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Navels? Why would I gaze at those? - Tactical Ninja

Aug. 20th, 2014

09:55 am - Navels? Why would I gaze at those?

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Yesterday I peed in a cup for the fourth time in two weeks. This time there were no red blood cells. Apparently this means everything is ok and I can go about my business. However, I'm still getting pain over my right kidney, so it doesn't feel to me as if everything's ok. That's three doctor visits, one x-ray, 2 blood tests, 4 urine tests, and 8 weeks of osteopath treatment for no diagnosis and only a partial result (the lower back pain is gone but that's revealed this other thing, which doesn't respond to voltaren). I expressed some frustration about this to the nurse and she was all "What would you like me to do?" To which I responsed "I don't know, I'm really not the expert here, but I'm still in pain, and I'd like to know what's causing it so I can address it." She said she'd talk with the doctor and find out what, if anything, can be done. And she didn't charge me at all for the final urine test.

Yay?


I've had cause recently to question my sexuality. This is probably a lot less angsty than it would be if I were still a teenager, but it's also kind of confusing. I've always seen myself as heterosexual, and there is absolutely no doubt whatsoever that I think men are all that and a bag of chips in terms of attraction. However, it seems that I also respond to women. Or at least some women. And it isn't the same as the way I respond to men, which is a lot more obvious, so it's not as easy to be certain about what is actually going on. I know I like women, but do I like women *like that*?

Thing is, I grew up in small town NZ (read: 1 hour on the bus to the local area school that had 200 students) in the 1970s and 80s. Where I came from, homophobia was the norm and the only women-who-liked-women that were visible were those who had the courage to be open. They were few and far between, tended to fit the butch stereotype, and wore purple t-shirts of that colour that came to be known as Lesbian Purple. They hung out in the Women's Studies dept at the university and did not move in the same circles as me. I certainly was nothing like these women, and they were the only example I had of non-hetero sexuality. Other people assumed everyone was straight. I assumed everyone was straight. And part of this, for me, was not looking at women, not objectifying them, not going *phwoar* over them in the way it was perfectly fine for me to go *phwoar* over men.

So I didn't. I am very well trained, in the same way I'm well trained to suppress my sexuality around women because where I come from, a woman who is seen as sexual is fair game to men and a threat to women, and that has real and measurable consequences when your livelihood relies on people's goodwill. Being a eunuch around women is my default behaviour, and a corollary to that is that I avoid looking at women in the same way I'll look at men. I'm not supposed to, right? OK, partly this is to do with the general objectification of women and how I feel about that, but if I'm honest I didn't become aware of that until much later than when I trained myself not to look at women. Looking at a woman, like, perving at her, looking at her body all over, especially her crotch, feels like an invasion, something I shouldn't do, *wrong*.

And yet, when I'm surrounded by hot people doing hard stuff as I often am at circus, it's the women I look at first. Circus is such a thing that people tend to nonchalantly expose themselves in ways that would have been shocking to my teenage self. Women are not supposed to spread their legs like that! The horror! Only, it's not horrific, it's kind of hot. And admitting that to myself and allowing myself to actually look, has stirred up some very interesting stuff. I found myself asking why, if I'm only into men, do I spend so much time wanting to look at women? And deliberately not looking at women, for fear of.. what? Getting caught? Catching myself out?

So because I'm nothing if not proactive, I decided to perform some experiments on myself. Not like that, get your mind out of the gutter..

I subscribe to two Tumblr feeds related to circus. One is called HotCircus, and the other is NakedCircusFreaks. HotCircus is pictures of people doing circus stuff, that look hot. I don't agree with everything they say is hot, but a lot of it is. There is no gender bias in HotCircus, so there are plenty of pictures of women, and these women do not know I'm looking at them so I feel less weird about perving. So I do, and I've been making a point of being thorough about it. Not to beat about the bush, but I've been deliberately seeking out and looking at pictures of women's crotches.

Yes, this is a major breakthrough for me to give myself permission to do this. What I've found is that when I actually allow myself, I quite like it. Now, in my worldview, the crotch area isn't the most appealing bit on either men or women. I've always enjoyed the aesthetics of bodies. Women generally being more flexible (although nakedcircusfreaks has a lot of *very* stretchy men on it), they are able to make more pleasing shapes, and the woman's body (IMO) lends itself more readily to that combination of grace and strength that I find so admirable. So I've been able to pass off that type of perving as admiration, aesthetics, and anything but being turned on by looking at women. Until I look at crotches, at which point I can no longer dissemble what I'm feeling to myself.

Every good experiment needs a control group though, right? Enter NakedCircusFreaks.

NakedCircusFreaks is all pictures of men, and I suspect-without-knowing that it's aimed at a gay male audience. I am not linking to either of these Tumblrs btw because work, but NakedCircusFreaks is exactly what it says on the box. They aren't all naked (in fact last night I watched one of the best fully-clothed cyr wheel performances I've ever seen on there), but enough of them are, and there are sufficient gratuitous exposed, spread-butt shots that it seems obvious they are designed to appeal to men-that-like-men. If it were aimed at women, I suspect there'd be a lot more soft-focus, and the content would have more bulging biceps and fewer genitals, because that's generally what the world thinks women want to look at in a man. Me, I look at woman-aimed male erotica and feel vaguely manipulated, as if someone's going "I know what you want, Women." And that's not really a turn-on. So anyway, NakedCircusFreaks isn't designed to titillate women, IMO. But it does have its fair share of male crotches for me to perv at for my experiment.

What I found was that I would flick backwards and forwards between these two sites, first looking at the men, then looking at the women, and finding that my response to both of them was roughly the same.

Now, I'm less confused. I know that if I allow myself to look at women the way that I 'naturally' look at men, I have a sexual response to that. I have never been with a woman (apart from kissing and a bit of deliberately-safe-zone touching). I have been attracted to women in the past but only a very small number of women, and always after I've known them for a while, enough to be a little bit in love with them. And every woman I've felt like that about has been straight, so I've been able to pass it off as a girl-crush and move on without ever having to find out what might happen if. Convenient!

By the way, I don't expect anyone else to find this as interesting as I do, but for me it's a bit of a revelation. Especially the extent to which I've denied this side of myself for umpty number of years. I have no intention of rushing out and hitting on women willy nilly (is it still willy nilly if both participants are women?), because I have no reason to do that. I mean yes, part of me is going "Holy fuck what have I been missing?" but the more sensible part is going "All in good time, no rush." I am in a stable relationship of years with a beautiful man who is completely unfazed by me going "OHAI, think I like girls too ok?" and one of the fantastic things about this happening in my 40s is that the concept of delayed gratification is not purely abstract.

Where my life's at right now, this kind of thing isn't a big deal. I am very glad I no longer live in a place where everyone is threatened by my sexuality even if I'm straight (because women's sexuality is scary, yo), and where being even a little bit not-straight means social ostracism and being forced into a stereotype. There is no pressing need to prove anything, to myself or anyone else. My identity is pretty stable and this feels more like an extension than a change. I'd describe it as like that thing people feel when they go to their first burn:

"I belong here, how come I never realised that before?"

Don't worry, I'm not going to go all Burner-Evangelist on your arse - or any other part of your body. Not my style. In due course, if the opportunity arises, etc etc blah blah. But at least the door has started to open now.


So that's where I've got to with that. News at eleven.

[later] Just almost-shouted "I am not making this up" at my doctor on the phone. I'm pretty sure she believes me, but there is yet another doctor visit in my future, where once again we are back to "Is this musculo-skeletal or something else?" SO.FRUSTRATED.

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From:thesecondcircle
Date:August 19th, 2014 10:19 pm (UTC)

Preferences...

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So, I'm bi and my list of past sexual partners has included both men and women. Here's how I view this...

Every person has a list of things that they are attracted to (intelligence and good lips), a list of things they are NOT attracted to (jealousy and back hair!), and a list of things they don't care about one way or the other (introversion/extroversion and shape of feet). For example, some gentlemen prefer blonds, and some women go for the gingers, but for plenty of people hair color isn't a big deal either way. Sometimes it's a strong preference and sometimes a weak one and sometimes there's no preference at all.

For most people gender falls into one of the first two categories. Person is attracted to men, but not to women. Or attracted to women but not to men. For me however, gender falls into the third category. I don't have a preference. I'm attracted to certain men and certain women and gender doesn't really matter. Some of the things that attract me are the same for both genders and some are specific by gender.

I don't know if that's helpful or useful in thinking about your situation, but I thought I'd share my view on it. I'm pretty comfortable with this, in part because I'm in a safe zone (gaze upon my hetero-normative life!) and don't have to be "out" in any way. But it's always been a part of me and I think I'd be missing some perspective if I hadn't taken the opportunities to broaden my experience.

Also thanks for the tumbler recommendations. ;-)
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From:tatjna
Date:August 19th, 2014 10:23 pm (UTC)

Re: Preferences...

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Yes, that is helpful, thank you. I am not sure it's the same for me, but one of the things I'm very aware of here is that allowing myself to feel anything regarding women is so new and different for me that the finer distinctions you mention may take a while to emerge.

And yes, new perv-worthy material is always good! ;-)

Edited at 2014-08-19 10:24 pm (UTC)
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From:rivet
Date:August 20th, 2014 03:10 am (UTC)

Re: Preferences...

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I'm with second circle: attracted to people, who happen to have a gender. I like passion, competence, intellect, dynamism, contained sensuality, self-awareness, a quick wit, soft skin, radiant smiles and kissable mouths. Looking at pictures of crotches would not actually test for any of these things.

I've also found that what I like and am attracted to evolves over time, so I'm often in the position of having to reconsider whether what was true for me in the past is still true now. Which is kind of fun :)
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From:tatjna
Date:August 20th, 2014 03:18 am (UTC)

Re: Preferences...

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This is true. However, never having allowed myself to look at women in that way, it's a fair indicator of the sort of thoughts that enter my head when I do allow it.

I like all the things that you describe above too - they are not exactly repulsive characteristics after all. But there are also people I know who have those characteristics and yet I'm not attracted to them, along with others whom I've thought "I would" without knowing whether said person had those characteristics.

And I think that pictures of crotches are not a bad (ie, relatively safe for both me and the subject) place for me to start working out whether "I would" is purely academic when it comes to women.

I wish I were more elegant and refined in my approach, but hey, it's me we're talking about here. I start wtih base and work my way up.
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From:rivet
Date:August 20th, 2014 08:19 am (UTC)

Re: Preferences...

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I like your approach to science :)
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From:missprune
Date:August 19th, 2014 11:28 pm (UTC)
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I get that. I want to know what is going on. I would be glad for a FIX but that will never feel like an answer, without the understanding. It's very difficult to get medical people to talk about the situation at the level of "what is happening and why?"
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From:tatjna
Date:August 19th, 2014 11:31 pm (UTC)
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It's mostly just frustrating. I've been doctor-avoidant most of my adult life (to the point where I didn't even go in when I demolished the ligaments in my ankle) because I have little faith that they will be able to do anything beyond what I can figure out for myself.

I had hoped with this, that they would at least be able to provide me with some information about *why* I am having mysterious pain in my back that doesn't limit my movement, what with tests and science and shit. So far, my hope has not come to fruition, and so it feels like wasted time and money.
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From:pundigrion
Date:August 20th, 2014 12:28 am (UTC)
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Oh man do I hear you with the doctors. When faced with something they don't know, it seems like most of them just throw their hands up and go, "Whelp, I'm stumped!" and send you on your way...
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From:tatjna
Date:August 20th, 2014 12:32 am (UTC)
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I am having this weird and somewhat self-defeating response to it, in which the doctor is supposed to call me to discuss my options, but when my phone rang last night with an unknown number (probably her) I ignored it because I don't want to talk to her right now.

I assume I'll get over this fairly quickly.
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From:pundigrion
Date:August 20th, 2014 12:36 am (UTC)
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Heh, I do that to my doctor rather often, but only because I don't keep my phone on my person at all times, so I usually miss the phone ringing. I'll hear it on the last ring....and they've already hung up and are leaving a message. Then phone shyness kicks in and I have a hard time calling back.
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From:tedwords
Date:August 20th, 2014 04:37 am (UTC)
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One must love...and respond to...any entry that begins "yesterday I peed in a cup for the fourth time in two weeks."

This is why I think you are so groovy.

Personally, I think all human sexuality exists on a spectrum. We are none of us 100% straight or 100% gay. Well, most of us aren't. I may like guys, but I sure as heck like flirting with women...it always makes my day!
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From:tatjna
Date:August 20th, 2014 04:53 am (UTC)
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Yeah, I've always thought it was a spectrum as well, but it seems that where I thought I was on it vs where I actually am on it was either wrong, or has changed. Also, men are easy. I know what to do with men. I've been *taught* all my life what to do with men. Women? Probably much less complex than I think, because I am one and I'm not that hard to work out - but by the time I get to fancying a woman I'm already partly emotionally invested and that means SCARY.

Also, how come everyone else has this shit well sorted out by now?
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From:meathiel
Date:August 20th, 2014 07:06 am (UTC)
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Hope your doc finds out what it is ... not very satisfying at the moment, eh?

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From:tatjna
Date:August 20th, 2014 08:27 pm (UTC)
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It really isn't. I kind of feel like I don't want to keep going back to the doctor because it's becoming increasingly unlikely that they'll actually be able to help me.
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From:jaelle_n_gilla
Date:August 20th, 2014 01:25 pm (UTC)
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I hope the doctors find out what's wrong. I hate it when they go: "We can't find anything. You're fine" and you want to scream "NO I'M NOT!!!" But you can't because you were well brought up and don't scream at other people.

As for the sexuality - I don't want to "talk you out of it" by no means. There is just something that might be interesting in addition. One: A lot of women find a female body nicer to look at / more attractive than a male one, even though they identify as totally heterosexual. Those two things are not necessarily coupled.

And Two: For a study they put glasses on people that tracked eye movement in order to find out which gender checked out which body part in the other gender first. They were utterly surprised to find that all the women, *especially* the heterosexual ones checked out the *female* in a newly arriving couple, not the dude. They explained it that's because we (females) are checking for competition while men check for potential partners. Makes sense, too, being "the rare resource".

After I read that, I notice it in myself more often too. Women are nicer to look at (in most cases), and I check out the competition more heavily than the less - um - competitive specimen of my gender ;-)

Just another way of looking at things.

It's good to know you feel secure in your sexuality and you may allow yourself to go where you want to explore as the situation arises. That's the fun about not being a teenager any more :)


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From:thesecondcircle
Date:August 20th, 2014 05:43 pm (UTC)
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For me there is a very clear difference between aesthetic appreciation and sexual attraction. Human bodies can indeed be very beautiful, but looking at someone and thinking "wow great form" is different from "wow, I'd hit that in a heartbeat, yowza!" Not to mention that I'm sexually attracted to people more because of their personalities and intelligence than because of their physical form.
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From:tatjna
Date:August 20th, 2014 06:43 pm (UTC)
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I've been aware of that 'women look at women' thing for a while - don't even get me started on the way we are trained to see each other as competition. So it's something that I've been considering along with all the other stuff. I guess the distinction I'm trying to make is the one thesecondcircle mentions: do I want to look at women or fuck them, essentially.

This is complicated by the fact that I tend to be attracted to a whole package rather than a body, and also that for whatever reason, I have never allowed myself to really look at women. Ergo, I am letting myself look in a safe setting and gauging the response. It's interesting.

Edited at 2014-08-20 06:45 pm (UTC)
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From:jaelle_n_gilla
Date:August 21st, 2014 07:33 am (UTC)
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I think it goes further down than "social training". I think there's a basic instinct behind that as well. When Lucy the Australopithecus had three little children and one coming, her and her offspring's life depended on the fact that her partner stayed with her and provided food. Anyone challenging that would have been competition and eyed very carefully, if not bitten and clawed on arrival. Men on the other hand had an interest to impregnate another mate and spread their genes when Lucy wasn't looking, hoping they'd get away with it without having to provide for the new babe too.

But then of course society and church and all those popped in and made it "rules" and "sin" and "boys will be boys" vs. "good girls go to heaven".

I understand the concept of being attracted by a whole package :-) I know exactly the bodily attributes I'm attracted to in a male, but from experience I also know that those guys aren't good for me. Over time, attraction changed towards character and intellect, but of course bodily aspects still help :)

And I've been attracted to female character and intellect as well but without the body, it seems to be limited to friendship. And I will never be able to say how much of that is nurture and how much is nature for me.
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From:tatjna
Date:August 21st, 2014 08:53 am (UTC)
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I have never bought the line that early women needed men to provide for them because children. From what I understand, stone age societies were very, well.. social. The groups relied on each other to survive, and often the women gathered more food more reliably than the men did, and food was shared. The women would mostly spend time in the company of other women, and that's who would be doing the real work of raising children.

I don't see why having a male provider would be a necessity when living in a situation like that, and I have actually had proponents of evo psych admit to me that the male-as provider, monogamous couple marriage was invented as a way of ensuring that men knew they were passing their property on to their own children, once societies started to become agrarian. Men as providers and women as in need of provision was part of the spin that went along with that.
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From:jaelle_n_gilla
Date:August 21st, 2014 02:32 pm (UTC)
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We'll never know what pre-historic society really looked like unless we get The Doctor to take us there in the TARDIS. It's probable that Neanderthal groups behaved like that, and it makes sense since they were all genetically related. Providing for your nephew is still 1/2 as valuable as providing for your own offspring. Nevertheless at some point the transition of ape - everyone provides for themselves - and human - we're family - must have happened. Approximately at the same time evolution decided that babies needed to be carried instead of attaching themselves to mommy's fur, and from pregnancy month 8 or 9 to at least 1/2 year, mommy was in more danger of wild animals because she simply couldn't run as fast. Providing did not only mean gathering food, but also defending herself and her offspring from whatever came along with a hunger.

There's also the theory that women (as the only species) hide their conceptive days so society would work at a group level at all. I.e. men wouldn't fight over the one ovulating woman, and it's a good trick to make sure your man can never prove 100% that it's not his offspring he's feeding. Monogamy and more specifically virginity is highly likely a male invention, I agree, for knowing what they provide for and who to leave property to. But "virginity" is not biological. That's a society thing.

I know there are many other theories around that somehow always smack of politically correct hopes and assumptions that can't be proved or disproved either way. In many cases that would be a lot of guesswork.
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From:tatjna
Date:August 21st, 2014 06:35 pm (UTC)
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There is no doubt that some evo psych theory has academic merit. The trouble is that it's most often espoused by a particular type of man, in an oversimplified form that attempts to justify a status quo that is disadvantageous to me as a woman. I'm not about to let them get away with that.

Edited at 2014-08-21 06:36 pm (UTC)
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From:thesecondcircle
Date:August 21st, 2014 07:40 pm (UTC)
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Evo psych attempts describe the behavior of prehistoric humans based on modern conceptions (like nuclear family groups, mother-only nursing, and traditional gender roles). And then in reverse it judges the behavior of modern humans based on prehistoric peoples without acknowledging that we evolve over time. It's circular and un-scientific.
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From:jaelle_n_gilla
Date:August 22nd, 2014 08:35 am (UTC)
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Hee :-D And well you shouldn't.

There is no excuse any more for hitting a woman over the head with a club and dragging her into a cave by the hair, no matter how "natural" that behaviour may have been for a cave man (I doubt they did that but you get the drift).

Personally, anthropology was an eyeopener for me during college. It explained so many behaviours I saw in modern people.

Should you ever come across Tor Noerretranders' "The User Illusion" I'd highly recommend that. It's about the illusion of the conscious mind (not so much sociological or gender-sepcific but down to the brain level). It also explained a lot to me.

Edited at 2014-08-22 08:37 am (UTC)
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From:ferrouswheel
Date:August 23rd, 2014 05:37 am (UTC)
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The book looks super interesting. Added to my reading list!
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From:tatjna
Date:August 23rd, 2014 09:11 am (UTC)
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Hahaha I knew you'd say that. In fact I looked on your shelf to see if you already had it. ;-)
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From:jaelle_n_gilla
Date:August 23rd, 2014 10:29 am (UTC)
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I hope you'll enjoy it! :)
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From:warriorsavant
Date:August 20th, 2014 03:10 pm (UTC)
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Any number of women have told me that they enjoy looking at women's bodies from a purely esthetic, not sexual point of view. Not sure if I believe them, but it's something to consider. Or you might be, or partly be, "bi-". (Which doesn't necessarily mean you'd act on it and so risk your current relationship.) Not sure if bisexuals necessarily react to same sex ppl the same way they react to the other sex. Certainly bisexuals have the "advantage" of two different genders to annoy them. Anyhow, enjoy your experimenting
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From:tatjna
Date:August 20th, 2014 06:57 pm (UTC)
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I think it's difficult to separate innate behaviour from social training in these matters. I can totally understand the aesthetic appreciation of bodies of all genders, and I can understand it being both a real thing and an excuse for perving. And we are all taught from day one that women are decorative and available for inspection.

Likewise, having a different response to different genders wouldn't surprise me, given the amount of gender-difference training we are immersed in. Like I said further up, all my life I've been taught how to respond to men, not women. So I am somewhat lacking in bases for comparison. Still, interesting.

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From:adam_0oo
Date:August 24th, 2014 07:51 pm (UTC)
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I have a lot of attractive female friends, that I can appreciate, for aesthetic reasons, are attractive. I can recognize someone as being attractive, without being attracted to them in a sexual way though. And I can know this difference because occasionally I will see my attractive platonic friend in a sexual fashion and then WILL be attracted to them.

My vague point is that you probably treat men this way now and now will start treating women this way. Being possibly bi-sexual doesn't mean you have to think about women differently all the time, and thinking about them in that way sometimes is totally fine.
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From:kehleyr
Date:August 20th, 2014 09:43 pm (UTC)
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By the way, I don't expect anyone else to find this as interesting as I do, but for me it's a bit of a revelation. I find it interesting myself :-).
I think you might know but I'm BI so yeah I find myself attracted to both men and females :-).
*love*
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From:tatjna
Date:August 20th, 2014 09:49 pm (UTC)
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One of the things I am painfully aware of is not being disrespectful to people who identify as bisexual with my somewhat flailing attempts to work out what's going on with me. It seems that everyone else 'just knew' when they were really young, and here I am in my 40s going "Am I just a late starter, so fucking repressed that it's taken this long to acknowledge this? Or am I imagining it?" How do I find out? Particularly, how do I go from wondering to knowing without trampling all over what can be a very sensitive topic for people who've lived with the negative consequences of bisexuality all their lives?

oops, blurt. ;-)
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From:kehleyr
Date:August 20th, 2014 09:58 pm (UTC)
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Just be honest with yourself... and your significant other and go from there. Just be open :-).
*so much love*
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From:tatjna
Date:August 20th, 2014 10:27 pm (UTC)
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<3
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From:kehleyr
Date:August 20th, 2014 10:31 pm (UTC)
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♥♥♥
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From:thesecondcircle
Date:August 21st, 2014 07:43 pm (UTC)
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Agreed. You have a great partner who I have no doubt will be supportive of your discovering more about yourself. As for how to find out, all the suggestions I can think of sound like a WHOLE LOT OF FUN. So really it's a win/win. ;-)
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From:tatjna
Date:August 21st, 2014 08:41 pm (UTC)
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Hehe true - he is all kinds of awesome and not at all fazed by any of this. He's almost the opposite of fazed, and has been fantastic even when I email him going *flail* about it. ;-)

<3 Dr Wheel
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From:adam_0oo
Date:August 23rd, 2014 03:12 am (UTC)
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I had this exact experience, more or less. Through exposure to porn and over time kind of doing an analysis of what bits I was focusing on, what pictures I liked and what tended to get my motor running, I came to a similar "Ohhhhhhh, that is maybe what that means" moment.
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From:tatjna
Date:August 23rd, 2014 09:12 am (UTC)
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If you don't mind me asking, what was your conclusion?
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From:adam_0oo
Date:August 24th, 2014 12:52 am (UTC)
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That I am bi.

I think sexuality is a spectrum, people can be way into one thing or kind of into several things or way into everything. Also you can feel different at different times. Obviously, culture and upbringing has a huge affect on you as well. I was a part of the casual homophobia that most people were a part of in high school and my attitude didn't really change until I was exposed to more gay culture and gay people.

So, mine is something I am still exploring, though mostly in my mind and online, as I am in a committed relationship.
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From:tatjna
Date:August 24th, 2014 02:33 am (UTC)
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Thank you. You're the first person I've talked with about this that's had anything like the same type of experience as me, and I was starting to feel quite alienated by how sure everyone else was of themselves. I really appreciate your input here.
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