At a party, my new friend V. was ogling a blonde.

“Lovely, isn’t she?” I said. “Killer legs.”

He gave me a blank look.

“I’m bisexual,” I explained.

“No you’re not.” He laughed. “I know for a fact you’ve never slept with women.”

In my most ironic tone I thanked him for enlightening me, but how did my love of naked breasts fit into his equation?

“If you did sleep with a woman,” he said, “you might end up hating it.”

“Hold on a mo, Sir Lancelot. Let’s keep to the here-and-now.”

To make my point, I offered the following scenario: A teenage boy called Tom has never had sex, but identifies as gay. Tom can’t be bothered with topless women, but the sight of Jimmy Jones from Tech class sucking a ballpoint pen makes him hard as heck.

“Okay,” said V. “He’s gay, I guess.”

I explained that I, like Tom, haven’t had a same-sex partner but still feel a strong sense of who I am sexually. Sure, I might sleep with a woman and find I didn’t like it, but my identity is now, and unrealized desires are a part of that. We’re not solely defined through the people we’ve slept with. For instance, what about the use of lesbian erotica or heterosexual porn? If our erotic tastes contribute to who we are, then the fantasies that stir us are key. What do we like to imagine during solo sex? What arouses us? Now that’s relevant stuff.

Of course, V. is right in believing that our desires can shift. Though we don’t necessarily wake up one morning saying, “Wow! I want to give bondage a go!” we do often surprise ourselves. Buffy the Vampire Slayer explores this brilliantly. In season six, Buffy finds herself in a BDSM relationship with a vampire called Spike – a role that takes her completely by surprise and also helps her to face her own pain. Plus in season seven, Willow claims she started having gay sex because of one woman, Tara, rather than women ‘per se’. The writer and director, Joss Whedon, along with his team, explores sexuality with real elegance and feeling. The shows encourage us to ask each other, “Who are you?” and truly listen to the answers.

…If only good sex education was easier to come by. In my British high school Biology classes during the eighties, I learnt all about condoms, but nobody encouraged us to reflect on what we longed for or who we were. In spite of my attraction to women as well as men, I assumed I was heterosexual because I’d been raised that way, and it took me years to start loving my bisexual self. If someone had taught me that a man who has a wife isn’t necessarily heterosexual, and a woman who only dates women won’t necessarily kick Brad Pitt out of bed, I’d have been far happier. These days, though I know I may never sleep with a woman, it still feels wonderful to know myself.

In order to keep growing, I believe we should strive to be open about our sexual selves. If we’re gay, let’s own it. If we’re kinky, let’s own it. If we don’t yet know, let’s own that too. And when people try to tell us who we are, let’s set them right.

At the end of the party, I asked V., “How do you identify?”

“I’m heterosexual, of course.”

With a wry grin, I extended my hand. “I’m bi. Nice to meet you.”

The photo accompanying this post is by Suicide Girls from Los Angeles, CA, USA (Rambo).

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LANA FOX became a sex writer when she realized she couldn't shut up about the subject. Her erotic stories appear in collections by Harlequin, Cleis Press and Xcite, including Best Women's Erotica 2011. A graduate in Psychology, English and Education, she is a regular featured blogger at the Good Vibrations magazine. Lana is also at work on a novel. Find her online at: www.lanafox.com.

24 responses to “The Hot Topic: A Totally Relevant Turn-On”

  1. M.J. Fievre says:

    Very insightful. Never thought about how our fantasies define us as much as our actions.

  2. dwoz says:

    So then, you feel that there’s a distinction between sex and sexuality?

    I ask that not just from the perspective of opportunity…or is it just about opportunity?

    • Lana Fox says:

      Thanks for your thoughts. Here’s what I think: Yes, absolutely – even if we never have sex with someone else, we can still have a rich sexuality. And though opportunity doesn’t necessarily affect sexuality, it can affect sex. One of the wonderful reasons we have sex workers is so that opportunities can be broadened – though then we get into financial opportunities…such a huge topic!

  3. Simon Smithson says:

    A particularly relevant scenario is that of people with physical impairments, say, quadraplegics. If they can’t physically perform sex acts, that doesn’t – in any way – change any form of self-identification.

    Welcome to the party, Lana!

  4. Zara Potts says:

    Great post, Lana!
    Interesting subject and probably one that a lot of people have not actually given much thought to. I think if everyone could think as logically and clearly as this, there would be a lot less misunderstanding in the world.
    Very seldom is anything purely black or white.

  5. Alana says:

    Hi Lana,

    Thank you for the post. Bisexuality fascinates me, mainly because ambiguity fascinates me. Why should I have to regard or experience anything, especially sexuality, as black-and-white?

    Because people like to put everything in boxes, that’s why; we label ourselves to death. We’re supposed to pick a team right, establish an alliance? I don’t know. Bah!

    I joined a bisexual support group in college and the primary lament of all the members was that no one (gays or straights) regarded bisexuality as legit. Bisexuals merely rode the fence.

    Who said we should live not outside the box but as if there isn’t a box to begin with?


    • Lana Fox says:

      Hey Alana! Your comments are so wise and true. These pick-a-team ways of thinking drive me bananas too. As bisexuals we are open to so much, and yet there are folks who insist on seeing us as “less” rather than “more”. Grrr! Thanks so much for commenting. Such a pleasure to see you here.

    • dwoz says:

      Back some years ago, I had a friend who was bisexual (he). Commenting on his leanings once, he stated that of the two of us walking into a club, one of us (him) had TWICE the opportunity to leave with a partner.

      Have to admit, he had a point.


  6. Lana Fox says:

    Zara and dwoz! Thank you! 😉

  7. dwoz says:

    Speaking as a fairly staunch hetero, I see absolutely ZERO ambiguity in bisexuality, save perhaps for the disassociation of sex from procreation. But that’s hardly a uniquely bisexual conundrum, is it?

    I don’t know if my own self-identification has anything to do with that opinion, but my hetero-ness stems from my utter personal indifference to same-sex-sex, not from aversion to it.

  8. Gloria says:

    Thank you for saying this and bringing the discussion to the table.

    The people who know me well know that I have had sex with both men and women and that I find women sexually attractive – but that I 100% identify as heterosexual. And, actually, it took many experiences and much reflection and a whole lot of time thinking about the very things you mention here to find myself so firmly rooted in that sexual identification. How can I say with assuredness that I’m straight after clearly stating that I’ve had experiences that may identify me as otherwise? Because I say so. So there.

    Very interesting. Thanks for the discussion. And welcome aboard!

    • Lana Fox says:

      Thank you, Gloria. What you say makes absolute sense. You are who you are, and you do the world a huge favor by honoring that. I raise a pint and toast you!

      • Gloria says:

        Well, I’ll tell you: it’s a lot easier to honor it (or even understand it myself) after 12 years of living in super liberal/progressive Portland, Oregon than it ever was when I lived in the redneck-imbued desert southwest.

        But thanks, lady!

        *clinks glass*

  9. dwoz says:

    Well then, what exactly IS a self-sexual-identity?

    A Curriculum Vitae, or a Mission Statement?

  10. jmblaine says:

    ah yes
    a long time
    I think we discussed
    some years back
    the need for a TNB
    sex column.
    So sorry to miss the photo
    of Ms Rambo though.

    Please collect
    & call your book
    “Hard as Heck: Sexual Algebra for the New Neurotic Erotica Times”

  11. Lana Fox says:

    “Hard as Heck: Sexual Algebra for the New Neurotic Erotica Times” – Genius!

  12. Matt says:

    Welcome aboard, Lana!

    I’ve always found it interesting – if perplexing – how people feel comfortable with labeling/pigeonholing the sexual identity of others, as your new friend V. did with you. Why? Why the need to assign a “hetero/homo/bi/a/pan” sexual label to the urges and desires of others, especially when those urges don’t impact the labeler in any way? It’s curious.

    Looking forward to more of your work here!

  13. Lana Fox says:

    Yes, isn’t it strange, Matt? In fact, there’s an interesting article up at AlterNet today (link below), which touches on what you, Gloria and the other folks in this thoughtful thread are bringing up. There are so many different feelings, experiences, expressions… I guess there are defense mechanisms at play – some folks find it more comforting to make either/or definitions, perhaps, than face the truth that most of life is a beautiful mix of many shades.

    Thank you for your kind welcome!

    The article is by Kenneth M. Cohen and Ritch C. Savin-Williams:


  14. Reno j. Romero says:

    good deal, lana. first: welcome to TNB. great piece. spending most of my life in L.A and Vegas i’ve been around bisexuality by the pound. for years (early 20s) i didn’t understand bisexuality. i figured you want to bang one of the other – why muddy up what’s already muddy. in essence, it sounded like too much work. in my experience dealing with one sex was more than enough. way. but these days i see things differently. and you nailed it: you may have humped boys/girls exclusively but you may gaze across the table one curious day and go: hmmm. me? no. i like women period. but i can look at brad pitt and see that’s he’s one hot fucker. it is what it is. tony saragusa? no. he’s ugly and that’s all he’s to it. in fact, that mug will make “straight” chicks and hop the fence and i wouldn’t blame them one bit. fantasies are amazing. they bring out the dionysian in us and that is fandamntastic and as pat o’brien would say: “fucking hot!” it’s a keeper gay, straight, bi, or whatever. cheers.

    reno j. romero

  15. Lana Fox says:

    You say it so well, Reno. “It is what it is.” That’s exactly it. Whoever decided that thoughts and feelings didn’t count as much as actions got it very wrong. What would we do without fantasies? Life would be bland. And I believe that if more of us allowed ourselves to enjoy and express there’d be less war, less cruelty, and more love, dammit.

    Dionysian! Fandamntastic! How true. I’m never going to be afraid to give my fantasies a name – or surprise myself.

    Thank you for reading and commenting. Great to meet you.

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