Question: I dated men until I was 21. Then, due to a combination of fantasizing about women and some bad relationships with men, I started to date women. I figured I was bisexual. But recently, an ex-boyfriend contacted me and I started thinking about leaving her for him. That passed but I keep fantasizing about men now. Does this mean I’m straight?
The Basics of Sexuality
In the fields of sexuality research and education, sexual orientation is commonly described as being a pattern of romantic and/or sexual attraction in relation to both people’s genders. Some people view sexual orientation as “fixed” and that everyone has a “true” orientation.
Pioneering sex researcher Dr. Alfred Kinsey, however, felt that there was fluidity in human sexuality and that more people would be attracted to both sexes if society was more accepting and embracing of the diversity of human sexual attraction, interest and behavior.
Orienting to a Label
The idea of having labels to define or describe people’s sexual orientation – labels such as heterosexual, homosexual or bisexual – is freeing for many people.
It helps to make sense of the world for some men and women and has helped millions of people to identify with a community, to feel proud of who they are and to more easily communicate their desires and interests, even their identity, to others as well as to find sexual, romantic and lifelong partners.
For some people, however, sexual orientation labels – like many other labels or categories we humans use – feel restrictive.
Some people prefer to not label themselves in terms of sexual orientation. They may feel that labeling themselves as homosexual, heterosexual or bisexual cannot fully capture who they are or that adopting a label gives in to a larger power dynamic that doesn’t work for them. Also, some people just don’t feel that they can easily fit their sexuality into a box. They may feel, for example, that their sexuality is more fluid than a neat little label suggests.
No Labels Here
Based on my experiences as a sexuality researcher and educator, I certainly do not feel comfortable labeling other people in terms of their sexual orientation. And I don’t know many researchers or educators that would feel comfortable telling someone, such as yourself, what their sexual orientation is. After all, you know yourself better than anyone else.
Emerging ideas in the area of human sexuality support the idea of sexual fluidity, perhaps particularly for women. One researcher, a professor named Lisa Diamond, has written a book about this concept and you may find it of interest. It’s called Sexual Fluidity: Understanding Women’s Love and Desire, and is the culmination of research-based interviews with about 100 women over the course of 10 years.
As you make sense of your own relationships and desires, you may find it helpful to know that some people go in and out of relationships with both women and men. If you do identify as bisexual, know that this doesn’t have to mean anything about who you have sex or partner with. You get to choose what your identity means to you, and you also get to make it up as you go along.
Life, love, desires, relationships – and sexual feelings, too – all change at times, for some people more than others (and for reasons not well understood by scientists).