Brains Before Beauty? Sapiosexuals Search For IQ Heat

Kristen Stewart and Jesse Eisenberg in Woody Allen's Cafe Society
Kristen Stewart and Jesse Eisenberg in Woody Allen's Cafe Society
Camille Destraz

GENEVA — Sapiosexual. The word only recently emerged from Internet limbo to warrant real-world study. It defines a sexual orientation. Namely, that of a person who will be sexually attracted to another person solely because of their intelligence, their erudition. In other words, a sapiosexual is someone sexually obsessed with IQ.

For such a person, physical appearance will clearly be of lesser importance. But if the word is new, the behavior it describes is as old as the hills. According to sexologist Patrizia Anex, it is more feminine than masculine. "You can relate it to the attraction to the alpha male," Anex explains. "It reactivates ancestral workings within the brain: Somebody who seems more intelligent will be seen as better able to protect and procreate. In consultations, I hear female patients telling me, "I'm not attracted to him, he's not smart enough.""

Stéphanie Pahud, a linguist at the University of Lausanne, says the use of the word sapiosexual started to spread around 2012, mostly online. Its exact origin, however, remains impossible to trace. "These behaviors have existed for a long time. Neologisms allow us to name new sociocultural realities or new points of view, new knowledge, about these old realities." For the matter at hand, it's easy: The word is made of "sapio," from the Latin sapiens (wise, intelligent), and "sexual." Other similar neologisms include "pansexual" (sexual attraction to any individual, regardless of their biological sex or gender) and "skoliosexual" (sexual attraction to non-binary individuals).

"These labels can conceal the sexual side of things under a scientific or moral varnish," Pahud says. "They take on an aseptic character."

Beautiful brain — Photo: A Health Blog

For the linguist, this kind of terminology meets our need to theorize and re-categorize sexuality. "It's a way of controlling this space of liberty." This can lead the concerned people to "review their behavior in light of the proposed label. And sometimes to reinforce that label, sometimes to embrace it, sometimes to reject it, or to replace it with another one."

An app for sapiosexuals, Sapio — Intelligent Dating, was launched in the fall. The app sings the praises of dates in which "physical and intellectual attraction are put on an equal level," and vows to bring together those who are "sick of superficial hookup apps."

It is a rather strange strategy, considering that users on dating sites necessarily react to pictures first. Then how is it possible, in this manner, to feel a genuine intellectual attraction? For sexologist Patrizia Anex, users will quickly rely on people's spelling and vocabulary skills. "The first spelling mistake will be a deal-breaker," she says. A message starting with the words "How r u" will quickly sound the death knell of a conversation.

Dating that way can quickly restrict the attraction code, so sapiosexuals will "figure out a way to seduce very erudite people, and develop capabilities to do so," Anex says. To do so, sapiosexuals will need to "consider their partners as being superior." The sex expert adds that sapiosexuals can also identify intelligent people based on their level of humor. "There are 50 shades of sapiosexuals," she says. Hot indeed.

Keep up with the world. Break out of the bubble.
Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter!

How Thailand's Lèse-Majesté Law Is Used To Stifle All Protest

Once meant to protect the royal family, the century-old law has become a tool for the military-led government in Bangkok to stamp out all dissent. A new report outlines the abuses.

Pro-Democracy protest at The Criminal Court in Bangkok, Thailand

Laura Valentina Cortés Sierra

"We need to reform the institution of the monarchy in Thailand. It is the root of the problem." Those words, from Thai student activist Juthatip Sirikan, are a clear expression of the growing youth-led movement that is challenging the legitimacy of the government and demanding deep political changes in the Southeast Asian nation. Yet those very same words could also send Sirikan to jail.

Thailand's Criminal Code 'Lèse-Majesté' Article 112 imposes jail terms for defaming, insulting, or threatening the monarchy, with sentences of three to 15 years. This law has been present in Thai politics since 1908, though applied sparingly, only when direct verbal or written attacks against members of the royal family.

But after the May 2014 military coup d'état, Thailand experienced the first wave of lèse-majesté arrests, prosecutions, and detentions of at least 127 individuals arrested in a much wider interpretation of the law.

The recent report 'Second Wave: The Return of Lèse-Majesté in Thailand', documents how the Thai government has "used and abused Article 112 of the Criminal Code to target pro-democracy activists and protesters in relation to their online political expression and participation in peaceful pro-democracy demonstrations."

Criticism of any 'royal project'

The investigation shows 124 individuals, including at least eight minors, have been charged with lèse-majesté between November 2020 and August 2021. Nineteen of them served jail time. The new wave of charges is cited as a response to the rising pro-democracy protests across Thailand over the past year.

Juthatip Sirikan explains that the law is now being applied in such a broad way that people are not allowed to question government budgets and expenditure if they have any relationship with the royal family, which stifles criticism of the most basic government decision-making since there are an estimated 5,000 ongoing "royal" projects. "Article 112 of lèse-majesté could be the key (factor) in Thailand's political problems" the young activist argues.

In 2020 the Move Forward opposition party questioned royal spending paid by government departments, including nearly 3 billion baht (89,874,174 USD) from the Defense Ministry and Thai police for royal security, and 7 billion baht budgeted for royal development projects, as well as 38 planes and helicopters for the monarchy. Previously, on June 16, 2018, it was revealed that Thailand's Crown Property Bureau transferred its entire portfolio to the new King Maha Vajiralongkorn.

photo of graffiti of 112 crossed out on sidewalk

Protestors In Bangkok Call For Political Prisoner Release

Peerapon Boonyakiat/SOPA Images via ZUMA Wire

Freedom of speech at stake

"Article 112 shuts down all freedom of speech in this country", says Sirikan. "Even the political parties fear to touch the subject, so it blocks most things. This country cannot move anywhere if we still have this law."

The student activist herself was charged with lèse-majesté in September 2020, after simply citing a list of public documents that refer to royal family expenditure. Sirikan comes from a family that has faced the consequences of decades of political repression. Her grandfather, Tiang Sirikhan was a journalist and politician who openly protested against Thailand's involvement in World War II. He was accused of being a Communist and abducted in 1952. According to Sirikhan's family, he was killed by the state.

The new report was conducted by The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), Thai Lawyer for Human Rights (TLHR), and Internet Law Reform Dialogue (iLaw). It accuses Thai authorities of an increasingly broad interpretation of Article 112, to the point of "absurdity," including charges against people for criticizing the government's COVID-19 vaccine management, wearing crop tops, insulting the previous monarch, or quoting a United Nations statement about Article 112.

Juthatip Sirikan speaks in front of democracy monument.

Shift to social media

While in the past the Article was only used against people who spoke about the royals, it's now being used as an alibi for more general political repression — which has also spurred more open campaigning to abolish it. Sirikan recounts recent cases of police charging people for spreading paint near the picture of the king during a protest, or even just for having a picture of the king as phone wallpaper.

The more than a century-old law is now largely playing out online, where much of today's protest takes place in Thailand. Sirikan says people are willing to go further on social media to expose information such as how the king intervenes in politics and the monarchy's accumulation of wealth, information the mainstream media rarely reports on them.

Not surprisingly, however, social media is heavily monitored and the military is involved in Intelligence operations and cyber attacks against human rights defenders and critics of any kind. In October 2020, Twitter took down 926 accounts, linked to the army and the government, which promoted themselves and attacked political opposition, and this June, Google removed two Maps with pictures, names, and addresses, of more than 400 people who were accused of insulting the Thai monarchy. "They are trying to control the internet as well," Sirikan says. "They are trying to censor every content that they find a threat".

Keep up with the world. Break out of the bubble.
Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter!