The term “placiosexual” may resonate with you if you desire giving partner(s) sexual pleasure, but have no interest in receiving. As with all sexual identities, placiosexuality exists on a spectrum: Some may be placiosexual only at certain times, while others may feel this way all, or the majority, of the time. For some people, the label helps them better define and understand their experience, and to have the words to articulate wants and needs to sexual partner(s). Here is what placiosexuality is, what it is not, and why some people find the label useful.
What placiosexuality is
Placiosexuality falls under the umbrella of asexuality. According to licensed couples and sex therapist Dr. Kyle Zrenchik, placiosexuality is a newer term, but it describes a sexuality that has been around for a long time. He tells O.school that placiosexuals “derive sexual and/or psychological gratification by performing sexual acts on partners.” Like all sexual identities, everyone’s experience is unique, but here are some indicators that you may be placiosexual:
- You experience sexual arousal. There is often a misconception that those on the asexual spectrum don’t experience arousal or sexual desire. However, this is not always the case. A.T. Wolff, a self-identified placiosexual, tells O.school, “[Placiosexuality] does not mean that we are never sexually aroused, in fact, quite the opposite: in my life I have found my greatest arousal and gratification when my partner is enjoying the way I satiate their desires.”
- You want to please your partner. Nina Ngyuen, sex and LGBTQ+ expert and consultant, tells O.school that “[th]e prefix ‘placio-’ derives from Latin “placere,” a word meaning 'to please.' It is indeed defined as the desire of a person to practice sexual actions on another person, without receiving any.” Placiosexuals are focused on making their partners feel good and enjoy sexual experiences.
- The idea of having someone perform sexual acts on you is generally a turn-off. Some placiosexuals are indifferent at the thought of being on the receiving end of sexual acts, while others are altogether repulsed by the idea. Some placiosexuals may even occasionally experience a desire to be touched, but it is sporadic or wanes over time. “I am able to experience some desire to be touched sexually in the beginning of a relationship,” Wolff tells O.school. “But once my heart is firmly involved, I no longer desire any touch.” The unifying thing among placiosexuals is that overall they want to give sexually, not receive.
What placiosexuality is not
There are plenty of misconceptions about those who identify as placiosexual. Here are few things that are not the same as placiosexuality:
- Being a dominant. While it is possible to be both placiosexual and a dominant, these things are not the same. Dominants, a term used within the BDSM community, receive gratification (sexual or non-sexual) from being in a position of control with a consenting submissive. However, dominants may also enjoy receiving sexual acts. Similarly, not all placiosexuals will have the desire to engage in the power exchanges that are part of dominant/submissive relationships.
- Being a ‘top.’ Similarly, placiosexuality is not the same as being a ‘top.’ Generally speaking, a ‘top’ in a relationship is the person who is performing sexual acts upon another person. Therefore, while most placiosexuals would be considered tops, not all tops are placiosexual. A ‘top’ may just prefer the role of giving in a sexual relationship, where as for someone who are placiosexual, it goes beyond mere preference.
- Dysphoria Placiosexuality is not necessarily due to dysphoria (or discomfort with one's body). While there are placiosexuals who experience body or gender dysphoria that may contribute to or exacerbate their lack of desire to have sexual acts performed on them, this is not why people are placiosexual. Similarly, just as trauma may impact one’s sexual desires and some placiosexuals may have experienced trauma in their lives, placiosexuality is a sexual identity, not a result of trauma or other such things. According to Nyguen, those experiencing the impact of trauma or dysphoria “would probably like to have full sexual acts, but they are just not feeling at ease with their body.” In this case, therapy or other forms of help can benefit the individual so they can work towards being more comfortable.
Realizing or discovering you are placiosexual can be a validating experience
“When I first read about placiosexuality I felt an immense release,” says Wolff, “I never knew there was a name for how I experienced desire. My entire sex life suddenly made sense to me.”
Prior to having a name for their sexuality, Wolff states that their placiosexuality, and the lack of desire to receive sexual acts that went along with it, drastically impacted their relationships, and even led to the ending of a marriage. “My lack of desire to be touched sexually has erupted into sobbing conversations where my partner asks why I no longer love them.” It can be confusing for a partner — who may be used to sexual attention being both given and received — to understand that a lack of desire to be touched or receive sexual acts is not personal.
Communicating this identity to partners can help strengthen a bond
It is important to be open and upfront about your sexual identity when dating or in a relationship. As Dr Zrenchik states, “[Placiosexuality] must be intentionally considered and respected by both the person and the partner, especially for long-term satisfying sustainability. Placiosexuals may need to communicate the details of their sexuality to potential partners.” In doing so, you will be able to hopefully avoid any confusion or hurt feelings over your desires or lack thereof.
Wolff tells O.school that understanding their sexual identity has greatly improved their relationships. “It [has] made it easier to navigate the start of relationships. I am better able to communicate what my needs are, which are to give.” When a partner understands this is ones’ way of experiencing sex, and isn’t a personal thing or something negative, they are more likely to be able to get on the same page and engage in ways that are fulfilling to all involved.
The bottom line
Learning more about ourselves and our sexual identity is an important and exciting part of our personal journey. While it sometimes can be confusing or even frustrating when we are in the discovery process, when we find that identity that is aligned with who we are it can be a wonderful feeling of being seen. As Wolff reminds us, regardless of your sexual identity, be it placiosexual or otherwise, “[t]here are lots of people out there in this world that want what you have to offer.” If you’ve recently realized that you are placiosexual, a good place to start is doing some research or finding community. You may want to explore the Asexual Visibility and Education Network, or explore placiosexual hashtags on social media.