I have been reading Scarleteen since I was 14 (I'm 20 now) and wanted to express my gratitude for how comprehensive and helpful of a resource it has been for me
To start out, I recognize that it's not all that important to assign a label to my sexuality -- I know it's a spectrum and that it can change based on context. At the same time, I think it would be helpful for me to have a better sense of who I'm attracted to, even if I don't "come out" to friends and family as a specific orientation.
My first kiss was with another girl when I was 14, whom I had not regarded sexually before she initiated kissing at a sleepover. I remember not having felt much from the kiss, and so I assumed I was straight and invested future emotional energy in boys. I didn't have another sexual experience until I was 18, when I was at a summer camp with a big hookup culture among counselors. I ended up having a summer fling with a boy (B), whom I really liked as a person and enjoyed spending time with, but wasn't especially physically attracted to. After five weeks of hanging out platonically, we ended up making out a handful of times. I initiated it the first time, but not necessarily because I felt a physical desire to do so, just because I felt like it was the logical next step in what people did and I wanted to collect more data about what I did and did not like. To be clear, even though it likely came to be because I felt pressure to have sexual experiences, I don't regret it, and remember enjoying some of the kissing once I got the hang of it (it was pretty slimy and awkward at first). For the entire time I was 19, I had a crush on one boy (L). We spent a lot of time together and became very good friends, but neither he nor I ever made a move or talked about romantic feelings for one another (to this day I'm not sure if he ever reciprocated feelings). This past summer I worked another job where there were no boys I was even remotely interested in. It was a very small and closed-in environment and I didn't have much in common or click with most people there, except for one other girl (E). Perhaps because neither of us quite fit in, she and I spent a lot of time together and could talk for hours without getting bored of one another. She is truly one of the coolest people I have ever met, and I felt she was a kindred spirit. I also never did anything sexually with her. Finally, this past year was my first semester in college, and a boy (C) I was friends with (and had been lightly flirting with just for fun) asked me on a date. I said yes, and we hung out a lot and snuggled and made out a few times and went on a few more dates. I like cuddling with people, but there was nothing inherently better about doing it with him than any of my platonic friends, and the kissing was underwhelming and I didn't feel much of anything. I have never done anything more with anyone than make out and cuddle.
A lot of my so-called crushes (like with C and B) have been much more exciting to contemplate in theory and fantasize about than when it turns out that something could come of it in real life. And with E and L, I know I admired them both deeply as people, but don't know if I legitimately would have wanted to take things further with them or if I am conflating admiration and respect and similarity with attraction. I guess part of this is also anxiety about ruining or complicating important friendships by introducing this subject.
I also think I'm a very picky person -- I don't really think I would want a low-stakes hook-up with someone who was conventionally attractive but whom I didn't connect with on a deep or emotional level. But if I wait to try anything with one of these rare kindred spirits, there's no guarantee I'll be physically or sexually attracted to them. I also masturbate regularly but have no specific image in my head of specific people or genders I'm attracted to.
I guess my question is, since none of my sexual experiences have been satisfying overall -- and have felt more like collection and analysis of data points than carefree fun -- how do I know if this is a result of the person's gender identity or my attraction (or lack thereof) to them specifically? Where do I go from here in terms of who I invest romantic attention in -- or who I mark down as being attracted to on dating apps, for example -- if I don't have a clear answer to this myself?
Also, especially with girls, how do I differentiate between wanting to be like someone and wanting to be with them romantically? How do I know if what I thought was a crush was really just admiring someone as a person or liking them as a friend? And vice versa, how do I know if what I thought was just admiring someone as a person or liking them as a friend was really a crush?
Thank you so much for your time <3