As much as I notice all the things that Facebook gets wrong, it’s worth pointing out something that it gets very much right. In terms of the user profile, it allows members to select a sexual preference without forcing them to select a particular label (gay, bi, queer, etc.), but simply by choosing to indicate whether they are interested in women, men, both, or unspecified. Simple and useful.
One thing it forces the average straight guy or gal to do is to consider stating publicly that they are ONLY interested in members of the opposite sex (or at least implying that much). Having to check the box next to “Interested in:” raises the possibility of sexual fluidity in a way that can be awkward especially for men.
Women indicate an interest in women many times more often on Facebook than men indicate an interest in men, even though some research suggests that homosexuality is more prevalent in men than in women. This is probably attributable to the higher degree of social stigma for men to indicate an interest in men. But increasingly today, men who are predominantly heterosexual are facing the choice of indicating a bisexual interest whenever they choose for as long as they choose. The social stigmas are fading, and indications are that in the U.S. at least there is increasing tolerance for men to experiment sexually.
I last addressed this topic with two posts in October on my own efforts to reflect on sexual fluidity in my experience. I suggested that “Fluid” might emerge as a new term to replace older terms for sexual orientation such as gay and straight:
Fluidity is not merely about the gender of one’s sexual partner. It’s about appreciating the nuances and complexities of attraction, a willingness to follow one’s attention into spontaneous enjoyment of whatever arises, without preconceptions. It’s about purity insofar as it insists on a moment-to-moment innocence and friendliness to discovery. It’s about worth insofar as it is grounded in the source of all worth, the sacred force of all life in the cosmos.
As a practical matter, the use of Fluid as a label for sexual identity may face obstacles. Unlike, say, “Bisexual” “Poly,” or even “Pansexual,” the term is a new use of an old word, a usage not recognized in the culture today; and if the term is used in connection with sexuality, as I have noted it is generally thought to refer to the ability of some women and men to be attracted to different genders at different times in their lives (an aspect of the Fluid identity which is not the most important thing).
However, the lack of general awareness of a Fluid identity could be beneficial. The label could be taken up as a moniker especially well suited for post-conventional sexual identities, a way of describing sexual identity not in gross terms (i.e., by the genitalia of one’s object of desire), not merely in subtle terms (i.e., the masculine essence or feminine essence of one’s partner), but in causal terms (i.e., identification with the ground of Being) and nondual terms (i.e., the indistinct force of Eros itself expressing itself through the uniqueness of one’s object of desire).
This post caught a readers attention. He writes:
I was interested to read your post on sexual fluidity in men. It strikes me as true for myself as a man engaged in opening his mind to the world.
I always considered myself straight, and spent a lot of time in life engaging with women as lovers. I was married, since-divorced, and afterwards began to give voice slowly to thoughts I had about being sexually attracted to men. After several years of this questioning, I began to speak it aloud recently, and I have opened a pandora’s box of intense feeling with regard to other men – alienation from them, attraction to and admiration of their bodies, fear, desire, and fundamentally the glimmerings of a closer intimacy with them – and my own father – than I had ever had in the past. In the process I myself feel more like a man in many ways, more intense, more sexual – and not only towards men but towards women.
In this process, I have thought – hey this is just the traditional narrative of being a 33 yo finally dropping the chains of repression and giving leave to a “fabulous” new set of feelings or identity. Except that for me it is not per se true description of my existence or history. There is perhaps some veracity that narrative. But at times after exploring this I also feel closer to women than I ever have before. At times the sexual intensity of my dreams engages with the passionate femininity that is there and also with masculinity. And at the end of the day – while I can see more beauty in the “gay” male world than I had before (having been afraid of it), I also can see a vacuousness in the narrative as a “mandated way to live”. The point being there’s not a necessary culture to live into with same-sex feeling.
I found a diary the other day listing the numerous ways I wanted to make love to my ex-wife. This was many years ago. I don’t think it was untrue then even if I don’t feel it now as much. I also know that my soul has engaged more with men, and finds men more erotic than I ever had before.
So, it seems to me that fluidity exists within me as well – and I would guess in other men also. It is hard to accept – and still harder to know what path it will come to, and how to live this authentically and frankly with the world. But at the end of the day it makes me think that sexuality can be fluid in many people, and not just women.
Two thoughts come to mind, both with male/female poles
“I am Tiresias, old man with wrinkled dugs” – T.S. Eliot
and Hamlet deciding to act in Act IV of Shakespeare’s. Both speak to a male/female dichotomy that can be perhaps live with sexual fluidity. Or at least to avoid placing too many categories for political reasons, because sometimes they cause more harm – and subject us more to capitalist categories than they help humans understand their mixed-up lives.
I post this letter (with permission) at length because I am impressed by his noticing that as he becomes more acceptance of the full range of his sexuality he becomes more alive. He describes the opening as liberative (“dropping the chains of repression”) and an opening to beauty and authenticity and intimacy. Even as he embraced his attraction to men, he began to feel more sexual than ever, even lighting passion for women. That’s great.
Looking back at my post in October, there are some ways in which I notice that I would say things differently today. For instance, I would emphasize the uniqueness of every individual’s sexuality, and the possibility of its fluidity over a lifetime, its own twists and kinks and particular fantasies. And I would emphasize more today a point I picked up through World Spirituality: the spiritual importance of embracing one’s uniqueness — the “given” as one discovers it arising naturally from your body — and finding ways to give that uniqueness expression within safe, healthy, and loving relationships.
It’s no surprise that putting too many categories on sex can harm one’s efforts to find one’s own core expression of Eros when our society stigmatizes some labels and relationships over others. Secrecy based in shame distorts the authentic Self.
Our unique sexual quirks are there for a reason, and they can help us to come closer to Eros, one and the same as the spirit of evolution, the goodness of Creation. It’s too bad more spiritual and religious people don’t understand that rejecting Eros is a form of rejecting God, a sort of sin. They fear that if they embrace those parts of themselves that don’t fit into conventional labels that something very bad will happen. The truth is that if they do so they could find the opposite is true: they could come alive like never before.