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Attracted to women 24/7, but attracted to men in my fantasies--does that make me bisexual?

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Anonymous asks:

I am a 15 year old male. I have been straight my entire life and have some romantic experience with girls. As a whole I am very attracted to girls. I absolutely worship the female body, and am turned on by them. But recently I've had some thoughts about guys as well. I have watched some male pornography and found myself turned on by attractive male models online. However I do not find any attraction to the guys I see daily ever. I know from the girls which guys are supposed to be cute. Yet I have no attraction to them. I cannot begin to imagine actually going on a date with a man. I guess I am confused because I am attracted to women 24/7, and attracted to men only in the confines of pornography or the occasional thoughts fantasies while masturbating. Am I bi-sexual? What does this mean?

CJ replies:

If I only had a dollar (heck, even a quarter) for every time a young person wrote into Scarleteen to ask us if we think they might be [fill in a sexual orientation here], I’d be pretty freakin’ wealthy. This is in no way to make light of your question to us, more just to let you know that this is something that many folks have on their minds, and a topic that can (but does not have to) cause quite a bit of stress for people. You’re not alone in this line of questioning. As we go through puberty and develop on every level—physically, emotionally, sexually—we often have questions about our orientation, about our fantasies, and about the ways in which we relate to other people. There’s a lot going on here in your question so I am going to try to go through it to see if I can offer you some food for thought as you explore these questions in your life. In the end, I won’t be able to tell you if you’re bisexual (or any other sexual orientation); that’s for you to conclude on your own. However, some more information about porn, fantasies, sexual orientation, and relationships might be helpful as you consider your own experiences and desires.

Let me get the biggest disclaimer out of the way first: depending on where you are in the world, it’s likely that you are below the age where you can legally view pornography. In reality, we know that many folks will watch/read/look at pornography while below the legal age (often 18, sometimes 21, occasionally another age), but the fact that it happens does not make it legal. I believe that we all should make informed choices and consider possible consequences of our actions (in the case of porn there could be positive consequences—like pleasure, or getting off—as well as more negative ones such as legal sanctions) before we do them. Porn is one of those topics that can often feel really loaded for people; they tend to have strong opinions. I’m of the mind that porn is neither inherently good or bad but we should think about why we choose to use it or not use it, and what messages we get from it should we choose to view it. So now that I’ve offered that disclaimer, which I’d be remiss not to do, let’s move on with your question considering that you HAVE made the choice to seek out and view porn and that is part of the question you’re asking us here.

First let’s talk a little about fantasy in general. People fantasize. People also want to know about what their fantasies mean, and there can be shame wrapped up in what goes through our heads in the most private moments even though the reality is that each of us can have a really wide range of fantasies and quite a bit of diversity when it comes to who or what we find sexy or appealing. One thing to consider about fantasies is that they don’t necessarily define our reality. Indeed, one of the things that can be so hot about fantasies is precisely that they are NOT real life. In the safe confines of our own minds we can think about things that we may not actually want or desire in real life. Sure, we can also fantasize about things that we would actually like to happen, but not all fantasies indicate that we desire the content or object of the fantasy in real life. What that boils down to is a pretty straightforward thing: just because you fantasize about men does not necessarily mean that you are gay or even bisexual. Fantasies can be considered when we are working through the intricacies of our sexual orientation, but fantasies are not the whole of how we define ourselves. They are just one piece of a larger picture.

I think that it’s also important to consider the purpose of pornography: it’s meant to turn you on. Bodies and sexuality, within the confines of pornography, are commodities—they sell. So what we typically see in most mainstream pornography is a not-so-realistic view of bodies, and of what sex in general is like. Not everyone has really large breasts or huge penises. Not everyone wants sex all the time. Not everyone has perfectly hairless bodies. Not everyone follows a certain script of how the “ideal” sexual encounter should go. I could go on and on about this but you’re probably catching my drift. What we see in porn is a collective expression of a certain cultural belief about beauty and about sexuality. It’s hardly representative of the sexual lives of everyone, and yet there are lots of folks who see porn and think, “Oh, this is how it is,” or, “Oh, this is how it should be.” You mentioned being turned on by the “attractive male models” in porn. You hit the nail right on the head there—those are models, and their job is to turn people on. So often, males who are cast in porn are intended to be examples of what other men want to be: skinny but muscularly built, large penises, perfectly tanned and hairless, high sex drives with constant access to people who want to have sex with them. But, and I’ll keep saying this, that’s not reality.

And it sounds like you’ve noticed this discrepancy, at least on some level. You said in your question that you’ve not found yourself attracted to any of the boys or men you know in real life, only to the models and actors in porn. It’s a possibility that you’re attracted to an idea, the idea of stereotypical male power and attractiveness. I could be wrong here (it happens!), but it’s possible that on some level you see that what you’re seeing in pornography is not echoed in real life. You mentioned that you know from female friends “which guys are supposed to be cute” but that you’re not attracted to them. By the by, “cute” is also a subjective thing; we all have different tastes. Just because someone, or lots of someones, finds someone else attractive, it does not mean that said person will really do it for everyone. Again, there is just so much diversity in what and whom we are attracted to.

The reality is that we’re all human. We come with things that we like about ourselves and we come with insecurities. We come with complicated minds and identities that often do not fit exactly into little boxes. We have questions and worries, and we wade our way through relationships (with ourselves and with others) as we figure out what we want for ourselves, including sexually.

The best we can do is be authentic and honest in the ways in which we relate to others. I’d offer that there is more to relating to people than objectifying their bodies. You mentioned that you “worship” women’s bodies, but the word “worship” to me implies a sort of, I dunno, almost godlike quality of beauty. We don’t tend to “worship” humans; we worship ideas. So perhaps you could think about what you want and what you expect from others, and how to balance physical attraction with realistic expectations of others. It’s fine to be attracted to people (of whatever genders), but people are still people. We all have more to us than our physical attributes, and generally I think we do better in relationships (family, friendships, romantic, and sexual) when we look at a whole person and not simply a part of them, such as their physical qualities.

To go along with that, there is also more to sexual orientation than physical attraction. When I try to conceptualize sexual orientation it includes a bunch of aspects, including to whom we’re physically, sexually, emotionally, and even spiritually attracted. Having one of those pieces in place—such as a physical attraction—does not mean that the rest of it is there. Of course you know yourself the best, and certainly far better than I can ever know. So you’ll be able to figure out for yourself where your affections and attractions lie. Perhaps you’ll remain physically or sexually attracted to men but feel like the emotional piece isn’t there and thus men will not be a big part of your sexual experiences. Perhaps you’ll find that the attractions you’re feeling warrant exploration and you’ll go down that route. Perhaps you’ll find that fantasies about men are nice and you’ll keep having them, and keep getting off while having them. And perhaps while you’re having those fantasies now and they feel good, if not kind of confusing, they will not always be there. And those are not all of the possibilities for what you may find—there are lots of options and many ways in which you can experience and enjoy your sexuality, orientation, and expression. Masturbation can be a great, safe way to explore our sexuality, fantasies, and capacity for pleasure.

Each of us are sexual creatures from birth until death but our sexuality can be fluid. What feels good for us at age 15 may not be the same as what feels good for us at other points in our lives. Our interests, fantasies, attractions, and identities can shift and develop throughout the lifespan and that is ok. I think there’s often a pressure to define ourselves into neat little boxes, really early in life. I think that is at least part of the reason you’re writing, because you want to Know What All Of This Means and, moreover, know right now. But, truthfully, there is no single way to be. While we have these broad classifications of sexual orientation, I think that we each define these things for ourselves and find our own little niche. Sexuality is not really a black or white issue; there are many shades of gray when it comes to identity.

So, to try to answer your final question about what this all means, essentially you get to decide for yourself what it means. Aside from the pressure you’ve likely already put on yourself, I don’t think that you need to be in a rush to put a label on yourself. If you think it might be possible, I’d suggest just being there with yourself and what goes through your mind, and going with the flow. Your fantasies don’t sound as if they are hurting anyone, so perhaps you can just observe them and recognize that they are nice fantasies but you’re not quite sure yet what bearing they might have on your real life experiences, and that’s ok. You might want to think about fantasy versus reality, and also what you want out of relationships, whether they are sexual or not. This could help guide you as you decide for yourself whether you want to explore same-sex behaviors or relationships, or whether you’d prefer not to do that at this point in your life.

But, mostly, I’d offer that there are lots of folks in similar positions, asking the same questions. Many of us have grown up with silence or shame surrounding issues of sexuality and sexual orientation, so I think that’s part of the reason that we don’t talk more about this openly. However, many folks will have same-sex attractions or enjoy same-sex pornography at some point in their lives. Some people who have those attractions will come to identify as non-straight, and others will not. Like I’ve said (and will continue to say to anyone who will listen), your identity is yours to define and yours to experience. Offering yourself some compassion and freedom to feel what you’re feeling without judgment, and without forcing yourself into a label, might give you enough wiggle room to sort it out for yourself as you continue to experience your own sexuality and capacity for healthy and happy relationships.

Here are some additional resources that you might find helpful:

written 06 Jun 2009 . updated 20 Jan 2014

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