What Is Sapiosexual? Here's Why You Shouldn't Confuse It With Sexual Orientation

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Sapiosexual is a neologism referring to anyone attracted to another person's intelligence and mind, as opposed to physical features and personality. The term's etymological construction is Latin-based (sapiens and sexual), but its usage, as well as idea, is contemporary.

According to English Language & Usage, the earliest confirmed use of the word on the internet was a March 14, 2002 blog post by LiveJournal user, jadine, though she credits fellow user, wolfieboy for coining the term (he would go on to elaborate on his definition a day later with a blog post of his own).

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Searches for the term spiked the following decade, according to Google Trends.


Sapiosexual became a trending topic in 2014, when Facebook and OKCupid rolled out new identifiers for sexuality and gender, according to NPR's Neda Ulaby. She spoke to Cornell University professor of psychology, Ritch Savin-Williams, who said "Young people like the idea of fluidity," and "are far more likely to look beyond gender binaries and see sexual orientation on a continuum."

According to Marianne Brandon, a Maryland-based clinical psychologist, sapiosexuality shouldn't be confused with sexual orientation, which is defined as a person's sexual identity in relation to the gender to which they are attracted. "Sapiosexual is not a term used by sexual health professionals," Brandon tells Mic. "It's not a sexual orientation anymore than being attracted to rich people is a sexual orientation."

Brandon also explains that sapiosexuality varies from person to person. "We all tend to associate different character traits to intelligent people," she says. "Some people would associate intelligence with power, others with geekiness, and others with someone who had few emotional needs. In this way, there would still be great variability among folks describing themselves as sapiosexual."

Perhaps sapiosexuality is merely a fetish in disguise, a response to the rise of geek and nerd culture, or maybe even a rehash of age-old fetish archetypes like "sexy librarian." 

The National Review's Katherine Timpf sums it best: "If you want to use a word like 'sapiosexual' as a fun way to say that you're into 'smart' people, then that's one thing. But describing it as a 'sexual orientation' seems like a bit much."

Ultimately, though it does have the word "sexual" in it, sapiosexuality is more of a preference than an orientation you would find on the Kinsey Scale. But feel free to identify however you want to be identified.