occasional free writes on topics that interest her. If You Like My Work, Feel free to Donate Below: https://www.buymeacoffee.com/222BA


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