Sexual Fluidity - the one thing that has ironically, been a constant in my life. I started off thinking, as most people do, that I was a straight woman. Ah, boys and their mystery- the innocence of childhood crushes.
I strongly believed that "straight" was the only orientation - not that I had formed that understanding then - but I realize it now. Then, by the time I reached tenth grade, my eyes were blessed with the beauty of Emma Stone.
Emma Stone was the benchmark for me to realize that I have a thing for women too, and boy was I confused, to say the least. The realization that my attraction towards Emma wasn't just one of a kid adoring an actor - it was beyond that. So was I bisexual? It just didn’t seem like it, the I stumbled upon the term Sexual Fluidity.
So What is Sexual Fluidity?
“I define sexual fluidity as a capacity for a change in sexual attraction—depending on changes in situational or environmental or relationship conditions,” says Lisa Diamond, Ph.D., professor of psychology and gender studies at the University of Utah.
Love and sexuality are just as difficult to figure out as rocket science - it can get confusing and complicated. Sometimes, it's easy to rationalize why we love someone and why we fell for them.
But when your attraction for someone just doesn't seem to have an explanation, what do we do? I think the French writer Michel de Montaigne can make it a little easier for us. "If pressed to say why I loved him," de Montaigne once wrote, "I can only say because it was him, because it was me."
In the age of techno love and digital relationships, there isn't much we haven't taken into account for. But, our psychological understanding of ourself has always been through the help of labels. Labels are the one thing that keeps our identity in a little box - safe and secure.
Then why is it that sometimes we just can't find a box? Our identities don't fit into boxes sometimes, and that's when we can't help but feel unsettled. But that's okay, because with sexuality and sexual orientation there doesn't have to be a box.
Let's make this easier for everyone, sexuality is a maze, sometimes it has an end where you find a box. Other times, you're stuck in the maze - traveling around it, but enjoying the travel nonetheless.
The Heterosexual-Homosexual Rating Scale, otherwise called the "the Kinsey Scale" was developed by Kinsey and his colleagues. Understanding this experiment and the scale may help us get some clarity on why we can't process our sexual identities sometimes.
Understanding The Heterosexual-Homosexual Rating Scale
On one end of the scale, a rating of zero is "exclusively heterosexual" and on the far end a six is "exclusively homosexual." When the study was conducted, most people were in the middle of either extreme, ranging from "Predominantly heterosexual, but more than incidentally homosexual" to "Predominantly homosexual, only incidentally heterosexual."
The scale allows us to understand that apart from the two extremes, there are gaps between the two that people can identify with. Sometimes, there can also be a movement - upward or downward - according to the environment, upbringing and other external factors.
For example, a woman who identifies as heterosexual forms an attraction towards one particular woman. She is definitely attracted to the woman - sexually and otherwise, but she still identifies as straight. Only one woman is the exception.
This can get confusing but it's really just as simple as being able to define your own identity, with whatever terminology or adjectives. You are the most important factor in describing your sexuality.
So, what it actually means to be Sexually Fluid?
Understanding that sexual orientation continues to evolve and is circumstantial. I was in a girls' college for three years of my life, and the day I walked into that college I had about 4 different crushes on 4 different women. I knew I was attracted to women, but suddenly I only felt attracted to women. Bye-bye college boys.
Was I suddenly a lesbian? Did boys just disappear from my head? I was full of questions for which I had no answers to.
Why Sexual Fluidity Can Confuse Us And Why It Probably Shouldn't
Like I said before, we tend to rely on labels and boxes to understand ourselves - so a gray area like this could really throw us off.
It's more likely to be much more confusing to those who have been raised to believe the extremes because sexual fluidity comes unannounced. Extensive research on the same shows that sexual orientation is highly complex, and there are multiple influences on who you're attracted to and who you have sex with, including medications your mother may have taken while pregnant and even if you're a guy or your birth order.
Most of the research done to date, however, has focused more on women than men. More women than men report changes in their sexual attractions and identities. And bisexual men are also more likely to have sexual fluidity. Although, in the recent research published on sexual fluidity in the Journal of Sex Research, where students both male and female from the ages of 16-18 into their late twenties and early thirties were questioned at regular intervals about their sexual orientation. The subjects reported variation in who they were attracted to and engaged with, as well as how they identified sexually.
Another related concept is erotic plasticity, which is a change in people’s sexual expression through attitudes, preferences, and behavior. Basically, someone’s sexual response can fluctuate depending on their surroundings and environment.
After figuring out that maybe I was bisexual, I also realized that my attraction keeps changing. It really just depends on the person, and that I don't need to decide that my sexual orientation is defined by just one word. It keeps changing, and I should be able to embrace that.
Most people get thrown off by the use of the word "fluidity" because it is synonymous with variability - which essentially also means discrepancy or unevenness, which creates a very negative notion to the idea of sexual fluidity.
But here's what's important to know - sexuality isn't something to be ashamed of and there are no rules when it comes to your sexual identity. I think Laverne Cox, actress and LGBTQ activist, puts it best - "We are not what other people say we are. We are who we know ourselves to be, and we are what we love. That's OK."