Sex Questions from the Twittersphere: Sexual Orientation

Dr. Carol Queen answers sex questions from our social networks.

Q: can a gay encounter, as a virgin’s 1st ever – shape their life long sexual preferences? i’m str8, first f** was with a man – STILL curious

There are two distinct ways to look at this. In this culture we hear sexual orientation referred to in such exclusively binary terms most of the time that this question essentially asks if one orientation can supersede or overlay another one — and actually, that’s one of the conservative worries about homosexuality and other sexual variation: that too much exposure will take a “normal” person and turn ’em kinky. Certainly all our sexual experience (and other experiences, for that matter) are part of each person’s overall lifepath, and many things can influence us in one direction or another as far as sexual, relationship, and other choices go (our college major, where we choose to live, what job we pursue, what we read… this list is really pretty endless, because all these experiences and choices in the aggregate make each of us an individual).

However, some elements of your identity are understood to be built-in and not subject to simple choice. This is why many in the gay community (and many sexual scientists) now dislike the term “sexual preference” to refer to a person’s sexual orientation: this makes it sound like a choice, and many argue that orientation is inborn.

Even if you take piano lessons, you’re not a musical prodigy unless you’re wired to be; even if you’re given hot chilis to eat, if you don’t like the experience, you may avoid eating them for the rest of your life. One sexual experience, including your first one, does not make you gay or straight. (Loads of gay people had straight sexual experiences before they came out, and they aren’t interesting in repeating them.) But if an experience is pleasant or curiosity-provoking, or if one identifies around it in some way, it might become an experience you consider important, even one you choose to repeat.

Which brings me to the other way to look at the question: If you are interested in the other sex (I don’t use the term “opposite sex,” I don’t think we ARE opposites), have had an experience with someone of the same sex, and are open to having more such experiences, the word “bisexual” might be a more appropriate label than either “straight” or “gay.” Now, you don’t have to take on any label at all (lots of people say “I’m just sexual,” or call themselves “bi-curious” or “open”) — your sexual feelings are your own, your orientation yours to define, and the way you integrate sexual feelings into relationships can also take many forms. For some people, sexual feelings are fluid and subject to change, and as you accumulate more sexual experience, the balance of your interests may shift. Or that may not describe you at all, and you may remain a straight person who had one same-sex experience (and you would be far from alone in this). The more informed you become about sexuality, the better you will understand and feel comfortable about your options — and the more you accumulate adult sexual experiences, the more your first experience will be put into the context of your ongoing sex life.

–CQ

Related at Good Vibrations:
Bisexual’s Guide To The Universe
LGBT / Queer Sexuality Book Selection

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Dr. Carol Queen

Carol Queen has a PhD in sexology; she calls herself a "cultural sexologist" because her earlier academic degree is in sociology: while she addresses individual issues and couple's sexual concerns, her overarching interest is in cultural issues (gender, shame, access to education, etc.). Queen has worked at Good Vibrations, the woman-founded sexuality company based in San Francisco that turned 35 years old in 2012, since 1990. Her current position is Staff Sexologist and Good Vibrations Historian; her roles include representing the company to the press and the public; overseeing educational programming for staff and others; and scripting/hosting a line of sex education videos, the Pleasure-Ed series, for GV’s sister company Good Releasing. She also curates the company's Antique Vibrator Museum. She is also the founding director of the Center for Sex & Culture, a non-profit sex ed and arts center San Francisco, and is a frequent lecturer at colleges, universities, and community-based organizations. Her dozen books include a Lambda Literary Award winner, PoMoSexuals, and Real Live Nude Girl: Chronicles of Sex-Positive Culture, which are used as texts in some college classes. She blogs at the Good Vibes Magazine and at SFGate's City Brights bloggers page and contributes to the Boston Dig. For more about her at carolqueen.com.

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