What Is A Sapiosexual And What Does It Mean?

Updated January 31, 2023by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Have you ever heard someone describe themselves as a "sapiosexual?" You could be the best-looking person in the room, but a sapiosexual will only be interested in you if you also have something smart to say. And if the idea of receiving books as a gift over flowers is super exciting to you, then you too may be a sapiosexual.

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Define: Sapiosexual

Merriam-Webster added the term “sapiosexual” to its dictionary in September 2020.  “Sapio” was picked because the Latin verb “sapere” means “to be wise” or “to have sense.” Sometimes referred to as “sapiophile,” sapiosexual defines the term as being sexually attracted to a person's intelligence. In other words, a sapiosexual is someone who is aroused by how smart another person is. Someone might be good looking, which is enough to gain a sapiosexual's interest, but once when a person reveals how smart they are, that's when they become more of a turn-on.

More Than Just Attraction

While many people are attracted to intelligence, sapiosexuals are so to a greater degree than most. Sapiosexuals aren’t just attracted to intelligence; they are sexually aroused by a person’s brain. For this reason, some consider sapiosexual a sexual orientation. Others may consider it a type of fetish. Sapiosexuals are often sexually aroused by intelligence more than any other attribute. 

The Research Behind Sapiosexuality

The term “sapiosexual” is pretty new, and many question its legitimacy. One of the biggest studies to date on sapiosexuality was conducted by Gilles Gignac, a researcher at the University of Western Australia, who created and conducted a survey for undergraduate students that asked questions related to attractiveness towards intelligence. The study revealed that most people did not consider intelligence to be the most important factor in attraction, with other characteristics – especially “kind and understanding” – overriding brains. But for 8% of the study’s participants, “the perception of high levels of intelligence in another person is so substantial that it may induce sexual arousal, more so than any other attribute.” These people, according to the study, would be considered sapiosexuals. 

However, even for sapiosexuals, it isn’t always the bigger the IQ, the sexier the person. The study found that most people find IQs of around 120 – i.e., the 90th percentile – to be more attractive than those with 135 or higher.

You Might Be A Sapiosexual If…

Sapiosexuality is more than just valuing intelligence in a relationship. Sapiosexuals are turned on by intelligence even when there is not a physical or emotional connection. Some hints that you may be a sapiosexual include that

  • You are sexually aroused by intellectual debates

  • Deep conversations are more arousing than sexual foreplay

  • 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 can’t get sexually aroused unless your partner can carry on a strong conversation

Is Sapiosexuality A Sexual Orientation? 

Because of the newness of the concept of sapiosexuality, a lot of questions still remain. Some consider it a type of sexual identity. However, so far research seems to imply that it’s not a biological identity, but rather a social one. Many researchers believe it’s more of a sexual preference than a sexual identity. Others consider it a subset of a sexual identity, meaning while a person’s primary sexuality may be straight or part of the LBGTQ+ community, the subset would be sapiosexual. Still some consider it a fetish, which means that they cannot get sexually aroused unless they consider a person intelligent. Whatever it is, it’s becoming more accepted. Some dating apps even include sapiosexual as an option. In fact, one such app – Sapio – is specifically for sapiosexuals. 

The Cons Of Declaring Yourself A Sapiosexual

While there's nothing wrong with finding intelligence sexy, some people feel that to declare oneself a sapiosexual comes across as pretentious or even insulting to those who may experience a learning disability. Others believe that being a sapiosexual is a more of a reference than a sexuality.

However, for others, having a definition brings a feeling of relief. They may have gone their entire lives wondering and stressing over why they simply don't feel the same level of attraction to people who are otherwise generally accepted as being incredibly good-looking. It may also be frustrating for them to have to get to know someone first before truly being aroused by them.

Once they realize that being attracted to someone's intelligence over their body is a thing, this normalizes how they have been feeling and allowed them to attach a label to it. While a label isn't always considered to be a good thing, it can be a relief to know that they are normal enough that a term has been created to describe it.

Have Questions Related To Your Sexual Preferences?

Getting Relationship Help

For anyone who is looking to understand more about their sexuality, dating preferences, or how to connect better with other people, BetterHelp is available with both individual and couples counseling.

If you are questioning your sexuality or already know that you are part of the LGBTQ+ community, getting help and finding the right counselor may be especially important for you. There still aren’t many large studies on how therapy can positively impact the LGBTQ+ community, but it is clear that LGBTQ+ individuals often need additional support. There’s a growing community of “positive psychologists” who are focused on helping “recognize and celebrate the positive aspects of LGBT life experiences.” 

BetterHelp has more than 14,000 counselors to potentially match you with, some of whom specialize in LGBT+ issues. Online therapy has been found to be just as effective as in-person therapy, and offers advantages such as a much larger pool of professional therapists from which to choose, and the convenience of working with a licensed counselor from the comfort of your home. BetterHelp often is accessible more quickly than traditional therapy as well. Most people are matched within 24 hours.

Here are some recent reviews from BetterHelp users with similar issues of their counselors:

“Christina is very knowledgeable, and she's willing to admit if she isn't familiar with something and looks into it. I saw Christina for grief counseling and she treated me with empathy, kindness, respect, and understanding. I recommend her services and she's LGBT+ friendly, which is always a great thing for my community.” Read more on Christina Keogh.

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Takeaway

There is still a lot to learn about the concept of sapiosexuality, but if you find yourself sexually aroused by intelligent conversation, you are not alone. If you find yourself dealing with mental health challenges because of your sexuality, or just need someone to talk with, the online counselors at BetterHelp are here for you. 

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