Sexually attracted to women, but romantically attracted to men?
June 8, 2014 10:13 AM   Subscribe

So I've always been attracted to both genders. But I get strong crushes mostly on men. However, unfortunately I'm mainly sexually attracted to women. I thought maybe it wasn't a big deal, but I really can't orgasm without thinking of myself with a woman. This sucks because I haven't ever met a woman that really gave me the butterflies the way men do. What the hell am I supposed to do relationship-wise?

I like sex with men. I don't find them unattractive. I think their bodies can look good. But I almost never fantasize about them. And when I need to get off, it's always a woman that I think about. Typical sex with me =him getting me off with fingers or mouth while I lie back with my eyes closed and think of a woman. Then we have regular intercourse and he gets off. The more I think about it, the more messed up it sounds. I might not even be bisexual, just totally a lesbian maybe?

The last relationship was so great in every way except and I really felt love towards him. But during a disagreement we both confessed we weren't sexually attracted to each other and had been imagining other people to get off the whole time. And then we broke up. I feel like I don't want that to happen again because it makes me really sad.

But on the romantic side I meet women who are attractive to me, but I don't get really strong butterflies in my stomach like I have with some men. I really like being around men and dating men and hugging and cuddling with men. I guess it might be the same with women, but I haven't progressed very far. I don't know how to get that far if I'm not getting strong crushes, but I wonder how much of this is colored by my conservative Christian upbringing.

Once my parents found out of I was looking at women online and I was subject to a lot of abuse about it. Also growing up the women in my family were all pretty abusive towards me and it was men who were my allies. I was also told growing up that being gay is caused by sexual abuse and I think it's possible I was sexually abused by a female relative, something I'm exploring with my therapist. I know it's not true, but it's still something that crosses my mind Most of my friends have also been male. I see a therapist, but maybe I need to find one who specializes in LGBT issues?

I'm also not really sure how to be a lesbian anyway. It seems to involve so much culture I'm not familiar with and I wouldn't know where to start.

I just don't know what kind of relationship someone like me can make work.
posted by idle to Human Relations (16 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
I see a therapist, but maybe I need to find one who specializes in LGBT issues?

Probably a good first step, yeah.

I'm also not really sure how to be a lesbian anyway.

However you feel like. Honestly. Some lesbians like to dress like frilly girly girls and bake cupcakes all day and knit, and some lesbians like to be politicians, and some lesbians like to ride motorcycles. The only thing all lesbians have in common is sexual attraction to women.

Is a poly relationship something that might work for you? Seems like being part of a stable F/M/F triad might be exactly perfect for you.

I don't know how to get that far if I'm not getting strong crushes, but I wonder how much of this is colored by my conservative Christian upbringing.

I'd say this is pretty likely. Your upbringing told you it was Wrong to have crushes on women, so you (consciously or not) squelch those feelings, maybe. again.. a QUILTBAG-specializing therapist would probably be a lot more useful in unpacking those feelings.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 10:37 AM on June 8, 2014 [1 favorite]

Your happiness does not have to come in a form that fits someone else's sanctioned model of relationships. People are starting to talk now about sexual and romantic orientations not being the same thing, coming up with new labels for that, but--well, does it take a label? You've identified two separate things you want out of life and from two completely different kinds of people. It is certainly apt to be a bit more complicated to find a working arrangement that involves a nonsexual or less-enthusiastically-sexual relationship with a guy and a sexual arrangement with one or more women over the course of that relationship. And if that turns out not to actually work for you after all, you're not bound to it for the rest of your life.

Everybody's different, but I had a very conservative upbringing in that way and I started having serious crushes on girls in elementary school, which continued unabated while I was trying to convince myself otherwise. At the very least, I wouldn't call it a foregone conclusion that this is the root of this is your past. Or at least, in that way--if anything would have come out of growing up churchy, I think it's a combination of the general expectation of having all one's needs met by a single person, and the feeling that one can't or shouldn't just find someone hot because they're hot. Maybe there's some reason why you like what you like, doesn't matter, if it's not hurting anyone then it's still okay.
posted by Sequence at 10:42 AM on June 8, 2014 [2 favorites]

I have the opposite problem: I am sexually attracted to men but I'm most comfortable connecting emotionally with women. This has led to me considering the bisexual label and I've even gone on dates with women, but I've never felt compelled to..."reach out and touch someone," to quote another Mefite. It's platonic.

From your wording, you've figured out that your relationship with men is the same way--platonic. It may not feel this way right now but it's actually fantastic that you've figured it out. Society is so geared toward the male-female pairing, especially when you're growing up, that it can be hard sometimes to see other options. (At least that was my experience as a child. I remember being a preteen and realizing for the first time, oh, you can be attracted to women...because no one had told me that. Now the situation is different, but I digress.)

So you've reached a stalemate. You are attracted to women but most comfortable with men. It sounds like you do have a history that is affecting the issue and that's undoubtedly worth working out in therapy. But I think perhaps you should try harder. What I mean by this is keep thinking about the issue, yes, but also do something about your attractions when they happen. Seek out other lesbians. Ask women out.

If you do this often enough you will become more comfortable with the idea and practice and you can evaluate from a real place of knowledge whether or not you want to continue pursuing relationships with women, or if you would still rather date men, even though you are not attracted to them.

Honestly my guess is that you haven't found the right woman yet. The few times when I've developed deeper romantic attachments to men is when we clicked as people first. I was totally comfortable with them even when we were just getting to know each other, and there was time for the rest to develop.

I wish you luck.
posted by tooloudinhere at 10:50 AM on June 8, 2014 [4 favorites]

I don't think you need to label yourself to figure out your romantic and sexual interests, I think you need to be patient with yourself and take the (possibly scary?) step of more actively trying to date women.

Keep going to therapy. If you've discussed this with your regular therapist and you don't feel like you're making progress, maybe a therapist with experience with LGBT issues would help.

Lesbian culture is not a monolith. You don't have to be an avid fan of The L Word or Ani DiFranco or whatever. If you're interested in learning, a good place to start is by meeting lesbians. Then you'll start learning what the cultural touchstones in your cohort are.

Be patient and kind to yourself, but do take some risks -- it sounds from your question like you might be trying to talk yourself out of dating women. And maybe give some thought to whether monogamous relationships are something you need, or if you might be comfortable with some form of ethical non-monogamy.
posted by EvaDestruction at 10:54 AM on June 8, 2014 [1 favorite]

Where I live, there is definitely a super-vocal, visible lesbian community that is very into gay rights, women's issues, etc. I am totally for all those things, but I also find it a bit exhausting to spend a whole lot of time with these people. It just gets to be a little one-note and takes a huge amount of energy, and a lot of these women have focused a lot of their identity on their sexual orientation, to the extent that it feels like they mention it in every sentence. It's like pride parades every day. If they're happy and it works for them, that is AWESOME, don't get me wrong - I just identify first as a human and don't care much what other people do in private, so I don't fit in super well with the superlesbians (although I am a girl who dates girls, for the record). And I have been lucky enough to meet some other gay and gay-ish women who are socially more like me.

(I thought of this when you said "I'm also not really sure how to be a lesbian anyway. It seems to involve so much culture I'm not familiar with and I wouldn't know where to start.")

Being a lesbian doesn't mean you have to know a thing about the larger culture of it. It's definitely helpful to have a like-minded support group in your life, and to talk to people in similar situations. But don't get daunted from looking for happiness just because you're not familiar with the culture. The culture is just the public, social aspect of it, which doesn't necessarily have to have anything to do with your own private relationships. You don't have to socially "qualify" to be a lesbian... you just have to dig girls (assuming you decide that's indeed who you dig).

Also, consider that maybe you just haven't yet met the right person, who evokes both a romantic and a sexual response from you.
posted by jessicapierce at 10:58 AM on June 8, 2014 [2 favorites]

"The more I think about it, the more messed up it sounds"
There's no wrong way to have an orgasm. What's going on below the waist doesn't have to match up to what's going on in your head.
Wanting the whole package--sexual fulfillment, romance, companionship and commitment--is a worthy life quest, and by opening yourself up to all possibilities, you become vulnerable to not just rejection by the other person but also to the chance that your own dreams of who and how to love don't mesh with reality. Kiss a lot of frogs, etc..
posted by Ideefixe at 11:08 AM on June 8, 2014 [1 favorite]

Maybe you can explore what it is about men that give you the butterflies, and then sort out how to recreate that with women. Maybe you like take-charge K.D. Lang looking women so you can play the 'chased' role and that gives you butterflies; maybe you like being the aggressor and playing that role. Maybe it's something else entirely. Maybe you just haven't met the right lady yet. But there's a kind of dynamic or setup that gives you butterflies with some guys and dollars to donuts you can figure it out and apply it with women.

Also couples in long term relationships do think about 'other things' in order to get off; that's beyond common, and so much of sex is a mental thing anyway.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 12:46 PM on June 8, 2014 [1 favorite]

There's a lot of research out there suggesting women's sexuality is quite fluid. Perhaps think about your capability with individual people and make their sex/gender secondary to how you feel about them as a specific person?
posted by alusru at 1:49 PM on June 8, 2014

The folks saying you might not have met the right woman yet kind of give me the squicks, because that's reminiscent of the previous generation's "you aren't really attracted to women, you just haven't met the right man yet!".

I agree with alusru that focusing on person first and genitals/gender identification second/third (whichever order seems most important to you), might be a good experiment. Something to keep in mind is that there ARE people who identify/present outside of the man/woman binary. May not be your cup of tea, but we do exist. :)

As mentioned briefly, sexuality and romantic interest can be on different scales. There are people who are asexual and pan/homo/hetero romantic, or various other combinations. It's entirely possible to be homosexual and heteroromantic. Yeah it complicates things, but it's workable.

I know a variety of people who have deep romantic connections with folks that don't involve a sexual component, and even more people who have sexual relationships that don't involve anything romantic or emotional. There are obviously grey areas between those points.
posted by HermitDog at 2:01 PM on June 8, 2014 [3 favorites]

You can be able to sexually function with men and still be a lesbian. To me, the core definition of lesbian is that sex with women is erotic for you -- gets to you mind, body, and soul. You sound like a lesbian who is just starting to come out and has not met the right woman yet.

But who knows, maybe you are bisexual and just haven't met the right men or women yet. The only way to find out is to try out anything that strikes your fancy. Just be yourself, have fun, and be patient and kind with yourself. You've been through the wringer, you have lots to deal with, but there's no way to do this wrong, or choose wrongly.
posted by ravioli at 2:02 PM on June 8, 2014 [1 favorite]

I'll clarify about the "you haven't met the right woman" thing giving me the squicks:

It is entirely possible that you'll meet a woman who gives you the butterflies, but it's equally possible that you could meet a man that gives you the pantsfeelings, or to meet some non-binary person who does both.

It's the implied "well you're probably actually a lesbian, so just don't bother looking for any men that can satisfy you sexually" that raises my hackles I think.

My recommendation would be to find an LGBT friendly therapist and remain open to people, worrying about plumbing or gender identity after. There's a wide variety of humanity out there: cis, trans, non-binary, etc.
posted by HermitDog at 2:07 PM on June 8, 2014

I'm the same way, right down to the conservative upbringing. I'm fortunate to have a partner who understands, and we've worked together over time so I'm more sexually attracted to him and men in general. I still get turned on seeing pictures of semi-nude women, but I don't need to fantasize about them anymore.
posted by redlines at 2:51 PM on June 8, 2014

Mefite Sara C. gave a response to this question about butterflies that might be pertinent.

(To paraphrase: maybe the butterflies are sometimes better done without.)
posted by bertran at 9:16 PM on June 8, 2014 [1 favorite]

To me you seem a bit curious but overwhelmed by the thought of exploring the queer community. Maybe you should be brave and give it a try. Hint, don't worry about labels for yourself or others, don't focus on dating. Start by reading some articles, or going to an event with lots of allies, some Pride Parades fit the bill for example. See how much variety there can be in sexual orientation, gender presentation, etc. Make a few friends, see who catches your eye.

Worse case you'll learn about a (I'm bias) great group of people, best case you'll learn about yourself.

I'm not being patronizing when I say be brave. If you met me today you would think "he is the most comfortable gay person ever" but ten years ago I was fresh out of Catholic school and the queer community terrified me. I felt like I didn't know how to act, what to say, and was worries about accidentally offending someone. Spoiler alert, it was fine. I wouldn't want to live without my queer friends now and I know a lot of happily straight identified people who say the same thing.
posted by rip at 4:24 AM on June 9, 2014 [2 favorites]

What the hell am I supposed to do relationship-wise?

Listen, you're gonna break a few eggs here in your dating omelette-making. It's fine. Accidents will happen! You will date some people for a short time, others for longer. You may have primarily sexual relationships, or primarily romantic ones, with different people. Just get with people that you like.

You find out what you are by what you do. You can't put that cart before the horse. Stop sweating about identity, and do what appeals to you.

Not only are we all a little bit different, but also who we want to date and how we want to date them changes over the years. So do what feels good and safe now, and worry about the future, and about your future identity, down the road.

I can see you entering into a cycle of torment. You should come to recognize that the torment isn't a good feeling. It's not natural.

STEP AWAY FROM THE TORMENT. If you are in the sack or at a dinner with someone and you feel the torment, terminate. If you are alone and your head is buzzing and you're stressed and tormented, STOP AND BREATHE.

This is not a puzzle to figure out. You are not a puzzle. You do not need to expose yourself to ever-escalating stress. Go where it's warm and comfortable.
posted by RJ Reynolds at 5:34 AM on June 9, 2014 [5 favorites]

i have a guess that you know the answer already by the way you phrase your question.

You are not me. However, my story sounded a lot like yours for a long time. I finally came out as a lesbian in my early 30s. It was a relief and wonderful. Your story may be very different and may end very differently. There is nothing wrong with allowing yourself to gain knowledge and explore choices.

You have been exposed the majority of your life to a hetero-normative world. You may want to see what the lesbian world considers normal. It's the same thing, but two women. You may want to expose yourself so that same sex dating feels normal to you and not taboo. For example reading, television/movies, Pride parades, etc. Going to the local LGBTQ community center, or calling them and asking them if they recommend any resources on someone who is questioning their sexuality. Finding friends who are in the same space.

Once you can begin to normalize (and believe) same sex relationships are acceptable, you may get closer to what you really want in life. Or you may realize that isn't you. Give yourself some patience and latitude. And make sure your current therapist can talk about your questioning sexuality, or find a new one. Best wishes to you. Please Memail me if you have any questions.
posted by Kitty Cornered at 12:06 PM on June 9, 2014 [2 favorites]

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