What To Know About Cupiosexuality

According to the Minnesota Department of Health, sexual identity — which is made up of biological gender, gender identity, gender role, and sexual orientation — refers to the way we perceive ourselves as sexual beings. Among these factors, sexual orientation, or sexuality, has a lot to do with how we experience sexual and romantic attraction and the type of relationships that we prefer. There are numerous sexual orientations out there, which can be fluid and change over time for some people (via Harvard Health Publishing).

In recent years, awareness around sexuality has been growing quickly, and the terms we use to describe our sexual orientation have also expanded to include experiences that were previously unclassified or dismissed. Acclimatizing ourselves with terms that specifically capture different types of sexual orientations help us better grasp the way people, including ourselves, express attraction and communicate boundaries within a relationship. One little-known term in this realm is "cupiosexuality," which falls under the umbrella of asexuality.

A broad spectrum with many microlabels under it, asexuality describes a sexual orientation in which there's a lack of sexual attraction or a low interest in sexual activity — even when romantic attraction is still there (per Stonewall). With this in mind, what is cupiosexuality, and why is it on the asexual spectrum?

What is cupiosexuality?

A person that identifies as cupiosexual would like to have an intimate relationship without feeling sexual attraction to others, explains sexologist Tanya M. Bass (via Cosmopolitan). First coined by the Tumblr user @acelyssie as "kalosexual," per Nourished By Life, the term was later renamed "cupiosexual."

Even though it's a relatively new sexual identity, cupiosexuality is increasingly making its way into discussions on asexuality. The cupiosexual community has its own pride flag, which consists of four horizontal lines in the colors grey, blue, white, and pink. Information on the meaning of this flag is limited, but Live Love LGBTQ+ offered a potential interpretation. Asexuality and greysexuality — in other words, no or limited sexual interest — are often symbolized by the color grey. As cupiosexual people still seek sexual relationships, the color white may stand for allosexuality, or an active sexual interest. The pink color could allude to the willingness to engage in sex and relationships. And the bluish-purple color likely represents community.

You know you're cupiosexual when you seldom experience sexual desire for anyone, even though there's a part of you that still craves the connection of engaging in physical intimacy or sexual behaviors. "For example, someone may not experience sexual desire, but that does not mean they don't experience pleasure from a sexual relationship with a partner," says Ted Lewis, Youth and Families Director at the Human Rights Campaign (via Seventeen).

Sex doesn't depend on attraction

For those just encountering this concept, the definition of cupiosexuality might be hard to wrap our heads around. To put it simply, there's a fine line between not having sexual attraction and hating sex. Sex isn't reliant on attraction. Even without it, the body can still experience the natural high through a release of endorphins and oxytocin during sexual activity. As sex educator Aubri Lancaster explains to Women's Health, the lack of attraction doesn't mean a lack of emotional bonding, and the physical pleasure will still be there whether you engage in sexual activity solo or with a partner.

Lancaster goes on to explain that the desire for a sexual relationship without sexual attraction sets cupiosexual identity apart from other sexualities on the asexual spectrum, such as demisexuality, greysexuality, and fraysexuality. Demisexuals are not down for casual sex without a pre-existing emotional bond. Greysexuals experience sexual interests rarely or occasionally. And those who identify as fraysexuals usually feel sexually attracted to strangers or people they don't know very well.

The opposite of cupiosexuality is probably orchidsexuality, which is also a microlabel in the asexual category. Per Asexuals Wikia, orchidsexuality is the orientation of people who experience sexual attraction but do not want to actually undertake a sexual relationship or experience.

Our understanding of human sexuality is only growing over time, adding new labels and nuance to help us find the relationships that meet our needs. That said, if you're not sure about your sexual orientation, don't feel pressured to put labels on yourself before knowing whether they're the right fit. Instead, explore your attraction and reach out to people from the LGBTQ+ community for advice.