- Gender and Relationships
Arousal and Sexual Orientation
One way in which people can experience deep internal strife is through sexual arousal. Those feelings of arousal and attraction usually aren't the painful part. The real sticking point is whether or not those desires change our sexual orientation.
I can’t understate the pain this causes many people. At the same time, it’s such a simple, natural affair that I feel very sad when I hear about people taking their own lives or mistreating themselves because of this.
Let me just preface this by saying that arousal and sexual orientation are NOT the same thing. They might be related in very deep ways, but they are not interchangeable. They are different languages entirely.
What is arousal?
I think we all know what arousal really is. Basically, arousal is the sensation of physical attraction. It can be towards pretty much anyone or anything. Heck, sometimes people are aroused by music, literature, weather, tides, or whatever else stimulates them. It’s a physical and emotional rousing of desire, often sexual and/or romantic in nature.
What is sexual orientation?
Sexual orientation is a way of defining your physical and emotional attractions to humans (or objects). We usually define our sexual orientation through gender and sex, but not always.
Some of the most common sexual orientations are heterosexual, homosexual, and bisexual. For more information, please visit my hub on the different types of sexual orientations.
Already we can see that there are some subtle differences. One regards physical impulse, whereas the other is specifically geared towards other humans and what some people would call “lifestyle choices.”
Can I be aroused by people who do not fit into my sexual orientation?
Absolutely! Arousal is such a beautiful, luminous thing. It highlights the parts of life that we find stimulating, and not always in physical ways.
Let’s say you are a male who considers himself heterosexual. Therefore, you are generally aroused by biological females and, more often than not, the social practices of femininity. Remember: being feminine is not biological. What it means to be a woman changes across time and space.
Perhaps you meet another man who behaves in a way that reminds you of socially feminine behaviors. This can cause you to feel arousal and attraction to a man, despite your heterosexuality.
This is not a problem, nor is it a bad thing. In fact, it means you’re feeling, perceiving, and sensing – those all mean you’re alive! That’s a wonderful thing.
Many men struggle when they find themselves aroused by anyone who is not biologically female, but it does not necessarily mean they are homosexuals. It takes time and deep self-awareness to understand exactly what brings about arousal.
Yet still, many people experience arousal even when the other people are not exhibiting behaviors characteristic of masculine or feminine individuals. It is extremely natural and also human to find yourself aroused through conversation and physical encounters. It happens. Humans enjoy being close, physically and emotionally, to other humans. We don’t need to take into consideration what lies between the other person’s legs to generate a meaningful connection.
But, society tells us that we should. We’re taught that we should only feel this way or that way to other people, and that what lies between their legs is a really big deal. I respect that, but I also think it’s more important to follow what feels right than to listen to what society tells us.
Chris Tina Bruce on "Sex, Gender, and Sexual Orientation"
"The fact you feel anything is a sign that you’re alive. Many people feel so deadened inside that they can’t feel aroused at all!
Arousal is a gift. Appreciate that, whether or not you decide to act on those urges."
To reiterate, arousal does not equate sexual orientation. However, sexual orientation should often dictate something of your general patterns of arousal. If you’re heterosexual and are rarely aroused by individuals of the opposite sex and find individuals of the same sex to be very arousing, you might be homosexual. If you feel aroused by individuals of all genders and sexes, you might consider yourself bisexual or pansexual.
Consider sexual orientation an indicator of general patterns of arousal. Arousal may be a one-time or occasional thing, whereas sexual orientation is what happens most of the time.
The only way to really know who you are is to listen to your gut.
You can try to analyze what all of this means until you go crazy. I’ve heard of far too many people harming themselves because of differences between arousal, sexual orientation, and social expectations. This does not and should not have to happen.
The fact you feel anything is a sign that you’re alive. Many people feel so deadened inside that they can’t feel aroused at all! Arousal is a gift. Appreciate that, whether or not you decide to act on those urges.
And remember that arousal is no one’s business but yours. You do not have to change how you identify yourself sexually if you don’t want to, and there’s no reason for everyone else to know what’s going on between your legs. That’s your business, and yours alone.
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