What Is Sapiosexuality? Is It A Real Sexual Orientation?

Medically reviewed by Majesty Purvis, LCMHC
Updated May 2, 2024by 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 intelligent, rather than basing attractions on other characteristics. 

While sapiosexuality may not be considered a sexual orientation, the idea of sapiosexuality can be a helpful way to convey what one values most in a potential partner. Here, we’ll define sapiosexuality, explore the current research, and answer some common questions about this facet of attraction.

Have questions related to your sexual preferences?

What is 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 be as concerned with how a person looks or whether they adhere to certain standards; rather, they tend to focus on what a person thinks, says, and believes, and whether these ideas are considered intelligent to them. 

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. 

Is sapiosexuality a sexual orientation?

Because sapiosexuality is a relatively new concept, research is still in its early stages. There is some debate as to whether it can be considered a sexual orientation; while some may consider it as such, others may describe it more as a sexual preference. 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.

What does research say about sapiosexuality?

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?

While some may emphasize looks or other characteristics, it’s common to be attracted to a person’s mind. If you find the following qualities or tendencies attractive, you may choose to describe yourself as sapiosexual:

  • Intellectual conversation: You find yourself more drawn to people who can engage in deep, thoughtful conversations. The topics might vary widely, but the consistent factor is a love for ideas, theories, and meaningful discussions.

  • Curiosity and knowledge: You're attracted to people who are curious about the world and have a broad knowledge base. Their desire to learn and understand more about the world is appealing to you.

  • Wit and insight: You appreciate quick wit, insightful comments, and the ability to see things from unique perspectives. A person's ability to articulate thoughts in an intelligent manner is more appealing to you than other attributes.

  • Values and beliefs: You find that you're attracted to people whose intelligence shapes their values and beliefs in a way that resonates with you. Their depth of understanding and the way they construct their worldview is important.

  • Creativity and problem-solving: You admire people who use their intelligence creatively to solve problems or who express their intelligence through creative endeavors. Their innovative thinking draws you to them.

  • Passion for learning: You're attracted to those who have a passion for learning and personal growth. Their enthusiasm for acquiring new skills and knowledge is infectious and attractive to you.

  • Emotional intelligence: Beyond just book smarts, you value emotional intelligence. The ability to understand and manage emotions, both their own and others', is a trait you find highly attractive.

  • Respect for intellectual equals: You seek out relationships where you can consider your partner an intellectual equal. Respect for each other's intellect and the ability to challenge each other intellectually is important to you.

  • Looking beyond physical appearance: While you may appreciate physical beauty, it's a person's intellect that truly captures your interest and holds it. You find that intellectual compatibility sustains your attraction over time.  

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 preference than a sexuality.

For those 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. 

Have questions related to your sexual preferences?

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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