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‘I can’t just decide to not fancy Cate Blanchett’: what does it mean to be sexually fluid?

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When asked, I define my sexuality as “around 84-87% gay”. I suppose this would equate to the upper end of the Kinsey scale, which rates nought as exclusively heterosexual and six as its opposite. But there is plenty of disagreement as to whether sexuality is innate or acquired, immutable or fluctuating, and even what certain terms mean.

“Fluid”, originally attributed to the psychologist Lisa M Diamond, has become a buzzword for those who do not “fit” into traditional categories. Fluidity is different from, for example, bisexuality, because a person who is bisexual might be bisexual for life, whereas fluidity suggests oscillation. But fluid is, I suppose, what I am.

Every generation thinks it invented sex (nod to Philip Larkin here, his tongue firmly in cheek), and although stances on sexual mores have become increasingly liberal in many parts of the world, and scientific advances have resulted in considerable change in sexual practices and values (perhaps most prominently the synthesis of the contraceptive pill), the truth is that humans have been experimenting for ever. Scenes of humping drawn on the walls of Egyptian caves. Vatsyayana’s Kama Sutra. Anne Lister fingering half of the married women in Halifax.

It was (the gay) Austro-Hungarian writer and activist Karl Maria Benkert who coined the term “homosexual” in 1868, but psychiatrist Richard Freiherr von Krafft-Ebing’s Psychopathatia Sexualis which proved resilient in judicial and medical application. Same-sex attraction, in Krafft-Ebing’s opinion, was aberrant. Freud, influenced by Krafft-Ebing, believed everyone to be bisexual, although his thinking on matters of sexuality changed throughout his career. The word “lesbian” derives from the island on which Sappho lived, Lesbos. Its first usage was in a medical dictionary in 1890.

Male + female
Illustration: Guardian Design

If one were to ask when I ground zero “came out”, I couldn’t say. I never truly did. From noticing as a child that the scratchy carpet of my grandmother’s house felt nice against my skin, or trying to “consummate” the “relationship” unsuccessfully with my primary school boyfriend through his gym shorts, I appreciated that sexuality was a pleasurable part of life, and one wouldn’t deny oneself pancakes or azure seas.

My teens consisted of the standard fumbling in parks and third base at house parties before I moved to Russia at 18 and slept with what seemed like half of the male population.

When I was 20, I moved back to the UK and started spending all of my time with a person, and that person happened to be a woman, and I seemed to be staying overnight a lot, and … well, most people are at least semi-observant. All I can say is the attraction seemed inevitable, despite neither of us having slept with a woman before – she was the first person I had ever been in love with, and we bounced back and forth for two-and-a-half years. That first situation was complicated by the presence of a (wonderful!) child, and so I was initially cast in the role of “good friend”. Unfortunately the euphemistic status of good friend still exists – and not just in the scenarios you might expect. It is a truism that LGBTQ+ people have to “come out” all of the time.

Many people who identify as LGBTQ+ find the Foucauldian view of sexuality as a construct offensive, believing that it equates to saying an individual’s sexuality is a choice, and ammunition for conversion practices. That some people believe their sexuality absolute and others feel it fluctuates – and here we should distinguish between sexual orientation and sexual identity – is inconsequential in my opinion; bigots will jump on either explanation to ascribe perversion. The important thing is that an individual’s consensual sexual desire as integral to their sense of self should not be oppressed; it’s never a conscious preference. I can’t just decide to not fancy Cate Blanchett.

Sometimes friends ask how sex is different with men and women (I have never slept with someone who, at that time, identified as trans or non-binary). I much prefer sex with women, because sex with women is spectacular, but, in my case, it might also be to do with a rather unhealthy dynamic when it came to sex with men, which we won’t go into here but kept many a therapist in work in my 20s.

It’s not that I don’t fancy men. Michelangelo’s David is proof enough that they are beautiful. That V-shaped muscle pointing towards the groin, sometimes known as Adonis’s belt. The forest trail of hair on the torso. But women are sublime, whether or not they conform to dominant (often western) ideas of attractiveness, which nevertheless change throughout history. Toned tummies or rolls of fat that can form a kiss around belly buttons. Stretch marks like flashes of white lightning. Collarbones and calves. There is only one thing better in life than admiring the body of a woman as she pads from the bed to the bathroom, and that is watching her return.

There is the idea that sex with someone of the same sex is easier, or better, because the equipment is the same. There is a large degree of truth in this, but different people like different things. One of the greatest things about having sex with women is the multiple orgasms that you can both have. And the fact orgasms can be clitoral or vaginal – or both, together. Having sex with a woman is like being in a same-ability dance class.

Female + female
Illustration: Guardian Design

Who we choose to be intimate with isn’t just about sex. I know that while I have never been romantically in love with a man, the emotional symbiosis between women is intense. LGBTQ+ people, in particular gay men, have long been sexualised or, in the case of lesbians, eroticised by straight men. “Love Is Love” emerging as the motto of LGBTQ+ rights has done a lot to shift focus from the bedroom.

Mine is a millennial generation that continues to benefit immensely from the gay liberation movements which resulted in social, legal and cultural progress. Mid- to late-20th-century activists and allies especially put their lives on the line for a better future; whether the Stonewall riots or the Daughters of Bilitis, or the solidarity between gay and lesbian people with striking miners. A 2021 study of 175 countries found that attitudes overall had become more positive since 1981, with 56 countries reporting an increase in social acceptance. But this leaves plenty of people whose lives are heartbreakingly ruined – or ended – merely for their existence. Mostly this is a legacy of imported religious, colonial laws, which many in the west would do well to remember.

It’s not that things have completely improved, either. When I was at school in the early 00s “gay” was synonymous for crap. Representation was slim. I watched Mulholland Drive for its gay scenes many times. These days I will read a novel, or watch a film, and an LGBTQ+ character will appear, protagonist or peripheral. Portrayals are no longer exclusively based on the torturous or the self-flagellating. I can legally marry another woman. But a taxi driver made me get out and walk when he realised I was giving directions to a gay club. Men will slur about “joining in” when seeing me kiss a girlfriend, so there’s that.

Each of us must confront the paradigm shifts of new generations. It is Gen Z’s turn to invent sex (sexual intercourse began in 2023, some time after the launch of OnlyFans but before Sam Smith’s Unholy). Gen Z has been called “the queerest generation of all time”. In 2021, just 65% of university-aged women described themselves as exclusively heterosexual. I’ll admit to sometimes being confused by the extension of the LGBTQ+ initialism to the point where it resembles a Scrabble hand. But when have language and terminology ever been static?

What does it mean to be sexually “fluid” in 2023? For me it’s scrolling Instagram memes about U-Hauling (the joke that lesbians move in together after dating for a week) but also perving over the man at the local bookshop who has the eyelashes of a camel. It’s being pissed off there’s only one lesbian bar left in London despite the fact the “night-time tsar” is literally a lesbian. It’s reading news stories about bakeries offended by the idea of two marzipan men in suits. It’s having to check the laws in countries when picking a holiday destination. It’s wanting a cigarette after sex despite having quit long ago. It’s, above all, coming as you are.

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#decide #fancy #Cate #Blanchett #sexually #fluid
( With inputs from : www.theguardian.com )

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