Sexual Fluidity and Sexual Orientation: One Woman’s Journey Part 2

Sexual Fluidity and Sexual Orientation: One Woman’s Journey Part 2 August 23, 2016

Hi everyone. “Veronica Hall” here again, with the second part of my story – the educational part of my journey. Sorry it took so long to get up on the blog. For the first part of my story, read here.

When I was 37, I took another step in my journey to figure out whether I’m a lesbian or not. Now that I’ve figured out physical attraction, how do I figure out sexual attraction? Sexual attraction has always been very confusing to me. Sexual attraction is when you feel like you want to do sexual things with someone (kissing, groping, sex). Now that I think about it, I’ve never really felt that about someone I have just met. I don’t go out on the street and see people and think about ‘doing’ them. How do I figure out who I’m sexually attracted to? How am I going to conduct this experiment? Any good experiment starts with research and understanding, so I decided to do some research about sexual attraction.

One thing I never really understood was the pictures of firemen or policemen or actors or other men with their shirts off. I don’t get it. Boobs I get, but men’s chests? Nothing exciting there. What is the big deal? This should have been a red flag maybe, but when you assume that your sexuality is defined by who you have slept with, and you can’t be a lesbian because you’ve been with guys, it’s not something that really crosses your mind.

Later that summer, I start going to counseling and my counselor recommends reading some books, including Dr. Lisa Diamond’s Sexual Fluidity: Understanding Women’s Love and Desire. I didn’t read the whole thing, but the parts I read blew me away. She says that researchers recruit participants for their studies based on self-identification, and that bisexuality and women’s sexuality have been woefully understudied. “…since 1990, roughly twice as many articles have appeared on male sexual orientation as on female sexual orientation.” And “…it appears, researchers shifted their emphasis to men because the findings for men were so much more consistent and promising than the findings for both sexes considered together.” Basically women were more inconsistent, so they disregarded them in favor of men.

So what is sexual fluidity? According to the book, it “can be seen as a component of female sexuality that operates in concert with sexual orientation to shape women’s sexual desires. Thus the notion of female sexual fluidity suggests not that women possess no generalized sexual predispositions but that these predispositions will prove less of a constraint on their desires and behaviors than is the case for men. As a result, it might be impossible to determine whether, in a particular instance, a woman’s desires or behaviors are more attributable to dispositional or situational factors.”

Now there may be concerns about this fluidity with regard to the nature versus nurture argument. If you’re not familiar with it, homophobes insist that sexualities other than ‘straight’ are a lifestyle, and that they can be changed. There are actual attempts by homophobic groups to ‘train’ people into becoming straight, which are highly controversial and totally ineffective. It’s the old nature versus nurture argument – that sexuality is a choice.

Dr. Diamond addresses this with a Q&A in the intro of her book: “Does sexual fluidity mean that sexual orientation can be changed? No. It simply means that a woman’s sexual orientation is not the only factor determining her attractions. A predominantly heterosexual woman might, at some point in time, become attracted to a women, just as a predominantly lesbian woman might at some point become attracted to a man. Despite these experiences, the women’s overall orientation remains the same.” And, “Does fluidity mean that sexual orientation is a choice? No. Even when women undergo significant shifts in their patterns of erotic response, they typically report that such changes are unexpected and beyond their control. In some cases they actively resist these changes, to no avail.

Dr. Diamond says that even adult women have difficulty in sensing the changes in their state of sexual arousal, and that there are “powerful cultural norms telling women that a lack of interest in sex is normal and natural. Girls learn from an early age that only “slutty” women want a lot of sex, whereas “good” girls are supposed to serve as gatekeepers for men’s uncontrollable desires. Such messages inevitably shape girls’ understanding of their sexuality and lead them to discount their own experiences of sexual arousal. This might be why adult women are often totally unaware of changes in their own physiological states of sexual arousal, and why low sexual desire is the single most common form of sexual dysfunction in American women.”

Later, as I was reading threads on the emptyclosets.com website, I found some terms that I don’t understand: demisexual, asexual. I know what asexual is, but could I be asexual? Asexual is a term that means someone who isn’t interested in sex at all. That’s not me – I definitely like sex but I have to really know and care about the person before I want to have sex with them. This is essentially the definition of demisexual, and I realize that demisexual is a term that fits me very well. I need some kind of emotional connection with someone before I want to be close to them sexually. I feel as if a major piece of the puzzle has fallen into place.

So what does this mean for my sexuality? If the primary way that people figure out their sexuality is by who they are sexually attracted to, how do I define my sexuality when I’m not sexually attracted to someone unless we have an emotional connection? I can’t develop a bunch of emotional connections and then see who I want to sleep with and figure it out that way – I just don’t have the spare time to do that and it would take too long as well. I think I will have to determine my sexuality through the physical and emotional attractions that I feel. I have already figured out physical attraction and determined that women far outweigh men in that area. But what about emotional connections? I am going to have to delve into my past and see what my emotional connections have been like. Stay tuned for that part of my story.

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