Sapiosexuals, It’s Not Revolutionary to Be Attracted to Intelligence

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Oct 14, 2019

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Image Credit: "Fleabag" (Two Brothers Pictures Limited)

Most people on dating apps have come across at least one person who calls themselves a sapiosexual. These sapiosexuals claim to be only attracted to people’s minds, love discussions (about existentialism, most probably), and think they’re above the trappings of physical beauty. (Hint: nobody is.) Most recently, celebrated music producer Mark Ronson was on ITV’s Good Morning Britain, in which the hosts asked Ronson his thoughts about sapiosexuality. After being explained the term, Ronson responded, “That sounds great. Of course, who wouldn’t be?”

While Ronson received widespread censure on social media when his comments were perceived as him coming out as a sapiosexual, and people rained down critique on him for thinking sapiosexuality is a valid sexual orientation (it isn’t, and he doesn’t), Ronson’s words prove my point: literally every single human being, I guarantee you, is attracted to intelligence. So, why is there a word for it?

In 1998, a LiveJournal user named wolfieboy claimed to coin the word sapiosexual, defining it as “an incisive, inquisitive, insightful, irreverent mind. I want someone for whom philosophical discussion is foreplay.” Let’s just say I’m glad that in 1998, I was 3 years old, and therefore it was impossible for me to come across wolfieboy or be subjected to his stringent requirements for a romantic partner.

But the term sapiosexual didn’t gain widespread appeal until 2014, after dating app OkCupid allowed users to choose sapiosexual from a drop-down list of sexual orientations. At the time, while many took it up as a symbol of their depth of character and expanse of intellect, the company also came under fire for equating what is essentially an unduly glorified sexual preference to a sexual orientation — an aspect of identity for which many people face social discrimination and judgment. 

No, sapiosexuality is not a sexual orientation. Why? Because claiming only to be attracted to someone’s intelligence is not how a brain is wired. Why? Because intelligence varies and is also subjective upon personal interpretation. So, essentially, calling yourself a sapiosexual means … nothing to the person hearing it. Not only is sapiosexuality not a sexual orientation, it is also not a valid sexual preference. It’s like saying you’re a medicosexual if you like doctors or an athlosexual if you like sports players.

Before we deconstruct what it means to be attracted to intelligence, let’s try to decipher what it means to be intelligent — Is it being able to recite Yeats? Is it being able to make a F.R.I.E.N.D.S reference? Is it being able to gauge emotions and respond in a constructive manner? Is it knowing how to construct a chair, or play the piano? Is it being a good communicator, or a good strategist, or a disciplined athlete? We live in a world that has a dangerously narrow definition of intelligence, and so, people who filter their preferences on the basis of such, run the risk of filtering out the diversity that makes the process of dating exciting — the variation, the chance of finding someone who might teach you a thing or two about something you never thought to learn, or the opportunity to understand that your own definition of intelligence was painfully narrow. 


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This, might I add, is very helpfully illustrated in an app designed and marketed toward self-proclaimed sapiosexuals, called Sapio, which debuted in 2017. While initially, it may sound like the app would require you to take a Ravenclaw-style quiz to enter its digital common room, the interface is actually quite wholesome; the app offers a comprehensive 21-point questionnaire, the answers to which an algorithm then matches to users who have answered similarly. The questionnaire includes “Hopes and Dreams,” “Achievements,” and “Hypotheticals,” according to the website. Basically, everything one would ideally talk about on the first date to feel the other person out and see if they’re compatible. 

This is where self-proclaimed sapiosexuals fall short — most of the time, what they, in an insufferably elitist manner, claim as intelligence is mostly just an intellectual or emotional connection with a potential partner. This so-called “intelligence” is often dressed up in classist requirements of ‘well-spoken’ English, or knowledge of obscure literature. Meanwhile, almost everyone else is weighing up intellectual compatibility all the time — Can I talk to this person? Do we share the same interests? Would they be able to understand my point of view?

Evaluating these things don’t make you a high-brow, super-selective sapiosexual. It makes you human. Most people value intelligence — be it academic, emotional, what one calls ‘street smarts,’ or vocational; it hardly needs to become character-defining. And sapiosexuality, in actuality, is exactly that — a trait that’s less about a peculiar attraction to intelligence in others, and more about staunchly positioning oneself as someone not swayed by conventionally beautiful people, or not looking to have a mindless one-night stand.

And hey, I get it. When casual sex is laughably easy to reach via dating apps, it might be difficult to tell someone you’re interested in an honest connection, without having to hide behind a label that lends some superiority to a stance that would otherwise be considered vulnerable. But there are ways to be deep, insightful, intimate, and curious — none of which, I guarantee you, can be accomplished by calling yourself an oh-so-mighty sapiosexual. People will make fun of you, and you will deserve it.

And to those who come across one in the wild — if they say things like, “good vocab is seductive,” for the love of God, please swipe left. 

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Written By Rajvi Desai

Rajvi Desai is The Swaddle’s Culture Editor. After graduating from NYU as a Journalism and Politics major, she covered breaking news in New York City. Back in the homeland, she spends her free time trying to dismantle societal beauty standards, laughing uproariously at comedy shows, and fervently following her football team, Arsenal.

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