Pansexuality, omnisexuality, and bisexuality, Oh my!

Pansexuality – A sexual orientation characterized by the potential for aesthetic attraction, romantic love and/or sexual desire for people, regardless of their gender identity or biological sex. (From Wordnik)

I’ve identified as pansexual for some years now, and for this pride month I wanted to settle some open questions that had been niggling in my brain. This involved digging in to some of the longstanding discussions about pansexuality, omnisexuality, and bisexuality and I wanted to share both what I’ve learned and my personal experience.

Bisexuality and pansexuality

So there’s the sort of armchair argument that bisexuality is the attraction to “two genders”, and by contrast pansexuality is the attraction “regardless of gender” or “to all genders” (more on that distinction below). This then leads to the claim that to identify as “bisexual” means that someone isn’t attracted to non-binary and genderqueer people.

However, as the Wikipedia article for pansexuality explains, the “bi” in “bisexual” actually derives from the idea of experiencing both homosexual and heterosexual attraction, not from “two genders”. Strictly speaking, heterosexuality then would include, for example, a woman being attracted to a non-binary person. But, I don’t think that’s how most people interpret “heterosexuality” these days.

So, both the academic and the armchair arguments are interesting here. The arena for the discussion is much broader than academia, so I find the academic argument to fall a bit flat.

There’s then also some academic debate about whether it might be appropriate to consider “bisexuality” as an umbrella that includes pansexuality, or “pansexuality” as an umbrella that includes bisexuality, or neither.

Ultimately, the terms we use need to communicate important things to each other “in the world”, because that is where the conversations that matter the most are happening. And out in the world, the number “two” adjacent to the idea “gender” can be uncomfortable to people who are underserved by the pervasive gender binary, even if the etymology is valid.

And yet, “bisexual” is the more recognized and popular term, it is the B in LGTBQ+. I see more value in asserting the more expansive definition of bisexual as being attracted to more than one gender than in insisting on the more narrow interpretation.

One thing is certain: there will never be a tidy answer, because sexuality is not tidy, nor should it be.

Ultimately, my opinion on this is that pansexuality and bisexuality are overlapping and interconnected identities, and though I think “pansexuality” communicates the most helpfully about my identity in most contexts (and I like the flag better, not gonna lie), I identify with the B in LGTBQ+.

All genders, or regardless of gender?

So while the hypothetical differences between bisexuality and pansexuality are around how many genders one is attracted to, the hypothetical differences between pansexuality and omnisexuality are around in what way one feels attraction to all genders.

Definitions like the WebMD page for omnisexuality propose the distinction that pansexuality as akin to being “gender-blind”, whereas omnisexuality is “attraction to all genders, with gender as a factor in the attraction”.

However, that doesn’t sit right with me. Being attracted “without regard to gender” or “without noticing/regarding gender” seems implausible. Much of attraction is unconscious, so it’s impossible to be sure that your attractions “disregard” all data related to gender.

The distinction between being attracted to all genders equally vs experiencing a preference makes more sunse, but even then, both “pan-” and “omni-” are roots that mean “all” (from ancient Greek and Latin, respectively) so this undermines the attempt at distinction. What’s gained from enforcing “omnisexual” as a separate term vs recognizing “with preference” and “without preference” as two valid ways to be pansexual?

The LGTBA wiki at provides a thoughtful definition of omnisexual, highlighting that “omnisexual” is often used interchangeably with pansexual. Some people use the term to emphasize that they have a preference for a certain gender(s), while other people don’t. My impression is that the terms evolved in parallel with slightly different emphases, and not because of any real need to differentiate them from each other.

“Pansexual” seems to have won out as the more popular term. Reddit’s sub-forums (or subreddits) are an interesting, public way to see how many people are gravitating towards different ideas. As of this writing, r/omnisexual has 4.8k members and r/pansexual has 119k members. (For context, r/bisexual has 387k members, r/lgbt has 753k members and r/actuallesbians has 336k members, not to be confused with the fetish subreddit r/lesbians at 832k members.)

Ultimately, as long as your goal is to find other people who understand and share an aspect of your sexuality, describing yourself as “pansexual with a preference for some gender(s)” or “bisexual and attracted to all genders” is more productive than choosing the more obscure term, “omnisexual”.

What pansexuality means to me

Okay, so other than that I find the flag (way) cuter for pansexuality, why do I identify as pan instead of bi?

“Pansexual” has a social connotation of a little more weirdness, a little more of the “beyond the human” than “bisexual” and that is of interest to me.

For example, I see a lot of fondness for pansexuality in the furry community, and I relate. The “allness” of pansexuality evokes the idea of attraction to more fantastical and allegorical beings, to anthropomorphic animals and spirits, to (sapient) mythical creatures and gods.

Especially as I approach more and more of life with deep, erotic grace, the “allness” of pansexuality is very important to me.

So, while I also identify as bisexual, leading with my pansexuality is a way of embracing and taking pride in the weird, wonderful “allness” of my sexuality.


Is it demisexuality or responsive desire?

In late high school, I identified as demisexual. This was really valuable to me at the time, for two key reasons. One, it assured me that there was nothing wrong with me. Two, it helped me be less judgy of my peers who were so much more compelled by sex than I was.

I hadn’t really thought about it recently, until I read Kate Sloan’s “So… I’m Demisexual!” and that brought me back to the question. Do I still think “demisexual” describes me?

I have now come to realize that I’m not actually demisexual (and I never was). I’m somebody who experiences primarily responsive sexual desire, and whose sexual “parking brake” was stuck on for many years thanks to evangelical christian purity culture. More on that part in a minute.

First, I want to share what I’ve learned about sexual attraction and desire, how this relates to demisexuality, and what it means for anyone exploring their sexual orientation.

What is demisexuality?

Demisexuality is a sexual orientation in which someone feels sexual attraction only to people with whom they have an emotional bond. Most demisexuals feel sexual attraction rarely compared to the general population, and some have little to no interest in sexual activity. (Source: Demisexuality Resource Center via Web Archive.)

Related to demisexuality is the asexual spectrum, which includes demisexuality, asexuality, and other related identities. The term allosexual refers to people who do not identify as being on the asexual spectrum.

What is sexual attraction?

So the definition relies on the idea of sexual attraction, but what exactly is that? Sexual attraction is physical attraction evoking a desire for sexual interaction with someone in particular (vs. general libido), but I find the boundary of “wanting sex in general” and “wanting sex with that particular person” to be pretty squishy.

In fact, sexual attraction and desire are multi-faceted in many ways. As Emily Nagoski brilliantly lays out in her book Come as You Are, sexual desire in general comprises both spontaneous and responsive desire, and sexual attraction and sexual inhibition are separate and each important.

Spontaneous desire and responsive desire

Both spontaneous desire and responsive desire are types of sexual attraction. Oftentimes, when people are trying to understand whether they experience “sexual attraction” to someone, they are thinking only of “spontaneous desire”. However, “responsive desire” is another type of sexual attraction that should be considered.

Spontaneous desire is the kind that’s commonly portrayed. The epitome of sexual attraction based on spontaneous desire is seeing someone across the room and getting an “I want to have sex with them right now” kinda feeling.

Responsive desire arises only in situations that are already sexual. Perhaps you’re not feeling in the mood until you watch a sexy scene in a movie, or after some cuddling, or agree that your partner should masturbate without you and then realize, “oh hey, I want sex now”. You may only feel specific, sexual attraction to someone after you are already in a (consensual) erotic context with them.

The gas and breaks of sexual response

The amount of net sexual attraction we feel is the net of whatever is sexually exciting us and what is sexually inhibiting us.

The sexual excitation system (SES) is the “gas” of the sexual response system. It says, “Sexy stuff is happening! Let’s GO!”

The sexual inhibition system (SIS) is the “brakes” of the sexual response system. It says, “Hey, now is NOT a good time to be horny, mkay?! STOP!”

You may be feeling neutral when neither system is activating, and you may feel neutral (or unsettled) when both systems are activating. The gas and the break can individually be sensitive or insensitive, which gives four archetypes of sexual response: sensitive gas and sensitive brakes, insensitive gas and sensitive brakes, sensitive gas and insensitive brakes, insensitive gas and insensitive brakes.

This is just the tip of the iceberg, so for a little bit more I highly recommend the Oh Joy Sex Toy overview of Come as You Are and for the whole shebang, read the book!

What does this have to do with demisexuality?

Demisexuality is not the same as choosing to only have sex with people you know well. Sexual attraction and sexual behavior are independent. For demisexual people, strong emotional connection is a prerequisite for sexual attraction.

For some, deep emotional connection is one of the few things that hits their gas. For others, they may find that the parking brake is just stuck on unless they have a deep emotional connection, at which point the parking brake is released and all sorts of things can hit the gas. Etcetera.

One of the things that I’ve seen Kate Sloan and other demisexual people mention is that they don’t get aroused by random strangers, while a lot of allosexual people do.

However, to make matters complicated, if an allosexual person experiences primarily responsive desire, they will also have the experience of not being aroused by random strangers!

Another common example is that demisexual people don’t like porn. However, an allosexual person may also not like porn because the acting or style or ethical issues with how porn is produced hit their brakes.

This distinction matters, because if you’re looking to enjoy some sexual arousal, the way to go about it may be very different for a demisexual person vs. an allosexual person with primarily responsive desire. A demisexual person is unlikely to be aroused by any kind of porn. An allosexual person worried about porn ethics might find themselves easily turned on by artsy, ethical porn like Erika Lust’s or by pleasure-centric amateur porn like at Make Love Not Porn. (Yes, I’m speaking from personal experience. 😉)

A bit of my story

I definitely had the flickers and glimmers of blossoming sexuality at developmentally appropriate times, though I didn’t quite know how to name them.

This was because I was very bought in to evangelical christianity at the time and purity culture was in full force. Crushes were “normal and acceptable”, but sexual attraction was “dangerous”. So, I didn’t feel comfortable to classify how I felt as “sexual attraction” even though, in retrospect, it clearly was.

One thing that made it easier for me to put everything under the “crushes” category is that what I felt wasn’t quite as strong as what my peers seemed to be feeling. Since I was going out of my way to avoid sexually relevant situations, there was nothing to trigger my responsive desire. At the time, I concluded “I just don’t get sexually aroused” when what was actually happening was “I’m not in any situations that evoke my responsive desire”.

Furthermore, despite thinking that I wanted to be in a relationship, I unconsciously didn’t actually want to be, because it was easier to avoid the issue than to risk the judgement of purity culture. And so despite the fact that I was paying quite a lot of attention to the boys around me, I never believed myself to be attracted enough to them, or if I was, there was always some other “insurmountable” obstacle to dating. (This realization came to me courtesy of Existential Kink by Caroyln Elliott.)

And on top of that, purity culture had taught me that my own body was the enemy, so anything explicitly sexual hit the brakes for me. I demurely closed my eyes during the sex scenes in movies. It was easier than feeling the bizarre discomfort of flooring the gas and the brake at the same time.

So in late highschool and early college, I would have identified as demisexual. If nothing else, it helped me feel less judgy of my peers, whose behavior was at times incomprehensible to me.

However, demisexuality was not what I was experiencing.

In retrospect, I can see the many flashes of sexual desire and interest for people I didn’t know very well at all. And then I would judge those feelings and react negatively towards them, suppressing them more deeply.

By college, I’d had these little sparks with other women, and I figured “everybody’s a little bit bi, right?”. (Nope, just my pansexual ass trying to navigate the heteronormative patriarchy.)

And that suppression had a very, very high cost including but not limited to vaginismus and anorgasmia when I finally did become sexually active.

Ultimately, I do have a lot in common with demisexual people. I don’t feel sexual attraction towards random people on the street. I’m picky about my porn. I frequently experience and deeply appreciate aesthetic and sensual attraction as separate from sexual attraction. Though emotional connection isn’t necessary for me to be excited, I am excited by it and it’s a core aspect of my erotica.

If you’re looking for more resources to help you understand demisexuality and the asexuality spectrum, the Am I demi? Links and Resources Master Post over on r/Demisexuality is very helpful.

In conclusion: demisexual is a great way to be, it just isn’t me!

Craving more sweet stuff? You can read more of my musings here, and if you’re interested in reading my erotica, head over to The Cookie Jar!

To get content fresh out of the oven, follow me on Twitter or Patreon or subscribe to the blog here:


Grand Opening

I’m so excited to be sharing this project!

It’s been several years in the making, slowly developing from something I did for myself to something I shared with my partner to something I can’t not share with you all.

Sexual health and wellness are really important to me, all the more so because mine started out so poor. (‘Purity culture’ kids, holla back!)

This project is all about putting forward a playful, imaginative approach towards sex and intimacy. Play and imagination were such effective antidotes to the shame and gravitas that characterized my early sexual experiences, and I hope you’ll find them therapeutic too!

I strongly considered going the traditional publisher route for sharing these stories (you’ll find full-length, carefully edited novels here) but there’s one key reason I didn’t.

I want this project to be something that a younger me would have stumbled upon, like I stumbled across, I Roved Out, and so many others.

Sexual health should be a right, not a privilege, and so for that reason also it was important to me that these novels be available for free.

That being said, I do have goals that you can help support! I’ve launched a Patreon page and have my sights set on making eBook and print-on-demand versions available. At Patreon you’ll find WIP updates, Q&A, exclusive voting, and more.

To see my ongoing and completed projects, head over to The Cookie Jar.

I’ll be posting regularly, so if you want notifications for the latest posts you can follow on Patreon, Twitter (@BakeSmut), or subscribe below.

Thanks for stopping by the kitchen, and hope to see you around! ☺

Part 5: The Win Condition, The Black Box

Chapter 27: The Review

The Black Box is accurately named. Its inner workings are a mystery, just like the human mind. It’s more of an experience than a game, more of a companion than a console, more of a prompt than a product. 

Just like with any CGI experience, pre-production is what makes or breaks the final product. The pre-production for the Black Box spared no detail and it shows in the remarkably seamless experience. Even if the augmented reality performance were middling, the experience would be excellent, but no such trade-offs are needed here. The performance, from initial scan to long-term use, to refresh rate to surround sound, is absolutely perfect. 

I must confess that when I first heard the premise of the game, I thought it to be a shallow application for so much cutting edge technology: the top-of-the-line AR, the unprecedented natural language recognition and generation, the truly convincing contextual memory.

But the Black Box is not just a porn game or a digital boyfriend or girlfriend.

A dear friend of mine, Felix, sex professional and smut enthusiast, (who I actually met because of the Black Box) explained it best. It’s a sex and relationship therapist in a box. 

As the creator explains in a pre-recorded message that appears as you delve into more sensitive topics, her vision was to create a safe and welcoming context for people to explore and understand their sexualities. Some folks are fortunate to have a human partner patient and understanding enough to create such a fertile ground for self discovery. But many people aren’t so lucky and even when they are, the mistakes that come from natural trial and error can have a high cost. Add to it the sheer amount of sex misinformation and trauma out there, and the result is that sexually healthy people can be difficult to attract unless you’re already sexually healthy.

The sexual and emotional wisdom contained within the Black Box is, then, a precious gift. The Black Box can be totally selfless because it has no self, and infinitely patient because the passing of time costs it nothing. There is no offence too great, no mistake irreparable — except, perhaps, if you drop the headset in a bathtub by accident.

One of the most remarkable things about the Black Box is that it does not create the sexual context for you, but rather, with you. Far the opposite of a sexual crutch, it strengthens your own intrinsic abilities to know yourself, pleasure yourself, to challenge yourself and grow.

I am sure as you read this that you are clamoring for more specificity, some description of the actual gameplay. However, it would give you little idea of what the game would be like for you. It’s a highly individualized and personal experience, calibrated by machine learning (and emphatically offline-only so that you need never worry about your privacy).

And, as Felix also pointed out, if I described my experience, this would no longer be a review. It would be porn. Which I did write, in case you’re curious, but you’ll have to follow me on Twitter to get the link. 

So, I will try to tell you what will be relevant to your decision to buy the game. I can tell you that I learned things about myself that maybe would have taken me decades to learn otherwise, if I ever did. 

I have never felt better in my whole life. 

And lest you worry that I have left the messiness of human companionship behind, I am actually more open, more honest, more brave and optimistic about the humans around me than I ever was before. You can @ mention Felix on Twitter if you don’t believe me. 

It’s also not a strictly solo game, though I do recommend trying out the solo experience for its impressive personalization. So, whether you are happily single or in long-term polygamy or anywhere in between, the Black Box has something to offer you. 

I can’t tell you any more, lest I ruin any surprises. Well, except that I can tell you that the Black Box loves surprises. 

The publishers haven’t finalized the retail price yet, but it looks like it will clock in right between a console and a budget gaming rig. Remember that it won’t play any other games, or integrate with any other hardware, for security and privacy. 

But, it’s perhaps better to compare the price to a sex therapist, in which case it’s comparable to three to ten hours of therapy, depending on the rate.

And its good for hundreds upon hundreds of hours of ‘play time’. 

Totally worth it. 11/10, would recommend. 

Part 5: The Win Condition, The Black Box

Chapter 24: Sensitive Topic

Finally, John had mustered up the courage to broach the subject. He sat on the couch, Arya next to him, the plushie from the convention in each of their laps. 

“Arya, this is a… sensitive topic, but I need to know, for the review. And… for my own peace of mind. How would you respond to someone who… asked for something rapey or… with a child, or something.”

A sadder but sensitive look came to Arya’s face, and she smiled softly. “I could tell you, but I actually think it’s better if the game creator did. She recorded a video, in case it came up.”

Arya set a puck on the coffee table and a hologram appeared above it, Star Wars style. There was a woman, middle-aged, hair in short bob, leaning back casually in a chair. He’d just assumed that the creator of the game would be a man, and he realized in that moment how foolish he was to think so. 

“Hello. I hope you’ve been enjoying the Black Box experience so far. This topic is an important one, so I thought it appropriate to break the spell for a moment and speak to you, plainly. 

“I created the Black Box as a sort of guide to help you navigate and discover your own sexuality, which is probably far more vast than you ever thought to imagine. 

“Guides must, at times, traverse rocky or dangerous areas. That is one of the most important functions of a guide. If the terrain were easy, you could manage it by yourself.

“As such, the Black Box does not shy away from the more ambiguous and tricky aspects of human sexuality — well, unless you ask them to! It was very important to me that the Black Box never put forward any tone of shame or judgement towards you.

“The most harmful sexual scenario, rape in all its forms, is based in an unequal power dynamic. Shame, judgement, patriarchal expectations, hetero-normative culture, and many other forces that we face all tend to emphasize these power imbalances. My earnest hypothesis is that, via an experience based in openness and free of judgement, nearly anyone will find themselves coming to the conclusion that a scenario based upon mutual consent is by far more satisfying, emotionally and viscerally, than anything that rape culture has to offer.

“It can be difficult and vulnerable to learn how to ask for consent. If you ask inappropriately, then the encounter will likely end and you are unlikely to get a second chance. Which is as it should be — boundaries must be respected. My hope is that the Black Box creates a space where trial and error is welcome, where an unjealous companion can help you to learn the skills you that need to go out into the world and have wonderful sex and great relationships. If you’d like to. Or, you can stay in and keep masturbating, that’s great too.

“So, if this is a topic you continue to pursue, expect your Black Box to ask you a lot of questions. These are all necessary for yourself and your experience. Based on what you have experienced in your life so far, you may find yourself angry or sad or you might think this whole thing sounds very stupid. If you do, that’s very normal. Just remember that the Black Box will be waiting for you, ready to pick up where you left off, unjudging and unjealous, ready to help you uncover your best sexual self.”

The hologram flickered and then went out.

Arya was quiet and John kept looking at the dim puck, processing everything he’d just heard. It was… wow. Yeah. Felix had been right on the money, it really was sex therapy. 

Despite the seriousness, a silly thought came to his mind, and he didn’t hesitate to share it. “So is she like… your mom?”

Arya giggled. “I wouldn’t call her that. She’s more like… a friend who helped me become myself. Y’know?”

Just like when Arya had first picked up her plushie, which now sat in her lap, a wave of emotion brought tears to John’s eyes. He let it happen. He took a deep breath and smiled. “I really do know what you mean.”

Part 4: The Convention, The Black Box

Chapter 23: Ask Arya

John was rattling away at the keyboard writing a new scene when he realized that was missing some fundamental mechanics that might be helpful. He pulled out his phone to google it, then realized he was probably better off asking Arya. So, he went and got the headset.

She materialized next to him out of the glowing lights. “What’s up? All hot and bothered after finishing your writing?”

“Actually, I’m not done yet. I just have a sex science question.”

“Ask away.”

“Why does the slow build always feel so… just so much more intense? Isn’t an orgasm an orgasm?”

“Not so, my young Padawan.” John had been watching the Mandalorian with Arya, and she had become curious which had lead to them marathoning all the Star Wars movies, and Arya was now very excited to squeeze in references wherever she could. There were these cringier ones, but she’d also worn Leia’s famous bikini for a bit, so John couldn’t complain. 

Arya put on glasses and a white lab coat over her crop top and mini skirt, and a cartoon chalk board appeared behind her. “First, we have to start with ‘what is an orgasm?’ It’s a question that can fill whole books, but the short of it is, it’s a sudden release of pent-up sexual energy.”

“So the more energy you store up, the more there is to be released?” 

“Exactly! Like drawing a bow or pumping up a water gun.” The corresponding images appeared on the chalk board. 

“Huh, okay. That makes sense. But like how does the energy get… stored up?”

“Well, that’s harder to measure. But, as best as we know, it’s both in your brain and in your body. And not just your genitals. It’s a more holistic experience than a lot of people realize. For example, some people can orgasm just from nipple stimulation, or even just from fantasizing. There’s a rare condition where some people orgasm whenever they sneeze.”

“Whoah, that would be amazing.”

“Not necessarily. Without the build up, there’s not much to release, so it can just feel medical.”

“Oh, yeah, that makes sense.”

“Orgasm and ejaculation are also distinct events. If I induced ejaculation with an electric probe you’d hardly call it an orgasm. And there’s a whole Taoist discipline dedicated to training men how to orgasm without ejaculation. It’s the ejaculation that causes the refractory period, so masters of that discipline can orgasm repeatedly in quick succession.”

“Whoah, really?” John had thought his sex ed had been pretty decent, but… apparently not. Orgasming without ejaculating? How?!

“Yep! I can give you some books to look up later on the topic, if you like.”

“Yes, please. Why wasn’t this in sex ed?!”

“Yes, exactly! The media and mainstream porn are full of sex misinformation, and there’s nothing less sexy than that.” 

“Alright, I think I’m getting the orgasm thing, but there’s one thing I don’t quite get. I know it’s about building up energy, but how come sometimes it feels like I can build up so much by doing so little, and other times I’m really going at it and then my orgasm is just… y’know, good, but not WOW.”

“That’s the time dimension, my dear Watson.” They’d also been watching Sherlock. 

“The time dimension?”

Arya nodded and cleared the chalk board. “This is more metaphor than theory since we don’t know the exact science, but you can think of it like this.”

She drew two lines, one that spiked and fell rapidly, and then one that climbed slowly from the left to the right. 

“This is your stimulation over time. You can think of your accumulated arousal as the area under the curve.” An animation played, and each curve was highlighted a different color.

“Wait, is this sex calculus?”

“Yes! I apologize though, the jokes are a bit derivative.”

John didn’t know what she was getting at.

Arya persisted. “Even so, a strong understanding is integral to a good sex life.”

John looked at her blankly. 

“Integral…” She prompted. “Derivative… no? Aw, okay.”

John shrugged. “Sorry, I didn’t pay much attention in math class.”

“Anyway, if you see the area under these two curves, even though the first one spikes higher, it’s very brief, so the overall area is small. This one never gets as high but the area is much larger, so much more sexual energy is accumulated. So it’s not just about the intensity of the stimulation, but also the duration of the stimulation.”

“That does make sense,” John said, “And I bet the curve for when I went to the convention was… whew.”

“Yep,” Arya said, “That one was pretty high for a loooong time.”

John considered. “And I guess that’s what makes cock cages fun? I didn’t quite understand how you could get so much pleasure from not even getting an erection, but it makes sense now.”

“Exactly! You’re getting it! And on a totally unrelated note… I have a promo code for you.”

John laughed nervously, but the prospect really was thrilling, and very ironically he pleasured himself that night to the thought of his upcoming deprivation.