Question: I’ve been dating a man for several years, and I love him. We are sexually active, and we are both relatively satisfied. Recently, I’ve developed feelings it seems for a female friend of mine. I’ve always identified as straight, but now I’m not so sure. I really am not sure who I can talk to in order to sort all of this out.
Sexual attraction is a curious thing. Nowadays we tend to use a lot of labels – someone may be homosexual/gay/lesbian or heterosexual/straight. Some use “bisexual” to indicate someone who has romantic or sexual attraction to people of more than one gender; others use the term “pansexual” to either refer to attraction to people of more than one gender or even an openness to gender as well as a variety of (consensual) sexual experiences. And these are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to sexual identities!
Sexual Attraction: A Continuum
Based on the thousands of interviews that he and his colleagues conducted in the early to mid 1900s, Alfred Kinsey saw romantic and sexual attraction as lying more on a continuum. He believed that individuals could locate their attractions or sexual behaviors on a scale from zero to six such that zero indicated exclusively heterosexual or opposite-sex interests or behaviors and six indicated exclusively homosexual or same-sex interests or behaviors.
Not only that, but people could change over their lifetime. In other words, he would see it as relatively common that someone like yourself could be predominantly or entirely attracted to men for years and then find yourself having feelings for a woman.
To use his scale, one might say that you started out as a zero but moved to a one or two, for example. That doesn’t mean that you keep moving further along the scale to a three or a six (though certainly that’s possible too). According to these ideas, you could find yourself at a zero again… it’s just impossible to predict.
Whether or not this zero to six scale seems sensible to you, there are definitely people you can talk with to sort this out.
Free counseling is offered through IU’s LGBTQ+ Culture Center (812-855-4252) here on campus – and don’t worry, you don’t have to define your sexual orientation as anything in particular in order to receive these services. It’s okay to make an appointment and still be questioning what’s going on with your attractions.
The IU Health Center’s Counseling and Psychological services (http://healthcenter.indiana.edu/caps/) is another fantastic campus service to check out.
Exploring Your Own Sexuality
You also might consider how your reactions to your recent same-sex attraction compare to your past other-sex attractions. Did those concern you in the same way? If not, why not? What is it that’s different about this attraction (other than her biological sex)? Sometimes, in spite of all the cultural scripts that suggest we’ll only fall for a person who is of a certain ____ (fill in the blank: gender, race, age, nationality, height, weight, attractiveness), we feel attraction or love or interest for someone simply because of their humanity, and it surprises us in some way.
And that’s not necessarily a bad thing … I think it’s great that you’re taking the time to learn more about your personal sexuality. As you explore, you might find it interesting to read some of the research in this area – academic studies like this one about women who are sexually attracted to (and sexually active with) both women and men or general population books like Dr.Lisa Diamond’s Sexual Fluidity that, while based on research, tell the stories of women’s journeys into understanding their own changing experiences of sexual attractions, behaviors, and identities.
Originally published in December 2004; reviewed and updated terminology, LGBTQ+ Culture Center’s name, research, and reading recommendations on April 30, 2017.