The more you talk, the more I fall in love – the sapiosexuality
How many of us can say we are attracted to a person with outstanding intellectual qualities? One can generalize by saying that, at least in theory, an adult person desires a partner who can perform basic cognitive functions and perhaps, why not, something more complex as well. Likewise, however, many of us value intelligence as much as (or perhaps even less than) other physical, psychological, or material characteristics.
Yet, there are people out there who regard intelligence as the sole and dominant factor of attractiveness. These are sapiosexuals.
This article will help us learn about who are the individuals who fall under this definition, the origin of the term, and also the controversies related to the sapiosexuality.
Sapiosexual – A new term for an ancient concept
Since 2004, in the dictionary Merriam-Webster was introduced the term sapiosexual under the definition “Of, relating to, or characterized by sexual or romantic attraction to highly intelligent persons“. The term sapio comes from the Latin “know“, or “to have taste, to be wise, to understand“.
An individual can identify as sapiosexual regardless of one’s gender (male, female, homosexual, non-binary, transgender, etc.). In fact, the term refers to sexual orientation, which emphasizes the characteristics of another person or object (as in the case of the objectsexuals) but not its gender to establish sexual attraction.
The concept of intelligence as a factor in attraction is by no means a recent one. Plato himself in his philosophical text “The symposium“, written between 385 and 370 BC, conceptualizes love as a climb from the beauty of the body to the highest peaks dominated by the intellect.
It was not the Greek philosopher, however, who coined the term sapiosexual. It was a user with the name wolfieboy who, in 2002, to the question posed by another user on the OKCupid site “Which gender do you prefer in a sexual or romantic relationship?” answered “As far as I am concerned, plumbing interests me very little. I want an incisive, curious, insightful, irreverent mind. I want someone for whom philosophical discussion is foreplay. I want someone who can sometimes annoy me with his sarcasm and wicked sense of humor. […] I have decided that I am for all intents and purposes a sapiosexual” – concluding by recounting that he coined the term back in 1998.
According to Google Trends, the word remained hidden in the shadows until 2011, when it began to capture more and more interest, reaching its peak only in 2019. There is no definitive source attesting to how the term made its way into popular parlance. Many suggest that it was social media and, in particular, online dating sites that opened up to the term sapiosexual the road to popularity.
The issues of gender, sex, and sexuality
In this context, it is appropriate to clarify the difference between gender, sex, sexuality, gender identity e sexual orientation.
When we talk about sex we refer to the physical or physiological differences between male and female, including primary sex characteristics (the reproductive system) and secondary sex characteristics (height, muscularity, etc.).
Gender, on the other hand, concerns the social, cultural and role distinctions associated with being male or female.
La sexuality is the ability to feel sexual emotions and attraction toward someone-regardless of sex/gender.
For gender identity refers to the extent to which a person identifies with a particular sex and/or gender, while thesexual orientation refers to the sex of the object of an individual’s sexual attraction. L’gender identity is not to be confused with the way one dresses, postures, speaks, etc. – it is, in this case, a matter of gender expression, which may not conform to social expectations of masculinity or femininity.
It is essential to mention that gender identity and sexual orientation have the characteristics of fluidity e plasticity. It means that they extend along a continuum within a broad spectrum and are not fixed.
The variables of sex, gender and sexuality (and, consequently, gender identity and sexual orientation) should not only be examined from a biological perspective, but also from a social perspective. By looking at both aspects, it is possible to grasp their real complexity.
When considering the issue from a social perspective, categorizing is a natural and necessary process for our survival. It helps to make sense of our environment, which would be chaotic and intimidating if it were not divided into groups and categories.
In the context of the above factors, it is now clear that the classical categorizations of male e female, heterosexual e homosexual are reductive. They have their roots in patriarchal society, whose beliefs are based on the dichotomy between male and female, seen as unequal categories. Even the problem of sexism is related to this social pattern, which refers to prejudices that value one sex over another. Family, upbringing, social groups (friends, sportsmen, etc.) and the mass media are those who form certain categories and prejudices in children and, often, reinforce them in adulthood as well.
From a biological point of view, science teaches us that during the intrauterine period the fetal brain evolves in the male direction through a direct action of testosterone on the developing nerve cells, or in the female direction through the absence of this hormonal spike. According to this concept, our gender identity and even sexual orientation should be programmed into our brain structures while we are still in the womb.
However, since sexual differentiation of the genitalia occurs in the first two months of pregnancy and sexual differentiation of the brain begins in the second half of pregnancy, these two processes can be influenced independently, which can lead to transsexuality. This also means that in cases of ambiguous sex at birth, the degree of masculinization of the genitalia may not reflect the degree of masculinization of the brain-known as gender dysphoria.
This paragraph gives us an idea of the complexity of the issue of sex and gender, but it does not cover all the aspects necessary to understand it thoroughly. Nevertheless, it is possible to understand why it is crucial to introduce categories into our language that define each group’s experience. It also helps us understand why the LGBTQ+ community is considered a minority whose rights should be accepted and respected. The past of many individuals belonging to this group is marked by abuse and violence that justifies the special attention it is receiving in more recent times.
Precisely because of the turbulent past that has influenced the path of members of the LGBTQ+ group, people who define themselves as sapiosexuals are not yet fully accepted as part of the community-because they do not have the same history of oppression and aggression.
The concept of intelligence
The problem of sapiosexuality does not stop with the debate concerning whether they are LGBTQ+ or not. There is a more intricate issue that needs to be mentioned. It concerns the concept of intelligence.
Different psychologists have conflicting ideas about how to define and measure intelligence even today. Some believe that it is a single general ability; others, on the contrary, see it as a range of aptitudes, skills, and talents. For this reason, there is no universal definition. Currently, there are three factors that seem to constitute a person’s intelligence:
- Learning from experience – That is, the ability to acquire, retain, and use knowledge
- Recognizing problems – Knowing how to use one’s knowledge comes from the ability to identify possible problems in the external environment that need attention
- Problem solving – The ability to use what has been learned to present solutions to problems identified in the immediate environment
In the 20th century, psychologist William Stern coined the term. IQ (IQ), and later, fellow Frenchman Alfred Binet-in collaboration with his country’s government-created the first intelligence test. Since then, intelligence tests have been increasingly popular.
There are several theories that can help in understanding the heated debate among different psychologists on the subject of intelligence.
One of them is the theory of general intelligence (Theory of General Intelligence). Psychologist Charles Spearman, after examining the performance of a range of individuals in a range of mental aptitude tests, concluded that those who achieved high scores in cognitive tests tended to perform very well in other types of tests as well. His conclusion was that intelligence is a general concept (g-factor), which can be measured and expressed numerically.
Another theory is that of psychologist Louis L. Thurstone, known as the theory of primary mental abilities (Theory of Primary Mental Abilities). It does not recognize a general intelligence, but rather several primary “intelligences.” An individual may possess one or more:
- Associative memory – The ability to memorize and remember
- Numerical ability – The ability to solve arithmetic problems
- Perceptual speed – The ability to see differences and similarities between objects
- Reasoning – The ability to find rules
- Spatial visualization– The ability to visualize relationships
- Verbal comprehension– The ability to define and understand words
- Fluency of verbal language – The ability to produce words quickly
Later, Howard Gardner developed the theory of multiple intelligences (Theory of Multiple Intelligences). According to the American psychologist, the concepts of general intelligence and IQ are too reductive to represent human abilities. He therefore proposed the existence of eight different intelligences:
- Bodily-kinesthetic intelligence – The ability to control body movements and skillfully handle objects
- Interpersonal intelligence – The ability to detect and respond appropriately to the moods, motivations, and desires of others
- Intrapersonal intelligence – The ability to be self-aware and attuned to inner feelings, values, beliefs, and thought processes
- Logical-mathematical intelligence – The ability to think conceptually and abstractly and the ability to discern logical or numerical patterns
- Musical intelligence – The ability to produce and appreciate rhythm, pitch, and timbre
- Naturalistic intelligence – The ability to recognize and classify animals, plants, and other objects in nature
- Linguistic-verbal intelligence – Well-developed verbal skills and sensitivity to the sounds, meanings, and rhythms of words
- Visual-spatial intelligence – The ability to think in pictures and visualize accurately and abstractly
To conclude, also noteworthy is the triarchical theory of intelligence (Triarchic Theory of Intelligence). According to its originator, psychologist Robert Sternberg, intelligence is a “mental activity directed toward the intentional adaptation, selection, and formation of real-world environments relevant to one’s life“. Sternberg agreed with Gardner’s view, but believed that some of his “intelligences” reflected talents more than anything else. He proposed, accordingly, three basic factors:
- Analytical intelligence – The ability to evaluate information and solve problems
- Creative intelligence – The ability to come up with new ideas
- Practical intelligence – The ability to adapt to a changing environment
There would be much more to add, but what has been said so far gives an idea of the complexity of the concept of intelligence.
It is precisely because of the basic difficulty in defining and understanding intelligence that many are skeptical about the concept of sapiosexuality.
It comes naturally, then, to wonder what the sapiosexuals mean by intelligence?