There’s No Such Thing as “Sapiosexual”

I’m So Tired of Pretentious Identity Movements

Joe Duncan
Apr 28 · 7 min read

I really, really don’t mean to come off like an ass, here, but frankly, I’m really concerned about the blurring of science and fact, reason, and understanding, with feelings and identities. It’s not that those latter things are invalid, but we seem to, on a collective level, have a problem discerning what’s the realm of identity and what’s the realm of fact. That is, we can’t discern fact from fiction. I hope in earnest that you’ll understand that I’m not writing this to be inflammatory or to offend, but we need to clear the air and come to a mutual collective understand about what’s a sexual preference and what’s a sexual orientation, a line that’s continually getting blurred and oftentimes to someone’s detriment. That’s right, if we’re not careful, our choice of identities and how we express ourselves while seeming benign can sometimes threaten the rights of other people. I’ll explain this much in a bit.

Let’s start with a few definitions of what’s what so we understand what’s going on before we proceed.

  • A sexual preference is a desired trait in a partner that we’d like to see or even need in order to feel attraction or arousal. A great ass, a bright smile, long hair, and yes, intelligence, all of these things are sexual preferences and in another light, personal preferences. These traits aren’t immutable, they’re learned and usually picked up through life experiences, imagery, previous partners, etc., we learn our sexual preferences from our empirical experiences starting when we’re really young and it’s a continuous process throughout life.
  • A sexual orientation, on the other hand, is a completely different thing. Sexual orientation is an immutable attraction to people that fit into a certain space on the sex-gender spectrum. Heterosexuality means someone can only be aroused when interactions involve someone of the opposite sex who presents as the opposite sex. Homosexuality is the same, but with the same sex rather than the opposite. Bisexual people are capable of feeling attraction and arousal for someone of the same sex who’s sex matches their gender expression or someone from the opposite sex who’s sex matches their gender expression. Pansexual people are capable of feeling attraction for anyone, regardless of their sex or gender expression.

It’s extremely pertinent to note that gender expression is itself a statement about biological sex. There is no gender expression that doesn’t make a claim about biological sex. Even non-binary is a claim that biological sex is irrelevant, or less relevant, or too graduated to be set in stone and viewed through a binary lens. But nobody’s gender expression is marijuana.

Okay, well, maybe Snoop Dogg’s gender expression is marijuana, but that’s it, he’s the only one who gets to make that claim.

Jokes aside, those are the four horsepersons of the sexual orientation apocalypse. There is also, at current, a bit of a robust debate that’s not yet rested on how to classify asexuality. On the one hand, asexuality is a sexual orientation like atheism is a religion, that is to say, it’s not. On the other hand, asexual people need representation and that’s something that science needs to sort out. All things in due time, I suppose.

But anything outside of these won’t be found in the medical literature of the American Psychological Association or other institutions in charge of studying and understanding sexual orientation and how it affects the world. You definitely won’t find words like “sapiosexual” or “demisexual” floating around. Because both terms tell us absolutely nothing about the sex (and expression of sex) of the types of persons we’re attracted to.

Certainly, you might be able to go find a blog somewhere with someone, possibly with serious credentials, talking about “sapiosexuality” or “demisexuality” or what have you, but there’s really no ongoing, robust debate in the world of psychology. Blogs aren’t science. Not even Healthline.

I can similarly find people with Ph.D. degrees and other sorts of high caliber credentials talking about how smoking doesn’t cause cancer or how climate change is a hoax, but rest assured, these aren’t people who are seriously engaged in the debate around these subjects. They’re outliers, meaning they’re dissenting voices in an otherwise closed debate presenting very unscientific views.

Outside of a single questionnaire where the person can choose it as a second option, there isn’t a single result on the National Institute of Health web site for the search term “sapiosexual.” It doesn’t exist. It’s an identity movement and nothing else. It’s a sexual identity in the same way Republican is a political identity, which means it’s a term that people are just making up to make themselves seem smart, cultured, unique, or posh.

It’s also the attempt to make the immutable (something like sexual orientation) into the mutable and conflate the two, which could possibly be disastrous, considering how far we’ve come and how many battles were hard-fought around the idea that sexual orientation is fixed and immutable and thus ought to be guaranteed legal protections under the law like other things such as race, national origin, etc. If we just conflate all of these things into one big meaningless oblivion, pretty soon, activists trying to defend LGBTQ rights are going to have a very difficult time pushing forward when they have to tease out these different distinctions because some lawmakers and voters couldn’t parse out the difference between bona fide science and internet hubris. When we just make up random sexual orientations and roll with it because we’re so starved for identity, we begin to trample on the legitimate sexual orientations of others, which is, safe to say, umm, rude…

Once we blur the lines between the mutable and immutable sexual traits, all bets are off, and we’ve provided those who would rather oppress the LGBTQ people among us with all of the fodder in the world to stop up the gears of the machine. I fear that if we blur the lines and make everything indistinct, especially speaking as if things are legitimate that have no scientific credibility, we’ll someday wake up and find that people have run out of legitimate defenses that the courts take seriously. Protections for sexuality will become a laughing stock of something to ask for because the terms had been so muddied to the point of intelligibility.

What’s also low-key kind of bothersome is the fact that just regular heterosexuality, homosexuality, or bisexuality aren’t good enough for such people. It’s classism and elitism in its ugliest versions.

“I don’t date stupid people,” is what’s intended when someone says, “I’m a sapiosexual,” in such a callous, elitist way. It’s a way of calling other people stupid without actually saying it. It just reeks of the pungent stench of suburban classism, manufactured identity, and, in an odd way, punching-up at the more traditional social structures which serve as the guides to human attraction. It’s a new form of alternative culture and that’s perfectly okay, or it would be if it weren’t masquerading around like a bona fide sexual orientation, rather than the stated preference that it actually is.

It’s like, glad to note you’ve crowned yourself king or queen intelligence, someone who’s just so brilliant that you can’t even be bothered but to not feel attraction to people you’ve deemed ‘unworthy’ of being so much as noticed by your vastly superior intellect. Very little in this world is as attractive as thinly veiled arrogance. I hope you can taste the palpable sarcasm laced in those words.

The whole thing was borne out of the internet and internet culture which means it shouldn’t even be taken seriously, to begin with…

The other bothersome thing is that almost invariably, the people who use this term never actually turn out to be super smart. They’re pretty average and tend to think that spending more time at bookstores than shopping malls is the credential that qualifies one as being ‘smarter’ than others. But that’s not all…ready for the real kicker?

Stop and look around and I think you’ll notice that the people referring to themselves as ‘sapiosexual’ never actually date people who are super smart either. Which is supposed to be the whole fucking premise of the term! Show me the astrophysicists and theoretical physicists, the academic philosophers and mathematicians using the term ‘sapiosexual’ as they date each other, please, and I’ll gladly stand corrected, but until then, I’ll be operating on the assumption that it’s just a bunch of average people, of average intelligence, working average jobs, being judgmental as hell to everyone else, all in hopes that they can claim some sort of superiority points.

Usually, these kinds of people are just average people looking for other average people who are just not into the more popular iterations of media, so it’s just really a different variant of consumerism they’re after and seeking to identify. But most of the time, such people would quickly find themselves in over their heads dating someone in the upper 1% of intelligence per the IQ, methinks. Hell, most people who use the term probably wouldn’t enjoy themselves in the company of the top 10% of intelligence.

It’s like, great, you’ve read a couple of books and can order a fancy latte at Starbucks and now you get to tell everyone why you’re better than them? Well, isn’t that just obnoxious? I’m glad you share memes about how stupid the Kardashians are, but bashing on people you deem stupid doesn’t actually make you smart, I’ll have you know. How about we stop using this term altogether and let social scientists and biologists figure out what’s going on when it comes to sexual orientation. Let’s stay in our own lanes, shall we?

Thank you for reading. Feel free to get in touch on Twitter or subscribe to my newsletter for future updates and much more to come. This story may contain affiliate links through which I make a commission.

All I’m asking is that if we’re going to use modernized terms of sexual expression, let’s at least make sure we get them right, as Shannon Ashley has artfully done an excellent job of, here:

Flux Magazine

Where Philosophy Happens

Joe Duncan

Written by

From Los Angeles, California. Life isn’t a series of many moments, but one moment that is always changing. Buy me coffee here:

Flux Magazine

Where Philosophy Happens

Joe Duncan

Written by

From Los Angeles, California. Life isn’t a series of many moments, but one moment that is always changing. Buy me coffee here:

Flux Magazine

Where Philosophy Happens

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