What is Sapiosexuality & Why Your Clients May Struggle with That Term
Sapiosexual refers to a person who finds intelligence the most sexually attractive element of another person. A quick google search of the definition (and, trust me, I’ve looked at ALL the definitions) might cause more confusion than clarification. Unfortunately, like all things involving sex, it’s complicated. Sapiosexuality isn’t as simple as finding smart people sexy.
I am a middle-aged, college educated, middle-class, white, thin, neurotypical cis female. Privilege makes that easy to say. I am a 2 on the Kinsey scale. That’s a little harder to acknowledge publicly. I also identify (to some people-and now to all of you) as a sapiosexual. Even as I type that sentence, I notice a lot of anxiety in my body. Do I have a right to claim that identity?
Why does the sapiosexual label affect me that way? In order to understand, let me share a bit more.
My Sexual Identity Journey to Sapiosexuality
“New Kids On The Block are nice, but can we watch Bill Nye instead?” -13 year old Me
There were some red flags that I was different growing up, but nothing glaring. First of all, I never had crushes on boys (or girls) that I didn’t know. I never bought or fawned over Teen Beat style magazines or became a crazy fan of any boy band members. I was never attracted to the popular “jock” type of boys at school, but I definitely had crushes on boys that seemed to prefer studying to dating. I was also attracted to several of my teachers.
In college, the few times I went to bars with friends to meet guys, I was terribly bored. No one EVER appealed to me as I stood there looking around, feeling deflated. My genetics usually did the hard work for me and men would typically approach me to chat. That’s when things would happen or, sadly more often, not happen. My friends accused my standards of being too high. I considered and reconsidered my sexuality because I thought maybe guys just didn’t “do it” for me even as I knew I was (mostly) straight.
Side Note: If you’re turned on by the stimulating conversation of intelligent people, loud bars and clubs aren’t always the most ideal place to go.
It never occurred to me whether my boyfriends were hot (or not). It’s not that I dated “below average looking” men, but their appearance simply never mattered. I’d meet them and if I liked them- *poof* -I’d be attracted to them. All of a sudden, they’d be sexy af (as the kids say).
What was the secret sauce? Why were some of the guys who weren’t attractive to my friends like catnip to me? I’m not a demisexual; I didn’t need to know people for a long time to be attracted to them. Often I could be attracted to them after a single conversation. I might have actively DISLIKED them through observation before meeting them, then chatted with them once only to feel a pang of desire.
Here’s the kicker: I could be attracted to people I had never even seen! Guys I met online or got to know through emails/texts were often way more attractive sexually than randoes standing around at a bar. The difference: a clear demonstration of intelligence. I thought they were smart.
I guess I always knew deep down that I was sexually attracted to intelligence (apparently Einstein *isn’t* attractive to everyone…but, c’mon, Neil Degrasse Tyson? <fan myself>). It was in 2016 that I first heard the word: sapiosexual. I googled it and felt like I was reading about myself! That was it! I’m not attracted to people by their looks. I need to believe someone is smart(er than me) in order to find them sexually attractive.
But wait. Is that the definition of sapiosexual? Well…
Isn’t Everyone Smarter Than You (In Some Way)?
Here’s where the definition of sapiosexuality (and this article) gets sticky: the subjectivity of intelligence. What proves that someone is “smart?” Is it a degree from higher education? Is it wisdom accumulated over a long and eventful life? Is it Street Smarts? How about the number of books they’ve read or how well they can manage complex mathematical equations and concepts in their head? Is it emotional intelligence? Maybe it’s elocution and a proclivity for the irreverently verbose . (See what I did there?)
To me, it can be any or all of those things. I am attracted to people whom I find well read and able to discuss concepts I’ve never considered and can’t easily figure out. Young or old, degree or no, if they can engage me with conversation that displays a deep understanding of concepts that feel “above my head,” I’m sexually intrigued. I’ve dated drop-outs with photographic memories, comedians, and aeronautics engineers. It’s not about money, career, or social standing.
“But, Amanda, why would that trigger you?”
To tell you the truth, when I read the definition for the first time, I felt no shame. Heck, it was more like relief; I felt seen! But then I did more digging and read long Instagram posts about how ableist the term is. I read about how sapiosexuality can be perceived as a fetish used with/against folks on the autism spectrum. It was defined as a bandwagon term used to make privileged, college-educated people feel better about being attracted to other people of privilege.
It forced me to take a hard look at the details of my identity. It made me pause and reconsider the implications of the definition. I realized I had to decide whether I wanted to label myself that way .