What is a Sapiosexual?

Brain and heart made of string

Only recently did I find out that there is a term to describe the type of attraction I’ve always experienced with my husband. It turns out that I am sapiosexual – i.e., I’m attracted to someone based primarily on their intellectual prowess. Who knew?

The Definition of “Sapiosexual”

According to The New York Times, the term “sapiosexual” (“sapio” means “to think” in Latin) was conjured up in 1998 by Darren Stalder, a blogger and engineer in Seattle. He was looking for a term to describe his particular kind of sexual attraction, and came up with “sapiosexual.”

“I don’t care too much about the plumbing,” Stalder wrote in a LiveJournal post from 2002. “I want an incisive, inquisitive, insightful, irreverent mind. I want someone for whom philosophical discussion is foreplay.”

By the early 2010’s, the dating website OKCupid began to include sapiosexual as one of its sexual orientation options; currently about 0.5 percent of users identify as sapiosexual on the site. However, as Debby Herbenick, professor of applied health science at the Indiana University School of Public Health, explains to the Times, sapiosexual isn’t so much a sexual orientation as a sexual interest. You can be heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual, or any other orientationanything else, and identify as sapiosexual.

Defining Sapiosexuality for Myself

The origins of my own sapiosexuality began over 26 years ago. My husband and I met when we were both teens (yes, really!). But I met him on the page before I met him in the flesh. He had published a poem in the local library newsletter about the author J.D. Salinger. An aspiring poet myself and a major fan of Salinger, I thought the poem was stellar, and I began scanning the halls of our high school to figure out who this cool kid was.

Once I found him, whistling in the hallway, lost in thought, I was hooked. Yes, we were teens at the time, but soon enough we became joined at hip, reading poetry and novels to one each other, acting in plays together, philosophizing…and falling hopelessly in love.

Now, we’ve been married for 17 years, and although kids and jobs and mortgages make up a whole lot of our conversations these days, we are still drawn to each other based on our love of literature, thinking, and learning. Physical and sexual attraction are certainly part of the mix, but I have always been drawn to my husband’s mind, first and foremost.

5 Signs You Are Sapiosexual

OK, so let’s get down to business. How might you know that your sexuality falls into the “sapiosexual” category. The way we each value intellectuality can vary, but here are some signs that might clue you in.

  1. You’d rather stay up all night talking, reading, or watching documentaries together than doing much else.
  2. Your idea of the perfect romantic gift has nothing to do with flowers or jewelry. That rare copy of your favorite now-out-of-print novel takes the cake.
  3. It’s not just book-smarts that matter to you. You are curious about the world, politics, history, the human condition, and how it all fits together. You want a partner who wants to bite into it all with you.
  4. You love to talk about every topic under the sun, but it’s more than that. You want someone who will truly listen to you, dive deep into your intellectual and emotional world, and who values debate, analysis, and the process of thinking itself.
  5. A good, deep talk literally turns you on. Seeing your partner’s eyes light up in thought and inspiration is the best foreplay.

The Controversy Around Sapiosexuality

In 2015, Daily Beast writer Samantha Allen wrote a piece blasting the term “sapiosexual” as pretentious, illegitimate, contrived, and classist. Additionally, she points out that it’s a slap in the face to people who are neurodivergent, or who have disabilities.

I definitely see where she and other critics are coming from. The term sapiosexual comes across as snobby in a sense. At the same time, I think there is something to be said for valuing someone’s mind and thoughts over their physical appearance, status, or any other more superficial feature. And we each define intellect in our own way. You could value someone for their moral stature, their kindness, or their ability to figure out how to fix a broken furnace.

Will I start using the term sapiosexual to describe myself? I’m not sure if I will go around declaring myself a sapiosexual. But I do like the concept. It’s something I have always thought in a vague way about myself, but never realized it was a “thing” or that others might characterize themselves similarly.

To me, sapiosexuality isn’t a static or binding term, but more of a way fun to explore what colors your impulses, attractions, and sexuality — and you can never have too much of that, can you?

Published by

Wendy Wisner

Contributor