Q: 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.
A: 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!
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 he felt that people could change over their lifetime. In other words, he would see it as relatively common that someone could be predominantly or entirely attracted to men for years and then find themselves having feelings for a woman.
You Don’t Have to Stay in One Place
To use the Kinsey 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 impossible to predict.
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 a certain gender, race, age, nationality, height, weight, or type of 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. In addition to academic studies about women who are sexually attracted to both women and men, there is also an interesting book called 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.