Friday, July 5, 2019

Is "Sapiosexual" Ableist?

Let's start with a few definitions of "sapiosexual."

"(of a person) finding intelligence sexually attractive or arousing." (Google)
"One who finds the content's of someone else's mind to be their most attractive attribute, above and before their physical characteristics. From the Latin root 'sapien', meaning wise." (Urban Dictionary)

Is the term "sapiosexual" ableist?

If we go by Urban Dictionary's definition (there's no "official" term in the Merriam-Webster), it seems like the answer is NO.
If sapiosexual is ableist in the context of the Urban Dictionary definition, it would imply that people with disabilities do not have a mind, which is utterly ridiculous.

So let's work with Google's definition, since it includes the word "intelligence," which is the main concern here.

"Intelligence" lately has been dubbed an ableist word, mostly due to it being used against people with intellectual disabilities, autistic people, and others, to dehumanize them and deny them rights. Many of these people were called "retarded" and were treated as less than a person.

I do take this seriously and believe that intelligence, cognitive ability, or practical abilities is in no way related to someone's inherent humanity or attractiveness. Everyone deserves human rights, comfortable lives, acceptance, and love regardless of how their brains work or what they are able to or unable to do.

That being said, this article is not about how the word "intelligence" has been used in actually ableist ways. Check out this insightful article by Amy Sequenzia if you want to read more about that issue.

I would like to work with the term "intelligence" based on the way it seems to be used with "sapiosexual."


"Intelligence" in regards to sapiosexuality doesn't imply you have to be a college graduate with a high IQ. Nor does it imply that you must be neurotypical.

There are many types of intelligence that people of all neurotypes (including people with ID) can be stronger or weaker in.

Of the skills in this graphic, I notice autistic people tend to be stronger in the Spatial, Naturalist, Musical, Logical/Mathematical, and Existential categories while NT's tend to be stronger in the others, though of course there are exceptions and variations.

Examples of exceptions:
  • I have autistic friends with a broader vocabularies (linguistic category) than the average NT.
  • My introspective (Intra-personal) skill is quite strong, while another autistic friend of mine struggles with inward self-awareness.
  • I know NT's who are terrible at reading people (Interpersonal) and self-reflective (Intra-personal).
  • There are people with such extreme cognitive differences that they might not fit any of these categories, and that's okay too.

So it really varies.

To assume that "sapiosexual" is ableist is like assuming that all people with disabilities are not intelligent in any of these categories (or any others beyond this graphic) and are therefore excluded from the term. This is obvious nonsense to me.


Being sexually or romantically attracted to certain traits is different than being purposefully discriminatory on the basis of disability.

For instance, if I'm only attracted to one gender, am I sexist?

If I tend to be attracted to people of my own culture/race, am I racist?

If I'm neurotypical, must I date an autistic person to avoid being ableist?

I certainly like to keep an open mind (I've been attracted to many different types of people), but I've also learned that you are NOT obligated to be sexually or romantically involved with anyone simply for the sake of being inclusive.

Same goes for intelligence. I just don't want to be close to someone who doesn't challenge me or make me think in important ways. I've dated other autistic and disabled people who do just that, and I'd describe them as incredibly intelligent.
(much more exciting for me than a neurotypical [or autistic] who would rather drink beer and watch sports, than have a deep conversation about life or show me all the different plants in nature and their uses.)


If you ask different people what "intelligent" means to them, they might give you different answers.

Here are some possible definitions of "intelligent":
  • Good at math
  • Emotionally perceptive
  • Reads a lot of books
  • Kind-hearted
  • Makes friends easily
  • Uses big words in sentences
  • Has vast knowledge about airplanes
  • Picks up on nonverbal cues
  • Knows the exact moment I am in need of chocolate

Notice anything? These are incredibly varied traits!

Perhaps we should be more specific when we use the term "intelligent," or in this context, change the definition to "has cognitive traits I like." That would fit very well with the term "sapiosexuality" (as defined by Urban Dictionary), as being attracted to the mind before the body.

Should we change the definition of "intelligence," create a new word, 
or simply define "intelligence" on a personal level? What do you think?

I like the word "intelligent," so I would like to define it on a personal level.

For instance, I want to date someone who is adept at text conversations: full sentences, punctuation, emojis, depth of conversation, etc. I perceive people with this ability as intelligent, even though I recognize that it is merely a skill in a specific channel of communication.

I've tried dating people who are excellent at in-person conversations, but give one-word answers via texts and it drives me mad. (or, they're terrible at both.) 

I tend to perceive those people as quite boring, because text/messaging is one of my primary forms of communication.
^ Notice I said "boring." So one association I'd have with intelligence is "not boring!" This is why defining these terms on a personal level is important.

I would also like someone with strong interpersonal skills to make up for my struggle with body language, also it helps when I go nonverbal because said person can usually sense if I'm in distress and ask me what I need.

Emotional intelligence is not its own category on the graphic, but I am attracted to people who can reflect on their emotions and express them, and are aware of others. I've seen this in both autistic and neurotypical people. I actually like people who are up front about their emotions, because I can read them better.

Those are some traits I like. What do you like? Feel free to comment below. :)

Perhaps someday, the word "intelligence" may be replaced with something else out of sensitivity to its misuse. My hope is that the concept of intelligence will no longer be a determining factor in granting basic human rights to everyone.

However, the term itself is useful in multiple contexts, and can mean different things to different people. So let's always take context into consideration and ask people how they define the word personally to avoid making strawman arguments or false assumptions.

In terms of sapiosexuality, I will continue to use the term. Personally, I like Urban Dictionary's definition since it seems more relevant to sapiosexuality, and doesn't imply that mind = intelligence. It also helps communicate to other I'm looking to date that I'm not just attracted to a body: I'm attracted to the mind first.


  1. I your documentary and here you use Airplanes as examples of a special interest or intelligence, why?

    1. It's one of the first specific interests that come to mind, I also have a friend on the spectrum who loves airplanes. I know interests vary widely but I go with whatever comes to mind when I'm writing.

  2. I'm also attracted to a person's mind, but that sometimes crosses over into physical attraction as well. If a woman has a somewhat "geeky" appearance (sorry if that's an offensive term, but I'm not sure how else to describe it) it makes me think she has an attractive mind/personality as well, since I associate that kind of look with intelligence, introversion or artistic talent.

    As for being attracted only to people within your own culture/race, that's something I struggle with a bit. I used to think it was okay to be romantically exclusive in that sense, but this issue ended up causing a falling out with a black friend of mine who strongly disagreed. So, I've been trying to open my mind up a bit more.

    1. that black friend probably wasn't ever a real friend if he ditched you that easily. and the only mating with your own race thing has been a practice by many cultures since ancient times (Korean Ethiopian Jewish and Chinese practiced it and still do) which means your "friend" is the one who's racist by looking down on other peoples traditions

    2. It's true that cultures have always had tribal instincts, but I'm not so sure that this is something positive. Modern societies are much more ethnically mixed than they were in ancient times; however, these societies still have power structures in which a dominant group expects minority groups to adapt to certain standards -- hence, non-whites in America are perceived as less attractive than whites, and my black friend feels that whites are only perpetuating this problem if they refuse to date outside their own race.

      I do think my friend was overreacting a bit, but I now have a better understanding of where he was coming from.