Explainer

What is a sapiosexual? Everything you need to know about ‘nymphobrainiacs’

Bea Mitchell April 6, 2018
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Ever found yourself fantasising about, erm, Marie Curie, dreaming of a naughty weekend with Simone de Beauvoir, craving dirty talk University Challenge-style with Jeremy Paxman or fancying a piece of Plato in the morning? Do you prefer Kant to c***? (Sorry.)

Well, you may be a sapiosexual, which basically means you find intelligence sexually arousing or attractive.

In essence, sapiosexuals aren’t fussed about another individual’s face or body – it’s all about what’s going on in their heads, instead of their pants.

Unfortunately for sapiosexuals, it’s difficult to actually define intelligence. And even more unfortunately for sapiosexuals, many people don’t take the term seriously.

Nevertheless, sapiosexual is a proper term and must be respected – here’s everything you need to know to get up to speed.

In the beginning…

The term is relatively new. A LiveJournal user named Wolfieboy claims to have invented the word in 1998.

It derives from the Latin word ‘sapio’, which means ‘I discern’ or ‘understand’.

“I don’t care too much about the plumbing,” he wrote in a post on LiveJournal in 2002.

“I want an incisive, inquisitive, insightful, irreverent mind. I want someone for whom philosophical discussion is foreplay.”

The amount of people claiming to be sapiosexual rose in the early 2010s when OKCupid introduced it among its sexual orientation choices for users to list on their profiles.

This is in part because “we know our audience swings toward the intellectual side,” said Nick Saretzky, the company’s director of product.

Urban Dictionary defines sapiosexual as: “One who finds the contents of someone else’s mind to be their most attractive attribute, above and before their physical characteristics.

“The term is now becoming mainstream with dating apps such as OkCupid and Sapio giving users the ability to define their sexual orientations as sapiosexual.”

OKCupid defines it as someone “who finds intelligence the most sexually attractive feature; behaviour of becoming attracted to or aroused by intelligence and its use.”

And, one anonymous woman told Cosmopolitan: “I identify as a sapiosexual, because to me talking about chemistry is the equivalent of talking dirty to me.”

Wait, aren’t we all looking for a smart partner?

Image: CBS

We’re all into stimulating chat and intellect, right? Wrong. Well, maybe.

Everyone’s different – some people like girls, some boys, some small, some big. Others like ‘em wild, others conservative, some cultured, some ripped, some submissive, others in charge.

As Psychology Today suggests, some go for physical appearance, others for personality, “whether it is charismatic, friendly, kind, thoughtful or even brilliant”.

“Those who admit to being sapiosexual will say that they are turned on by the brain, and tend to be teased or excited by the insights of another person.

This means the person who you are attracted to might have a tendency to have an incisive, inquisitive, and an irreverent mind,” the publication writes.

“As foreplay, the sapiosexual person may crave philosophical, political or psychological discussions, because this turns them on. Although the attraction is not always connected to sexuality, it often is.”

Another Psychology Today article states: “Pick up Plato’s 2500 year old dialogue on love called The Symposium.

The main character, Socrates, had no money, no looks and no position. But he was charismatic, brilliant and compelling, and others found him exciting.”

But how do we define intelligence?…

Image: Pixabay

How to define who and what is ‘intelligent’? Some people have a high IQ, but almost no emotional sense. What about street smarts? Or creative talents?

There are plenty of extremely intelligent people who – for instance – don’t speak eloquently, or are dyslexic and can’t write for toffee.

Smart people come in all shapes and sizes, wear different clothes and live different lives – because they’re smart, and choose to do so.

Knowing things about stuff isn’t the only definition of intelligence.

The trouble with #sapiosexual is that it conjures up images of eloquent, well-kempt geeks in glasses, reading books, debating literature and watching Question Time…

Misconceptions and criticisms of sapiosexuals

“Once I told my friend who is pansexual that I am a sapiosexual. She hadn’t heard of it, so I explained what it is and she literally rolled her eyes at me and said ‘Everyone likes smart people.’

“I feel like people just think it’s a really obnoxious way of saying you like smart people, but it’s much more intense than that – more like a fetish,” another anon sapiosexual told Cosmo.

As above, one common criticism is that intelligence has always been a major part of attraction, while some argue that sapiosexuals are liars, for there must be some degree of physical attraction involved in their, well, physical relationships.

Others say sapiosexuals are snobs, pretentious, elitist, classist, or insulting to people with disabilities. Some argue that it’s just a fad spawned from dating and hookup apps like CasualX, Grindr, Tinder, Scruff.

Is it a sexual orientation?

Stephen Fry
Stephen Fry

According to Debby Herbenick, a sexual health educator and professor of applied health science at the Indiana University School of Public Health (via New York Times), scientists think of sapiosexuality as more an identity than an orientation.

Not least because those who identify as sapiosexual may also be gay, straight, bisexual, asexual or something else, Herbenick explained.

So, what do you reckon? Are sapiosexuals giving new meaning to giving head?

Related topics: sapiosexual

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