Ask Professor Foxy: How Do I Know If I Am Bi? Straight? Lesbian?

This weekly Saturday column “Ask Professor Foxy” will regularly contain sexually explicit material. This material is likely not safe for work viewing. The title of the column will include the major topic of the post, so please read the topic when deciding whether or not to read the entire column.
Hi Prof. Foxy,
Someone asked a sexuality question in the Feministing comments, and it got me thinking about my own sexuality. I’m trying to figure out what I am–bisexual or straight–and am having a hard time. When I think of a guy I find attractive (I’m an 18 yr old female), I think about being in a relationship with him, but I can’t really imagine having sex with him. If I think of a girl I find attractive, I can’t really imagine being in a relationship with her, but I can imagine the sex. Is that weird? Honestly, I don’t have too much experience in hooking up with guys or girls, so maybe I just have to try and then see how I feel? Or is this something I can figure out on my own? Perhaps I am not straight or bisexual, but something else?
Thanks so much,
Confused

Hi Confused -
Glad to know the column is spurring you to think about your own sexuality. We live in a world obsessed with two things: either/or and labels. Regarding sexuality and sexual orientation, we are told we must choose: gay, lesbian, straight, or bi? Which one are you? YOU MUST BE ONE OR THE OTHER. Actually, no you don’t. You can be queer, you can be non-identified, you can be attracted only to 5’9″ tall redheads who play basketball but are either male or female, you can be all or none of these things.
Part of this may be figuring out that you check or don’t check certain boxes during different parts of your life, by that I mean sexual desire, orientation, and identification is fluid. You may date men in your 20s, women in your 30s, both in your 40s. Your figuring it out may mean becoming comfortable with being attracted to a wide variety of genders.
As to only being able to picture yourself in a relationship with a guy, I question how much this has to do with sexual orientation and how much this has to do with what you see in the world around you. Where do we see healthy, stable same-sex relationships? Where do we see happy same-sex couples achieving in this world? Ellen and Portia? And the second one is. . . . . .
Or you may have serious relationships with men and great sex with women. What actually matters in this process is getting to a place where you feel comfortable with who you are. Take time to do this and there may never be a box you want to check. You may have a multitude of experiences and relationships that feel right.
If this all feels too loosey-goosey for you, focus on what you want in a partner regardless of their gender. Funny? Tall? Bookworm? Chocolate lover? And then focus on finding that. When people ask you what you are (cause they will ask), it is ok and fine to say “I don’t know,” queer, bi or you can say figuring it out. You can say these things for the rest of your life and be quite happy, which is actually what matters after all.
If you have a question for Professor Foxy, send it to ProfessorFoxyATfeministingDOTcom.

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88 Comments

  1. spike the cat
    Posted April 5, 2009 at 9:43 am | Permalink

    I agree that there needs to me more insight into how the media shapes and frames sexuality.
    For example one day, out of the blue, I noticed that I would become a little aroused by looking at nude or suggestive picture of women. Fluidity?
    But then what about the fact that I’ve never been sexually aroused by women in real life? Never in a locker room, at a beach, in a club, or out and about, never with a friend, nothing…zip, zilch.
    So for me, I think to some degree in the back of my mind, I’ve been conditioned (for lack of a better word) to make a connection between nude and sexy pictures of women and sex. And if someone hooked me up to a sensor, while I watched this stuff, they might wrongly conclude that I’m sexually attracted to women.

  2. philfemgal
    Posted April 5, 2009 at 9:47 am | Permalink

    Again do you actually have any evidence that “most” bisexual people do not want to give up the privilege available to them and make choices about who to date/who to commit to based on this? A close friend of mine does PhD research on bisexuality. I’ve read a lot of her research and your claims about bisexuals are what she would call one of the “stereotypes” or “myths” about bisexuals–you know, one of those things for which there is no actual evidence, but which lots of people believe to be true because of their own personal anecdotal evidence. So if you have actual peer-reviewed studies on this, please give me some citations–I’m sure they’d be very helpful for her research and obviously she has been unable to find them.
    Of course *some* bisexual people choose to be with members of the opposite sex to reap the privileges. And *some* gay/lesbian people choose to deny their sexual orientation or stay in the closet or have a beard or marry a person of the opposite sex and then have affairs with people of the same sex. Why the jump from “some” to “most” in the first case but not the second?
    And I hope you didn’t intend to include myself when you say “*we* have it better than gay people” because I don’t see any sense in which given my own personal history things would be any different for me if I identified as a lesbian. I have never dated or been in a relationship with a differently-sexed person. I have never experienced the ability to kiss someone in public without thinking of who’s watching. (Actually, interesting my partner–who is a lesbian–has had that experience! She *did* date a boy in college and she did get to kiss him in public without worrying about who was watching.) And there’s only one person I’ve introduced to my grandmother (or any other family member)–and it’s my female partner. And since my female partner and I are committed to one another for the long-term, at least for the forseeable future I’m not seeing any possibility of reaping any privilege from being bisexual. (And even if we broke up/one of us died, my lesbian partner also has attractions to men. So while after a death/break-up it’s possible I could end up in a male-female relationship, so could she.)
    So what is this straight privilege you speak of that I must be privy to given that I am sexually attracted to both sexes? And how exactly do I have it “better” than my partner? And really, is there an oppression contest I wasn’t aware of? Why does it have to come down to who is worse off or more oppressed? My earlier post did not make any claim about who was worse off/more oppressed. All it asked was that you provide some actual evidence for the stereotypes you were throwing around or that you stop using them.

  3. philfemgal
    Posted April 5, 2009 at 9:50 am | Permalink

    Oops, my last comment was in reply to questioning earlier in the thread. I messed up with the reply function.

  4. notexactlybutch
    Posted April 5, 2009 at 10:16 am | Permalink

    I’ve heard the term lipstick lesbian applied to more femme lesbian/queer women, somewhat in contrast to the more stereotypical images of butch lesbians. (Not that I have these terms or images nailed down–see my handle.) I’ve recently heard the term “club lesbian,” which is suposed to describe women who don’t identify as lesbian but occasionally “act” lesbian–for example, making out at a club after a night of dancing and drinking, or making out with another girl to turn a guy on. It seems to me that club lesbian is a more apt term for what GregoryAButler was describing.
    And for what it’s worth, I think virtually all of these labels and terms are unnecessarily limiting.

  5. notexactlybutch
    Posted April 5, 2009 at 10:27 am | Permalink

    Yeah, awesome answer. I love that description of love–the person who is the exception to everything!

  6. Concerned Marsupial
    Posted April 5, 2009 at 10:31 am | Permalink

    Society’s obsession with labels for sexual orientation is triply bullshit because not only is there a great variety of types and qualities people are attracted to which could be based on gender or sex of the other person, or on something else entirely (or maybe they don’t have a type, or maybe they are asexual), but there is great variability in gender identity and expression (again, you have to take genderqueer people into account, as well). And, last but not least, biological sex is expressed on a spectrum and there is a plethora of intersex conditions. And since so many people are either sterile or voluntarily forgo reproduction, I don’t see why our whole social organization and culture have to be based on people’s reproductive abilities. You’d think it would have faded away once contraceptives became widely available, and sexual dimorphism would only be relevant in science and medicine.

  7. notexactlybutch
    Posted April 5, 2009 at 10:49 am | Permalink

    Great answer, Professor Foxy. I grew up in the midwest U.S. and never knew of any GLBT people, let alone happy or successful ones (though I’m sure, now, that they did exist, even in IA). It definitely colored my perception–I never knew there was more than one heternormative option. It took reading some fiction which had gay and lesbian characters for me to realize same-sex attraction was even possible. It took almost a decade for me to to realize–like the proverbial lightbulb–that I was attracted to other women. Wow, women were beautiful! And it was okay for me to think so.
    But I immediately went into a severe depression, because the only images I had of lesbians were overweight, aggressive, beer-swilling, truck-driving, stone butch lesbians–not the sort of woman I was attracted to. (Important: there’s nothing wrong with that sort of woman, in fact they are beautiful in their own right, but at that time, I was not attracted to them.) I could not imagine the sort of woman I liked–pretty, arty, intellectual, witty, feminine–ever being interested in me.
    And yet it happened. We’ve been together for nearly a decade and it is still amazing, every day. Still breath-taking.
    All of this is to say… portrayals in the media, in the day-to-day culture around us, can definitely impact what we see as possibilities. But those preconditionings can be overcome.

  8. scarleteacher
    Posted April 5, 2009 at 11:21 am | Permalink

    I used to think pretty similarly at one point—I don’t know how you were raised, but I grew up a pretty religious kid. So at 18, I couldn’t imagine sex with a guy because I’d been told repeatedly *not* to imagine it, but I couldn’t imagine dating a woman because I’d not been exposed to out lesbian couples. After another 3 years I ended up finding my place as a person pretty equally interested in women and men for sex and relationships, but that doesn’t mean you will, of course ;-)

  9. scarleteacher
    Posted April 5, 2009 at 11:29 am | Permalink

    My best friend dubbed these women “party bi”, which has been a pretty handy label.

  10. rhian
    Posted April 5, 2009 at 11:33 am | Permalink

    Oh Gregory. First of all, you’re really arrogant and offensive, but it’s too early in the morning here on the west coast for me to be bothered getting pissed off right now.
    You’re so wrong. You just are. I know myself, I know what I’m attracted to when no one’s looking, and it changes. A lot. As for social expectations, well, for sure no one I know is expecting me to be fluid. Currently I find myself straddling two communities–one straight and one queer–both of whom expect me to choose one, and I’m constantly fighting against that, because that’s not me.
    It’s actually almost amusing to me that you think young women have internalized a false idea of fluidity. I always felt bad for the young men who internalized false rigidity. You’re right in that men are expected to have a more rigid, aggressive, locked-in kind of sexuality. Gay and bisexual men are also (in my experience) far more ridiculed than women. That’s all a huge obstacle to being able to understand your sexuality. On the other hand, when various sexual orientations are somewhat more socially acceptable, as they are for women, it’s more possible to figure out exactly what your desires are. The group you think is the least sexually empowered here, I actually think is the most.
    It’s great to have a man be so defensive of women’s rights, but don’t stomp your feet over what you think they should be. Otherwise you’re just a jerk.

  11. mugsandpugs
    Posted April 5, 2009 at 1:53 pm | Permalink

    This comment is just in good fun and is in no way supposed to be a debate/attack.
    I never thought that the conditioning of society could lead to women becoming aroused to pictures of women, although that makes perfect sense.
    If society’s emphasis on the sexuality of nude women makes women more aroused regardless of their sexual identity, then I started wondering if the same effect should happen for men. Society surely conditions men to view sexy nude women as sexual objects.
    Which makes this study really odd: In a study (Bailey, 2004) when self-identified homosexual and heterosexual women had their genital arousal patterns measured while viewing erotic images of men and women, they were both aroused by both male and female images. Self-identified homosexual men responded exclusively to erotic images of men and heterosexual men responded exclusively to erotic images of women, suggesting that women’s sexuality may be more fluid then men’s.
    If conditioning were the case, you’d think the homosexual men would respond somewhat to sexy nude pictures of women, right?
    Either way, your comment totally added something to my theory on this subject, thanks!

  12. Kathleen6674
    Posted April 5, 2009 at 2:52 pm | Permalink

    Yep. I identified as bi in my early 20s, when I was suddenly really attracted to women moreso than men (I had previously been attracted to only men).
    Then, in my mid-to-late 20s, I was attracted to mainly men…and it’s stayed that way. I now consider myself straight.
    As far as sexual/romantic attraction – I was mainly attracted to women sexually, but not emotionally, whereas I’ve always been attracted to men both sexually and romantically/emotionally.

  13. annajcook
    Posted April 5, 2009 at 3:28 pm | Permalink

    questioning?, privilege is complicated. Please be careful throwing around generalization like “most bisexuals do not want to give up heterosexual privilege.” The thing about privilege is that we can’t just decide to give it up. We are assigned it by society. You are right that people who are bisexual or otherwise non-exclusive in their sexual attractions may or may not experience degrees of heterosexual privilege based on whom they are in a sexual relationship with. But are you saying that every non-exclusive person who ends up in a relationship with an other-sex individual has somehow selfishly “chosen” to enjoy the benefits of hetero privilege?
    In my mind that disrespects the complex ways we fall in love and form relationships.
    It’s also important to remember that, even sans a current same-sex relationship people with same-sex attractions, even when they are non-exclusive, experience the pressure of heteronormativity and are marginalized or potentially marginalized because of past same-sex relationships, or in more subtle ways through the lack of acceptance of their same-sex attractions. Or, in the L/G community, ostracized for their opposite-sex attractions. We don’t need to play oppression olympics here to acknowledge that marginalization happens–even for people who may, at some point, end up in a hetero relationship with all the social benefits that accrues.

  14. valencia_o
    Posted April 5, 2009 at 4:32 pm | Permalink

    I’ve been thinking a lot about sexuality labels recently and I’m so glad this was posted.
    It is so imperative to remember that, ultimately, we fall in love with persona, not gender.
    Except for those who claim to be attracted to one gender or another 100% of the time, our sexuality is naturally fluid, on a sliding scale. We need to remember that categorization is largely unnecessary.

  15. Surin
    Posted April 5, 2009 at 5:11 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for the great response Foxy.
    I personally identify as pansexual/queer, sometimes I used to resort to “bisexual” to leave out further questions and explanations but now I am more than happy to explain the ears off of anyone who will listen. I am and have been attracted to men, women, people “in-between” (to varying degrees,) and people who are none-of-the-above. I have had sexual, romantic, and D/s relationships with men, women, and some who fall on the “in-between” scale. But it’s taken me a long time to realize all of this.
    Like a fair amount of my queer friends, I have grown up in the world of heteronormativity and I also have personally little experience in my local queer community. Over the years I have come to realize that yes, I am attracted to far more women far more often than I ever am with men. Part of this might be natural orientation, part of it might be from how I am inundated with the concept of sex = women from popular media and whatnot. Either way it is a part of me that I find impossible to separate out now. Despite all of this, the majority of my long-term relationships have been with men. Our culture really makes it easier, I have had to learn (and am still doing so) to swallow my fears of “what if she’s straight?” when I try to, say, ask a smart and beautiful woman out on a date. These are fears I never experience with men — even on the rare occasion they have turned out to not be attracted to women (and in one case was asexual, though romantically attracted to women) I still have not developed any similar fear. It is something I am working to overcome.
    Currently I am in an open-with-specific-rules relationship with a heterosexual man, who is mostly sexually monogamous (I am also romantically and sexually polyamorous; what fun it has been figuring that one out.) I know that some women I encounter will take one look at the fact that I have a boyfriend and go running, but overall my experience with queer women in my local area has been positive and understanding. In this I am fortunate. Of course, I understand why some would be sceptical, why some will just assume I am going back to hide in heteronormativity, and so forth. But it is inaccurate, and such an opinion assumes so much about my life and feelings and urges — wrong assumptions. Wrong conclusions. My boyfriend is a cisgendered male, but he does not fit into the societal “male” mould in more ways than one, and is rather androgynous in both appearance and behaviour. We also kind of blindsided each other, promiscuous me was fed up with sex and most men for almost five months, and he’s been celibate for six years, neither of us were really -looking- you see but circumstances meant we interacted a whole bunch and the mutual obsession just grew. And finally, if I do meet a smart, beautiful, open-minded-to-polyamory woman who returns my interest, I know without a doubt that our relationship would be just as “real,” dedicated, etc. as the one I am currently in. It would be based on itself, not secondary to whomever else I am currently involved in.
    My sexuality has been very fluid throughout my life, but I have always personally attached outside explanations for various movements around the scale/etc. Trying to call myself “75% gay” makes little sense, especially with my sexual and romantic history, but it is generally how I feel a majority of the time. Personality is what really makes me sit up and take notice of someone, and that seems to happen completely independently from gender for me. But physical bodies, before I know them personally? Mostly women. In many encounters of casual sex, women make my body respond a lot faster, more powerfully, etc. than men. I rarely fantasize, even more rarely use porn, but when I do it is mostly women and women-friendly queer porn made by women for other women. Sometimes this gets more pronounced, such as times when I have had recent unpleasant experiences with men, but typically it has remained fairly constant throughout my life. The fluidity for me seems to happen more with regard to who I am attracted to romantically — again, this can be anybody of any gender in my experience. That is, I might not be physically attracted to them at -all- until I am attracted emotionally/mentally, and then it is their physical body which attracts me as well, turns me on, is what I fantasize about, etc.

  16. halou26
    Posted April 5, 2009 at 5:19 pm | Permalink

    I strongly agree with your post. I think that this person is POSSIBLY going through a phase that some people experience in order to finally accept being a lesbian. Our society puts a lot of pressure on women regardless of what their sexual orientation is. In many ways we are taught to be straight from very early on in our lives. From cartoons and stories about princes and princesses this is what we learn: Boys love girls. Girls love boys. Sexuality is so much more than just meeting some one and having many things in common with them. I understand what Dr. Foxy was saying when she brought up the example of how people might have something as specific as liking redheads who play basketball, but having a basic nonsexual attraction for something is entirely different then desiring sex with a person. Someone may have an obsession with mohawks but that does not mean they are going to be sexually attracted to every person with a mohawk regardless of their sex. I also agree that it’s tiring hearing people say that sexuality is so “free and fluid”. It is almost always people responding to women who are asking for answers on their own sexuality. These women need to find their answers inside themselves. As cheesy as it sounds, when you learn ways to release your fear of rejection from others it becomes less hard to think about what you truly desire sexually. Our society wants to make women out to be so different from men. Men usually identify as straight and gay pretty easily.(not to say that they are socially accepted or that this is easy for them to come out,but that is an entirely different topic)
    I take offense to people always saying that there is room or possibility to fall for anyone regardless of their sex. This is not true for me at all. I am a lesbian. I get really annoyed when I hear people call themselves lesbians but how they might turn straight for the right person.Obviously they are bisexual and are not comfortable with accepting that label. Labels are neccessary in this society. Just like calling yourself a FEMINIST. When I tell some one that I am a lesbian I want them to understand that I am sexually attracted to women only. I do not want to hear some lame response like “oh really. well are there any guys you would be interested in?” The answer is NO. I rarely hear people ask straight guys these questions. But because I am a woman, I am somehow forced into finding males sexually attractive. For me it is not just about wanting emotional relationships with women, but yes SEX too. If people just shacked up with just anyone they found the slightest bit intriguing but not sexually attractive then are they really in control of who they are? We are sexual beings. This is part of life. A relationship where there is no sexual attraction is a friendship. I am sorry if I have offended anyone by saying that, but that is the definition of a friendship. That is why so many gay people are still in the closet or living fake lives because our society does not think it’s important for a woman to be in control of her own sexuality.

  17. Zailyn
    Posted April 5, 2009 at 6:08 pm | Permalink

    This may be the case, but we must consider the impact of society.
    This is actually one of the reasons I suggested it. It’s not that I think the OP must necessarily be a heteroromantic lesbian (although I wanted to point out it was possible just in case) and I definitely wouldn’t advise going “oh, that must be what’s going on then” and leaving it at that – but it’s damnably hard to figure out either of those things with all the messed-up messages we get through society already, let alone when you toss them together like that. I got so focussed on trying to figure out whether I was sexually attracted to anyone that I didn’t start wondering about romantic attractions until I’d come to terms with my asexuality and what that meant – and that was in my twenties!

  18. cmyk-rgb
    Posted April 5, 2009 at 6:18 pm | Permalink

    I completely agree with this. I get irritated when I hear people say that being gay or bisexual or pansexual or fluid is about ‘love’.
    love and sexual orientation are two different things: love + sexual attraction = relationship, love – sexual attraction = bestest friends . . .
    and maybe if you’re so crazy about not ‘labelling’ yourself and ‘putting yourself in a box’ you’re just not able to be comfortable with the idea of being gay or bisexual?
    Maybe there’s a reason people like to label themselves, and we’re not all nebulous blank pieces of paper. labels help us to identify one another, to belong to a community. I’m sure plenty of people are attracted to both sexes and I’m also sure *some* people are homo or heterosexual. it strikes me that nearly everyone arguing that sexuality is super-fluid are people *with* that kind of sexuality. .. who can’t seem to accept that some people DO have a fixed orientation.

  19. ferocita72
    Posted April 5, 2009 at 7:35 pm | Permalink

    This entire thread has been really fascinating and eye-opening to read. I have a question for anyone on this thread who has said that they are attracted in various ways and for different reasons at different times to both men and women but are uncomfortable labeling themselves as bisexual.
    What is the root of the reluctance to identify as bisexual? I have several friends who identify as such and I always though it just meant that you were attracted in men and women at different times for different reasons. Is there a social connotation that I am missing? Is the label “bisexual” restrictive in some way? Does it somehow imply an equating between how and when you like men and women?
    Just curious to hear people’s thoughts…

  20. sarah
    Posted April 5, 2009 at 8:15 pm | Permalink

    Agreed. I have never actually been in a relationship with a woman, but I consider myself bi because there is really no other way of explaining it. If I said I was straight, it would be wrong. If I said I was gay, it’d be wrong. So bi fits me the best.

  21. Zailyn
    Posted April 5, 2009 at 8:27 pm | Permalink

    We are sexual beings. This is part of life. A relationship where there is no sexual attraction is a friendship.
    This may be the definition of a friendship for you, but other people distinguish and have romantic relationships distinct from friendships. People who are in a romantic relationship where one of the partners loses their sex drive for some reason also don’t suddenly go back to being platonic friends just because of that. Which isn’t to say that there’s something wrong if you find that romantic love and sexual attraction are intrinsically connected for you, but this isn’t universal.
    Also, I’m aware this was probably just a throwaway comment but as an asexual I do find it hurtful when people say things like “we are sexual beings” in this kind of discussion. Most of us, yes. All of us, no.

  22. annajcook
    Posted April 5, 2009 at 8:36 pm | Permalink

    I haven’t settled yet (maybe never will?) into a single label that seems to describe my sexuality, but I do use bi along with non-exclusive, queer, fluid, etc. I don’t think there’s anything particularly negative about “bisexual,” but I do have a couple of reservations. The first is that “bi” implies that there are two groups of people two whom one is attracted, and I believe sex and gender are more complicated than that. I also, personally feel that my attractions are much more person-based than gender-based, so using a label that highlights the sex or gender of those I’m sexually attracted to seems slightly off to me. Small quibbles. And if I was given three big boxes to choose from (lesbian, bi, straight) I’d choose “bi” without too much conflict.

  23. Punchbuggy Green
    Posted April 5, 2009 at 9:10 pm | Permalink

    I would never describe myself as bisexual even though at times I’ve been attracted to women because I would feel I was illegitimately co-opting the term.
    It would be like saying, “Oh, I totally understand the struggles non-hetero people go through while figuring out their sexuality because I thought Ciara was totally hot in her ‘Like a Boy’ video” or “I totally understand the intolerance non-hetero people face every day because one time someone looked at me funny when I said Angelina Jolie was hot.”
    That doesn’t mean that I personally understand my sexuality as fitting into the neat, little ‘straight’ box, but I feel that ‘bisexuality’ has political, personal, and social dimensions that I’ve never experienced and thus don’t understand, so shouldn’t claim.

  24. Surin
    Posted April 5, 2009 at 10:13 pm | Permalink

    For me, personally, I do not use “bisexual” because it is inaccurate. Just in my case, you understand.
    Bi-sexual implies only two options, and I am definitely attracted to people who fall outside of the gender binary. From the cisgender individual who still appears rather androgynous, to a gender-queer person, to various other examples, I definitely notice a marked preference for those who fall outside of traditional gender lines. My preference has not been exclusively for these people, as some who take on the “pansexual” label experience, but it is still definitely a noticeable factor.
    I think labels are fairly useless without context as well, someone else’s experience of pansexuality is not necessarily going to be that similar to mine. But I like to use it as a starting point of discussion — “pansexual” vs. “bisexual” opens doors to discussion of the gender binary and so forth. A personal way to take on some activism/raising awareness.

  25. Chelsa
    Posted April 5, 2009 at 11:26 pm | Permalink

    My friends and I call them “barsexuals”. I’ve always felt it was very apt.

  26. kisekileia
    Posted April 5, 2009 at 11:59 pm | Permalink

    Even if bisexuals do tend to end up in opposite-sex relationships more than same-sex ones, that could well just be because there are more people who are attracted to the opposite sex than people who are attracted to the same sex, and thus more opposite-sex potential partners than same-sex ones.

  27. kisekileia
    Posted April 6, 2009 at 12:12 am | Permalink

    Why can’t we just realize that some people’s romantic/sexual attractions are much more tied to gender than others’, and some people’s romantic/sexual attractions are much more fluid than others’? At one extreme we have people who really are exclusively attracted to one gender, at the other we have people for whom gender doesn’t matter at all in a sexual/romantic partner, and in between we have people who are attracted more to certain types of gender presentation than to others but for whom it’s not an absolute thing.
    There are also people whose sexual orientation shifts during their life for a wide variety of reasons. I know a guy who just wasn’t as into guys anymore after a boyfriend he was really close to died, and now identifies as basically straight. I identify as a 1 on the 0-6 Kinsey scale, and how close I am to totally straight or to clearly bisexual has varied over time. I don’t doubt that the ex-gay movement puts a lot of people off the idea that sexual orientation can change, but sometimes it does genuinely shift somewhat for various reasons.

  28. kisekileia
    Posted April 6, 2009 at 12:20 am | Permalink

    “…people call themselves lesbians but how they might turn straight for the right person.Obviously they are bisexual and are not comfortable with accepting that label.”
    By the way, I disagree with this. I suspect women like that most likely continue to call themselves lesbians not because they’re afraid to call themselves bisexual, but because most of the time, “lesbian” is a more accurate representation of their sexuality than “bisexual” is. It could easily be considered misleading for someone to call herself bisexual just because she’s occasionally attracted to a man, when the vast majority of the time she is really only into women.

  29. halou26
    Posted April 6, 2009 at 5:11 am | Permalink

    I completely agree with everything you said.
    I do not take the lesbian label because I am in a relationship with another woman. I take this label because it defines my sexual orientation. I would still be a lesbian regardless of my relationship status. It does not define my personality, but simply my sexuality. That is what I thought we were discussing here:Sexuality. Bisexuality,Homosexuality,Heterosexuality,
    Pansexuality,and everything else is referring to sexual attraction and behavior.
    These sexual orientations are not referring to platonic or nonsexual relationships with others. If you know you are sexually attracted to both sexes then why be afraid to call yourself bisexual? This reminds me of people who say they believe in equal rights for both sexes, but they do not want to call themselves feminists.Fear of labels.
    Even if you believe you are pansexual you are obviously sexually attracted to the people you choose to have sex with otherwise why are you having sex with them?
    Calling yourself a lesbian because you say you are 90% percent attracted to women, but only 20% attracted to men is ridiculous to me. How can someone apply statistics to their sexuality? How do you know it is 90% percent and not 87.6%? These are just numbers.
    Whether or not you are more sexually attracted to one sex over the other does not change the fact that you are still sexually attracted to both.Bisexual.I cannot simply change my view of seeing someone as a bisexual because they do not want to use that label and rather be called “sexually fluid”.
    *To Zailyn
    I did not mean to hurt you. I am aware of asexual people and I do not believe that their relationships with others are in anyway less or more then a sexual relationship. When I am in love with someone, I see her as these things: My love, my friend, and the person who I want to have sex with. If we both suddenly lost our sex drive but we still loved eachother, then yes she would still be my love and my friend. Friendship refers to respect,loyalty,affection and many other things we feel and I do believe that you can have a friendship within a love relationship.But because I am not asexual I could not enter a relationship with someone who I was not sexually attracted to.

  30. gnat
    Posted April 6, 2009 at 6:14 am | Permalink

    Thankyou for pointing this out, I was thinking the exact same thing. I am 20 years old, female and bi. I’m about equally attracted to all genders, however I’ve never had sex or a relationship with a woman, only with men. Simple statistics show that there are a lot more straight/bi men than lesbian/bi women.
    Honestly, how anyone gets up the courage to ask out someone of the same gender (unless they are wearing a giant rainbow sticker or something) utterly astounds me. I see a lot of pretty girls I would like to get to know better, but chances are they’re not interested. No girl has ever expressed interest in me either. It’s a bit disheartening.

  31. Brandi
    Posted April 6, 2009 at 9:15 am | Permalink

    It is! That’s the 3rd or 4th time I’ve seen a man on Feministing say that lipstick lesbians aren’t really lesbians.
    Yes, there are women who drunk kiss at bars for the benefit of straight men. They are NOT lipstick lesbians. Lipstick lesbians do identify as lesbian, but they’re very femme.

  32. Brandi
    Posted April 6, 2009 at 9:23 am | Permalink

    I agree with you. Actually I identify as a lesbian, though I’m married to a man. I identified as bi from 18-ish until fairly recently when I came out as a lesbian. My husband and I agreed that we still very much love each other. We have children together. We really work together, but my sexual preference is for women. It’s not that I’m “going straight” for him so much as that I’ve accepted that for me I can be a lesbian but still live with a man.
    Forcing labels on others because *we* feel they don’t fit with one of the prescribed notions of sexual choice is highly problematic for me.

  33. Tara K.
    Posted April 6, 2009 at 9:49 am | Permalink

    You know, I would also argue that doing lesbian acts in front of men is, for some women, a “safe” way to explore their sexuality. It’s not ideal, it’s highly problematic. Thus said, it can be a way to try out things like kissing a girl in a way that won’t be as judged. This can be important for girls who aren’t ready for further, deeper investigation. I know a lot of girls who later realized that they were genuinely bisexual or lesbian after one of these faux-lesbian performances for the male gaze.
    No, ideally women wouldn’t hock their sexuality for men, but that doesn’t mean that they’re always totally emotionally and sexually removed from what they’re doing. It can facilitate some exploration that would otherwise never happen.

  34. ferocita72
    Posted April 6, 2009 at 12:13 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for all of these answers! It has definitely made me more aware of the limitations on “bi-sexual” as a label.

  35. Honeybee
    Posted April 7, 2009 at 9:44 am | Permalink

    I completely agree with your sentiment:
    “If people just shacked up with just anyone they found the slightest bit intriguing but not sexually attractive then are they really in control of who they are? We are sexual beings. This is part of life. A relationship where there is no sexual attraction is a friendship. I am sorry if I have offended anyone by saying that, but that is the definition of a friendship.”
    That is why I would say this woman is a lesbian who has not yet fully accepted it. Or perhaps Bi. But regardless the judgement is made based on who you are sexually attracted to. I can get along with both sexes and even be best friends with people of both sexes. So in that sense I can have a relationship with either. But I’m only sexually attracted to one sex. That’s how I know what my orientation is.

  36. The_Unemotional_One
    Posted April 7, 2009 at 3:07 pm | Permalink

    Has anyone here ever gotten the “When are you going to have a boyfriend?” question? That same old patronizing “You’ll change your mind” about marriage and children?
    Yeah. I most certainly have. It annoys me how limited a cornered woman like me can feel when everyone I know asks me if I’m dating a guy yet. It’s interesting that everyone assumes I’m straight, and as I’ve gotten older, I’m wondering if they’re starting to think that I’m a lesbian, as I’m twenty-one, and I still have yet to have a person that I can consider boyfriend/girlfriend material. Around these people, I feel like I have to be one or the other (the “alternative” being less than desirable if I were to choose)
    I mean, why can’t I “choose” both, or better, neither! Didn’t anyone ever stop to think that even at my age, I still have neither a boyfriend or girlfriend simply because I’d rather be doing other things than sharing time with someone else? I do wish that I could be left alone. And much to my dismay, I have recently learned that if I were to date men or women simultaneously, my father probably WOULDN’T approve. Isn’t THAT nice? At least he’ll accept me if I liked women instead of men (though he obviously won’t be accepting if it does turn out that my younger brother likes guys after all, but I think that he’s just like me: not interested in a romantic relationships; I don’t care otherwise if he’s gay, straight, neither, pan, etc.)
    Although you wanna hear something I consider cool? My mother, the only SMART member of my family, has actually stated to me on more than one occasion that she thinks that I’d probably be happier with a woman than a man (as I hate most of the men I know), but she otherwise hadn’t tried to gear me toward neither.

  37. moonstruck
    Posted April 24, 2009 at 2:39 am | Permalink

    Me Too! I have long wondered if there were others out there like me. I have seen a correlation between my cycle and my attractions. Good to know I’m not the only one out there like this : )
    And I too get tired of all the labels…why can’t I just be attracted to whom I’m attracted, without being pigeonholed?

  38. femme.
    Posted May 16, 2009 at 4:07 pm | Permalink

    I agree ferocita72, this thread is really fascinating!
    I don’t identify as bisexual because it implies there are only two binary genders, which isn’t true. I don’t identify as pansexual, because “pan” means “all,” and I’m not attracted to “all.” I’ve begun to identify as polysexual, after identifying as heterosexual my entire life, because it implies there are more than two genders, yet it doesn’t imply I am attracted to everyone and anyone.
    I have some problems with how label-hungry our society is, but I feel comfortable labeling myself a polysexual. This is the only sexual orientation that I feel is most accurate to describe my sexuality. I am in a long-term, monogamous heterosexual relationship, but that doesn’t mean I’m straight. As of now, I am sexually attracted to women, sexually and romantically attracted to men. That doesn’t mean I’m a lesbian or straight, and that doesn’t mean I have to identify as bisexual. Sexuality can be fluid for some people, but it can be easily and rigidly defined for others. I think sexuality for me is an intensely personal and liberating exploration that includes many discoveries over time, no matter what label you identify with.

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