Celtic Riverside – The Online Journal of James Keenan

The Demisexual Feminist

I learned a new word recently! Hooray!

Demisexual.

Feel free to Google the term, the top results are safe for work. What one will find is various lists of criteria to the effect of, “You might be demisexual if”. The short version is someone who does not experience sexual attraction without a strong emotional connection with the other person.

The term was foreign to me, but the concept was not. I wrote about it again and again and again and again without realising.

Now that I am aware, I am concerned, reader.

See, the thing about the other pieces was a combination of merely expressing my personal account and of expressing why hyper-sexualisation and gender violence are profoundly alien to me. Some men see a gorgeous woman and immediately develop a strong sexual attraction. They fantasize about sex with her, imagine what it might be like, and perhaps initiate some plan to see if they can make that a reality.

Like the term toxic masculinity, this is not meant to vilify men or masculinity. Some men see a person they find attractive and respectfully try to establish a connection, perhaps even specifically for the purpose of sex. Other men cross boundaries in their self-interest, leaving the other person feeling offended, scared, disgusted, hurt, or any other form of unwell. That is abhorrent and a focus of gender equality – stop those aggressive behaviours.

However, I had long viewed this tendency as a product of masculinity, toxic or otherwise. Boys like girls. That is the hetero-normative message that many people receive in their youth and society loves to drill that into us. Pair that with the presence of toxic masculinity and men run roughshod in the pursuit of social acceptance. It’s understandable (psychologically) but reprehensible (socially). These gender norms hurt everyone; thus, we pursue gender equality, but I digress.

The point is, some of these other approaches to sexuality felt like factors of gender expectation, whereas mine felt like the product of introspection and logic. I questioned it often, wondering if something was “wrong” with me because I didn’t feel that spark that others seemed to feel, but I was also comfortable not feeling that spark. My relationships worked well for me, and in the age of #MeToo, #TimesUp, and toxic masculinity coming to the forefront of the discussion, I never once worried, “What about that time I…?” I have failed as an ally and still have plenty to learn, but I never egregiously crossed a line where I worried, “What if someone comes after me next?” I specifically wanted to avoid that line my entire life, and it affected my sexuality accordingly.

However, the realisation of the concept of demisexuality changed things though. This was not a personal sexuality I had arrived at through introspection and logic, it was simply a “brand” of sexuality that occurred. Some people are demisexual. Simple. It cast doubt on my views of feminism though. Specifically?

“What if I am able to be patient, to listen, and to understand the concerns of women because I am demisexual? What if the absence of that spark is what allows me enough pause to grow as an ally where other heterosexual men resist feminist concerns?”

In other words, what if the men most inclined to gender violence and toxic masculinity are unable to overcome their baser drives/impulses? Some would say that’s a ridiculous concern, but how does one know for sure? There are male allies, but what if a correlation exists between the intensity of this sexual spark and how good an ally they are?

Bear in mind, one of the hallmarks of toxic masculinity is regarding women as sexual objects, and the worst male offenders of gender equality show the least respect to women in their interactions. The focus is so intently on that spark, it comes to define their interactions with most women.

Men can intervene as allies of women, but those allies are failing to meet the standards of masculinity the men pursue and achieve only marginally more respect than women. The very men society needs to reach develop a defense mechanism to tune out the moment anyone begins to challenge their sense of masculinity.

I used to think it was purely social expectation, but now I worry that sexuality plays a far larger role.

This the the concern of an anxious non-expert though. What are your thoughts?

 

 

 

(Also, I managed to keep a post under 800 words for once.)

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