What Is Sapiosexuality? Is It A Real Sexual Orientation?

Medically reviewed by Majesty Purvis
Updated December 14, 2023by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Some people may use the word "sapiosexuality" to explain how they feel attracted to others. These individuals may feel most attracted to another person when they perceive them as smart instead of basing attractions on looks. Although not a sexuality and not part of the LGBTQIA+ community, some people may use this term to better understand themselves and their attraction. 

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What Is The Definition Of Sapiosexuality? 

The Merriam-Webster dictionary added the term "sapiosexual" to its directory  in September 2020.  "Sapio" is based on the Latin verb "sapere," which means "to be wise" or "to have sense." Sometimes referred to as "sapiophile," sapiosexuality means being sexually attracted to a person's intelligence. 

A sapiosexual is aroused by how smart another person is. These individuals may not focus on looks or social norms as much as they focus on what a person thinks, says, and believes and whether these ideas are considered intelligent to them. 

Some controversies surround sapiosexuality, as it is not a part of the LGBTQIA+ community and could be considered a natural human experience. In addition, the term can come with ableism, as there are many forms of intelligence, and some people living with cognitive or learning disabilities can be smart in unique ways. Intelligence is subjective, so sapiosexuality may be a personal preference instead of a sexuality.

In theory, while many people may be attracted to intelligence, sapiosexuals are considered to be more attracted to it than average. Sapiosexuals are attracted to how someone's mind works. For this reason, some consider sapiosexual a sexual orientation. Others may consider it a fetish, as it does not involve an identity that faces systemic oppression like an LGBTQIA+ identity does.

What Does Research Say About Sapiosexuality? 

The term "sapiosexual" is modern and surrounded by controversy. However, there have been several studies on this "sexuality." 

One of the most extensive studies on sapiosexuality was conducted by Gilles Gignac, a researcher at the University of Western Australia, who created and conducted a survey for undergraduate students asking questions about attraction toward intelligence. The study revealed that most people did not consider intelligence the most critical factor in attraction, with other characteristics, like kindness and openness, being more attractive. 

However, for 8% of the study's participants, "the perception of high levels of intelligence in another person was so substantial that it induced sexual arousal, more so than any other attribute." These people, according to the study, would be considered sapiosexuals.

The study found that attraction was not based on the highest IQ. Instead, people attracted to intelligence found IQs of around 120 (the 90th percentile) more attractive than 135 or higher.

How Do You Know If You're Attracted To Intelligence? 

A few ways you might know you're attracted to the intelligence of others above other aspects can include the following: 

  • Intellectual debates sexually arouse you
  • Deep conversations are more arousing than sexual foreplay for you 
  • You aren't attracted to individuals who aren't intellectually stimulating
  • You are sexually attracted to intelligence, even if there's no physical or emotional connection
  • You struggle to get sexually aroused unless your partner can carry on a conversation

Is Sapiosexuality A Sexual Orientation? 

Because of the newness of sapiosexuality, there may be questions about its origins. Research has found that sapiosexuality is not a biological identity but a social one. Many sources believe it's more of a sexual preference than a sexual identity. Others consider it a subset of a sexual identity, a label that can be added to a primary sexuality. However, others believe it is a fetish, as it is often focused on an attribute that incites sexual attraction and arousal, a common trait of fetishes. Some dating apps include sapiosexual as an option, and one such app, Sapio, is specifically for sapiosexuals to find partners. 

Why Is Calling Yourself Sapiosexual Controversial? 

While finding intelligence sexy and arousing is healthy, some people feel that to declare oneself a sapiosexual comes across as pretentious or insulting to those who may experience a learning disability or challenges with traditional "intelligence." Others believe that being sapiosexual is more of a reference than a sexuality.

For some people who identify as sapiosexual, having a label brings relief. They may have gone their entire lives wondering why they don't feel the same level of attraction to people who are "conventionally attractive." Although not an oppressed or marginalized identity, it may differ from the experiences of the rest of society. 

Understanding that there are multiple types of intelligence can be beneficial if you identify as sapiosexual. Some people may value art and creativity over mathematics or science. Some people may have high levels of emotional intelligence, which differs from what might be considered conventional intelligence. 

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Relationship Support Options 

If you're looking for support with understanding your sexuality, relationship patterns, or preferences, it may be beneficial to look into therapy. Therapy is not just for those living with a mental illness. You can talk to a therapist about any topic at any time. In addition, if you try online therapy through a platform like BetterHelp, you can connect with a therapist from home. 

Online therapy can offer a more extensive pool of professional therapists from which to choose and the convenience of working with a licensed counselor from the comfort of your home. In addition, for those with needs, online therapy offers you the chance to avoid commuting or working with inaccessible buildings and providers. 

Studies also back up the effectiveness of online therapy. One study found that 71% of participants found online therapy more effective than in-person options, with 100% of them finding it more convenient for their schedules and lifestyles. 


Being attracted to intelligence is normal; you're not alone in these feelings. If you believe you might identify with the label of sapiosexuality, consider doing further research. If you want to explore other aspects of your sexuality or relationship difficulties, you might also consider contacting a therapist for guidance and support.

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