Sexual Fluidity: Sailing Polyamory Through Uncharted Waters

a large galleon (old-fashioned ship with 2 large masts) is docked at a harbor
Image by Rob Bixby / CC BY

“What prompted the ‘biphobic’ comment from a reader?” they ask me.

I laugh. “That was several months ago. It was in response to this post. I admit in the piece I was near the line, and I knew it would be controversial. I was encouraged by several other queer people to write it because they wanted to but feared the backlash.”

“Oh my God,” they reply. “You were soooo describing a real thing though. I mean, it’s a real thing as in I’ve sort of wondered if I have sorta been that queer person. Which is probably why it stirs people up. Most humans aren’t good at being uncomfortable.”

“Mmhmm,” I say. “People get offended by real things. And shoot the messenger. But at least not literally. Yet. So that’s good?”

“True,” they say. “And at least it wasn’t clickbait. Which now sounds like it should be related to hand jobs for something hilarious. But I can’t decide what.”

People have a way of reminding me why the hell we’re friends.   Constantly, in ways that continue to delight me.

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In “Actually Into Women: A Bisexual Miracle,” I delved into the way that repeatedly dating women who overstate their attraction to other women (for whatever reason) can erode your feeling of attractiveness:

The overabundance of essentially straight (often heterosexually partnered) queer and bisexual-identifying women isn’t just a time waster. Oh no, it’s far more insidious than that. Date enough of them and you start to worry there’s something wrong with you.

While they insist they’re bisexual and super into women, they avoid your pussy like it’s on fire and they’re doused in gasoline.

This bait-and-switch pattern is reinforced by straight men.  It’s currently in vogue for straight men to claim they love to give oral pleasure to women. Without prompting, they bring up the topic of going down on a woman, praising the act, often saying, “It’s one of my favorite things to do.”

And then an awkward 30 seconds of jerky tongue convulsions later, scattered across my vulva, none of them actually making contact with my clitoris, a dismount, some transparent lie like, “My jaw is tired,” or “That’s just making me too horny, let’s fuck.” Uh huh. Likely story.

All roads lead to the same place:  There’s something wrong with my pussy.  You got down there and decided it was a crime scene.

And yet, in focusing on this aspect, I inadvertently discounted the more serious consequences such things have for monogamous lesbians.  My omission is personally disconcerting. I spent a while identifying as a monogamous lesbian (these days I’m homoflexible, Kinsey 5, polyamorous, married to a man, date predominantly women). And experienced considerable difficulty  as a young lesbian with women I was dating repeatedly leaving me for men. I went through this.

Mimi Robson puts it very well in her essay “Sexual fluidity: lost at sea”:

I think my difficulty comes much more from the fact that I can end up seeing someone with a really overt and proud conception of their queerness, much like my own, but also a lot of people who hypothetically refer to future husbands while on a date with a woman. A challenge of queerness is that it can be hard to tell whether someone getting into the pool is just having a paddle, or whether they want to make it into the deep end. What makes it harder is that someone describing themselves in a non-committal way could be a step in someone’s attempt to come to terms with their identity. This is added to the fact that previous experience is clearly no way to assess someone, and that the future is in any case a mystery, unless you happen to have a crystal ball lying about.

In my mind it’s clear that these sentiments are not rooted in any sort of nastiness, but it can feel worrying if you are someone so invested in your own conception of queerness, to be spending time with people who sound as though they have already planned out having a husband, three kids, and a Prius further down the line.

The way in which sexuality, and in particular female sexuality, is now viewed as fluid and subject to change marks perhaps a healthier shift in discourses about identity. However, these same discourses of fluidity which  have brought so much to some people can also feel a bit scary if, like me, you see yourself as someone who might be a bit more fixed. Scarier yet is the idea that this perception might be impossible, and that all female sexuality inevitably shifts about. Although everyone should be honest about who they are and where they stand, the way in which these ideas are said at times should be adjusted to consider how they might affect someone who finds it fairly impossible to imagine queerness not being in their future.

All Aboard H.M.S. Poly

Now. All that said, don’t despair. Or despair if you want, I’m not the boss of you. But there’s no need to despair.

Even if the seas are choppier as we view sexuality (and especially female sexuality) as more fluid, we are on our way to somewhere exciting.

And all things considered? Polyamory is a fabulous vessel to navigate those unfamiliar waters. Even if every island is not a friendly one.

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More coming later on the best, most queer-friendly practices for exploring your sexuality in polyamorous relationships while bisexual in theory!

 

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