November 22, 2010

Q&A: Sexual Orientation Confusion

A male reader is emotionally attracted to females but physically attracted to males and wonders what this means for his sexual orientation.

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Question: I am a 19 year old male. I am mostly attracted to females physically and a little bit emotionally. However, I have a strong attraction to males sexually – but not emotionally. I am so confused, I don’t know whether I’m straight, Bi, or gay. Please help me.

While we cannot tell you what your sexual orientation is, we can hopefully shed a little light on ways that you might think about your sexuality so that you can explore it in ways that feel right to you.

Sexual Orientation: Sometimes Quite Nuanced

Although sexual orientation is often described in ways that make people think one automatically knows if they are heterosexual (also called “straight”), homosexual (also called “gay” when talking about men or “lesbian” when talking about women) or bisexual (also called “bi”), sexual orientation is sometimes quite nuanced.

Early Research

In the 1930s, 40s and 50s, Dr. Alfred Kinsey and his research team noticed in their interviews with women and men that significant proportions of women and men showed fluid patterns of sexual behavior, dreams and fantasies in regard to the gender of the partner that they thought about or acted sexual with. People also varied in terms of what they did, sexually, or who they thought about in different periods of their lives.

Later researchers in the 60s, 70s and 80s paid particular attention to these issues. They found that while some men, for example, might feel sexually attracted mainly to women, that they also sometimes fantasized about or even had sex with other men.

Other times people were sexually attracted to members of both sexes, when they thought about who they wanted to spend their lives with, they could only imagine themselves with someone of the same gender, or maybe someone of the other gender.

Not Just About Sexual Behavior

These are just a couple of examples, the point being that in order to make sense of one’s sexual orientation, some people find that it’s helpful to think not only in terms of their sexual behavior, but also in terms of their sexual fantasies, their romantic preferences and who they can see themselves being in a relationship with.

Though many people find it useful to give themselves a label such as straight, gay, lesbian or bisexual, not everyone does. Some people find that they don’t quite fit into any of the standard categories and may label themselves as “queer“, indicating that they embrace a more flexible identity that challenges existing labels. Others don’t want any labels at all, and decide that – as life goes on – they want to remain open to falling in love, or falling in lust, with people of the same or other gender.

Learn More

If you’re in a stage of self-exploration, you might find it helpful to connect with the Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays or the American Institute of Bisexuality.

To learn more about the emotional side of relationship with men, as well as sexual aspects of male relationships, you might read The Male Couple. You can learn more about this book and others on our web site.

Next Question: My Boyfriend Always Has An Erection, Masturbates Constantly

My boyfriend constantly has an erection. He’s always touching himself and masturbating, even while I’m asleep next to him. Whenever we have sex, he only lasts about five minutes. Are his frequent erections and masturbation causing him to come quickly?

Read Dr. Debby Herbenick’s response.

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