I spent one of my loneliest nights at a post pride party in a Mumbai club. It was also startling because not in many instances loneliness could reach me in such busy places. Among them and their confident sexuality, I stood in the middle of the dancing floor, indifferent to the high-pitched music, slightly drunk, and very very lonely.
I blamed my demisexuality for my loneliness. Typically a demisexual person can be defined as someone who only gets sexually attracted to someone with whom they have a strong emotional connection. I have vague memories of when and how I found home in the word ‘demisexuality’, but I vividly remember many instances when I wanted to discard the label. Ironically I come back to it every time.
When friends used to talk about their fun hookup dates, kink, sexting with strangers on dating apps, I remained silent. Deep down, I envied the joy and excitement they experienced— it used to push me down in the spiral of feeling I am missing out on so much pleasure. It’s not that I didn’t try, but every time I parted ways with my demisexuality, it only took me to unexpected places.
One such place is online dating apps - I share a complicated relationship with them. I install them, engage in a couple of half-hearted conversations, and then finally uninstall them. It is a tiring loop of desire and vulnerability.
On one of those vulnerable monsoon nights, a guy texted me and unlike most of the people, he didn't get bewildered with the word demisexuality.
We talked about our love for the monsoon, Netflix recommendations, and the best way to make black filter coffee. He asked if I would want to meet him then, at midnight. I couldn't refuse the thrill in taking the risk. As I entered his house, the first thing I saw was a massive portrait of Waheeda Rehman’s ‘Pyaasa’, and of course him. The conversation, his presence was comforting.
He asked me if we could kiss. I wanted to do it too. We kissed. He wanted to do more, to which I expressed my discomfort. I found myself in a weird, unexpected midnight negotiation of how far I would want to explore intimacy with him. He was displeased and told me, 'Why would you even kiss me in the first place if you are truly demisexual!’
I didn't know how to respond! But being queer has taught me one thing, I don't owe an explanation or apology for who I am or what I feel.
At times like this I find myself surrounded by piles of a self-loathing loop of thoughts — am I faking my demisexuality? Do I just casually use the identity to deny my deeper insecurities with my body, low sexual self-esteem? Am I just emotionally, physically unavailable, shielding myself with a ‘woke’ label?
I know I don't feel primary sexual attraction to people. I know how my lower libido or desire for sex made me feel sexually incompatible with my partners. I know I am not broken. I also know if my demisexuality is deep-seated in insecurities around my body, sexual self-esteem, or emotional, physical unavailability, it's still valid. I know my truth.
In popular Indian culture the concept of loving/sexually engaging with someone after you know them well (perhaps after you marry them), is embedded in prejudice, and not in agency. It dilutes the legitimacy of experiences of demisexual people.
Today, I acknowledge as a queer person, not all my sexual desire is rooted in sexual pleasure. But also in coping with the loneliness that queerness brings, I have realized sexual intimacy also means validation to me. Being touched is a reminder of my personhood and that is why my demisexuality unfolds in many shapes, forms, and curves.
It's liberating to acknowledge this. It saves so much of my energy from ruminating the single story of love, sexuality, and pleasure. It helps me to place value and comfort in platonic relationships in my life. Now, I can embrace boundaries and patience in romantic relationships.
So I will keep talking about my experiences as a demisexual person because, in the end, definitions shouldn’t define people, people should define themselves.