#Sexuality101

This entry is an attempt to share a cliff notes version of Sexuality 101, for those readers who may find themselves confused and uncomfortable with engaging in conversations about human sexuality as a result of lacking a basic capacity to navigate through terminology. The reason I’m writing this is partly because I was asked to, and partly because I once lacked the same terminology and understanding, and so I found it difficult to express myself or understand how to be a better ally. Anything that is missing from this page or is erroneously reported is due entirely to my own deficit in knowledge.

Ally

An ally is someone whose gender identity and/or sexual orientation is/are relatively socially privileged (such as someone who is heterosexual, and/or born in a body that reflects the gender they experience from within), but who prioritizes raising consciousness or debunking harmful stereotypes. There are good and bad allies: a good ally is motivated by an awareness of injustice and a drive to do their part to eliminate it; a bad ally is motivated by feelings of guilt for being in a relatively privileged position or by getting an ego-boost for trying.

LGBTQ

LGBTQ is the short form of an acronym (i.e., lesbian/gay/bisexual/trans*/queer) that keeps getting longer and longer, and is sometimes playfully referred to as “alphabet soup” for this reason. More serious gestures include using the acronym “LGBTQ+” or the current full length acronym, which I’m sure will be missing at least one letter by the time I look it up for you.

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Sexual Orientation

Sexual orientation, it may seem obvious, is simply how an individual person expresses that the people they are most attracted to tend to embody and/or identify with one or more gender groups. A sexual orientation can be equally a political identity, as a sexual orientation towards one or more gender(s). It is is not always a conscious effort to align one’s politics with one’s sexual orientation, so much as an accident by virtue of being a member of a politically oppressed group of people, who are visibly discriminated against on the basis of their shared sexual orientation(s). Sexual orientation is often described rather simply, as who you are attracted to. My sexual orientation is queer, and queer is also an aspect of my political identity.

Sexual Preference

Sexual preference is distinguished from sexual orientation, in that sexual preference expresses how one wants to engage sexually with the people one is sexually attracted to. It is often described, rather simply, as what you want to do to who you are attracted to. My primary sexual preference concerns fellow vulva-bearing persons of nearly any gender identity. I enjoy giving and receiving particular kinds of sex, such as fisting and butt-fucking (I cannot say enough about how much I love fisting and teh butt secks), often as part of a sadomasochistic power exchange (I prefer the masochistic part). My less-critical sexual preferences (i.e., I can live without it even though I enjoy it) include things like mutual masturbation and voyeurism (note: not like the Peeping Tom one reads about in psychology textbooks; rather, with consenting exhibitionists).

Sexual Objectification

Sexual objectification is distinguished from both sexual orientation and sexual preference, by the conscious or unconscious disregard for consent on the part of the objectified person. It is a behaviour of sexually fixating on another person, whether or not they find you sexually attractive (or are even aware that you are sexually fixating on them). Sexual objectification is characterized by engaging with one’s own sexuality, while failing to engage (consciously or unconsciously) with the fixated-upon person’s sexuality. The phenomenon referred to as the male gaze is an example of an unconscious sexually objectifying behaviour, which is internalized by all members of North American society, and is arguably embedded into the very structures of society. Therefore it is considered practically invisible because it is unconsciously operating and frequently normalized (many people actually defend this behaviour by arguing that men are “hard-wired” to stare at women they find sexually attractive). I recently became conscious that I, too, exhibit an objectifying gaze, but it is directed towards particular men.

Sexual Attraction

Sexual attraction is distinguished from sexual objectification, in that it arises from a deep respect for the presence of mutually shared sexual preferences with the other person, who is consenting to being sexually engaged. Sexual attraction is primarily conscious, but often operates unconsciously (and/or preconsciously — simultaneously not-quite-conscious and not-quite-unconscious) at the same time. For many people, sexual attraction is based on multiple factors, including but not limited to body shape, gender embodiment/identity, political leanings, spiritual leanings, and mutual interests. I know. You’re thinking “Well DUHHH!” But many people conflate sexual attraction and sexual objectification, and as such, what feels like one can easily transform into the other.

Fluid/Fixed Sexuality

Sexuality can be used as an umbrella term to describe our day to day experiences of sexual orientations, sexual preferences, sexual objectifications, and sexual attractions, that come from oneself or are perceived in/exhibited by others. While mainstream culture promotes a conception of sexuality that is fixed (i.e., immutable or unchanging), many argue that it is fluid (i.e., mutable or changing). When we start to unpack our ideas about sexuality, rather than unconsciously accepting the very narrow range of stereotypes that are most visible in the mainstream culture, we begin to see that sexuality really must be fluid. Sexuality simply isn’t an exclusively internal process, existing within a vacuum. For many people, sexuality is fluid, and changes over time — the fixed model of sexuality begins to fall apart as soon as we recognize this.

Compulsive Heterosexuality

Human sexuality in mainstream society is constructed on the assumption that heterosexuality is the default value. This stereotype of human sexuality is so rigidly defined and pervasive throughout the dominant culture in North America, that we all internalize it as a part of our environment, and many people attempt (consciously or unconsciously) to enforce it on others. Compulsive heterosexuality plays a role in homophobic ideology, dialogue and behaviour, as well as in transphobia.

Compulsive Monogamy

Human sexuality in mainstream society is constructed on the assumption that monogamy is the default value. This stereotype of human sexuality is so rigidly defined and pervasive throughout the dominant culture in North America, that we all internalize it as a part of our environment, and many people attempt (consciously or unconsciously) to enforce it on others. Compulsive monogamy plays a role in homophobia (even though many LGBTQs are also monogamous), biphobia (even though many bisexuals are monogamous), and discrimination against sex workers (even though many sex workers maintain monogamous relationships in their private lives).

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Momentarily, just a few items that are of importance to virtually all LGBTQs in North America:

Hanky Code

The hanky code is a system of non-verbal expression within the LGBTQ+ communities, for communicating one’s sexual preferences to other LGBTQs. It is largely considered to have originated in San Francisco’s gay community, whose pick-up bars were subjected to frequent police raids, making them unsafe locations for cruising. It has become syncretised as a part of many lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans*, and queer communities throughout North America, especially where power exchange activities are prevalent. Quite simply, different coloured bandanas indicate different sexual preferences, and the side it is worn on indicates which role one prefers to take when engaging in said sexual activity. For those of you who love to exploit other people’s ignorance for shits and giggles (as I do), you’ll be delighted to know that a red bandana means you’re into (anal) fisting (on the right side, it means you like to be the recipient — I know I couldn’t resist telling a woman who was passing 24 Hours around at a train station, when I spotted a guy hanging a red hanky out of his right back pocket, acting like he was some sort of tough shit gang-banger).

Compton’s Cafeteria & Stonewall

Compton’s Cafeteria and The Stonewall Inn are businesses located in New York and San Francisco respectively, where gays, gender-variant persons, bisexuals, and some lesbians frequented (many of whom were also working class or poor, and of marginalized racialized/ethnic identities), especially during a time when the political atmosphere of the United States was aggressively oppressive towards all LGBTQs. In the year 1969, police raided both businesses (Compton’s Cafeteria first, and later Stonewall). The short version is that in 1969, riots broke out between police who were raiding these establishments, and LGBTQs who were sick and tired of the raids and inspired by the ongoing Civil Rights Movement to take a collective stand for their rights. These events are seen as landmark protests for LGBTQ+ rights, and the first LGBTQ+ pride marches in San Francisco took place on the one-year anniversary of Stonewall.

1973 & 1986

Until the year 1973 in North America, heterosexuality was considered the default experience of human sexuality. All other sexualities were systemically discriminated against (and many still are), especially within the field of psychology, which considered homosexuality a clinical problem. In the year 1973, homosexuality was removed as a clinical diagnosis from the Diagnostics & Statistics Manual. In the year 1986, the very controversial diagnosis of “ego-dystonic homosexuality”, which had rather “coincidentally” been introduced in 1973, was removed as well. These are considered landmark events in the progression of equal rights for many marginalized forms of human sexuality, as one is no longer subject to either being committed to a mental institution or being arrested for obscenity, simply because of who they love.

California Proposition 8 Vs. NOH8

The short version is that California Proposition 8 (referred to as “Prop H8” by its many critics) added a statement to the California Constitution in 2008 when it succeeded in being passed into law, that eliminates the right of same-sex couples to be legally married. Prop 8 is repeatedly referred to by many other states in the United States, as the grounds on which to deprive LGBTQs the right to same-sex marriage. The resulting uproar from LGBTQ+ rights advocates, allies, and protesters helped create and spread awareness of an ongoing silent protest called NOH8, which has become a global solidarity movement for LGBTQ+ rights (with many people all over the world creating their own NOH8 photos).

LGBTQ+ Pride Marches

LGBTQ+ Pride marches are an important form of peaceful protest, hosted annually by various organizations within most major cities across North America. Their intended purpose is to gain visibility for the LGBTQ+ community members present, who walk in celebration, solidarity, and remembrance with all past and present generations of LGBTQs who have at one time walked the very same streets (out-of-the-closet or otherwise) within a dramatically different political atmosphere. Allies are encouraged to respectfully take part, and to walk in solidarity or rally the march on as an observer, to promote political visibility of the many people who believe that LGBTQs deserve the same rights as everyone else. Many LGBTQ+ Pride marches are also followed by separate trans*-specific demonstrations and/or lesbian-community-specific demonstrations on the same day or the same weekend.

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Lesbian

Lesbian is both a sexual orientation and a political identity/lifestyle, though not all lesbians identify with both. As a sexual orientation, lesbian implies both an internal experience of a binary feminine gender and a tendency to experience sexual attraction towards individuals who experience a binary feminine gender. As a political identity/lifestyle, which may be at the exclusion of a congruent sexual orientation, lesbian implies cultural segregation from male-centered (i.e., phallocentric, male-privileging) society. Thus, it is not necessarily an accurate way to identify for every woman, butch, femme, or dyke who feels sexually attracted to people of the binary feminine gender.

Gay

Gay is a sexual orientation, and though arguably less challenging due to male privilege, a political identity as well. As with lesbians, not all gays identify with both. As a sexual orientation, gay implies both an internal experience of a binary masculine gender and a tendency to experience sexual attraction towards individuals who experience a binary masculine gender. As a political identity, gay implies a conscious effort to be visible as a gay man (such as everyone’s favourite visibly gay man, Dan Savage). However, being a visibly gay man does not necessarily mean that one stands for the furthering of equal rights for the entire LGBTQ+ rights movement (how one acts on male privilege plays a critical role in distinguishing how one acts for everyone else’s rights — a criticism frequently levelled against Dan Savage).

Bisexual

Bisexual is a sexual orientation, and often though not always, a political identity as well. Not all bisexuals identify with both. As a sexual orientation, bisexual implies both an internal experience of a binary gender identity and a tendency to experience sexual attraction towards individuals of both binary gender groups. Many bisexuals experience sexual attraction to completely different gender embodiment in feminine individuals than in masculine individuals, and this is often poorly understood both within the LGBTQ+ movement and outside of it. Thus, many bisexuals experience marginalization in both directions, due to harmful stereotypes that cause individuals to perceive bisexuality as threatening for a number of reasons that are not grounded in respectful dialogue.

Trans*

There is no simple way to tackle this matter, so I wrote #Gender101 to address it.

Queer

Queer is a sexual orientation, a verb, a relatively recent reclamation of what was once a homophobic slur, a field of academic theory (i.e., queer theory), and a political identity. Queer as a sexual orientation implies an internal experience of a non-binary gender and/or a tendency to experience sexual attraction that is inclusive of non-binary-gendered individuals. Thus, queer becomes a verb, indicating the active, ongoing interrogation of what sexuality and gender mean, both as an internal experience and a perception of others. Queer theory is largely grounded in this same thought process, which is extended to interpretation of existing philosophies, media, and feminisms. Therefore, queer as a political identity implies that one seeks to be both visible as a queer and visible as a queer academic/theorist/feminist. The process of reclaiming queer from its former status as a slur has become an important force in gaining visibility for marginalized lifestyles, sexual orientations, and genders, and generating dialogue from the criticisms that arise from these processes. I personally identify as queer for all of these reasons.

Pansexual/Omnisexual

Pansexual and omnisexual are synonymous terms for a sexual orientation that implies a tendency to be sexually attracted to anyone, regardless of gender identity/embodiment. For someone who identifies as pansexual or omnisexual, sexual attraction occurs on the basis of what is between their ears — not what is between their legs. Some pansexual- or omnisexual-identifying individuals additionally claim that they are genderblind, or lacking perception of another person’s gender prior to establishing sexual attraction, but many will claim otherwise (i.e., that it has no bearing on whether or not one is sexually attracted to another person, does not mean that one does not perceive it at all prior to a particular event). Pansexual and omnisexual are terms that do not directly imply anything about the internal experience of gender on the part of the person who identifies with this sexual orientation. Pansexuality is misunderstood on the basis of the same principles, and is marginalized in the same ways, as bisexuality is both misunderstood and marginalized.

Asexual

Asexual describes a sexual orientation characterized by a lack of the internal experience of sexual attraction. Asexuality is often understood as some sort of sexual dysfunction, but this attitude simply reflects both internalized compulsive heterosexuality/monogamy and unchecked ableism, and is therefore appropriately described as ignorant. Because asexuality is experienced by some asexuals as more of a spectrum than a distinguished and life-long persistent lack of externalized sexual attraction, Asexuality Visibility and Education Network (AVEN) exists to share information, engage with others to spread awareness, and educate about the many different “flavours” of asexuality. Asexuals are stereotyped as anti-social and both sexually and romantically evasive/aversive. However, many asexuals still experience a desire for romantic relationships (thus, those who do not also identify as aromantic), and whether or not an individual simply does not experience sexual attraction to other people has no bearing on their capacity to enjoy fulfilling and meaningful social interactions. Thus, the common stereotype of asexuals is grossly erroneous. Asexual as a word makes no direct implications about one’s internal experience of gender or the gender(s) of individuals any particular asexual is attracted to (if they ever experience attraction).

Stone Sexual

Stone sexual is a term used to describe the sexual orientation of an individual whose sexual needs are fulfilled by entirely gratifying their sexual partner(s), without the need to experience reciprocation. It makes no implications about gender in either direction.

Transromantic

Transromantic is a term used to describe the sexual orientation of an individual who experiences a tendency to be romantically or sexually attracted to individuals they perceive as trans*, or who openly identify as trans*. It makes no implications about one’s internal experience of gender. Due to the clinical nature of the word transsexual, it is considered both super-icky and super-wtf-confusing to attempt to use “transsexual” to describe a tendency to experience attraction towards trans* people. Many trans* people remain skeptical of the validity of the transromantic sexual orientation, however, because of how trans* people are treated in disparaging ways: either by being objectified and fetishized, or by being subjected to transphobia. I personally experience sexual attraction towards trans* people who are out and visible, but not towards trans* people who wish to blend in with a binary gender identity (as a general rule, not a law). Primarily this is because I am an out and visible trans person, and I am conscious that this aspect of my identity will invite speculation upon my partner(s) concerning their gender, but this is also because trans* people are more likely to be able to wrap their heads around how I experience and embody my gender (relative to someone who has persistently experienced a binary gender identity).

Heteroflexible/Homoflexible

Heteroflexible is a term that describes an individual whose primary sexual orientation is heterosexual, but who very occasionally experiences a sexual attraction towards a particular individual of the same sex (homoflexible implying the opposite relationship). Each term implies a cisgendered identity, both within and on the part of the exceptional individual. These are fairly new terms.

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And because it’s pretty hard to talk about human sexuality without acknowledging the relationship styles in which it plays out:

Monogamy

Monogamy describes a relatively long-term relationship style in which each partner is fully satisfied without seeking additional romantic/sexual outlets. Many monogamous individuals experience a lack of romantic/sexual attraction to others while they are in a relationship, and as a result, would tend to experience a great deal of hurt feelings and/or jealousy in a destructive magnitude in any other relationship style.

Monogamous Dynamic

A monogamous dynamic describes a relatively long-term closed sexual/romantic bond between two individuals, which may or may not exist simultaneously within other relationship dynamics (such as if one or both partners are sex workers, or if one or both partners is poly-friendly/polyamourous). It simply means that the dynamic between those two individuals is not open to the presence of additional parties.

Poly-Friendly

Poly-friendly describes an approach to a relationship in which at least one partner is satisfied by being involved in a single monogamous dynamic, but sees no threat to the relationship if the other partner initiates another simultaneous monogamous dynamic with someone else.

Polyamoury

Polyamoury describes a relationship style in which each partner (of which there may be more than two) negotiates a non-monogamous relationship in which their needs are fulfilled through multiple relationship dynamics, and the prospect of threatening feelings  (such as jealousy) is actively minimized as much as possible. In many polyamourous dynamics, this means multiple simultaneous monogamous dynamics, rather than a simplified sharing/swapping of partners. In some polyamourous dynamics, there are just one or two monogamous dynamics within an open relationship. In all polyamourous dynamics, all parties are consenting to being a part of a polyamourous dynamic (whether temporary or prolonged). Thus, polyamoury requires a great deal of work from all partners within the various monogamous dynamics and open relationships that compose each polyamourous dynamic. Polyamoury is distinguished from polygamy in that there may be no formal legal bonds in recognition of individual monogamous dynamics therein, whereas polygamy is plural marriage.

Open Relationship

An open relationship is an approach to a dedicated monogamous dynamic in which each partner is given the liberty to date additional people. Negotiation of open relationships often incorporates negotiation of boundaries such as the requirement for safer sex practices outside of the dedicated monogamous dynamic or the requirement that what happens outside the monogamous dynamic is neither solicited for nor freely disclosed.

Multi-Partnership

A multi-partnership is an approach to relationships in which terms like polyamoury or open relationship are not preferred, due to the implication that one particular dynamic assumes highest rank over all others. Individuals engaged in multi-partnerships may identify with any of multiple different relationship styles. Multi-partnerships may describe either the intersection of two ore more polyamourous dynamics or a group of equitable romantic/sexual partners who live together as a collective (all of whom may have a different relationship dynamic with one another).

Swinging

Swinging is a style of open relationship in which the primary partners enjoy watching each other pursue and engage with external casual sexual partners, who are typically also swingers (i.e., maximum pleasure for the maximum number of people).

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And I can’t really keep dropping terms like “power exchange” or “power dynamic” without talking about that either, can I?

 Power Exchange/Power Dynamic

Power exchange is the goal of any power dynamic: a person (referred to as the bottom) exchanges power over him/herself for the power to take it back again by using an agreed upon safeword. The person who wields this power over the bottom is referred to as the Top. The Top’s responsibility, while wielding that power, is to fulfill the specific desires the bottom has expressed (which are specific to when they are engaged in that role). Power exchange may be emotional/mental (i.e., dominance and submission, or D/s & protocol), physical (i.e., sadism and masochism, or S&M), and/or sexual (i.e., consensual sexual slavery/non-consent, role-playing, fetish, bondage, etc.). It may be a 24/7 lifestyle or something one only engages in on a date night.

Leather Family

A leather family is the result of multiple intersecting polyamourous power dynamics. Many people identify each other as siblings within leather families, and many leather families live as one or more multi-partnerships referred to as a leather household. A leather family becomes analogous to one’s biological family, gathering together to celebrate many of the same milestones (or analogous milestones) as one’s natal family did throughout childhood.

Old Guard Leather

Old Guard leather describes a strict set of protocol followed by entire communities of leather families within prior and present generations of gay and leather dyke communities. Protocol produced a hierarchical organization of community members, and restricted entry to new community members, who were required to start at the bottom in order to earn their place. This also produced and maintained safeguards against arrogant self-appointed experts or equally arrogant individuals who might try to disrupt long-standing power dynamics, thus discouraging dangerous influences within a community that was already at risk due to police raids at the time that Old Guard originated.  Old Guard protocol (including the Hanky Code) has become incompletely syncretised into heterosexual kink culture in recent generations.

8 thoughts on “#Sexuality101

  1. I totally agree with you optimizaro seo. I too will bookmark and check again often. Very real and informative and I love your taste in music :-)

  2. Thank you so much for these wonderful, caring, and insightful words.

    I would just like to point out that Stonewall (both the building and the riots) were located in New York City, and not San Fransisco. However, San Fransisco was home to the AB101 Veto Riots, which took place in 1991 (more on that here: http://www.autostraddle.com/twenty-years-ago-today-in-gay-history-the-ab101-veto-riots-112443/).

    Secondly, I would like to thank you especially for your description of sexual objectification versus sexual attraction. I identify as grey/demi-sexual, but it’s been a long and extremely confusing journey to get here (and one that I’m sure will continue). One of the ways I became aware that I experience sexuality in a significantly different way than many other people was through realizing that I rarely experience sexually objectifying other people, as you’ve described. Obviously, there are many and more aspects of my grey/demi-sexuality, but that was my starting place in figuring out something unusual was up. And, now that I have these words and ideas and their lovely and clear descriptions, I’ll be better able to communicate them to everyone I know : ) Thank you.

    Warm regards,
    April Q.

  3. Thank you for an interesting read. I even learned a new term (stone sexual)!

    I do have a few comments, though. First, just a quick aside on sexual objectification. It is worth noting, as you probably know, but readers might not, that there is also a fetish that goes by the same term. In this context, the term refers to a form of power exchange in which the bottom is treated as an actual object – often a piece of furniture such as a chair or a footstool, and finds sexual pleasure in being temporarily reduced to being regarded as simply an object. Granted, the chance that you’ll hear the term in that context is probably low unless you are already in the fetish scene, but, hey, it never hurts to be aware of it.

    The other thing I want to discuss, or rather ask about, are the terms sexual orientation/preference/attraction. While these may seem clear and distinct at first glance, my experience suggests that they’re rather more overlapping than that. Unless one simply strictly defines sexual orientation to be “the gender(s) to which one usually finds oneself sexually attracted”, it seems to me that other markers can be just as important. I know people who claim to be rather exclusive attracted to people who act in a certain way towards them, e.g. in an authoritative manner*, that this is at least as central to their attraction as gender, and who consider this part of their sexual orientation. I, myself, have found that while the persons to which I find myself attracted mostly identify as women, the shared factor in my attraction is rather certain expressions of femininity and androgyny. Luckily for me, my attraction overlaps well enough with the concepts of heteroflexibility (or even heterosexuality) that I can round myself “up” to that without much trouble, as the distinction is of little practical consequence, and only really appear relevant in deeper discussions of sexuality and sexual orientation.

    To me, putting sexual orientation – the sexual attraction towards certain gender(s) – hierarchically above other markers of attraction seem potentially problematic, as it denies the experience of those who do not see that distinction as the central one to their attraction.

    Any thoughts on this?

    *Obviously, this social appearance does not always match the persons sexual preferences.

    • I’ve thought about your response for a while today, and what strikes me immediately is that you are conflating several concepts as if they were all the same thing. For instance, asexuality is a sexual orientation — one which is not typically characterized by the experience of sexual attraction of any kind, so it is not appropriately described as “who you are sexually attracted to”, as you have personally defined sexual orientation (trying to quote or perhaps paraphrase me).

      I also took the time to re-read my writing to make sure that my instincts on this very matter weren’t completely off in left field, seeing how it’s been quite some time since I wrote this piece, and what do you know. They’re right on.

      It also seems to me that when you are talking about your specific interests in kink or the gender expressions you find yourself most immediately drawn to, that you are again talking about how you individually experience sexual attraction towards other people.

      Finally, I really strongly disagree with your claim that “sexual objectification” is an unfortunately named fetish describing consensual behaviour such as being used as furniture (which ten years ago, was actually described as “forniphilia”, if I recall correctly). I’ve written about sexual objectification, as an explicitly non-consensual behaviour, because that is exactly what objectification is. There is no regard for the consent of the person being objectified. It does not involve a negotiation process. It is experienced on a daily basis by women and people who are trans*, socially read as trans*, or gender-diverse, in the form of unsolicited, non-consensual behaviours such as street harassment and sexual assault.

      There is no relationship between consensual power exchange and sexual objectification, except in the minds of people who do not understand the distinction between objectifying another human being (i.e., using someone else’s body to essentially masturbate) and engaging with their sexual orientation (i.e., learning what turns that person on and doing it with them, with their consent and full emotional participation). If you believe that this is actually more prevalent within the current dominant kink scene than it was when I left it two years ago, then I’d strongly advise you get the hell out of it (like I did) before either you or anyone you care about gets hurt. This dangerous lack of distinction is how and why people rape.

  4. Thank you for your reply. It seems you actually look at sexual orientation in a slightly wider way than how I read the post. However, the way you define sexual orientation above is still based on gender, as I read it (“[…]how an individual person expresses that the people they are most attracted to tend to embody and/or identify with one or more gender groups”), including the lack of sexual attraction.

    I had a long paragraph here, but I figured it could be condensed into a single question: What is the essential difference between sexual orientation and other things to which you find yourself drawn to? The best answer I can think of is that “orientation” is what you define as your core sexual identity, which could be, and for most people is, a matter of gender preference. However, I have at least two friends who would traditionally be labeled asexual, and who only find their sexuality within the context of a situation of power exchange. I do not see that this is, essentially, any less of a sexual orientation than my (approximate) heteroflexibility.

    • I don’t see what makes one person sexually/romantically attractive over others of the same gender expression/embodiment as sexual orientation. I see that as a distinct and narrower phenomenon of sexual attraction (or, unhappily in many more instances, sexual objectification — something I have experienced being hurled at me by other people disproportionately more often than genuine sexual attraction).

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