Widgets Magazine

Sex Talks with the Tree: Labeling sexuality

Am I gay? Many claim that there is a spectrum of homosexuality, but what is the extent to which we can be attracted to or experiment with the same sex without labeling ourselves or being labeled as bisexual or gay?

I was 17 the first time I really experimented sexually with another woman. Although I had kissed girls before during Spin The Bottle or for silly reasons like attracting male attention, this time was different. I was with a group of friends: two girls and two guys. One of the guys expressed interest in trying group sex. It sounded exciting to us, so we all agreed to give it a shot. We got a hotel room for the night at a local Marriott. Little did the receptionist know a bunch of 17- and 18-year-olds were getting a room to have an orgy of sorts. Or perhaps he did, but didn’t say anything. We got to the room and awkwardly turned on the television to delay our encounter. Finally, when it seemed like nobody was going to initiate anything, I decided to start kissing one of the guys. Since there were five of us, what ensued seemed to be a pairing off of people, and the extra person at the time gave extra attention to one pair. I ended up having sex with both a man and a woman that night, and it was a very positive and fun experience for me. I have since had some sexual encounters with women, but I have only ever been emotionally attached to men.

Does this experimentation constitute as being bisexual? My one concern I have with experimentation is how it may negatively impact the publicity or diminish the importance of rights for the LGBT community; many people might argue, after witnessing a drunken kiss between two people of the same sex, that things like bisexuality are just trends or phases, as opposed to real innate preferences. I hate to put a label on my sexuality, but how much does experimentation define sexual orientation or preferences, if at all? While college seems to be a pivotal place for sexual discovery and experimentation, at Stanford, experiences often seem to be limited by traditional labels and social norms.

In response to the preponderance of black-and-white definitions of sexuality on campus, one self-identified member of the LGBT community at Stanford commented, “I don’t think it’s just ‘straight’ people’s fault. I think the gay community has this notion that if you hook up with someone of the same sex and don’t identify as ‘bi’ or ‘gay,’ then you are ‘closeted’ or ‘repressed,’ which is really irritating because [sexuality] is so fluid! Some guys might be sexually interested in other guys, but not emotionally, and that’s fine–it doesn’t mean they’re closeted.”

As a culture, it seems we are much more willing to accept women experimenting with other women (without branding them as queer), while men who experiment with men are often quickly labeled as gay. I highly doubt that if Justin Bieber had sung a rendition of Katy Perry’s “I Kissed a Girl” and called it “I Kissed a Boy and I Liked It” that the song would have been so easily accepted and such a nationwide hit. In fact, his sexuality would most likely still be questioned in the tabloids. In truth, though, I know many men who identify as gay now who have had or still sometimes enjoy sex with the “right” woman. I also know some very macho men who refuse even to hug other men or even receive professional massages from male masseurs.

Another self-identified gay Stanford male noted, “For me personally, before I identified as ‘gay,’ I was much more attracted to women, and after I became part of the ‘gay’ community it became part of the sort of culture and lifestyle so much that I lost a lot of that previous attraction and became more fixed [in terms of orientation]. This is so sad because ideally I think sexual liberation should be about expanding our capacities for pleasure and the idea that we just won’t fuck [or] have intimacy with certain groups on something so arbitrary as gender or race or ability is really sad.”

Stanford has a plethora of beautiful, talented and successful young men and women. It is already difficult enough to find a partner under normative circumstances; why not make it easier for ourselves and be open to the possibility of less traditional experiences without having to be “labeled”? I know a 50-year-old woman who left her marriage of almost 20 years when she fell in love with a 45-year-old woman who had a strictly heterosexual past. They are now married and living together in New York, but neither self-identifies as straight, lesbian or bisexual. They both say that they fell in love with a person who just happened to be of the same sex. Perhaps some people are able to freely fall in love or have sex with someone for that person’s overall qualities as an individual, regardless of gender, and without the need for sexual classification.