questioning sexuality

Questions and discussion about your sexuality and how it's a part of who you are as a person.
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questioning sexuality

Unread postby apismellifera » Tue Dec 29, 2020 5:53 pm


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.

For context:
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

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Re: questioning sexuality

Unread postby Mo » Tue Dec 29, 2020 6:38 pm

Hi there, apismellifera, and welcome! Thanks for the kind words about Scarleteen. :) We're always happy to hear when we've been helpful.

The questions you're asking here are important ones, but also not ones that are easy to give a concrete answer to, as you may imagine. If it helps, though, it's not unusual for some folks to need a little time and concrete experiences with other people before some aspects of their orientation become clear; these aren't strange or uncommon questions to be pondering.

It can be tough to sort out whether some not-too-exciting sexual experiences are related to a lack of desire (whether that's desire for sex in general or for sex with people of a particular gender, or some other factor), or simply because you didn't have great chemistry with the people you've had experiences with up to this point. It's possible that as time goes on and you wind up having connections (whether those feel like they have a component of sexual attraction or not) with more people, the distinctions will be more clear, but I get that this nebulous confusion zone can be frustrating! I think it's good to pay attention to the kinds of feelings you're having for other people, and note attraction if and when it pops up, but it's also fine to let yourself spend time with people without analyzing it too much; if you're overthinking everything, it can make it hard to enjoy the moment.

Teasing out the difference between crush feelings and platonic/admiration feelings can be tough, and I think one aspect of it is that different people tend to describe or experience those feelings a little differently, so one person's "crush" is someone else's "intense platonic admiration." In general I think a major part of a crush is wanting to know someone better, and it sounds like you're most comfortable with the idea that physical intimacy would happen in the context of a pretty deep connection, so if you're having those maybe-crush-maybe-not feelings, that might be a sign that this is someone to get to know a little better. That process, if they're open to deepening the friendship as well, might help give you some insight into how you're feeling, especially as your connection grows.
Anecdotally, I have known a LOT more people who've said "oh my goodness I just realized I had a serious crush on her, I thought I just wanted to be friends" than vice versa in a situation where there was some ambiguity; I think especially for women being attracted to other women it can be quite tricky to recognize that feeling for what it is!

If you're open to the idea of dating people of different genders, I think it's fine to say that on a dating app. It's really up to you and what you're comfortable with. You aren't lying to anyone or misleading them by being open to that, even if you find later on, once things clarify a bit, that you're exclusively or primarily attracted to people of just one gender. On the flipside, if you want to focus on one gender that's just fine, too. The early stages of dating anyone, whether that's someone you meet on an app or someone you know already, are all about figuring out whether you fit well together and want to keep dating. You may even feel like you're more comfortable telling potential dating partners up front that you're still figuring out how attraction works for you but that you like whatever it is that's drawing you to a certain person and you'd love to spend some time together and see where things develop.

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