Attraction to Intelligence is not a Sexual Orientation
The topic of sapiosexuality keeps popping up on my facebook feed. There are a lot of arguments I’ve seen in the leftbook discourse about the validity of sapiosexuality. Which is defined as the sexual attraction to intelligence.
First, I would like to say that I am not intending to gatekeep anyone, nor am I intending to invalidate anyone’s choice of preference. Instead, I am hoping to clarify a few things and address some concerns I have about people who claim sapiosexuality as a sexual orientation. This is more of my analysis of definitions, use of language, and how we form meaning from things.
I feel that sapiosexuality is more of a kink than anything. Saying that you are sapiosexual means you are attracted to intelligence, but being intelligence is not a gender. When we discuss sexual orientation, it has always implied which gender (or lack thereof) we are attracted to.
Sapiosexuality would be more of a paraphilia. Meaning it’s an added thing you like in addition to someone’s gender. Often times this is considered to be abnormal sexual attraction. However, I wouldn’t say that attraction to intelligence is abnormal, but perhaps the extremity by which the sapiosexual feels attraction would allow for it to fall under the definition of paraphilia.
If we were to go the simplest route, I’d just say that sapiosexuality is just a preference. As an gray asexual, there’s not a lot I’m sexually attracted to, but I do have an abnormal attraction to people’s hair. I am sexually attracted to punk/goth or stylized hair of some sort. My sexual orientation is not all of a sudden trichosexual, but instead I could say I’m a trichophiliac. I have a sexual attraction to watching people cry, so I’m a dacryphiliac not a dracrysexual.
To that end, the entire concept of being attracted to intelligence seems almost like an easy way for so-called smart people to bully those who are not. How do we define intelligence?
I define intelligence as the capacity for learning and taking in new information. Sapiosexuals generally dictate that they need intellectually stimulating conversation. Which in turn, leads to them really meaning “I’m only attracted to people who are smart.” It isn’t an attraction to intelligence, it’s an attraction to people who have the ability and privilege to use their intelligence.
Some have argued that sapiosexuality is ableist. I am inclined to agree. At least in America. If you’ve ever taken a sociology course or a modern anthropology course, you may have learned about the construction of suburbs in the 1950s post-WWII. The construction of these suburbs was basically the gentrification of its time. They pushed out all the black people. Many cities are still socially and geographically segregated, although they are allowed to share things with white people, they are still zoned into traditionally poorer areas.
These areas that black communities end up living in have higher crime, more police violence, poorer education, and a generally more chaotic and hopeless feeling type of life. When you’re just trying to survive and you feel like the world is against you, you don’t have much time to learn about Kant, Descartes, and Spinoza. You don’t have time to watch Doctor Who or talk about the implications of gender of a Time Lord.
Sure, some will argue that some black people have risen above that. Attended Harvard, done great things, etc. Yes, some have, but like any marginalized community it is much harder to do so.
I feel like sapiosexuality is just a way for people to wave the white privilege flag in people’s faces. The luxuries most white people are afforded, easy access to information, and the free time to explore new things.
People of color are people too. They are people first, with the same brains you have. The same capacity for learning, being intelligence, and having the wisdom to know better than to mess with some middle-class white person claiming they are sexually attracted to intelligence.
At first glance, it doesn’t seem like saying you’re attracted to intelligence is a bad thing. By all means, you can be sexually attracted to anything you’d like as long as it’s sane and you’re aware of the risks. However, using it as a sexual orientation seems a little unforgiving considering its social implications.
I’m not entirely convinced that this is overt racism, and I’m not going to go that far. However, it is overt ableism and classism. This is secretly behind the scenes racism as most things do in American culture. That doesn’t make it right.
And to that end, I understand that language is flexible and that definitions are only as accurate as society decides they are. Dictionaries update based on how language is used. But for now, a sexual orientation is based on what gender you’re attracted to. We have words for other things like kink, fetish, or paraphilia.
I have friends who identify as sapiosexual. I don’t hate them. I don’t particularly like that they are actively participating in something hurtful. But like, that’s why I write articles like this sometimes. Maybe I could convince some people to reconsider using it as a sexual orientation and how it can leave out entire classes of people. I just want people to be a little bit more considerate. I don’t care who you’re attracted to or why. I just think if the label we’re using is inaccurate and hurting people perhaps we should move to something else.
Ordinarily, an author would provide an alternate word to use. I know a few exist. You can search them on your own. You’re intelligent. You can do it.