Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Interesting Links to Posts about Sexual desire and Identity


The other day, Remittance Girl posted an interesting post about Gender, Sexuality and Desire about how you identify yourself sexually and how much of how we identify ourselves and attractions is based on what we were brought up to think is beautiful or attractive.

Today, Kissa Starling posted and interesting post about sexual Identity and labeling as well.

Both go into the idea of not wanting to label themselves or others. This is interesting to me because it's a topic that seems to be pretty popular these days, especially with pop culture sort of accepting and promoting sexual fluidity.

The biggest and most far reaching recent discussion about it was on Oprah this past year. Below is the link to what happened on that show. It's very fascinating for someone like me, who has been a 1 on the Kinsey scale but finds myself suddenly in my 50's sexually or romantically open to women, to see these discussions happening.

I find myself not wanting to fit into any box or label about what I feel. Technically I'm not totally straight since I am now attracted to some women. Nor am I bi since I've never had a romantic or sexual relationship with a women, and I'm definitely not a lesbian since I'm very attracted to men and specifically, love and desire my husband.

But this is something I personally think about as I enjoy reading the type of books that I review for this blog and wish to do and feel as I please in it.

Oprah's Living Without Labels show.

Another Oprah link- Women Leaving Men for Other Women

And then there was an article about Older women turning Gay in More magazine, which is very interesting. It's about women in middle age suddenly finding themselves attracted to women.

This guy has an interesting post about it in The New Gay- Sexual Disorientation: A Bit Bug'd He comes from the premise that we do identify but that certain people or circumstances can cause us to become sexually disoriented for a time being. Interesting.

All of these stories, plus my own experience tell me that we're probably more sexually fluid than we think or identify with. And that many of us don't want to be labeled, or shoved into a box that says this is what I am.

One question that does come up and is posited by Remittance Girl as well, is whether or not social and cultural factors are influencing us in our sexual preferences and experiences? For instance, why would someone like me suddenly become open to women in a sexual way? Is it because the current social a atmosphere is open enough, or even making it popular or even cool? Or has this always been the case that women and men have been fluid, but due to social stigma no one has talked about it? I wonder.

24 comments:

JenB said...

I'll have to check out those links when I'm not at work, but I think for women it's not just about sex. When a straight woman leaves a man for another woman or starts fantasizing about other women, I think a big part of it is about companionship and a deeper connection.

For me, personally, my "curiosity" is short-term. If I were to find myself single again I might be tempted to experiment with women, but the thought of a LTR with a woman gives me hives. Not because of homophobia or anything like that, but because I think I'm seriously allergic to large doses of estrogen. Two women PMS-ing at the same time? Trying to share a bathroom? Ughh...the very reason I never lived in a college dorm. No thanks! LOL

MB (Leah) said...

Jen, I'd have to agree with you on the LT relationship with a woman. I just don't know that it wouldn't get tooooo something or other.

Strange though,I shared a house with a female friend for 7 years and we got on great. No big issues or PMSing fights or anything. It went nice and smooth. But we weren't lovers or into each other that way. In all respects though, outside of sex, we were practically partners, watching movies together and cooking together on days off and neither one having a boyfriend for a long time. Well, until I met my husband.

So it does bring up then why I or many women might be into a fling or short term love affair with a woman, but get squicked out by the idea of a full on live in for years relationship, which is technically a lesbian relationship.

And I think you're right about the deeper connection. In my case, I've always been a mans girl, meaning that I never really felt comfortable in the company or more than one woman and chose to be around men all the time. And the thought of coffee klatches, well, No friggen way. Couldn't think of a more boring thing to do than sit around with a bunch of women yakking.

But now I feel that being with a woman, getting close with a woman would give me something way deeper than I can even had with my husband and I don't know why that happened at this point or if it's the case with many women.

Maybe most women already have close female relationships so it doesn't come up really, but since I've never really had that, it's become in interesting idea for me.

Remittance Girl said...

I'm so glad you liked my post on sexual identity. I've seen a lot of people in my life - certainly my own brother - go through terrible pain trying to edge themselves into a box to describe their sexuality.

Thank you for the other links to related or similar posts or articles.

(Ironically, the word verification for this comment was 'tranout')

MB (Leah) said...

Remittance girl- yes, actually your post made me think a lot. Outside of what liking reading f/f has made me think about sexual identity and desire anyway.

It's in interesting subject for me these days. I even understand your dislike of having to identify with being a certain gender even. I've always been very attracted to androgynous people and love sexual ambiguity. There seems to be something very freeing about that.

Cathy in AK said...

Great post and links, Leah. I had watched the Oprah program when it aired and found myself nodding my head at the idea of sexual fluidity. How can you put labels on such a wide spectrum? It's enough to know we ALL fit in somewhere.

The article in More magazine also hit home. Why, at 43, am I looking at women in a whole new way??? But, alas, it's not *new* to me. Looking back, I have to admit I've found women as attractive as men for a long, long time. This belated self realization doesn't mean I'm going to divorce my fab husband and look for a girl friend, but it's liberating to be honest with myself--and now you poor folks!--at the very least : )

Like it or not, I think there were social issues twenty years ago that kept me, in particular, on the "straight" and narrow path to a hetero marriage. But that doesn't diminish the love I have for my husband. Admitting my interest in women today doesn't make me "one of the cool kids" either. I have never been, nor ever will be, a cool kid : )

MB (Leah) said...

Cathy, that More article was an eye opener for me as well. My sister told me about it. I've been blabbing my sudden, new interest in women to my family and friends, not being shy about it at all.

In my case, I have experimented and been open and it just didn't go for me. Maybe it wasn't time or I didn't meet the right woman. Not that I'm about to run out on the DH, whom I really love and enjoy being married to.

But I love how more and more discussion is happening around it because it does make it easier for those of us in this position to feel free to express ourselves without recrimination or getting labeled as it were.

kirsten saell said...

Like it or not, I think there were social issues twenty years ago that kept me, in particular, on the "straight" and narrow path to a hetero marriage.

I think we're conditioned to consider some possibilities and not others, so even when it's "safe" to come out, if you want kids and all the trappings of a traditional life, you just naturally gravitate toward being married to a man.

Before marriage, I never really considered a relationship with a woman--over and above the reaction I was afraid I'd get from my family, I wanted the life that comes with being hetero. So I can't even say there was any one woman who really did it for me on all levels, you know, made me look beyond physical attraction to whether she'd make a good girlfriend. Because I wasn't looking.

Half of falling in love, I've always believed, is being open to falling in love--and back then, I just never allowed myself to be open to that with a woman.

When I was married, I was that way with both men and women--there was no one even on my radar, because the possibility of any relationship with them was closed to me. Does that make sense at all?

M. A. said...

I found these articles an interesting read. Thanks to Leah for posting them.

I’m not sure what I believe about gender identity and sexual fluidity. I think every person’s experiences and preferences are different. I’m very intimidated by the idea that people have to “choose” gender identity and that the choice may be a struggle for some.

But it’s always been so easy for me. I’m girl, the quintessential frou-frou, accessory-loving, tea party hosting girly-girl. I own a corset wardrobe, my signature color is pink and I rejoiced when Birkenstock started producing comfort sandals with floral patterns and feminine colors (“At last! Now I can be comfortable AND pretty!”)

I found the article concerning the tendencies of some women to find themselves attracted to females in their middle years and that “rang a bell” with me. I’ve had two separate experiences where women expressed romantic feelings towards me and in both cases the women were in their forties and were married. In the first case, the woman was a long-time friend (I’d known her since high school) and she was up front about her feelings. I couldn’t return those feelings and she has since divorced and settled down happily with a new girlfriend. I wish them the best but it sucks because I think the new girlfriend views me as a threat and though my pal and I have stayed in touch we’re definitely not as close as we once were.

The other situation dragged on for years and it took forever for me to come to grips with it because, honestly, the lines between a close “best friendship” and a romantic relationship can be difficult to discern. For several years I was friends with a woman whom I admired and respected. Over time I became close to her family as well. The woman was very taken by my “girly” qualities and over the years sent me various presents that reflected that, lots of jewelry and pretty romantic accessories and anything pink she could find. It felt more and more like I was her sweetheart than her buddy, but for a long time I disregarded that feeling and chalked it up to paranoia or misunderstanding on my part. In time she got over me and found a new “crush” and when she “dumped” me she did it just as some guys might, no official “breakup,” just all of a sudden she was emotionally and personally unavailable to me. I went from “best friend” to persona non grata overnight. When I tried to find out what was wrong (if I’d offended her in some way) her manner became downright abusive. We don’t talk to each other anymore and I’ve discovered since that these close intense friendships are a pattern of behavior for her and that she’s done this with other women. C’est la vie.

In each case, though, the women were older than I was and neither was very feminine herself. I can’t help wondering if their real attraction was to femininity, not to me personally. Maybe they saw the qualities I had they felt they lacked themselves.

MB (Leah) said...

it took forever for me to come to grips with it because, honestly, the lines between a close “best friendship” and a romantic relationship can be difficult to discern.

I think sometimes it is hard for women because in general women are more intimate just on a friendship level than men. I mean, with my friends I've walked around naked, in India we checked each other's hoha hairs for lice, had to share sleeping bags while camping and so on. But it never crossed that line I'd say.

But if one was feeling something more than friendship then it might be easier to carry on as is without the other knowing unless it's brought up and talked about. And picking up vibes can be a slippery slope not really knowing if what you're picking up is real or imagination.

I've only had women hit on me when I was younger and they were younger. And it was very clear for me that I wasn't interested so no problems.

Recently though, I've shared with a long time friend in Japan that I have stuff coming up around attractions to women and she told me she was jealous and that she always felt me to be her "soul mate" even though we were never really close or email that much since I left Japan. This was very interesting to me because I was quite attracted to her and loved her more deeply than most of my friends although there was no sexual attraction. I did think she was a nice looking woman. Now that she brings it up I think I did feel something like that to her and if she would have been a lesbian I might have tried with her. But she's a straight woman.

This is why I don't like labels as well. I think it's actually kind of cool to be able to say to a woman that you feel close to that you have feelings that you're not sure about and be able to bring it all out into the open.

It's the unsaid I think that hurt your relationship with that one woman. She wasn't willing to come out and be clear.

In each case, though, the women were older than I was and neither was very feminine herself. I can’t help wondering if their real attraction was to femininity, not to me personally. Maybe they saw the qualities I had they felt they lacked themselves.

This is a kind of interesting idea. In my experience, the women that hit on me were masculine. But I wasn't very feminine or girly. I'm very boyish myself and even liked to dress like a guy when I was in high school, attracted to guys' clothes and such.

But it could be that that if they were into women then they were the masculine role in what they felt to you. I don't really know anything about lesbian relationships to know that.

I have been attracted to one woman and she inspires in me something I've never felt before and that is to play the traditional masculine role of wanting to protect, take care of and take the lead. Which is very interesting because with men I rather like them to take charge and I like to be taken care of to some degree.

kirsten saell said...

Maybe they saw the qualities I had they felt they lacked themselves.

I'm pretty middle of the road, myself--equally comfortable in work boots with a hammer in my hand, and in snug jeans and a tight shirt. I have really short hair. I wear make-up, because I wan't to look elfin rather than butch. I don't wear dresses, but I like my shoes to be attractive.

When I find myself attracted to a woman, it's definitely to her feminine qualities. With men, the bigger, stronger, more square-jawed the better.

I think perhaps masculine and feminine simply attract one another, and when a woman is very "masculine", they're naturally going to be drawn to girlie girls. Being more balanced in how I feel about myself, I'm attracted to both masculinity in men and femininity in women, and how attracted often has as much to do with how I'm feeling about myself as anything else.

Which really is what leads me to find the idea of a committed f/f/m relationship so very very appealing--because I'm always changing in which traits I'm more drawn to. Hate to be long term with a man and then find myself lusting after women for months on end...

Cathy in AK said...

I think sometimes it is hard for women because in general women are more intimate just on a friendship level than men.

I think the More article discusses this to some extent. The natural intimacies between women may prompt us to be open to sexual relationships. In our older, wiser and more "grown up" stage we have less inhibition in expressing that.

Unfortunately, not knowing if the other woman is receptive to your efforts or not knowing how to go about expressing yourself could lead to the situation M.A. experienced. I don't know.

Figuring this out now, sorta, I can see where I either ignored or totally missed other women's actions toward me when I was younger (a college classmate coming up behind me and reaching around to slip some change into the front pocket of my jeans? Yeah, totally didn't react to that one the way she was probably looking for--d'oh! Sorry!) and where my own confused attraction toward a woman led me to make mindless conversation just to be near her. But because in general women are more touchy-feely or can feel comfortable laying next to each other on a bed chatting, situations like those can be misinterpreted, intentionally or not : )

Did that make sense?

Kirsten, I think we have the same tastes in men and women ; )

M. A. said...

Leah

And picking up vibes can be a slippery slope not really knowing if what you're picking up is real or imagination.


In the experience I mentionned, it seemed to me that attraction was (quoting Jane Austen) "always implied but never declared." I'd have "head-scratching moments" where I'd think "Okay, this is a bit strange..." But I also naively thought that I had to be misinterpreting my friend's behavior because she was happily married.

Ironically, after we parted company, I was surprised when I discussed the situation with other friends and relatives who'd met her. Many of them admitted they'd always pegged her as lesbian and some even assumed we were lovers. A gay relative of mine even dismissed her marriage as a "convenience" and pegged her husband as gay.

I don't even pretend to understand how they "know" all this because I certainly didn't pick up on it and still don't have a real opinion on it (don't really consider it my business.) Then again, I never really thought about it either. I saw the couple as friends of mine and I did not look beyond that. I'm not sure if my friends/relatives recognized things I didn't or if I was just too in denial or just not concerned enough to see the obvious.

MB (Leah) said...

In our older, wiser and more "grown up" stage we have less inhibition in expressing that.

I think in the case of older women turning, this is true. I know for me, after all these years and experiences and relationships, I'm very confident about who I am and am attracted to people out of knowing who I am and less out of confusion.

So I think I'm more willing actually at this age to experiment than I was when I was younger and did experiment. I also know that if I fell in love with a woman, I would be very open about it because I've been there done that in relationships and if she would reject me then I'd just move on and it wouldn't shatter my world. So age and experience does seem to be a factor.

MA- I'm not sure if my friends/relatives recognized things I didn't or if I was just too in denial or just not concerned enough to see the obvious.

What's interesting to me about that story is that you felt very hurt and devastated almost as if she were really a lover. So I think some part of you was responding to her in that way, even if you weren't aware of it maybe.

And lets face it, we all love attention from either sex. And because women can say to other women "oh you're so beautiful and I love you" and not mean anything more than just that, we accept those compliments and thrive on them.

I wonder, did you ever think to just ask her outright? Or did she kind of put out a vibe of don't ask? I get the impression that she herself was unclear inside herself what is going on or she was unwilling to openly express it to you.

I must say that I've been directly hit on by lesbians who thought I was a lesbian when I really wasn't. After the first time, I ran to my sister asking if she thought I put out a vibe that I was gay because inside of me, I was clearly het, never having an attraction to women.

Maybe they picked up that I was open because I was asked by a friend to sleep with her and I tried it, said OK, but it just wasn't happening for me and I shut down.

So maybe this women really wasn't gay at all but just had an obsessive thing with you.

This is what I love though about all of this discussion because it does make it easier for women to express feelings that blur the line. And I think the line is different for everyone.

There was a time when things were very clear cut to me. You don't touch your girlfriend or hold hands or things like this because that does cross a sexual line. But after I went to Europe and lived overseas, I saw that women were very open and expressive and held hands, even kissed on the lips when parting and so on and it meant nothing sexual, so I became more open to being more physical with girlfriends but not worrying that they would take it the wrong way.

And much of these issues about whether or not you're picking up a vibe can be said about m/f relationships as well. I've had a few male friends tell me years later that they had a crush on me and I didn't have a clue. Not one. LOL And I've had crushes on men who seemed to like me but it didn't go anywhere. So these things are human in general.

But I think due to what is still a bit of a taboo, discerning whether or not a woman has feelings for you is tough because we don't want to loose a good friendship.

M. A. said...

I wonder, did you ever think to just ask her outright?

Yeah, I asked. She denied any interest, I believed her...and that's when she more or less "phased me out" of her life.

So maybe this women really wasn't gay at all but just had an obsessive thing with you.


I have "compared notes" with mutual acquaintances who have enjoyed similar "best friendships" at different times with the same person and there seems to be a similar pattern to the friendships (a "honeymoon" phase where the "special friend" almost seems to be the center of her world, followed by a more casual "period of disillusionment" and subsequent abbandonment.) The discussion I could have about that is too lengthy for a blog.

While the "breakup" was very hurtful, I can't say it wasn't also a relief when it ended. I don't believe the situation was a healthy one.

MB (Leah) said...

MA- this is so interesting to me. On a personal level, I've never had an obsessive type relationship with a woman, even with a female friend. I have, however, had some with men.

So I can see that you were very confused because I would have assumed the same thing.

The only woman that I know who was obsessive with me, was the lesbian who hit on me directly.

So I've only experience obsession within the sexual/romantic context.

It seems though that confronting her freaked her out. Maybe she's in the closet.

But yeah, these are long discussion topics and good fodder for a great book! :D

M. A. said...

About these "signs" a person is gay/lesbian...

What's up with that?

I've had some whacky discussions with people who "just know" a person is gay based upon how they speak, what they like to eat, how they dress, what kinds of films and music they like, etc..

MB (Leah) said...

MA- yeah, I don't know that "signs" are always there or correct.

Like me. People thinking I'm gay. I'm just a tough New Yawka who's not really that frilly or girly but likes plain comfortable clothes. I guess that makes me a lesbian, I don't know.

I think with some people it's very obvious. But I also don't like the stereotypes that if you're a woman with short, cropped hair and are wearing pants that you're automatically a lesbian.

The only way I really know for sure is if I see some rainbow sticker/ symbol on them or if two women are walking holding hands or such. Otherwise, there's always doubt.

Again, one can pick up vibes, but they aren't totally true as well.

You know one night I was at a bar not long ago with my sister and her husband and the table next to us had two girls and a guy. The two girls sat opposite from each other and one next to the guy. Well, the two girls kept leaning over the table and kissing/making out and then the one next to the guy was kissing him as well at times. Frankly, even though those girls were kissing, I didn't pick up the vibe that either one was a lesbian. They just came across as two friends who were drunk and started kissing, like going shopping together.

So there's even that, nowadays that girls are like that and maybe not gay or even bi at all.

M. A. said...

Like me. People thinking I'm gay. I'm just a tough New Yawka who's not really that frilly or girly but likes plain comfortable clothes. I guess that makes me a lesbian, I don't know.


LOL...A male friend of mine insisted to me that women wearing flannel is a sure sign of lesbian tendencies. After choking on iced tea I fished out a Victorian style flannel nightgown from my closet and told him "I wear this when I'm cold, not when I'm lesbian."

MB (Leah) said...

Heh, after I wrote that last comment I thought about it and one reason why it didn't occur to me that those two women might be lesbians was because both were dressed very femininely.

So there's my personal prejudice showing I guess.

I only knew one bi girl who was kind of girly. Long blong hair, gorgeous and always preening. LOL

Another prejudice that girly girls are always preening.. LOL I'm so bad.

M. A. said...

Another prejudice that girly girls are always preening.. LOL I'm so bad.

*nods with cheerful grin* It's true to an extent. I was staying with some relatives after evacuating from the Gulf Coast for Hurricane Katrina.

I remember primping in my compact mirror en route to a movie/shopping/whatever we were doing, and I just sighed in utter contentment and announced, "I'm so happy I thought to pack this lip gloss when I fled the storm, it matches my t-shirt perfectly."

This awarded me lengthy silent looks of "What planet are you from?" But hey! Would it have been better for me to have brought a lip gloss that clashed? Then I'd be concerned about my appearance on top of worried that I'd lost everything I owned in the flood.

MB (Leah) said...

I must admit that I like characters like that in books. Women who are getting shot at, living on the edge of danger and they're wondering if their fingernail polish matches their shoes. LOL

I find it refreshing only because that's so not me. snort.

M. A. said...

I must admit that I like characters like that in books. Women who are getting shot at, living on the edge of danger and they're wondering if their fingernail polish matches their shoes. LOL

I find it refreshing only because that's so not me. snort.



I think it's a Southern thing, really. My grandmother was the ultimate girl and I suspect it's genetic. She's pushing ninety and still every morning she dons her earrings, spritzes perfume, and applies lipstick. She also taught me it is the height of vulgarity to stand or walk around while eating or to drink cola out of a can (I don't understand it either but the lesson stuck.)

While staying with my aunt over the Labor Day weekend when the hurricane occured, I wore white skimmer shoes and when my stay was prolonged my aunt insisted I borrow a pair of her sandals because white shoes after Labor Day is a fashion no-no in the South.

MB (Leah) said...

I think it's a Southern thing, really.

There's probably a lot of truth to that. That one character I was thinking of was from the South.

I can't imagine some girl from rural Montana worrying about what to wear after Labor day. But what do I know?

This makes me wonder then if Southern lesbians are more frilly, even the butch ones? Oh the things that run through my mind. snort

M. A. said...

This makes me wonder then if Southern lesbians are more frilly, even the butch ones?

I don't really know. I've met one "obvious" lesbian woman before and she was quite masculine in appearance and behavior. I'm sure I've met plenty of GLBT people who I never questionned whether they were straight or not.

I admit I'm oblivious to stuff like that. I'm a great believer in minding my own business. I just feel that, unless I'm involved with a person or interested in becoming involved with a person, things like gender I.D. and sexual preferences don't have anything to do with me.