We need to begin this post with a pure truth: definitions describe; they do not prescribe. Some definitions are by their nature comparative. For example, I could describe myself as tall while context might dictate that I am average or even short. Other definitions are strict.
When considering human sexuality, things exist on a spectrum but we have terms for different aspects of that spectrum. Consider the situation in which a man finds attraction only with women – heterosexual. If that man one day finds himself attracted to a man, bisexual, then that’s what he is. The same is true for a bisexual cis-woman who feels attraction to men and women even if she only dated one or the other. The definition is about the attraction, not the dating history.
Quick side note because this topic can get inflammatory fast: the definition of “man” and “woman” here is trans friendly. The science on gender indicates that the psychological, self-identity portion of the definition is crucial so one should not imply the “Other definitions are strict” comment to mean “Men are males and women are females.” We’re dealing with multiple layers of nuance here from biological sex and it’s corresponding gender to psychological gender (cis versus trans) to sexual orientation. These are closely related but nevertheless distinct areas.
And, frankly, one’s inability to understand that nuance should not (indeed, does not) reduce the significance of an individual or that individual’s basic human and civil rights.
I say that here less to admonish others and more to introduce you to the fact that I still have tons of personal questions about these topics. It has zero bearing on the inherent truth of the subject and everything to do with my ability to understand it.
For example, I have written in the past that my personal relationship with traditional femininity often leads me to question subconscious bias in matters of gender equality.
I am a male and heterosexual cisgender man, but my personality is such that I often find myself identifying more with the women’s side of issues. It makes it exceptionally easy for me to side against the “boys will be boys” arguments. I’m not a “man’s man.” As we get further into this piece, you will see that it’s far easier for me to side with feminist arguments against traditional gender roles than with the traditional gender roles.
In fact, I sometimes have the thought that if things were indeed optional (sex, gender, orientation) I would have preferred to be female, a cis-gender woman, and homosexual. On the other hand I think I wouldn’t because being a woman comes with far too much danger and undue struggle (part of what we refer to as privilege – I avoid these things simply by being male).
It’s also worth noting how distinct this is from the trans identity. I do not identify as a woman. I’ve never even had much cause to question it, which is saying something in my case because I am endlessly analytical and introspective. I’m a man, full stop. Someone identified as a man at birth who actually identifies as a woman is trans. What I am describing in my case is pure hypothetical. What a trans person experiences is identity and not at all choice. It’s who they are.
That brief insight into my thoughts is necessary as we branch into another term: demi-sexual. Learning this term re-shaped how I viewed my sense of the world because I used to view myself as a heterosexual with a sub-average sex drive. Most hetero men, it seemed to me, saw attractive women and developed pretty immediate sexual attraction or not. That was not my experience and I assumed it was lower testosterone levels or some other thing.
A demi-sexual is someone who requires a strong emotional connection with someone before developing a sexual attraction. I did not become a demi-sexual, I simply learned a term that better defined what I already was.
Am I a Demi-Sexual?
Here comes the analysis and introspection. I began to examine the matter of why I might be demi-sexual and the more I explored the subject the more I began to question how true it was.
What if my demi-sexuality was a symptom of my psychological condition(s) that, once treated to some degree, would disappear? Perhaps I was not truly a demi-sexual but someone who experienced a particular repression that manifested as demi-sexuality.
I think each side of that debate has a key argument.
In the “yes, truly a demi-sexual” camp is the argument that immediate attraction makes little sense to me. While it’s true that I do not view all people as equally attractive (though I detest ranking humans on a number scale), I have also not looked at someone, registered them as highly attractive, and immediately drifted to thoughts of sex.
Why? I could see in some cases physical things being a disqualifier for sexual attraction, such as seeing someone as being in ill-health. To see someone and based on physical appearance alone think, “Sex would be great” makes no sense to me. Based on what exactly? Maybe there is some correlation, but I would wager that some gorgeously stunning humans are absolutely horrible when it comes to sex.
This leads to sub-arguments in favour of my demi-sexuality like the belief that personality components (are they selfish, are they kind, do they respect boundaries?) and my personal relationship with the person matter way more than physical appearance.
In the “no, not really a demi-sexual” camp is my obsessive-compulsive personality disorder (OCPD). Of particular note is the relationship with the sub-argument just provided: personality relates to performance and sexual compatibility. If you are a selfish person, you are probably awful when it comes to sex.
The argument fits in both camps because that’s not a quality associated with innate sexual orientation or a visual assessment. While it would require getting to know the person (pro demi-sexual) it’s also reflective of my moral rigidity associated with the OCPD (possibly anti-demi-sexual). That is, you are no longer attractive to me as a partner because I assume it would be awful because it seems you are an awful person.
A large part of my hesitation even with people I find sexually attractive is how well I know the person, which I consider another “not really a demi-sexual” argument. In these cases I do feel a sense of sexual attractive that I then override with OCPD concerns about how “good” the person is.
You can’t un-ring a bell, right? What if I had sex with someone and only then learned that there was something my OCPD could not tolerate about them? While I could re-shape my relationship with that person moving forward, I would have always had slept with them.
Also, what is sex without that emotional connection? If I am not deeply invested in this person, then does the person matter? My feeling was always that if I did not care about my partner as an individual, then she was nothing more to me than, pardon the crudeness here, a hole for my own amusement. That level of depersonalisation and disrespect is unimaginable to me – how am I supposed to be in the mood in that situation?
Similarly, knowing that I am making my partner absolutely crazy does way more for me sexually than any of the physical sensations. It’s the other side of that same coin. Knowing that I am the one providing an amazing experience for her, that it’s as much about me being the one there as it is the experience in general, makes everything infinitely better.
My personal sense of sexuality seems to fall somewhere shy of demi-sexuality then. The OCPD concerns seem to push me across the finish line, but if I didn’t live with the nauseating sense of moral failure (which in this case includes such a familiar association with someone with whom I could not continue a relationship) then I might be more willing sooner.
Misandry, Feminism, and Simple Preference
Another honest factor of my thoughts on this is my attitude towards women. I tend not to discuss this because it’s far too easy in the modern world for this discussion to go off the rails, but I find women more interesting in virtually every respect. I think that ties back to the recurring thought that I might prefer being a woman if it were a choice and the world did not tend to be awful to them.
In most respects it has to do with variability and nuance more than anything. My personal experience is that women tend to possess more of both (generally speaking) than men. It’s a big part of what we call toxic masculinity – pushing men towards a monolith.
I also see this reflected in the way society treats women as “too much” on a regular basis. Too talkative. Too quiet. Too promiscuous. Too Puritanical. Too athletic. Too bookish. And an individual woman is not one or the other – she is both depending on the situation. I think that is indicative of society’s recognition of greater nuance in women even though we clearly suffer from a lack of tolerance for it.
Anyway, all of this is to say that I prefer women not just as a matter of sexual orientation but also in the everyday. That itself comes with a grain of salt because I am a socially anxious introvert, so interacting with anyone for an extended period is taxing to me. But guys, with the hyper-masculinity and “know everything about everything” tendency really taxes me. A phrase that often piques my interest with men is “I don’t know.” The guy who openly admits, “I don’t know what I’m talking about” with a topic is usually a decent guy.
What feels weird is the relationship between sexuality and sex. On the one hand, no, I am not sexually attracted to every pretty woman I meet. As covered earlier, I do not understand why appearance correlates so strongly with sexual desire for the average person (not condemning it – I personally do not understand it. I can’t get in the frame of mind). I do understand that men (again, in general) make women uncomfortable though.
Those relationships work, but the thing that some men seem unprepared to understand is that it requires patience rather than “niceness.” Niceness is the tendency of the wolf in sheep’s clothing. Patience is the virtue of a sincere man actually interested in another person. The latter is about sincere kindness and allowing a woman the time and space to evaluate and trust that sincerity. Niceness is a gimmick assholes use to expedite the process out of self-interest.
A natural question related to this might be my views on monogamy. As with other things, I believe the topic has nuance. I, for example, am in a monogamous relationship with my wife. The reason for that is not that I feel having more than one partner is morally reprehensible but rather that I know how much it would hurt my wife. Even with a guarantee that she would never find out, the fact that I know it would hurt her makes proceeding anyway morally reprehensible.
Am I free as an individual to make whatever choice I want? I honestly believe the answer is yes. I can decide to have sex with someone else. The consequence of that is damaging my relationship. I cannot take the decision without the consequence. Because I do not want to damage my relationship and because I do not want to hurt my wife, I would not make that decision.
This is where I often feel annoyance towards those guilty of infidelity. In a relationship that allows for a partner to have other partners, fine. What I usually find is that the guilty party is aware of the consequences and actively trying to avoid them. That is what bothers me about affairs. It’s what bothers me about a lot of things really. Not only does a person do a bad thing, they also seek to avoid consequence for it.
The other side of this, relative to the topic of sexual attraction though, is that even being around women, finding some physically attractive, and even developing enough of an emotional connection to develop sexual attraction, there remains a chasm between that and taking any action that I find exceptionally easy. Other people do not and I understand that.
How much freedom does my ease with sexual attraction create? Terms like “soy boy,” “cuck,” or “beta” just roll off me because it does not resonate. One sees the expression “hit dogs holler” online often, and those accusations simply do not hit. Coming mostly from men, they do reinforce my preference for women though.
It also makes it easy for me to understand and empathise with feminist positions, which occasionally casts doubt on whether I support them because I identify with the logic of the positions or because of unconscious bias. Even if the position is sound either way, I believe it is important to understand them because they are true rather than because they agree with my worldview. The how and the why matter.
Long story “short,” this is the mental carousel I experience when examining my sex, gender, and sexual orientation within the context of my mental health. Clearly there is some relation amongst them all, though I do not know to what extent.
While both sex and mental health remain stigmatised to some degree, I think it’s important to examine the relationship between the two in order to lead a healthy life.
3 thoughts on “Mental Health and Sexuality”
This is a fascinating exploration, and of course I appreciate all of your attention to definition and nuance, too. I especially found your point on patience vs. “niceness” insightful. While I have observed this difference as well, I had never put words to it in this way. As usual, you hit the nail on the head with it, and I found that paragraph particularly succinct.
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Thanks! “Put into words” is my only real skill in life haha
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Haha! Even if true, that just means you’ve found your greatest strength! And it’s a good one either way.
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