Sexuality

Tuesday, January 27, 2004
What is sexuality?
Sexuality is a complex aspect of our personality and 'self'. Our sexuality is defined by sexual thoughts, desires and longings, erotic fantasies, turn-ons and experiences. In many ways sexuality is the force that empowers us to express and display strong, emotional feelings for another person and is a natural stimulus for the procreation of our species. The 'thing' that attracts one person to another may not always be sexual - it could be sense of humor, personality, 'likeability', compatibility, or intelligence. Sex or sexuality may only be a secondary consideration. Sometimes, part of our sexuality can be suppressed - some people have sexual desires about particular friends or associates, but don't act on or talk about those desires. Others have general sexual desires or fantasies about people of their own sex (that is, same sex), but don't explore or discuss those thoughts and feelings.

Sexuality and prejudice
Until recently, society's intolerance towards anyone who was not of the sexual 'norm', caused many people to repress their real sexuality. That is, many who knew and felt strongly they were gay remained 'in the closet' so as not to come up against prejudice, 'anti-gay' sentiments, discrimination and even violence. Various prejudices - against race, colour, religion, sex and sexual orientation - have softened over the last 20 years. However, some people (and governments) have remained hard-line and continue to discriminate against particular people for various reasons. No one has yet discovered positively the cause or causes of a person's sexuality - whether it be heterosexual, homosexual or bisexual.

Sexuality is complex
Not all aspects of sexual behavior conform to simple labels. You could consider sexuality like a fruit salad or smorgasbord - there are lots of flavors, different ingredients, a variety of tastes and appearances. One man might label himself straight, be turned on by women and not by men, but may enjoy wearing women's clothes and might also enjoy his female partner stimulating him anally with a dildo. Most of those men who consider themselves gay have no interest in wearing women's clothes. Some gay and straight men do enjoy wearing women's clothes. Some lesbian women appear 'masculine', many others appear 'feminine'. Some men who are considered 'effeminate' are straight, others are not. Some men who look tough and 'manly' are gay, others are not. Some women enjoy sleeping with men or women or both sexes, as do some men.

Sexuality: what am I?
Many people have occasional erotic feelings for or dreams about people of the same sex - but their general disposition may be heterosexual. These occasional homosexual feelings may not affect their relationship with a partner of the opposite sex.

Sometimes - because of pressure from our peers or society in general - sexual desires and feelings will be suppressed as we try to will ourselves to have other, 'normal' or more accepted sexual feelings. For many, these suppressed feelings can cause pressures that become problematic - forcing some to avoid any sexual encounters, or to lie to a partner (and themselves). Suppressed feelings can lead to anonymous sexual relations with a person of the same sex while maintaining a relationship with someone of the opposite sex.

Resolving your sexuality - deciding on who you are and what you want sexually - can be difficult for many people, particularly those who have been raised in a strict or religious family. Complex choices in life are made all the time. Choosing a partner with whom to share a long-term relationship will not always be made on the basis of sexuality, other factors can also come into play. With the best intentions of being true to oneself and our partner, there are occasions when pressure from relatives and friends, the need to conform and the fact that you may love someone might cause you to live life as a heterosexual even when you know, deep down, you are homosexual.

Often, non-judgmental counselling can be of benefit to help people discover the sexual and lifestyle choices that are best for them. Some people are good at maths, others can write, some can run fast. Others have red hair, some are straight, some are gay - the human race is full of subtle and profound differences. Understanding the differences and enjoying them, tolerating and acknowledging them in others and accepting them in ourselves, can be a major step in living a harmonious and fulfilling life.

Sexuality and variety
Sexual practices vary from person to person. Some straight men and women enjoy anal sex, some gay men do not. Some people are exclusively homosexual, others are exclusively heterosexual and many others fall in between - some, who are in the 'middle', are bi-sexual, desiring and enjoying sexual relations with both sexes. Most homosexual people have experienced heterosexual sex (many have married).

A large percentage of heterosexual people have 'experimented' with same-sex partners, particularly during adolescence. Your guide to your own sexuality comes from the sexual desires and erotic fantasies that are the strongest to you - and these can grow or change through life as you meet new people.

ThinkstockBrush your teeth – or risk a heart attack ThinkstockCutting sleep leads to serious health problems ThinkstockMost asthma deaths could be prevented: report ThinkstockHow old is your heart? Researchers create online test to determine heart attack and stroke risk
advertisement