It’s not an easy thing to talk about. It is probably the most difficult thing to talk about in fact. Writers, artists as well as men and women across all spectrums of people have grappled with how to handle this topic. It is because this is central to our very identity as people that this topic, above all else, is something we guard more than anything. What I am speaking about is, of course, our sexual orientation.
Never before has so much information about our sexual preference been available. We struggle to deal with this issue in ways past generations couldn’t even begin to imagine. The terms: polyamorous, asexual, pansexual, and gender-neutral are not ones that would have likely been a part of our forefather’s vocabulary. Yet, these terms can come to define one’s sexual existence today. There are entire websites and within those websites there are communities devoted to “living the lifestyle.” Fetlife is one of these communities where BDSM has been embraced for well over a decade. Users are happy to post pictures and even videos of themselves in the most compromising of positions to fulfill a thrill that comes with expressing yourself through sex.
I dated a girl once who was pansexual, bisexual, and polyamorous. I did not think that I was any of those things at the time. Now I am unsure. I think we are all – to some degree or another – pansexual. Pansexual refers to liking someone more because of their personality and/or intelligence. We tend to like people more once we get to know them because usually we’re able to find something that we have in common with them. There aren’t a lot of people who become less desirable the more we know about them. Serial killers maybe, psychiatrists certainly, correctional officers and other members of law enforcement make it on this list almost by default, but other than those three select groups I can’t think of people who you respect less and less the more you get to know them.
You’d think that every man ever born would be polyamorous or at least try to be. Polyamory refers to how many sexual partners one has at one time. Monogamy is defined as being devoted to one person. It is central to many of our social institutions as well as our religious institutions. However, many of us simply cannot be satisfied sexually by one person or rather we’d rather not have that restriction placed on us. And since most of us don’t think of polyamory as something like a genetic disorder that you are born with it is an easy thing to negotiate with the right person.
Polyamory causes it’s fair amount of problems in committed relationships. It’s one of the main problems with having a “friend with benefits.” It’s easy to get attached to someone with whom you are intimate and if you feel yourself getting distanced from your partner it is easy to lose sight of who fulfills what role in a relationship. This becomes all the more difficult by the lack of definition given to these roles by society. Whether or not society will ever be truly accepting of polyamorous people is anyone’s guess. It would seem that people would tolerate it until it became a significant enough problem that it becomes necessary to legislate against. That’s how gay marriage worked out. Since no one has done any conclusive studies on whether there is any evidence as to whether one can truly be polyamorous or monogamous one imagines this is an issue that cannot be settled.
The issue of bisexuality is probably the most interesting of the three to look at because it is the one that is least accepted. Many simply say: “you either prefer one or the other,” but it’s not that simple. I asked the girl I was dating early on if she had a preference and she thought that was the most bizarre question ever put to her.
“How could I have a preference?” She asked looking like I had just proposed dumping raw sewage all over her. “It’s the person that counts.”
Indeed, how do you argue with that logic? Biologists have their answer, psychiatrists have theirs and I suppose the courts have their own, but it seems difficult to put a value on love. This all presupposes of course that the relationship in question is focused on love. Many members of my parent’s generation look at this much like many continue to look at homosexuality and that is mainly that it is a choice. You choose which sex you want to be with. One turns you on more than the other or you find yourself unable to have feelings for one gender entirely. This brings up the issue of Asexuality that is perhaps the most difficult to describe of all the issues we’ve dealt with here.
An Asexual person does not experience sexual attraction at all or does so only at very select times. Medically speaking, Asexuality may refer to sexual action or differentiation and this is where we get into some troublesome territory. You may now of Asexuality among organisms and animals as lacking functional sexual organs. The term hermaphrodite is sometimes associated with this word. When you talk to members of the Asexual community they seem to be at odds amongst themselves over exactly what being Asexual means. That is, one person’s Asexuality is another’s form of polyamory or bisexuality. We can assign different definitions to these terms, but what they mean ultimately depends on the social value and identifying values that we as a society place on them.
We thus find ourselves at a rather interesting time in the history of our ever-evolving human sexuality. What we are to someone else it seems does not matter nearly as much as how we identify ourselves and this is what makes us different from previous generations. Whereas prior generations had to hide their sexuality behind a number of different masks, we have the opportunity to embrace all sexuality as special and ultimately unique in itself. The girl I dated shouldn’t have to have a preference as to whether she likes men or women more. The only time this is an issue is when we are making a judgment about another person. It would have mattered to me in the context of a relationship whether she preferred men or women, but as a person I just want her to be happy and this is how we should judge things as a society. The label does not matter or rather should not matter in the aggregate only the person’s happiness and freedom should count. This, I fear, is something that we are far from accepting for the same reason that a post-racial world is not possible or a true gender neutral society is impossible. There will always have to be a people for others to look down upon and like generations before us those people will likely be those who are in any way different than us whatever the plurality of “us” decides to be.