A woman I am friends with was married to a man for a good number of years and before him she was only ever involved with men. Their relationship stopped working and the next person my friend ended up falling in love with happened to be a woman. This story is more common than you may think, in fact there’s a whole book of similar accounts called Dear John, I Love Jane.
The question that invariably comes up in these situations is, were they always lesbian/bisexual or is this a new development in their sexual orientation? and can our sexual orientation change over our lives? Now, obviously the answer to the first question varies woman by woman but the answer to the second question is an emphatic, yes. Sexual orientation is a fluid thing that can certainly change over time, especially, according to experts, for women. This isn’t to say that men’s sexuality can’t also be fluid but there is some evidence to say that men have at least a slightly more rigid sexuality.
Many women who discover the fluidity of their sexual orientation have a difficult time fitting it into one of the neat little boxes that we have created for them. Often they will change their sexual identity from lesbian to bisexual (even back to straight in some cases) over and over again, not necessarily ever settling on one that feels most comfortable. This to me seems like just an other reason to do away with the notion of cut and dry sexual orientations and start to view sexuality as a moving point on a spectrum. One has to wonder if we would ever have had the kind of sexual orientation system that we have now if the world were run by women!
It is often said that men’s sexuality is totally rigid and that they are unlikely to change orientation over their lifetimes, but that idea is becoming less and less popular. I think it would be fair to say that men have more of a tendency to rigidly focus on one kind of sexuality or orientation than women do, but it is by no means completely fixed in all cases. This rigidity may, however, account for why paraphilias are so much more common amongst men than women. Men account for the vast majority of “unusual” sexual interests such as necrophilia. As Justin Lehmiller puts it on his blog, The Psychology of Human Sexuality, “men are just more likely to become fixated on a specific sexual target, whereas women tend to become aroused by a wider range of stimuli.”
What is interesting is that, for both men and women, there are far more people who are willing to admit that they are at least somewhat attracted to the same sex than there are who will actually identify as bisexual. There is so much stigma attached to any kind of non-hetero orientation and that could be skewing the statistics about sexual fluidity. Who knows, our own internalized homophobia could be keeping us from realizing just how fluid our sexual interests really are.
Bi-, Hetero-, and Homosexual are all just terms that didn’t exist before the 1860’s anyways. Like most things in life, our sexuality doesn’t fit neatly into one of these categories. Now we just have to wait for society to catch up so that we can do away with sexual orientation (and dare I say, gender) all together. When Katy Perry kissed a girl and liked it, it wasn’t some scandalous thing, it was actually pretty boring and normal. It’s like writing a song about eating apples…and liking it.