In a recent interview for the New York Times, former Sex and the City star Cynthia Nixon made some comments about her sexuality being a choice. This angered many in the gay community, who believe she is playing into the hands of the Christian right, even though she only said that it was a choice for her and never mentioned anyone else. Quoting from the article she states,
“Why can’t it be a choice? Why is that any less legitimate? It seems we’re just ceding this point to bigots who are demanding it, and I don’t think that they should define the terms of the debate.”
I think she has a point and her comments made a lot of sense to me. Why should we let other people influence how we identify? It doesn’t seem very fair to me, to be honest. Let’s look at this issue of choice (or rather lack of) from a male standpoint. Quickly, what’s the most damaging stereotype thrown at men’s sexuality? I think we all know it’s that we are genetically disposed to hump on command, to always be up for it, that it’s ingrained, hardwired, we can’t help it. Men are rutting animals that will totally abandon all higher brain function when the merest promise of sex is placed on the table. What it really boils down to is we have no choice but to act this way.
Or at least that’s what some people, even prominent feminists who have recently been discussed on this blog and in other places, would have you believe, however well-meaning their intentions may be.
I’ve never found this explanation of male desire to be particularly truthful, but unfortunately it is the dominant way male sexuality has been defended, both historically and in the popular culture. It’s terrible and just as toxic as the belief that women are unlikely to know strong sexual desire at all. Also, after a while, that explanation becomes so all-consuming that in my darker moments I’ve started to wonder if it really is true.
However like many on this blog, both contributors and commenters, I believe gender is complex and hard to pin down, and I would say it’s very much the same thing when dealing with sexuality, as well. I’ve always classed myself as asexual, even though I felt desire, both romantic and sexual, for women. But I didn’t fit the mould of a straight man because the desire wasn’t particularly strong or particularly all-consuming like a normal heterosexual man’s is supposed to be, so I took to classifying myself as ace. Even though I never felt like I fit that mould either, needless to say, there were times when it could get quite frustrating and isolating, this not knowing, this sense of “you’ve got to pick a side.”
I feel like I’m in a better place about it now, though. Like I can go on knowing that the decision about whether I have sex or not is completely up to me. For now I identify as Grey Sexual, because that’s how I feel like identifying right now. I reserve my right to change it as and when I want to.
I just want to say, at this point, that I don’t actually know what causes a person to sexually identify a certain way and if you feel like it wasn’t a choice for you then I absolutely respect that position.