Sexuality - who am I attracted to?
June 9, 2010 6:33 PM   Subscribe

I'm currently questioning my sexuality. However I'm not sure who I'm sexually and romantically attracted to. All of the attraction that I've seemed to have has been to guys, but I'm not sure if it was sexual btw. I'm 19 years old if that helps. What is the most accurate indicator of sexual orientation / attraction? I'm not sure if I'm attracted to girls or not, thanks...
posted by antgly to Human Relations (20 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
i guess it doesn't really matter - but are you male or female?

do your masturbate? when you masturbate what do you think about?

for me, my fantasies and dreams kept involving girls. when i watched mtv, my panties would get wet during songs by girls, but not by guys. so - when you're not trying to be turned on, what creates a sexual response in you? what makes you wet/hard when you don't want to be and don't expect to be?

in the end, i decided that i'm bisexual - but my initial attractions are far more focused on females rather than males. part of this i learned through lots of making out and sex.
posted by nadawi at 6:38 PM on June 9, 2010

Do you masturbate? What gets you off? As in, what are you thinking about when you are on the cusp of orgasm; what puts you over the edge? That, to my mind, is generally a good indicator.

Have you got much experience with dating and/or sex? What has worked for you and what hasn't?

Note: I'm not really suggesting you need to answer those questions here, but ask them of yourself and think about the answers.

Beyond that, I wouldn't worry too much about it. Sexuality is a vastly complicated and extremely fluid thing. I say that as a nominally gay man who is attracted to women from time to time, btw. Labels are useful and confining at the same time.

If you need to talk privately, email in profile.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 6:39 PM on June 9, 2010 [2 favorites]

This is one of those situations where the best indicator is experience. I think the most accurate indicator of sexual orientation/attraction will be who you enjoy being with physically and emotionally and who you find yourself longing for. This won't necessarily be simple -- I know my own journey has been filled with twist and turns, and, though it might be hard, at age 19 it might be better to avoid labels for now. You don't have to identify as ANY kind of sexual orientation. Meet people, kiss people, see who you like, and be open to any possibilities. I know gay men who have fallen in love with women, straight women who have fallen in love with men, and lots of people in between.

Don't worry about labels for now, and be proud that you're being as thoughtful about this as you are. If you are in school, you might see if there's a Queer Resource Center or GSA type of group on campus; talking about these issues in a safe place and having honest conversations with someone who's been there can be as helpful as anything.
posted by superlibby at 6:44 PM on June 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

Is there a reason you're feeling the need to label yourself or adopt a well-defined sexual identity right now? Should you find yourself attracted to a particular girl or a particular boy, then feel free to follow up on it. Your "orientation" in the general sense will just end up being the sum of a lot of specific attractions, after all.
posted by Bardolph at 6:47 PM on June 9, 2010 [2 favorites]

Explore! Experience! In time, you'll find out what you like- might as well have fun doing it.

After years and years of looking at explicit photos and videos of both men and women, and then ending up in sexual situations with both men and women, I decided I like men and women and also some people that blur those lines.

It doesn't have to be concrete, though, and things can change. Don't feel pressured to 'pick'.
posted by rachaelfaith at 7:00 PM on June 9, 2010 [3 favorites]

What is the most accurate indicator of sexual orientation / attraction?

Well...I'm sorry to be tautological on you, but the best (really, only) indicator is how you feel. When you see a really fit guy take his shirt off, do you think, Wow I want to lick him, or, Fuck, how can I get a body like that?

Things will definitely become clearer for you. It will take some time. Just listen to your own feelings and be true to yourself. That's all there is to it!
posted by clockzero at 7:02 PM on June 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

You love who you love. Gender is irrelevant.
posted by L'Estrange Fruit at 7:05 PM on June 9, 2010 [4 favorites]

What is the most accurate indicator of sexual orientation / attraction?

The most accurate indicator of sexual orientation is who you want to have sex with. Actually, that's pretty much the only indicator of sexual orientation. So I'm unsure about the confusion. Is the issue that you don't want to have sex with anybody? That's fine. Or that you want to have sex with both men and women? That's fine too.

But yeah. The thing that indicates whether you want to have sex with women or men is generally whether you want to have sex with women or men.

Do you masturbate? What gets you off? As in, what are you thinking about when you are on the cusp of orgasm

On preview; this is probably a good question because it removes the "fooling yourself" aspect to which your conscious mind may be susceptible.

If the answer is "I do not masturbate" then you need to start by getting in touch with your own personal sexuality before you start figuring out how it meshes with other people's.
posted by Justinian at 7:11 PM on June 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

One further thought. If you are actually a 19 year old male then your question leads me to believe you are probably gay or (if you don't really want to have sex with anybody of any gender) none of the above. Most (not all, but most) heterosexual 19 year olds don't spend a lot of time questioning whether they are attracted to women because they're too buy trying (successfully or otherwise) to have sex with women, thinking about having sex with women, and thinking about times when they have had sex with women.
posted by Justinian at 7:15 PM on June 9, 2010 [5 favorites]

It's totally okay to not be sure. My first feelings that were sexual - even if I didn't realize them as such - were overwhelmingly towards guys. I didn't want it to be that way, and when I started actually dating women and doing stuff with them, it was enjoyable. So I thought that was the way it was going to be. I'd been sure I was gay and then thought "maybe not...maybe bisexual...maybe even straight."

Then I started doing stuff with guys. And I knew that was for me.

Don't let anybody on other side of the debate let you decide this for you - though it's nearly impossible to shut out the world's expectations on you on this matter. You seem pretty open to either one, especially if you're not sure.

Just keep following those things that feel like they might be attraction, and trust me, you'll figure it out.

Good luck. And have fun.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 7:16 PM on June 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

A couple liberating ideas that contributed to my new ideas of sexuality and gender:

You don't need to figure this out now if you don't want to. Your sexuality start out one way and then become another. It's a fluid, changing thing.

Sexuality is fluid. We're taught to believe that folks are either gay/straight/bisexual, but there's a whole range from gay to straight. For example, I'm straight except I don't mind gay sex in threesomes. Figure out what works for you, and it's okay if you are unsure. Maybe you just don't want to have sex. That's totally cool too.

Masturbating is a good way. Meeting people and hooking up is another way too. There's no easy litmus test, which makes sense given how complex these things are.
posted by anonymuk at 7:39 PM on June 9, 2010

Figuring out your sexuality to has two different pieces, I think. First you have to pay attention to what sorts of people you're honestly deeply attracted to. Then you have to accept as truth what you find your heart (and mind and body) telling you. The second piece is the hard one.

Also, have you heard of Heather Corinna? She's brilliant and she writes over at Scarleteen, a sex ed website that's actually useful. Two sets of articles that might be useful for you are Scarleteen's LGBTQ section and their general section on sexuality.
posted by colfax at 11:33 PM on June 9, 2010

Have a look at the Kinsey scale. Sexuality is a continuum, and you can find yourself at one end or the other. It's eminently possible that you might find several specific people of one gender attractive, yet find many many more people of another gender attractive.
posted by Solomon at 1:13 AM on June 10, 2010

posted by Nattie at 9:41 AM on June 10, 2010

I'm not sure if I'm attracted to girls or not, thanks...

Then you're not.

Look, what you're experiencing is what I did at 19: "I'm only attracted to men, and therefore my life will be a disaster and so I'm 'trying to figure out if I like women.' just because I can't accept the reality that I am gay."

There is no straight man in the world who's had to wonder about whether he is attracted to women. You're trying to intellectualize something that can't be subject to that.
posted by ethnomethodologist at 9:46 AM on June 10, 2010 [2 favorites]

The Kinsey scale is too simple for me! Try the Klein Orientation Grid!

Multiple things are tied up in "orientation". In the end, you can pick whatever label you want, or no label at all.

Here are some things I think about when I think about my orientation:

1. Romantic attraction
2. Sexual attraction
3. Availability of partners
4. Willingness to act on my attractions
5. BDSM/kink stuff, polyamory

There is a lot of other stuff that I don't necessasrily think about but others might.

Good luck and feel free to mefimail me at any time.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 9:49 AM on June 10, 2010

Don't be so quick to label yourself. You are attracted to whom you are attracted. Desire is not destiny. It's amazing how many people feel they are slaves to their passions.

At some point your commitments in life will require you to choose which attractions to act on and which not to act on. And, bad news (or not, depending), you will have to redirect almost all of the attractions you have over the course of your life if you wish to stay true to yourself.

As a married man, it really doesn't matter to whom or what gender I am attracted. I've chosen my way, made my promise of faithfulness, and reap the benefit of her promise to me. That doesn't mean I am not attracted elsewhere. It just means that I am the boss of me and I am busy making a life here, thank you very much Mr. Ego Libido.

At some point you'll reach a point in life where you will have to override your attractions in a responsible adult kind of way. The vast majority of them. So don't forget, in this seach to find your sexuality, to practice mastery of it. Part of it is asserting your in-chargeness over what your attractions mean for your actions.

But for now, relax and let people be people (including you).
posted by cross_impact at 11:00 AM on June 10, 2010

Lots of great advice here, to which I'll add simply that sexual tastes are like other tastes. Do you like strawberries? Rachmaninov? Roller coasters? Walking on sandy beaches? Roses? Not everyone does. And it is all righteous, proper and entirely cool for you to like or dislike whatever you want. Many societies place a lot of weight on sexual preference for whatever reason, but the basic idea of "you like what you like" is pretty much all there is to it, and just as you'd look at someone as if they were batshit telling you "no, you must like smoked salmon, because it is what everyone with blond hair likes," it's also batshit for anyone to say you must like girls or boys or whatever. If you want to boil it down: your sexual orientation is whatever pleases you the most sexually.

A little relationship tip, too: don't hide your sexual preferences from potential partners. Get it right out there when you're still "sniffing butts" as it were. If you like wearing pantyhose and rolling around on shag carpets, share it. You may chase off some people right away but you know what? That's a good thing, because they'd leave anyhow, and it's better to get it done early. The people who stick around you despite whatever eccentric tastes you have are your real friends and lovers, and the sooner you all get to know each other for true the better your life will be.
posted by seanmpuckett at 11:13 AM on June 10, 2010

Most (not all, but most) heterosexual 19 year olds don't spend a lot of time questioning whether they are attracted to women

i know you said not all - but i want to reinforce - wondering if you are attracted to guys or girls doesn't make you gay or straight or bisexual. i've dated many guys in their late teens to early 20s who weren't quite sure and did go through a couple years of questioning. nearly all of them identified as straight (or straight with bi leanings) by their mid 20s.

luckily, this isn't the world a lot of us were 19 in. it's far more acceptable in many areas to be gay. straight used to be the default, and then you were only gay if you were really, really sure. as a lot of people have pointed out in this thread, sexuality isn't a binary choice like that - and i think slowly but surely our culture is starting to reflect that. the flip side is that it's harder to label yourself if you've had limited to no sexual experience (but that's not a bad thing!).

when i was your age, in the southern US, i was seen as a freak because my answer was "i love who i love - i refuse to cut myself off to love because of gender or sex" - now, that answer is becoming more accepted.
posted by nadawi at 12:20 PM on June 10, 2010 [1 favorite]

I have posted this before, it may be helpful:

Diagram of Sex and Gender
posted by mlis at 10:39 PM on June 16, 2010

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