Student Demonstrates Demisexuality
Words + Photo by Marissa Nichol | Illustrations by Madeleine Kidd
Fighting feelings of uneasiness, Jackie Knutti takes a demisexuality quiz after six months of denial about her identity. She expected to be defined as someone who is repulsed by sex, but instead found a term that fit the way she felt about her sexuality, rather than the stereotypes she avoided.
Knutti is a senior sociology student at Kent State using her personal experience of finding her identity to educate others on what it really means to be demisexual.
Demisexuals are only sexually attracted to an individual after forming a strong emotional or romantic connection to them. The term falls on the spectrum of asexuality, which means not having a sexual attraction to any gender.
“I do think because demisexuality is on the spectrum of asexuality, you align that identity with that weird kid you knew in high school that never did anything, which is not true,” Knutti says. “I thoroughly believe that if more people understood what demisexual meant, a lot of people would identify with it.”
As vice president of PRIDE, an LGBTQ community on campus, Knutti guides others on their own journey to self-discovery. She helps run meetings and posts on social media to educate anyone she can on different identities, which are resources she didn’t have growing up.
Knutti found out what most LGBTQ terms meant from Tumblr, which is how she says most people her age discovered their sexuality. With a lack of educational materials at a young age, Knutti didn’t have the opportunity to understand the way she felt about sex, resulting in a confusing journey to defining herself
Knutti realized she wasn’t “straight” when her best friend told her they had feelings for her in middle school. After thinking about that moment for a while, she realized she had feelings for them too.
That’s when she practiced saying she was bisexual out loud to herself before coming out to this same person. Although her other friends were first to know, coming out to her mother is what Knutti remembers most.
She broke the news when her mother returned home from a Black Friday shift at Walmart at the age of 14.
“When she got home I told her I was bisexual and she cried. While she was eating subway she cried her eyes out,” she says.
Knutti explains that the tears came from exhaustion, being overwhelmed at the time. Her mother, along with the rest of her family, always proved to be genuinely supportive.
After coming out once, she never felt the need to further explain herself to her family as she changed terms for her sexuality. Her home life never altered following the day she told her mother she was bisexual.
Her school life, however, differed when she got to high school. At the time the same person she came out to and developed a relationship with identified as a girl and was on the football team.
“The football players asked them what we did together and it completely embarrassed me to the point where I re-closeted myself so fast. Wow, high school was great,” she says.
Throughout the rest of high school, she felt herself craving attention and wanted to identify with a term that would get her that attention from wherever she could. That’s when she came out as pansexual, which means she could be sexually attracted to somebody regardless of their gender.
Knutti acted impulsively in relationships throughout her adolescent life because of her bipolar disorder. When she went through periods of mild mania, she dated anyone available to find a solution for her boredom and loneliness.
As she dated various partners, she never felt she truly fit the pansexual definition, which is a term she simply found on the internet and decided sounded most like her.
“In general, one of this biggest parts about being queer is finding the label that fits you best. There’s plenty of people that don’t need a label, they just use queer and that works fine for them,” she says.
For Knutti personally, finding a label that fit her better than pansexual and bisexual gave her a sense of community, knowing there are others more like her.
That community didn’t appear until she started attending PRIDE meetings during her second semester of freshman year. That’s when she was convinced to take a demisexual quiz by someone on the board she became close with.
As soon as the results of the quiz were revealed, she felt her feelings about her sexuality finally made sense and had a place. She learned that being demisexual doesn’t concern anyone other than herself and didn’t feel the need to come out to her family again.
“Being demisexual is not relevant to anybody unless you plan on having sex with them,” Knutti says.
With more terms rising to the surface of society, more individuals are finding an identity they’ve been searching for their entire life. Just because the term demisexual hasn’t always been around doesn’t mean there haven’t always been people who feel different about sex than what is expected of most.
Kat Flood is a friend of Knutti’s who also struggled with confronting his feelings on sex because of how much it’s incorporated in everyday life.
“It’s in every ad; we use sex to sell things. You can’t go through one television show without seeing somebody having sex, and so you’re kind of trained to be like ‘you have to like this, you have to enjoy this all the time.’ And that’s something that’s hard for asexual people to accept, because our world is really surrounded in this concept of sex,” he says.
Flood brings up the importance of television in the queer community, especially for asexuals. He feels that LGBTQ people have been created to be hypersexual in media, which makes asexuals even more difficult for the public to comprehend.
Once Flood joined PRIDE last year, he was able to see demisexuals as they really are in person, and finally felt valid in his feelings about sex.
“You can identify however you want, you can be whoever you want, but it’s hard if you don’t think that you’re valid in that belief,” he says.
Since becoming friends with Knutti almost a year ago, Flood finds her support and outspoken demeanor regarding being demisexual comforting. Once he saw her as a demisexual who has an ideal life and partner, he established that’s what he wanted for himself.
Knutti met her current partner over a year ago when she wrote demisexual in her dating app bio on Tinder. That one word caught the eye of AJ Kaiser, who also identifies as demisexual.
They quickly developed a strong connection from their first dates watching alien movies at Knutti’s home to their first public outing at Kent Potterfest. It only took six months for them to move into an apartment together in Brimfield, which continues to strengthen their relationship.
Her life came together as she confirmed her identity, started medication for bipolar disorder and started the best relationship she’s had in her life yet.
Kaiser is more reserved compared to Knutti’s extroverted disposition, but his love for her is exposed through his facial expressions, balancing out their personalities.
“She’s pretty great,” Kaiser starts before interrupting himself with laughter, admitting he’s not good at talking on the spot. “I’m really glad that we met on Tinder because I don’t think our paths would’ve crossed.”
Unlike Knutti, he identified with being demisexual years before when he was in high school.
“I was online and there were different definitions and words coming out and I just felt like it kind of mixed,” he says. “I care more about romantic attraction and more than just sexual hooking up, so for as long as I identified with being queer, I’ve identified as being demisexual.”
Caring about romantic attraction more than sex is also something AJ and Knutti found a connection to. They identify with the term gray-romantic, which means infrequently experiencing romantic attraction to another person.
Being gray-romantic only added to the difficulty of Knutti experiencing sexual attraction toward another person. Before dating Kaiser, she used sex strictly as validation.
“Basically I could have been anywhere else,” she says of what it was like having sex in the past. “I needed that to make me feel like a real person or that I was good enough and now I don’t need that.”
Now that she enjoys sex with someone she shares a romantic connection with, Knutti recognizes others viewing asexuality the same way she used to.
She says many associate asexuality with not having sex at all, and explains the differences across the spectrum. On one end there are some asexual people who are sex repulsed, meaning they rarely want to be touched. There are also asexuals who are okay with the idea of sex, have sex as a compromise with their partner and are still open to the idea of sex.
Three to four years ago, Flood remembers seeing the topic of whether or not asexuals should be allowed in the LGBTQ community being discussed on social media.
As that issue progressed, an unsolved one arises: the controversy of whether or not straight people who identify as asexual should be welcome into the queer community. There have been times in the past when Knutti had to clear up conflict over this issue in PRIDE.
“Being in the queer/LGBTQ community means that you’re deviating from the social norm, and having sex is a part of the social norm. But there’s also no obligation to be a part of the queer community,” she says.
Part of Knutti’s education goal is for straight people to feel comfortable identifying as asexual. She believes they are scared off by the term because it is associated with being queer.
Flood says Knutti’s work with speaking out about asexuality helps destigmatize the term that can be sensitive to some. He even feels inspired by her to be outspoken about his sexuality and is starting to openly talk about it.
Educating her friends, those in PRIDE, and followers on social media is just the start of Knutti’s goal in educating those in the LGBTQ community, as well as others.
Already working at Safer Futures, a domestic violence shelter in Portage County, she wants to continue her work there after graduation. She aspires to work with queer children and teenagers who are kicked out of their homes and in domestic violence situations.
“I owe a lot to the community, especially at Kent,” Knutti says. “I hope eventually that I can give back to the community and give other people the same experience that I got to have.”
Marissa Nichol is a reporter, contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more on this, check out the upcoming issue of Kent State’s fashion and culture publication A Magazine, on stands this November.