It’s three in the morning. We’ve all partied out, and thoughts turn, naturally, to our sexuality, piqued by the admission of a man in our group, who, if we are to go by stereotypes, could pass for straight, but is more likely to be gay.
“I’ve been passionately in love with a woman,” R says, to a table of skeptics, “but I’ve also fallen deeply in love with a man. So I guess that makes me bisexual.”
He adds that at this particular point in time, however, he identifies more strongly as a homosexual than a heterosexual.
K says that sexuality is a fluid thing, that our assertions of our sexuality hold true not definitively, but at a certain concrete moment.
G simply declares that she is 100-percent heterosexual. Period.
But, some of us argue, following K’s logic, you could identify as straight all your life, get married, have children, exclusively fuck members of the opposite sex until one day, you meet someone you feel an inexplicably powerful sexual attraction to, and BAM! Next thing you know, you’ve left your husband to be with another woman.
In a society obsessed with labels and definitions, what does that make you?
Cynthia Nixon, a.k.a. Miranda in Sex and the City, told The New York Times, “I’ve been straight and I’ve been gay, and gay is better.”
While Cynthia’s switch was quite a shocker at the time—she had become famous playing a straight lawyer searching for love and enjoying a lot of sex in New York City, after all—it’s not such a rare occurrence anymore. In fact, it’s considered rather chic in some circles.
There’s Jenna Lyons, the stylish creative director of J. Crew, who famously split from her husband of nine years and shacked up with Courtney Crangi. Meredith Baxter, who played the mother in the beloved TV sitcom Family Ties, married and divorced three men before coming out late in life as a lesbian.
Cynthia, who wore Carolina Herrera to her second wedding, this time to her long-time partner Christine Marinoni, was married to her previous husband for 14 years, and has children with him.
“I do completely feel,” she said to reporters, “that when I was in relationships with men, I was in love and in lust with those men.
“And then I met Christine and I fell in love and in lust with her. I am completely the same person and I was not walking around in some fog. I just responded to the people in front of me the way I truly felt.”
Her asserting her current “gayness” as a choice has offended some gay activists, but perhaps others are right when they say sexuality is indeed a fluid thing, and attraction knows no gender.
As the woman formerly known as Ke$ha once said, “I don’t just love men, I love people. It’s not about gender. It’s just about the spirit that exudes from that other person you’re with.”
The younger generation, it appears, has no difficulty shrugging off the conventional gender binary and embracing the entire spectrum of sexuality, if not for themselves, then accepting without judgement how others choose to identify. As Tom Ford once controversially called it, “heteroflexibility.”
But before you sound the death knell for exclusive female heterosexuality, consider the results of a study by Dr. Meredith L. Chivers of the University of Indiana, who measured female sexual response to a variety of videotaped stimuli‑intercourse, masturbation, nudity‑featuring men, women, men and women, men and men, women and women.
She found that self-declared straight women responded equally, physiologically speaking, to the images, meaning they were turned on by depictions of all kinds of sex.
Yet there is a difference between what might arouse your genitals and your orientation.
As The Daily Beast stated in a recent article: “Straight women’s vaginas proved to be the omnivores of the genital world, responding even to depictions of chimpanzee sex. But this doesn’t mean that straight women aren’t straight any more than it means they are all secretly into bestiality… It means you can’t conflate genital response with sexual orientation.”
In effect, “how your body responds to a stimulus and how you feel, act and think about that stimulus are two separate things.”
Extreme circumstances, however, may lead to a straight woman sliding towards the center of the sexuality spectrum.
“What if,” K asks, to save your life, you had to eat a woman out? Would you do it?”
Imagine as a straight woman your choice was to eat out another woman or die. Would you?
G acknowledges that she would do it, if there were no other choice. The thought, however, fills her not with distaste, but trepidation.
“What if I can’t make her come?”
Now that’s not a matter of sexuality. That’s performance anxiety.
B. Wiser is the author of Making Love in Spanish, a novel published earlier this year by Anvil Publishing and available in National Book Store and Powerbooks, as well as online. When not assuming her Sasha Fierce alter-ego, she takes on the role of serious journalist and media consultant.
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Art by Dorothy Guya