Saturday, July 24, 2010

Sexual Fluidity

Let's talk about sexual fluidity! If you're asexual, and maybe if you're not, you've probably heard the phrase "sexuality is fluid". I'll be open about the fact that I don't really understand it in a lot of ways-- that's actually the point of this post. "Fluidity" can imply many different things, but no one ever really goes into what exactly they mean when they use the term. If someone asked me how sexuality is fluid, I'd probably say something like, "Well, I guess it's common to not be 100% asexual, 100% heterosexual, and so on for any other orientation." There are, as we hopefully all know by now, many gray areas.

However, I'm not sure that's what most people using the term mean by it. The idea of someone's sexuality changing a lot over a lifetime isn't something I can personally relate to, at least not yet. My feelings towards sex, romance, and whatever else that comprises a sexuality (or lack thereof) have always been about the same. Only my ability to understand and explain it has changed. And from my brief time on Earth, I can't say that I've noticed human beings to be especially fluid. Most of us seem pretty stubborn and set in our ways. Even people who are constantly seeking the new can be stuck in their own rut, where they have trouble changing enough to stick with one thing.

Another issue I have with the term is that it seems like it's mostly queer people who ever mention it. Maybe queer people are just next-level when it comes to this stuff, but if sexuality in general is fluid, then heterosexuals are just as fluid as everyone else. There's this idea among asexuals that in the future, there's some chance of us becoming sexual. However, no one ever says that one day, sexuals could become asexual. It seems like kind of a double-standard, sometimes.

And last, "sexuality is fluid" is a very absolute statement. If asexuals have taught us anything, we should know that there probably isn't anything that sexuality is for everybody.

So that's my confusion; let me show you it.

If you comment about sexual fluidity (and I hope you do), please include in your comment what the concept means (or doesn't mean) to you. Thanks in advance!


K said...

However, no one ever says that one day, sexuals could become asexual. It seems like kind of a double-standard, sometimes. No, I got the impression during the filbanserin debacle that that was what was going on with sexual dysfunction. Like sexual people who lost their libidos much have become asexual. Which maybe was the case every once in awhile, but not with a lot of the ladies I've talked to. I may be misinterpreting that filbanserin criticism.

I think I'm more open to new ideas about sexuality, but, orientation wise I'm still mostly heterosexual. If anything it's more like... what I would be willing to do with my partner is expanded. Or I'm more open to the ideas of a different kind of relationship. But who I'm attracted to, the kinds of people I'm attracted to, remains the same.

It's not a solid block of sexuality that never changes... it's not a fluid either, fluid to me says that sexuality will shift & change VERY quickly, like water running down a stream. You can't predict what it's going to be like from one day to the next.

It's more gelatinous. It can melt from a semi-solid state into a fluid... then if it sits there for awhile it's going to congeal into a semi-solid state again... or in that semi-solid state it can get pushed and sloshed around.

Gelatinous sexuality is not as pretty of a mental picture as 'fluid' sexuality. I think it's more like a Blob. But you don't usually want to find a blob sitting around in your house or refrigerator.

meah said...

Well. Certainly not 100% of people have a fluid sexuality. I know people who are resolutely 100% heterosexual, homosexual, asexual or whatevertheywannabesexual all the time.

On the other hand, there are people whose sexuality is "fluid." Some bisexuals (or fill in romantics here) are only attracted to one gender at any given time, but cycle between the two.

Also, couldn't demisexuality be considered fluid? Asexual except when they're romantically attracted to a person (which is the definition I was exposed to, correct me if I'm wrong).

Ily said...

K--I like gelatinous, but I agree that it sounds kind of about "malleable"? I feel like sexuality often "fits the container that holds it" to some extent, whether the "container" is your knowledge, experiences, your culture, or your time period. It's funny because the first mental image that I had while writing this post was Flubber. :-P

You definitely followed the Flibanserin thing more closely than I did, but I think what you're referring to might be a case of people using the term "asexual" in a way that I wouldn't use it. Like, not as a sexual orientation but just a word for "sexlessness" or what have you. Because if you just lose your libido, then that doesn't make you asexual, at least by the AVEN definition (some asexuals have others).

Meah-- Well, if one of your (for example) gay friends was attracted to the other gender one time, would they really tell you? ;-) But then, that's my own definition of "fluid". And some people probably do go through life totally in line with their orientation; someone has to, I guess.

espikai said...

I use the phrase "sexuality is fluid" in a broad sense, like "human sexuality cannot always be put into a neat label, and different people have different ideas and experiences of sexuality." And sometimes in an individual sense of "sexuality and your interpretation thereof doesn't have to 'make sense' or stay the same." It gets irritating and confusing though, because some people use it to mean "Everybody has no idea what their sexuality could do at any second!" or to devalue other people's sexualities, especially asexuals and certain branches of queer people.

And of course heterosexuals also have the same potential for fluid sexuality as anyone else, but the social construct of heterosexuality means most (though not all) heterosexuals with fluid experiences of sexuality either deny the fluidity or embrace some form of queerness alongside heterosexuality. One of my friends calls herself "Straight-leaning but pansexual," and I've also heard "heteroflexible." Also, I'm pretty sure I saw someone on the LJ asexuality community talk about previously being sexual, but eventually coming to feel more asexual, and they identified as asexual, not celibate or sexual without libido.

(Possible analogy for fluid sexuality - a non-newtonian fluid, like those cornstarch-water concoctions? :P)

Anonymous said...

I like the concept of sexuality being fluid because think an important part of the nature of people is that we always have the ability to change. It seems some people might define the situation of learning more things about their sexuality as a change, after all if someone thinks one thing about themselves and then thinks something different it's not possible to know whether it has changed or you were like that all along and didn't know it. So people who believe that people are constantly changing probably define a realization as a change and people who think they stay the same just see it as a new discovery of the the sexuality that they've always had. I used to think I was a different sexuality than I consider myself now, and I think it illustrates sexual fluidity because I was open to making the change even if people might then say I just hadn't realized my true sexuality yet. Also, I find the idea of fluid sexuality being absolute a bit ironic, it's always sounded to me like the ultimate denial of sexuality absolutes.

Ily said...

Thanks everyone for sharing your definitions-- although I've gotten a cold so my head is too stuffed up to come up with intelligent responses :-P

The Impossible K said...

Colds stink. Hope you're over it by now, Ily :)

Oh, and I totally agree with espikai's comment - Everyone has a very unique combination of experiences/personalities/cultures/etc that contribute to what one perceives as sexual orientation. With so much variation from one person to the next, how can anyone make any absolutes about sexuality? There is so much to orientation that relies on experiences and perceptions only the individual can know - we can't judge others' orientation based on what we see alone because we're only working with a small fraction of the puzzle. I'm wary of using the phrase "sexuality is fluid" in certain contexts because I don't want anyone to misinterpret it as "Homo/Bi/Asexuality is fluid, so there's still a chance they could be 'straight'" - which, of course, is totally the wrong way to look at this.
Still, for some, I don't think sexual orientation is set in stone. I know this because I've experienced shifts recently that I find nearly impossible to explain to outsiders. I think that while it is important to be open enough to allow those shifts, it is by no means an excuse to devalue any orientation.
Oh- and I think it's hard to really observe others being fluid in their sexuality because it's not something a lot of people proudly display. People tend to hide a lot, out of pride, shame, whatever... Sometimes I wish I could take a glimpse behind the masks people wear, to see the full picture. I think there would be a LOT of secrets to discover...

emitrinity said...

I really don't know what's that supposed to mean. People tell me that I'm too young to know that I'm asexual and that it may change because "sexuality is fluid."Still I'm highly doubtful that it will change though I have be open to the possibility due to my age..

Ily said...

Yeah, I don't like when "sexuality is fluid" is used to invalidate someone's identity. Maybe you'll change, but since it hasn't happened yet, it's irrelevant. Especially because it's not something that, even if it did happen, you could plan for.

Noel said...

The first time that I learned about sexual fluidity was in a class I took about "lesbian and bisexual lives." I read the introduction chapter of a book by Lisa Diamond called "Sexual Fluidity: Understanding Women's Love and Desire."

The sexuality of the majority of women that Diamond interviewed did not change quickly, it changed slowly, over time. Are you familiar with "Lams" or "lesbians after marriage?" Personally, I have met and spoken to many women who have either changed their orientation, or experienced a lessening of libido over time, or after having children.

As an asexual woman, I have told my partner that, just as a man or woman may not be hetero or homosexual forever, I may not be asexual forever. I do believe in sexual fluidity. I do understand where you're coming from with the double standard, but I've read about and met so many women who have lost their libidos over time, and may be more comfortable with the asexual label rather than the heterosexual or homosexual label...or whatever sexual label they choose.

And perhaps mostly queer people talk about sexual fluidity because typically sexual fluidity is used as a sexually inclusive term. One never has to "come out" as being heterosexual, it's automatically assumed. So if someone is heterosexual, they may not even think about other types of sexuality, while queer people obviously have to.