Bisexual?
October 9, 2007 7:57 AM   Subscribe

My husband and I had sex with another couple this past weekend. I was surprised by how strongly I enjoyed making out with and going down on the female. Does that make me bisexual?

I am trying to grapple with my sexuality potentially changing. I have always identified as straight (but not narrow) and the idea of being bisexual is confusing and slightly upsetting (I am not sure why). I know I want to get with this girl again. I am not any less attracted to men. Am I bisexual?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (45 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite

 
Do you now identify yourself as being bisexual as a result? Then yes.

If not, then no, you're just horny.
posted by TheNewWazoo at 8:02 AM on October 9, 2007 [2 favorites]


Um, probably. Go you!
posted by kittens for breakfast at 8:02 AM on October 9, 2007 [1 favorite]


Presumably. Be safe and have fun!
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 8:03 AM on October 9, 2007


Am I bisexual?

Probably, but that's ok.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:05 AM on October 9, 2007


Why try to label yourself?

Sexuality isn't a bunch of defined buckets, its a spectrum, enjoy being you.
posted by bitdamaged at 8:07 AM on October 9, 2007 [8 favorites]


Yes.

To me.

Words are just sounds (or marks on paper). We ARBITRARILY link those sounds to concepts, but not all people link the same sound to the same concept. When enough people link a sound to concepts that are really similar (even if not exactly the same), that sound becomes useful in conversation. So when you and I and Fred and Jane say "bisexual," we may all mean slightly different things. But all our meanings probably center around one person desiring or having sex with both genders.

To me, if you're sexually attracted to both men and women, you're bisexual. That's what bisexual means (to me) and that's all it means. So to me, you're bisexual.

I supposed I might mitigate it if someone told me, "I'm generally attracted to men, but one time, twenty years ago, I was attracted to a woman. It only happened that once and it never happened again." I probably wouldn't call that person bisexual.

Let's say you don't share my definition. Other reasonable definitions might define sexuality based on actions rather than desires (to me, a celibate person can still be bisexual if the desire is there) or based on self-identification.

But even if you're not bisexual by those definitions, you're still a woman who enjoys sex with both men and women. How does pinning a word on that change anything?
posted by grumblebee at 8:09 AM on October 9, 2007 [1 favorite]


Sexuality is fluid, and by no means set in stone. Since you're expanding your sexual life in a way that isn't hurting anyone, don't get so caught up in labels. Do what feels right and enjoy yourself.
posted by piratebowling at 8:14 AM on October 9, 2007


the idea of being bisexual is confusing and slightly upsetting

It's probably just the temporary uncertainty that comes with most any change in self-definition. Once you realize you don't have to be stuck with your past self-definitions, or even worry that much about self-definition in this area at all, you can relax and just enjoy who you are. Sexuality is much more fluid than static, in my experience. This kind of opening or shifting is totally normal.
posted by mediareport at 8:14 AM on October 9, 2007


Labels on stuff like this serve little other purpose than shit to worry about and insecure people to get pedantic over.

I smoked for about 3 years and then stopped, and told everyone as such. I didn't force myself to quit with patches and pills or anything, it just didn't really appeal to me anymore. But sure enough 2 out of 3 times someone sees me with a cigarette, it's all "OMG WHY ARE YOU SMOKING I THOUGHT YOU SAID YOU QUIT CAW CAW CAW" No, I stopped. After this cigarette I will stop again, until the next one. Just because one time I stopped for a year isn't this grand hypocrisy.

Do what you like.
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 8:23 AM on October 9, 2007


The idea of being bisexual is confusing and slightly upsetting.

Then call yourself straight (or Korean-Indonesian, or High Baroque) and have fun.

While your behavior was, strictly speaking, bisexual, your identity is much more dynamic and fluid, as others have pointed out.

What puzzles me is, you're already a married woman who has sex with other married people, who really enjoyed having sex with a woman, and who is definitely up for it again. Being already so far out of the "hetero married monogamy" paradigm that stigmatizes bisexuality, why does the label bother you so much?
posted by Rykey at 8:25 AM on October 9, 2007 [1 favorite]


I'm not sure that the categories gay, straight, or bisexual apply to women. Women's brains are different then men's, we don't know yet how different. Just relax.

Most women, whether they identified as straight, lesbian, or bisexual, were significantly aroused by straight, gay, and lesbian sex. "I'm not suggesting that most women are bisexual," says Michael Bailey, the psychology professor whose lab conducted the studies. "I'm suggesting that whatever a woman's sexual arousal pattern is, it has little to do with her sexual orientation."
posted by ewkpates at 8:31 AM on October 9, 2007 [4 favorites]


Maybe you're just sexual. And that's pretty awesome in and of itself.
posted by Cat Pie Hurts at 8:41 AM on October 9, 2007 [5 favorites]


Yes, by definition.

But most women are -- they just don't like the label. Go with "I like women too sometimes" if you prefer.
posted by LordSludge at 8:44 AM on October 9, 2007


It sort of depends on how often you'd like to have experiences like that again.

If you identify as straight in all situations, no matter who you're talking to, then you are less likely to be approached sexually or romantically by a woman. Because you are straight.

Conversely, if you identify as bisexual among everyone you know, you are more likely to be pursued sexually or romantically by women. Because you are announcing receptivity (whether or not they see your being married as an obstacle is another question entirely).

If you identify as straight almost all of the time, but in certain situations inform females whom you might be interested in that you are in fact attracted to some women, it doesn't really speak to any great unresolved conflict in your sexuality. It's just a matter of situational novelty. Though if that's the route you want to go, then I'd be discreet. Otherwise you'll wind up being "outed" as bisexual (or considered a closeted lesbian) as this contradictory information circulates.

It's really up to you how personal to keep your sex life. It sounds like you'd like to experiment, but that doesn't necessarily change what you are. If anything, it just means you are more adventurous or open-minded to pleasure of all kinds than many other people are. I know plenty of people, both gay and straight, that I couldn't say that about.
posted by hermitosis at 8:46 AM on October 9, 2007


I think, too, that a lot of the discord can come from the gap between who you can imagine yourself having sex with and who you can imagine yourself sharing a long term, committed relationship with. Some people are perfectly willing to have sex with people of the same gender, but would find it harder to create the romantic/emotional bond that would lead to marriage. That may lead to doubts about whether they're really bisexual or more straight and sexually open.
posted by jacquilynne at 8:58 AM on October 9, 2007


When I was in college, I was bi-curious but never acted on it (well once, but it was just a kiss). I remember struggling with my sexual identity when I was in my twenties. Because of some naive, preconceived notions, I equated being bisexual with being less feminine, and I've always thought of myself as a "girly girl". Maybe that's what you're feeling.

It wasn't until I got over my bad old stupid self that I realized being attracted to women wouldn't make me any less of a woman myself.

Enjoy yourself.
posted by Evangeline at 9:01 AM on October 9, 2007


But even if you're not bisexual by those definitions, you're still a woman who enjoys sex with both men and women. How does pinning a word on that change anything?

So far, she's a woman who has had sex with one other woman, singular. After further experimentation, it may turn out that it was the thrill of the new experience or being watched by her husband or some other aspect that continues to turn her crank, and that she's not particularly interested in women in general.

Not to mention that sexual identity is not necessarily just about who you screw. Of course pinning a word on how you identify your own sexual identity changes things...if it didn't, people wouldn't make a fuss over coming out or being closeted.

anonymous, your recent experience certainly gives you a lot to think about, but you probably already know that the answer is always going to come down to "what do you think?"

Thinking about whether you may be bisexual could be upsetting to you because you think that you've changed, or because you think that you may have been dishonest with yourself previously, or because you feel like you missed out on experiences you should have had, or because you are afraid of what your husband will think, or you don't know what's expected if you decide that you are bisexual.

Don't panic.
posted by desuetude at 9:11 AM on October 9, 2007


It may or may not make you bisexual, but it does make you a swinger.
posted by Nelson at 9:23 AM on October 9, 2007 [5 favorites]


Are you bisexual? Well, I'd probably put that label on it, but you don't have to.

It sounds to me like the discomfort you're feeling may be related to a worry that if you're bisexual, you may not be able to stay happy in your current heterosexual relationship. (If I'm way off-base here, ignore the rest of my comment.)

This is a very common concern among bisexuals (I'm one) - where, if someone chooses to be in a monogamous relationship, we by definition 'give up' the other gender. This can be scary, especially if contemplating marriage or some sort of long-term situation.

Now, I realize that the monogamy part may not be an issue for you, since you and your husband are open to having sex with other couples - but you could still be struggling with how to experiment/act on these newfound desires while in your current relationship.

If this is the case and you'd like to talk further about it, feel free to email me.
posted by widdershins at 9:33 AM on October 9, 2007


What everyone else said, plus this nugget: If you aren't bisexual, why were you going down on that woman in the first place? Bi-curious. Curiosity satisfied? No? Then the label still applies until you sort it out however you see fit.

It's completely possible (and very, very, very common) for a person to be just a little bit bi. A perfect and constant 50% gay/straight split is pretty rare -- almost as rare as 100% straight.

All that said, depending on the arrangement you've got with your husband, there's a chance that extracurricular hanky-panky might count as adultery. If you want to stay married, you should maybe try to keep him involved.
posted by Reggie Digest at 9:42 AM on October 9, 2007


I wouldn't throw bisexual on you, as I see bisexual as being interested in relationships with both men and women, and not just being turned on by having sex with them. So you're probably just horny. Plenty of women get turned on by the idea of having sex with other women but aren't interested in pursuing relationships. I figure it's due to our cultural view of lesbian sex--it's seen as kind of the ultimate sexiness, how sexiness is defined, so when a woman participates in it she's in some way seeing herself at that moment as one of the hottest things on the planet. So it's not hard to understand why she'd feel really sexy and turned on doing so.
posted by schroedinger at 10:02 AM on October 9, 2007 [2 favorites]


Also, there are plenty of reasons why a woman would experiment with another woman for reasons that aren't curiosity. To turn on her male partner. To "go with the flow". Giving in to peer pressure. Because the other woman really wants to and she doesn't have the heart to turn her down. Because she feels she should, because hey, this is a swinger's party and this is what people do. To prove she's not a prude. People often engage in sex acts for reasons other than being turned on by them.
posted by schroedinger at 10:05 AM on October 9, 2007 [2 favorites]


I see bisexual as being interested in relationships with both men and women, and not just being turned on by having sex with them.

Unfortunately that just exposes the dual personal/objective nature of sexuality that many people get hung up on.

A married man who loves to go have anonymous restroom sex with men is clearly bisexual from an objective point of view. He may be able to rationalize his behavior and still consider himself straight, and even if his friends or wife found out, they could see his behavior as aberrant and still consider him straight. However, he is functionally, objectively bisexual, regardless of whether he has any intention of having a relationship with any of the fellows he "encounters".

Making such a distinction based on just one homosexual encounter isn't helpful from an objective point of view, but there is definitely a point at which behavior cannot be considered mere experimentation anymore. The poster is (for now) a functioning heterosexual, from both objective and personal points of view. The degree to which this changes is largely up to her willingness to pursue the matter.

Also, in this case, the OP did indeed VERY MUCH enjoy her experience, so I don't understand how your second answer fits here.
posted by hermitosis at 11:03 AM on October 9, 2007


You're bisexual if you intend to identify as bisexual. If you don't, you're not. If you're married, I doubt many people are demanding you to clarify your sexual orientation. If you need to clarify it for yourself and the idea of being bisexual threatens you, then don't identify that way.

For me, sexual orientation still has a lot to do with who I most enjoy forming emotional and sexual connections with. Unless you find yourself pining for her this morning, it may just be that you got off on going down on her. I've enjoyed giving a blow job or two in my life, but I'm still as gay as the day is long.

Be safe, enjoy yourself, don't stress because it ain't worth it.
posted by atayah at 11:08 AM on October 9, 2007


Well it sounds like you are hetero sexual, bi-sexual probably handosexual and maybe hot dog and/or cucumber sexual though only you can be sure.
posted by bkeene12 at 11:21 AM on October 9, 2007 [1 favorite]


You're bisexual if you intend to identify as bisexual.

You will NEVER catch me calling someone's definition wrong (because I don't believe definitions are writ in stone), but I do find yours odd. It's odd, because there are very few labels we commonly use based purely on self-identity.

If I (a man) regularly have sex with other men, live with a man as a partner but "identify" as straight, am I straight? To me, that's silly, but it sounds like you'd say I am.

If I (a white man) get really into black culture and self-identify as black, am I black. In may ways, I think the world would be a better place if the answer to that was yes. But in terms of they way most people use the words "black" and "white," the answer is no.

The most meaningful self-identifications to me are religious (and possibly political, although does it make much sense to say you're a Republican if you never vote or do any work to further that party's causes?) There are people who claim you're not really a Christian unless you go to church, but I'm willing to call someone who self-identifies as a Christian a Christian.

The thing about sexuality, though, is that there ARE concrete actions and feelings involved: sex is an actual act; getting-turned-on isn't an act, but it's measurable (at least theoretically). I could hook you up to an MRI and see changes in your brain as you think about sexy men and women.

It's pretty useful to have words for people who get turned on by (or have sex with) people of specific genders. Which is why I used bisexual in a "naive" nuts-and-bolts way.

To me, if someone gets attracted to their own gender but considers herself straight, it makes more sense to say "she's bisexual by she self-identifies as straight" then it does to say "she's straight, because that's how she self-identifies (but she happens to get turned on by women as-well-as men)."
posted by grumblebee at 11:30 AM on October 9, 2007 [1 favorite]


Disclaimer: I seem to be one of those rare people who are 100% straight. Maybe I'm in denial, but I can't think of a single time -- ever -- that I've had even the slightest fantasy about another man. This is boring, but true.

Now, if I did start fantasizing about men -- even just once in a while -- I would consider myself bisexual. I wouldn't start sleeping with them (for the same reason I don't sleep with other women -- I'm married and faithful), but I'd consider the mere desire enough to classify me as bisexual, because it would be a clear difference between that and the way I feel/am now.
posted by grumblebee at 11:34 AM on October 9, 2007


I don't think there are that many people that are 100 percent straight. You might be more straight than bisexual if you enjoy being with men more than woman. You are only bisexual if you enjoy being with women just as much as being with men.
posted by thebrokenmuse at 11:40 AM on October 9, 2007


You are only bisexual if you enjoy being with women just as much as being with men.

Many, many people who consider themselves bisexual would beg to differ on this point.
posted by hermitosis at 11:42 AM on October 9, 2007


The problem (well-exemplified by hermitosis's reply above) is that bisexual may be an "objective" way to describe actions, but it is a poor way to describe identity (which is by definition subjective.) Note that anonymous isn't confused about her actions. She's confused about her identity.

It is easier to make the distinction when there is more terminology at your disposal. We can speak of homosexual behaviors but identify as gay or lesbian. There is no equivalent alternate (and not explicitly sexualized) term for "bisexual."

This is why I usually just stick to "queer," despite my currently heterosexual behavior within my self-proclaimed bisexual identity.

On preview: thebrokenmuse, that's not quite the way it works. Enjoying women "as much as" men is not quantifiable.
posted by desuetude at 11:43 AM on October 9, 2007


The problem (well-exemplified by hermitosis's reply above) is that bisexual may be an "objective" way to describe actions, but it is a poor way to describe identity (which is by definition subjective.)

But what is "identity"? I don't think it corresponds to anything in reality. Identity is "how you classify yourself." And such classifications are pretty arbitrary -- they're either categories that you make up yourself or they're culturally accepted categories. They don't point to structures in physical reality.

Maybe the question boils down to this: "I'd like to convince myself that I'm straight -- or think of myself as straight. Having had sex (and sexual thoughts) about another woman, is it likely that I'll still be able to do this?"

Or "Since I've been sexual with another woman, will other people consider me straight or bisexual?"
posted by grumblebee at 11:50 AM on October 9, 2007


Congratulations, you're the kind of gay who can get married: bisexual.

(It's far less a big deal for everyone else than it is for you.)
posted by klangklangston at 11:53 AM on October 9, 2007


I am bisexual but that doesn't make me promiscuous. When I am in a committed relationship, and we have explicit boundaries (i.e., "above the waist is okay," "I have to be present, and only X Y and Z can happen") I abide by those rules. Those boundaries are common in many relationships, including marriage.

Your experience doesn't automatically make you a swinger or a cheater. Nor does it make you bisexual, per se, unless you choose it to be part of your identity now.

I think your concern is that your feelings invalidate your relationship or commitment to your spouse. Again, relationships and feelings are mutual, and bound by the agreements of both parties.

Just be wary... when you engage in couples sex, depending on your relationship with your spouse and the other parties, one or more persons can become insecure, jealous, or uncomfortable. Be clear beforehand and you should be okay.

Just my personal experiences, though, YMMV.
posted by Unicorn on the cob at 12:33 PM on October 9, 2007


grumblebee, there are a lot of aspects of ourselves that are not "based in physical reality" but are nonetheless important to our sense of self.

Your sexual identity is not necessarily based on your actions. The most obvious example of this is that it would therefore be untrue for you to say that you were heterosexual before you had sex. Oh, but you knew. You had sexual feelings for women. Well, that's not quantifiable either.


Maybe the question boils down to this: "I'd like to convince myself that I'm straight -- or think of myself as straight. Having had sex (and sexual thoughts) about another woman, is it likely that I'll still be able to do this?"

This doesn't work as a translation, because we can neither tell her what to think nor tell her what she will be able to think. And she's not really asking to be convinced anyway.
posted by desuetude at 12:45 PM on October 9, 2007


For me, sexual orientation still has a lot to do with who I most enjoy forming emotional and sexual connections with. Unless you find yourself pining for her this morning, it may just be that you got off on going down on her.

Does this mean a man who enjoys sex with women but doesn't desire a relationship with any of them can't call himself "heterosexual"? Or a woman who enjoys sleeping with men but isn't looking for committment, for that matter?

To me "sexuality" is about... well, sex.

And I don't think most people equate "bisexual" with "equisexual". For what it's worth...
posted by Evangeline at 1:25 PM on October 9, 2007


Your sexual identity is not necessarily based on your actions. The most obvious example of this is that it would therefore be untrue for you to say that you were heterosexual before you had sex. Oh, but you knew. You had sexual feelings for women. Well, that's not quantifiable either.

I strongly disagree. Historically, you're correct. But now there are imaging devices that can give us a good idea when someone is turned on. It may not be easily quantifiable, but I do think it's quantifiable -- and as such it's different from a purely subjective object.

I would love to live in a world in which we are whatever we want to be, but I don't. And I don't think the OP does, either. If she did, she wouldn't have asked the question. She would have thought, "I want to be hetero (or bi or whatever). Therefor I am."

And she's not really asking to be convinced anyway.

Well, if it's just a matter of how we self-identify, maybe she IS asking to be convinced. If we can convincer her that she's X, then she'll self-identify as X.
posted by grumblebee at 1:31 PM on October 9, 2007


Personally? I prefer the term "heteroflexible."
posted by JamieStar at 1:35 PM on October 9, 2007


Okay, so there are several things one might mean by bisexual:

-- a person who has sex with both men and women.
-- a person who has sexual thoughts or fantasies about men and women.
-- a person who is capable of forming a romantic partnership with both men and women (has done so/fantasizes about doing so)
-- a person who falls in love with both men and women (or a person who feels it's extremely likely this might happen to them)
-- a person who is part of the bisexual culture (e.g. hangs around with other bisexual people and partakes in -- not-necessarily sexual -- rituals with them.
-- a mixture of some or all of the above.
-- a person who (not necessarily for any of the reasons above) simply self-identifies as bisexual.

I think I covered everything, but maybe others can add more. Notice that all of these are pretty simple categories. You can use them like items on a checklist ("Do I like sex with mean and women? Check...")

Once you've completed the list, you can ask yourself:

a) what is MY working definition? (E.g. I consider someone who is in a long-term relationship bisexual but not someone who just engages in casual sex)

b) according to that definition -- via my checklist -- am I bisexual?

And/or you can ask:

a) what definition do most of my friends use?

b) according to that definition -- via my checklist -- am I bisexual?

One complicating variable is time. What if you never used to be attracted to women but you are now? What if you are now, but you feel those feelings might be temporary?

How you deal with that is up to you, but I'd deal with it by ignoring it. You are what you are right now. Later, you may stop being that and be something else.
posted by grumblebee at 1:46 PM on October 9, 2007


If you're sexual with both genders, you're bi-sexual. That's what it means.

If you're only sexual with one gender, but have erotic thoughts about the other, you're bi-curious. (Hadn't thought about it, but surely a gay person could be homosexual but bi-curious!)

But, again, labels suck. They come with all sorts of stupid baggage. Like... do you have to get a bunch of tattoos now? Did you have to read the Bi-Sexual Monthly newsletter with all the hawt short hair-styles??

Screw that. Be yourself. Just make sure your fun-n-games are cool with your committed partner or your relationship will suffer.
posted by LordSludge at 2:35 PM on October 9, 2007


But now there are imaging devices that can give us a good idea when someone is turned on.

For women, these imaging studies have showed us that what the devices measure as arousal has precious little to do with sexual identity.
posted by desuetude at 3:03 PM on October 9, 2007


For women, these imaging studies have showed us that what the devices measure as arousal has precious little to do with sexual identity.

That only makes sense if you have a working definition of "sexual identity." Which is under debate in this thread. One COULD (I'm not saying one should) define sexual identity based on the devices findings.
posted by grumblebee at 3:25 PM on October 9, 2007


Jessica Rabbit voice: "You're not bi, you're just broadminded."
posted by rob511 at 3:59 PM on October 9, 2007



That only makes sense if you have a working definition of "sexual identity." Which is under debate in this thread. One COULD (I'm not saying one should) define sexual identity based on the devices findings.


Which would be inaccurate for women, as arousal patterns do not match orientation (as distinguished from men, whose arousal patterns match their orientation.)

And the concept of having a sexual identity isn't an issue, it's how people their particular sexual identity that's the issue.

We're going around and around here, grumblebee. Are we still helping anonymous answer her question?
posted by desuetude at 8:00 PM on October 9, 2007


Yes, I hope we're helping (by trying to get things as clear as possible).

I'm trying to understand what you're saying: "arousal patterns do not match orientation."

What do you mean by orientation? Do you mean what sort of life-partners a woman tends to choose? Do you mean who a woman actually tends to have sex with (as opposed to who she gets aroused by?)

Or do you mean how she answers the question: "what's your orientation?" or what she -- in her head -- feels her orientation is.

If your orientation is what you think/say it is, then this question has been answered. The OP will either not be able to control her thoughts, in which case she's "trapped" as whatever orientation she thinks she is (and can't stop thinking that she is). Or she can control her thoughts, in which case -- if orientation is a mental construct -- she can be whatever orientation she wants to be.

I guess I'm asking you to define "self-identity" and "orientation." I'm not sure what you mean by them.

By the way, there IS president in men for a schism between arousal and self-identity. There's the "down low" in parts of African American culture. These men are aroused by other men by don't self-identify themselves as gay.

But I identify them as gay. To me, there's no difference between them and any other gay man -- in terms of gayness.

And that's not because I disrespect their self-identity. It has to do with the way I used the word "gay."
posted by grumblebee at 7:09 AM on October 10, 2007


Chiming in to say that even the people (sociologists and sexologists) who study this question for a living do not all agree on the answer to your question. If you'd like some suggestions for reading about the sociology of sexuality, feel free to drop me an email.
posted by bilabial at 3:54 PM on October 10, 2007


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