Not the advice itself, mind you, but the notion that it’s necessarily in your best interest to be yourself, or at least to be yourself in front of too many other people (at least until you’ve developed a thick skin and hearty self-image). Society and the people in it have the tendency to ridicule people for being themselves. Or shut them out. Or make assumptions about them. And that’s even if your “self” isn’t the kind of person who rapes, murders and steals, in which case I agree with everyone that you should consider a new mindset.
I’m on the cusp of my 45th birthday, and I can clearly remember a time when, if you were gay, being yourself in most parts of the United States would be a good way to end up unemployed, ostracized, beaten up or even killed. Hell, that’s still the case in too many parts of the United States, though it’s far easier to be gay and open about it now than it was during my years as a child and a young man.
But it’s not just bucking what is considered the norm that gets you into trouble, and the world of sexual relations is a good example of that. Sometimes, trying to carve out just the right niche within a group of supposedly open-minded people is enough to make you seem suspect, or lead you to be seen as weird or just “too complicated.” And isn’t that ironic? As we try to define ourselves in ways that make sense and allow us to more easily frame ourselves to others, we sometimes get told we’re too much work or too hard to figure out.
To take the sexual theme I’m already on into the metaphorical realms, for many of us our sexual identity doesn’t get to be our own—or our desire to be ourselves isn’t taken well. In essence, our sexual selves get dragged into a BDSM dungeon against our will. Bound to other people’s expectations and rules, and we don’t even have the privilege of a safe word to escape when things get too uncomfortable for us as we try to be ourselves.
We strive to own our own identities and be proud of them, but that doesn’t always mean our struggle to achieve our own sexual independence is going to be well-received by everyone. In some cases, maybe not anyone who we’re likely to ever meet in person. (And thank God for the Internet, right? Because without the web, a lot of us would have precious few connections to people who understand us and embrace the same labels.)
I’ve used independence and label in the same paragraph as part of the same sentiment, and that might seem odd to some of you. Labels aren’t the problem with sexual independence, and I’ve said that before here at SexIs. Labels are good, just like name tags at some parties, because it allows you to let people know who you are, and for you to know who they are. It cuts down on confusion. The problem is that often people want to put the labels on us themselves, or re-define the labels we assign to ourselves. Or simply misunderstand or reject our labels altogether and exclude us because they “don’t get it.”
Not really being an active part of the LGBTQ crowd or having the chance to make many friends within it in recent years, I don’t know what the situation is with the L’s and G’s and their impression of B’s, but I do know it wasn’t that long ago that the prevailing opinion among gays and lesbians was that bisexual people were not to be trusted. They were non-committal or flighty. They didn’t know what they wanted. If you got into a relationship with a bisexual and you were gay or lesbian, prepare for heartbreak because they’ll leave you for the first piece of hot, opposite-gender flesh they see.
I hope it’s not that bad anymore, but it sure seemed like it was for much of the end of the 20th century and the beginning of this new millennium. And I still run across people online who encounter that problem. Hell, my own wife has gotten thinly veiled attitudes from bisexual people who don’t think she’s “bi” enough to play with or from women who only want to have sex with women who are only into women.
Yet we both know people online who are clearly into both sexes. People who enjoy each gender equally and have plenty of fun with either if they’re playing the field; also, people who are fiercely monogamous in each serious relationship they enter, regardless of which gender they are involved with at that time.
It’s unfair to assume that bisexual people are less committed given how often most of us, regardless of sexuality, move from one casual relationship to another or have a series of what seem like serious relationships that don’t work out.
But others are often so quick to tell us what’s real, and it often conflicts with our reality.
Although I’m not in the BDSM scene, it’s an area I find very alluring and fascinating, and I frequently see people questioning whether someone is a “real” BDSM person. People who say someone can’t be dominant if they ever show compassion to their sub or defer to them on anything. People who say that you’re not really a sub if you ever question or disobey your dominant. People who think you’re not “pure” enough to be at BDSM parties because you actually like the idea of sexual release at some point and not just bondage or pain simply for the sake of bondage or pain.
Then there are the polyamory folks who disparage swingers, saying that swingers just want to have wanton, mindless fun while poly folks are into soul-fulfilling commitment—forgetting that most of us have fun with a person before we get committed. And then there are swingers who assume that being poly means shoving a metaphorical stick up one’s ass and never looking at another person sexually again unless they’re an immediate candidate to add to your triad (or whatever size relationship you have).
All this judgment and resistance to letting us define ourselves makes me wonder how I will be received in various circles. You see, my wife wants to have me in a three-way with another guy. I’m happy to do that—for her. I wouldn’t seek out a guy on my own, but at the same time, the thought of a MMW three-way doesn’t disgust me; I think I could have fun with a guy. I just don’t think I’d want one on a frequent basis, even with my wife present.
Also, given my smoking fetish, I could be attracted to the right person of trans persuasion. I have a video of a sexy smoking T-girl. Elfin face, thin body, small but distinct tits, long legs, sexy lips. And at the point in the video when that person is smoking and vamping and finally pulling out a penis from the panties, all I can think about is how much I’d like to suck that cock while smoke is blown down over my head. In real life, that T-girl could get me to do just about anything.
But would I react the same way to a handsome “manly man” who’s a gay or bisexual smoker? Nah.
So, I consider myself heteroflexible.
Seems like a good label. I’m not really bisexual, but I’m willing to be with someone who has the same parts as me in the right situation.
But would people who identify as heteroflexible even find me falling short of their view of heteroflexibility? Would they think I lacked sufficient commitment? After all, my interest in penis is under some very tightly defined circumstances.
I mean, if a guy liked putting on a latex horse-head mask and fucking a woman from behind while she wears a similar mask and wears a pair of fuzzy Ugg boots, would he be considered a “furry” by people with the furry fetish? Probably not, even though he might identify as such and want to hang out with more traditional furries.
Personally, I maintain that we should be ourselves, and apply the labels that make us feel right. If you have a penis but truly feel that you’re a woman, it isn’t my place to tell you otherwise or treat you otherwise, no matter what I think. If I consider myself heteroflexible despite the specificity of my interests, and I consider myself a kinkster even though I haven’t been able to get all that kinky in my own sex life very often, then that’s my right.
I think it’s hard for us to be healthy sexually—or be good sex partners—unless we own our sexuality. Unless we define what is right for us and define what it is we want and like. Sexual independence doesn’t mean we won’t bend at times for another and do something outside our interests. Sexual independence doesn’t mean that we should ignore the fact our labels might not work for others; we can’t force our worldview onto everyone else. Sexual independence doesn’t even mean that we won’t, at times, allow others to define us in their own way, because it’s simply easier for us or makes things better for them.
No, to me, sexual independence means defining the labels we feel fit us, and being willing to embrace that definition of self, privately at least, and publicly when possible. To be comfortable knowing who we are and doing our best to get others comfortable with it, too. We won’t always succeed, but the important thing is to be true.
Being true to oneself is the best place to start, because once you’re comfortable in your own sexual skin, it’s going to be a lot easier to open up—and even to be open to something new. If I may play the bondage metaphor again, be willing to break those social bonds at times even if you’re not “supposed to,” and stand up for you who think you are, even if others think you’re off-base.