I was discussing the changing landscape of sex and sexuality with someone, when they busted out this gem
“Everyone needs a label these days, they’re just trying to be cool. Back in my day you were straight or gay”
Instead of silently reaching into my pocket for a fistful of glitter to slowly dump over their head, I decided to unpack the idea of labeling sexual feelings in an article. This one in fact.
Firstly, the human brain has a strong instinct to make sense of its surroundings. That is one of the reasons we have survived this long and claimed the top spot on the food chain. We naturally gravitate towards familiarity and situations we can work out using learnt logic, the same as our ancestors did when working out which berries weren’t poisonous and where to hide from a saber tooth tiger. Changes are dangerous to our instinctive brain. This goes some way to explaining why many people struggle to accept anything unfamiliar to them. It’s easier to write things off as a fad, than to understand them in a meaningful way.
It is important to remember that sexualities such as bisexuality, asexuality, pansexuality and demisexuality are not a new thing. They are not fancy badges of cool made up by people wearing tight jeans and ironic band t shirts. They are legitimate orientations that have been written about for centuries. In an ideal world we wouldn’t need labels or names. We could just be. However, until that day putting a name to how we are feeling can be helpful in some circumstances.
There are teens sitting in schools around the country worried that they don’t feel the way their friends seem to feel about sex and relationships. Feeling like there is something wrong with them. It’s very reassuring to discover that all that stuff that’s swirling around your brain is not only totally normal, it also has a name and most importantly there are other people that feel exactly the same as you do. No you’re not a freak,and you’re not crazy.
Labels give people an identity. Not because they’ll seem interesting or edgy, but because it gives people a greater understanding of themselves, and of others. It’s also more practical. Would you prefer to listen to someone fumbling to explain themselves for 45 minutes or just a simple sentence like “Actually no I don’t have a partner because I’m aromantic”? It saves a billion more annoying questions about why they don’t have a partner and everyone knows where they are and who they are. Job done.
Here’s a few of the more common sexualities in society. If any have got you feeling like “Hey, that sounds like me” research further.
Aromantic – Does not feel any romantic desire for anyone. Has no interest in a romantic or sexual relationship with anyone.
Asexual – Does not desire sex or enjoy the act. Asexual people can feel romantically, but not sexually attracted to another person.
Bisexuality – Bi means ‘two’ and is the sexual and romantic attraction to one’s own gender and another gender.
Demisexuality – Falls somewhere in between sexuality and asexuality. A person who is demisexual is only sexually and romantically attracted to someone they already have an established bond with.
Heterosexuality – Are sexually and romantically attracted to people of a gender that is not their own.
Homosexuality. Are sexually and romantically attracted to people of their own gender.
Pansexuality – Attracted to others irrespective of their gender or sex. Pansexual people are attracted to the whole person without specific preferences.
The above list is not exhaustive. The human brain is so complex and has so many endless possibilities that the idea there is only one or two ways to express love, romantic and sexual feelings seems crazy. What we refer to as labels are simply words to sum up certain legitimate feelings a lot of people have. They will not bring about the fall of civilization, the four horseman or an arrow to the knee. Pinky promise.