1. (of a person) finding intelligence sexually attractive or arousing.
“I met a sapiosexual PhD candidate who won’t date anyone who hasn’t read David Foster Wallace.”
1. a person who finds intelligence sexually attractive or arousing.
“I’m a sapiosexual who gets turned on by someone who can wax on about Uighur oppression in China and Basquiat.”
Having been in a single, long-term monogamous relationship from my late teens through my early thirties, I never gave much thought to what interested me in men. I was part of a super ambitious two-person team, and we were so busy hashtag winning that I didn’t even think about straying. It was only when I finally gained the confidence after a crushing divorce and some rough times that I even began to consider dating. When I finally rejoined humanity in 2015, it turned out there was a whole community…dating…online.
Looking back on it, I don’t think there is any easy way to acclimate to this community. It’s akin to getting into a cold pool. You just have to dive in and warm up.
Even before you meet anyone, you have to build a profile for whichever dating site/app, and that requires both self-awareness and an idea of what you want. Easy enough, I thought, I’m trash— I’ll settle for a heartbeat and go all out for someone with decent hair and good taste in music. Those first few dates in Tucson were not so much cringeworthy to be on, just forgettable and embarrassing when we ran into someone I knew. Tucson can be very small this way.
But, what I quickly realized was that dating was a lot like prototype building. Iterated over and again with enough strangers, I just had to modify the prototype (my dating profile or the app I used or the settings on the app) in tiny increments, collect observations from the experiment, and then reflect on the takeaways. It’s fascinating, as long as you protect yourself (safety first) and you don’t put too much stock into it.
In the beginning, I wasn’t so emotionally removed, and I took each mismatch as a sign of my personal worth, or lack thereof. But the compulsion to learn more about the world and the new me in it overcame any desire to quit. Every single interaction had a takeaway…even if it was learning about physics or Iranian history. Mostly, I just listened and picked up tons of information on how men think.
So, naturally, I found that dating smarter guys made for more interesting dates with more takeaways and more likelihood for compatibility: better conversation, more room for me to express who I really am, and more aligned interests and goals. The only questions now were how and where to find them and how to get them to want to go out with me. Tucson has a pretty small pool of intellectuals and artists. It has doctors and lawyers and businessmen (oh my!) but they’ve never been interested in my innate unconventionality.
I used Tinder enough to roughly figure out the algorithm for getting better visibility and getting more valuable matches (value to me, not the value of human worth). Doing a little research into Tinder and consistently modifying the prototype and analyzing the data basically helped me hack Tinder.
And then, by a twist of fate, I fell into a giant data set, teeming with new information, just by visiting NYC.
When I started dating in NYC, the available data was 10x greater, and the dating pool veered drastically in my favor. If you can swing swiping through thousands of profiles, you not only get to see what men are like, you can pick up on patterns of what they’re looking for and what they’re seeing from other women’s profiles. It’s a wealth of data just begging to be analyzed. And my autistic mind loves nothing more than looking at raw data and making sense of seemingly unrelated phenomena.
Dating in NYC was a revelation. What made me a Tucson 4 or 5 counterintuitively made me an NYC 7 or an 8. In the NYC online dating community, my brain, ambition, and unconventionality actually made me more attractive on a dating app that is widely dismissed as a hookup app. Even if guys were just looking for sex, they wanted it to be with someone who could carry on a high-level conversation with some sophistication.
When my female friends (both in Tucson and NYC) complained that they didn’t like the quality of options on Tinder, I’d give them my phone and let them swipe along to see how the pool of candidates I had access to was radically different from what they were seeing. And my rate for matching was also much higher. I ascribe this not only to a data driven autistic brain but also my talent for story craftsmanship. After all, isn’t a dating profile just telling the story of who you are in a couple of flattering pictures and some selected facts about yourself? As an aside, if I could apply for jobs this way…I’d be heading a lesser Fortune 500 company by now instead of being a writer for hire.
I still managed to learn new things on every single date, and now I was learning to love a whole new city as the men who took me out on dates showed me what they loved about the place. They introduced me to people and scenes and opportunities. There were a couple of fun love affairs but also the beginnings of great friendships.
One thing I learned on Tinder was the concept of a sapiosexual. Beyond the definition, the word comes with a lot of connotations I would come to understand as I interacted with the men who identified as such. On an app that limits profiles to 500 characters, using a loaded term effectively communicates a lot. There are men out there who explicitly say things like, “Please be able to carry on a conversation.” Instant red flag. It’s a hostile phrase that gives the impression that these men have been unimpressed by women in the past. I am not for them, and they are not for me. If you’re asking me to rise to your level to distinguish myself from all the stupid women you think are out there, I don’t ever want to meet you for free drinks. Swipe left.
Sapiosexual in a profile is also a cue of incompatibility for me. Yes, I am brilliant and entertaining and sophisticated. And I want to be valued as such. But, through my data mining, I’ve discovered that the type of men who use the term come off as arrogant and tend to be insecure, whereas the men who lead with their wit and imply their brilliance are the type who are going to spark my curiosity. It’s no secret women find confidence sexy. And I am, for more better than worse, led by my curiosity.
I moved to NYC in May 2019. I attribute much of this to joining the online dating community in NYC and learning from every encounter. And now I am surrounded by an actual real-life community of like-minded, brilliant, ambitious intellectuals and artists who bring color and depth to my life.
I hooked up with the city on a whim, and it accidentally turned into a long term relationship. And boy does this city turn me on.
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