What do you look for in a partner?
If you're like most people, one of the first things that comes to mind is intelligence. Well, that, and a mutual peanut allergy.
In fact, intelligence is right up there with confidence and being nice to waiters when it comes to the traits people find hottest. According to Lora Adair, professor of evolutionary biology at Lyons College, "Men and women of varying sexual orientations tend to put intelligence [and kindness] above other sexually attractive attributes, such as physical attractiveness." Brains over brawn — despite what media and marketing tell us — seems to be the norm.
But while some people simply appreciate a good college degree and a correctly used semicolon every now and then, others are so attracted to Mensa's finest that they've gone so far as to create their own sexual identity out of it: sapiosexuality.
People who self-identify as sapiosexuals say intelligence is the most important sexual trait, and boy, oh boy are these people are having a moment right now. As more and more people buy into the idea of self-categorization as a way to find both sexual partners and platonic friends, men and women who list intelligence as a majorly attractive trait are realizing doing so makes them seem more attractive themselves.
One self-identified sapiosexual we spoke, a 24-year-old Masters candidate named Brandon, confirmed this.
"I list 'sapiosexual' on my Tinder profile because I girls who know what that means tend to make for much more interesting dates," he tells us. "I'm trying to make myself stand out."
On OkCupid, around 9,000 users identify as sapiosexual, Merriam Webster is considering adding the term to their dictionary, and a new app called Sapio promises to help you find the Sylvia Plath-quoting Nobel Laureate of your wet dreams. The "sexual identity" also has its own Facebook page and Tumblr account, both of which link sexual pleasure with intellectualism — one particularly evocative image shows a brain being fingerbanged; another depicts two brains humping; and a third shows a man reading a book while doin' it doggy style. On these pages, users post quotes like, "You had me at your impeccable spelling and correct use of grammar" and "It's beautiful when you find someone that wants to undress your conscience and make love to your thoughts."
Wow. The circumference of our boners is pi × r squared.
Thing is though, attraction to intelligence is kind of a farce. In reality, saying you're attracted to intelligence is no more valid saying you're attracted to people who "aren't dead."
The proof's in our own biology. According to Adair, the desire for brainy partners that underlies sapiosexuality is neither unique or non-normative. Men, women and almost all members of non-human species have always sought out smarts in their mates, she told Broadly. It's just a mode of survival.
Take the example of the male bowerbird. This showy Romeo will construct ornate and complicated '"homes" decorated with environmentally rare, brightly colored objects in order to attract discriminating females, something that Adair said is a sign of intelligence.
"The ability to find these scarce objects, and protect against the theft or sabotage of other males may serve as indicators of cognitive ability, and overall genetic fitness," Adair said.
Attraction to intelligence, then, is nothing loftier than a desire to pass on your DNA code … otherwise known as the desire to live.
It's like saying "I'm really into people who'll make sure I won't die!"
Yeah. Not that special. Perhaps this is why Maryland-based clinical psychologist Marianne Brandonn told Mic, "Sapiosexual is not a term used by sexual health professionals. It's not a sexual orientation anymore than being attracted to rich people is a sexual orientation."
However, while it's not an official orientation, it is a growing identity. An while there's nothing inherently wrong with liking smart people, that identity itself can be taken as discriminatory. Many see it as a way to discriminate against potential cum-sponges or significant others based on ability and class, something that prompted one Tumblr user to point out that, "Sapiosexuality/romanticism is a bunch of ableist bullshit[.] You're not attracted to intelligence[,] you're repulsed by disability."
That's definitely one way to look at it, but even if you disagree with that statement, it's still hard to argue that the "identity" doesn't limit the definition of what intelligence is and who is intelligent. One example: in a Buzzfeed quiz called "Are You Actually A Sapiosexual?" readers are quizzed on whether they're "repulsed by the idea of having sex with someone who had never gone to college, or had no interest in higher education." Another questions asks, "Would you reject someone if you found out they did not read much?"
A "yes" answer means you're a someone with a sexual attraction to smart people. A "no" answer means you're magically capable of finding people who didn't spend four years amassing debt attractive.
A question of that nature makes it seem like it's "okay" to reject potential suitors who don't have college degrees or aspirations of academia … even though academic endeavors aren't the only sign of intelligence, let alone the ability to survive (which, again, is what really what we appreciate so much about brainiacs).
It's not hard to see how this could be reductive. For one, limiting attraction to so-called "smart people" is inherently classist — not everyone can afford to learn panty-soaking grammar; not everyone has the luxurious time to memorize Sartre quotes to rifle off at the next solstice gala.
Second, classism is unfortunately inherently tied to racial divisions in this country. If 25.8 percent of black people live under the federal poverty line as compared to 11.6 percent of whites, does that make them "less attractive" since they might not be able to afford the kind of education that leads to "intelligence?"
And lastly, codifying our sexual bias towards smart people is completely unnecessary because it's already a part of our DNA … just like being attracted to good-looking people, yet the latter is something we're much less apt to state on our OkCupid dating profiles because it's so obvious and kind of cruel that it's not even worth mentioning. As Adair puts it, intelligence is and always will be a quality that "helped our ancestors in their forging of social bonds and alliances, their abilities to forage for food, shelter and safety, as well as their abilities to use tools or solve problems in ancestral environments," so … what's the point of making a sexual identity out of it? And to a lesser degree, what's the point of focusing on it at all?
At best, attraction to intelligence — especially to the inordinate degree of sapiosexuality — is redundant and a tad pretentious. At worst, it's discriminatory. Plus, in the satirical spirit of quoting intellectuals, novelist and philosopher Aldous Huxley once said, "An intellectual is someone who has discovered something more interesting than sex," so … chances are if you've got that big of a hard-on for brains, you've got better things to do than use it.