Here We Go: Arwa Mahdawi on What Does the Dawn of Demisexuals Tell Us?

Here We Go: Arwa Mahdawi on What Does the Dawn of Demisexuals Tell Us?
Michaela Kennedy-Cuomo, daughter of the New York governor, Andrew Cuomo, has come out as demisexual. Photograph: Erik Pendzich/Rex/Shutterstock

It might be hip to be square, but nothing is more passé than being straight these days. That’s according to Michaela Kennedy-Cuomo, the 23-year-old daughter of the governor of New York, Andrew Cuomo, anyway. In a recent Instagram livestream with the former CEO of a health company, Kennedy-Cuomo talked about being queer, noting that when she first came out she worried that people would think she was attention-seeking, since it’s “hip or cool to be not hetero in my liberal bubble”. Kennedy-Cuomo then went on to say that after flirting with bisexuality and pansexuality she has decided that the identity that most resonates with her is demisexuality.

Reader, I rolled my eyes. I know that’s not the kind or constructive thing to do when someone is brave enough to come out, but I’m afraid I couldn’t help it: my old gay eyes rolled involuntarily. That was partly due to amazement. When I came out, 20 years ago, I wasn’t worried that people might think I was declaring myself queer because it was cool – it was decidedly not cool. No, I was worried about getting beaten up. I’m not trying to win the oppression Olympics over here: I think it’s brilliant that we’ve gone from words like “gay” and “queer” being widespread slurs to something that the privileged offspring of politicians reckon is a badge of honour.

Still, I’ve got to admit that there was a dash of cynicism propelling the eye-rolling. Last time I checked, demisexuals weren’t exactly an oppressed minority fighting for equal rights. They are just people who aren’t sexually attracted to others unless they form a strong emotional bond with them first. (Congratulations, some of you may suddenly have realised that you are not actually the boring hetero you thought you were – you are an exciting demisexual! You even get your very own flag!)

Acting as if needing to get to know someone before jumping into bed with them constitutes a marginalised sexual orientation that needs a flag seems to play into the hands of rightwingers who are desperate to argue that liberals are narcissists with a victimhood complex. Indeed, conservatives had a field day with headlines about Cuomo-Kennedy coming out. Rightwing commentator Ben Shapiro, for example, tweeted: “Being a member of the intersectional coalition is now so alluring that we’re making up terms like ‘demisexual’ so that people can join.”

That said, I don’t think demisexuality should be written off as attention-seeking. Indeed, I think it’s instructive to look at what the rise of demisexuality says about sexuality more generally; Kennedy-Cuomo, after all, is just one of a growing number of (mostly) young people who have latched on to the label in recent years. The fact that there was a need to come up with a term like “demisexual” (which was coined in 2006) shows how sex-drenched society has become. The portrayal of women in the popular media has become increasingly sexualised. Porn has never been so accessible. Dating apps such as Tinder mean it has never been so easy to hook up.

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Source: Arwa Mahdawi, the Guardian

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