James W. Hicks, M.D.

Archive for the ‘Flexercises’ Category

Truth or Dare

In Flexercises on November 23, 2010 at 6:42 pm

Most men and women have their first same-sex experience in the context of experimenting with a friend. Teenagers and young adults spend most of their time, and feel most comfortable, with friends of the same sex, at a time when hormones are flowing and sexual curiosity is high. Friends tease and test each other while pushing their affection to the limits, often becoming closer to each other than they have ever been with anyone before. It is only natural for sexual tensions to develop.

Friends have always found ways to explore each other without advice from others. But many also feel guilty or confused or miss opportunities because they have not considered their options. You may find yourself looking back with regret at the times when a friend gave you an opening and you were too surprised, nervous, or inexperienced to take advantage. In that spirit, I list some of the common ways in which young men and women create opportunities for mutual sexual discovery. If you find yourself in one of these situations, you will be better prepared to steer the encounter in a more interesting direction.

“Truth or dare” is a time-tested game which gives players permission to reveal secrets or engage in shocking behavior. For the game to work, the one posing the challenge must pretend to be intent on embarrassing the one who is commanded, who in turn must pretend to resist. In fact, each player takes turns exploring the others’ limits while projecting and pursuing their own desires. “Spin the bottle” and “strip poker” create similar opportunities in the guise of punishment. Young men and women play each of these games together, and the excitement of mixing sexes is part of the fun.

Young men are fascinated by their new-found ability to get an erection, and they want to share this discovery with their friends. Many teenagers have joined a “circle jerk” at some point in their younger years, where they compare the sizes of their erections, the speed with which they reach orgasm, or the trajectory of their ejaculations. Hazing rituals in fraternities may involve similarly juvenile, sexualized acts, such as being confined naked in close quarters with other pledges. After a few drinks, “straight” guys may find themselves patting each other on the butt, working out naked, or unzipping their pants and comparing genitals. Once that boundary has been crossed, and sexual excitement has been demonstrated, another dare, question, or casual gesture can lead to frank sexual exploration, even if the fun is “forgotten” in the next morning’s hangover.

Young women similarly compare the size and shape of their breasts and practice kissing with each other, which can lead to making out. Women can hold an x-rated version of a Tupperware party, where they compare and purchase sex toys. Groups of women also sometimes find themselves discussing the elusive G-spot and may assist each other in finding that sensitive portion of their vagina which is so poorly explained in books. What starts as innocent exploration of their bodies may turn into sexual play. After all, why wait for a man if a more knowledgeable woman can help you practice and attain the orgasm of a lifetime?

Sleepovers are a particularly good setting for sexual exploration. Women are more comfortable with physical intimacy to begin with and may share a bed or cuddle, and that may be satisfying enough or lead to something more. Men often wake in the middle of the night to find that they have an erection, which, though involuntary, may serve as an excuse for sexual teasing, touching, or making out. Camping trips, snow storms, movie or computer game marathons, late-night studying, or being too drunk to drive home may all serve as excuses for spending the night together, sharing a bed, and getting to know each other better.

Falling in Love with a Friend

In Flexercises on October 14, 2010 at 3:00 pm

What should you do if you and a same-sex friend have found yourself unexpectedly fooling around or falling in love with each other? Perhaps you both think of yourselves as straight, and you don’t know how to fit what has happened back into your friendship or your world view or your concept of yourself. Should you just pretend that nothing happened and move on? Should you talk about it with each other? Would you be betraying your friend to talk about it with someone else? Do you want it to happen again, or do you want your friendship to turn into something more?

These are difficult questions, but they are not unique; they also come up when a woman and a man fool around after a long time as just friends. The difference is that many in this situation panic, fearing that they might be gay or be perceived as gay. If you can set that fear aside, recognizing how common these experiences are for otherwise straight men and women, then you will be able to concentrate on working it out with your friend at a relaxed pace. Resist the pressure to figure out what happened; go with the flow. Even if you decide you are gay or lesbian, your friend may not be.

If your friend is in a state of panic or defensive denial, you may want to signal that you do not consider the event to have redefined who you are or your view of your friend or your friendship. He or she may be worried that the special relationship you have is in jeopardy and may need reassurance.

Coming Out as Bisexual

In Flexercises on October 12, 2010 at 3:00 pm

Coming to terms with ones sexual orientation and coming out to ones friends and family are viewed as markers of a successful adjustment for gays and lesbians, but does the same developmental process apply to those with flexible sexual interests?

How do you come out when your identity is defined by flexibility, experimentation, and open-mindedness rather than labels and categories? Many give up on finding a label. Even some gays and lesbians have surprised themselves (and their friends and family) by coming out a second time as bisexual after discovering that their potential for affection and desire was broader than they had realized.

A Zen-like attitude may be more useful for those who have flexible sexual desires. You do not need to fit into a box. You certainly do not need to define yourself as gay, straight, or bi. Be mindful and accepting of your potential for affection and desire for both sexes, and see where those interests lead you. Recognize that your sexual flexibility is natural and not a shameful and solitary affliction. You should find someone with whom you can speak honestly about these feelings, whether within a friendship, a chat room, or a local club or support group, because it is difficult to keep such feelings completely secret, and you may need someone’s encouragement or advice. But you do not need to tell everyone; if you do, be prepared to explain over and over that no, you are not really gay. Even parents may prefer to think you are gay than to be left in limbo, uncertain with whom you will form your next relationship. (“Alright, Mom, I’m gay. Yes, I’ll go on a date with the nice [boy/girl] you met at church. Give [him/her] my number.”)

If you are in a relationship, should you come out to your partner? It may be easier to reveal your bisexual feelings than to lobby for a threesome, but even talking about your attractions in the abstract carries some risk if your partner holds misconceptions. You might want to approach the topic this way: “Of course I find both women and men attractive. Everyone does to some extent. Men and women aren’t that different from each other.” If asked about your past experiences, you can refer to the high rates of same-sex experiences that even straight men and women have, with reference to the research. Flexible sexual feelings and behaviors cannot be abnormal if they are so universal.

The Eyes as a Sexual Organ

In Flexercises on July 28, 2010 at 10:02 am

Your eyes may be your most important sexual organs.

When we make eye contact with someone we find attractive, the shared gaze triggers an automatic smile, and our brains release hormones that contribute to the feeling that we have made a personal connection. These hormones, oxytocin and vasopressin, are also released during sexual arousal, at orgasm, during breast-feeding, and when parents gaze at their newborn babies. They seem to be responsible for emotional bonding.

When two people are “hot” for each other, it is because these hormones have triggered the release of dopamine in the brain, creating a feeling of excitement, confidence, focus, euphoria, and passion. These are the same feelings we experience when using drugs or gambling, and the mechanism is the same. This is why Romeo and Juliet, who fell in love after catching each other’s gaze from across the room, remain the quintessential example of passionate love. After all, what did they know about each other, aside from what they could gather from their eyes?

You can be as randy as a cat in heat, but no one will know if you are uncomfortable making eye contact. By meeting the gaze of another man or woman and holding it for a fraction of a second longer than usual, you can signal your interest. Most of us are culturally conditioned to avoid staring, and if someone glances at us, we quickly look away. This instinct is even more pronounced in East Asian cultures, which value privacy, deference, and saving face. A penetrating gaze is more acceptable, at least for men, in many Middle Eastern, Mediterranean, and South Asian cultures.

If you stare at someone who catches your interest, you run the risk that they will not reciprocate and may feel uncomfortable. After all, not everyone enjoys being the target of someone else’s sexual interest. There are many social contexts in which it would be unwise to stare, because you may be perceived as predatory. For example, you do not want to sexually harass your colleagues at work. But eye contact is a fairly safe method of testing the waters, because if your target is not sexually interested, he or she will likely not even notice or look away quickly rather than return your gaze.

Try making eye contact with men and women whom you find attractive. You may already be doing so with the opposite sex, but you will be surprised to find how many of the same sex will also return your gaze. Some may hold eye contact out of curiosity rather than desire, but that at least indicates a certain amount of comfort on the other person’s part. Others may look surprised, flattered, or disinterested.

Once you start making eye contact, you will notice that many women and men have been looking at you too and will smile when you reciprocate. You cannot reasonably judge a person’s character just by making eye contact, but you can at least begin to assess whether they are as interested in you as you are in them.

Embarking on a Threesome

In Flexercises on July 2, 2010 at 6:15 pm

You realize that you’re attracted to both men and women, but you’re already in a straight relationship. What do you do? You could have a sexual experience on the side, as about one in four men and one in five women do at some point during their marriages, but this poses both ethical and practical problems. Rather than keeping secrets from your partner, wouldn’t it be better to explore your options together?

A declaration of bisexuality by one person in a couple poses some problems. First, your partner may be upset that you are interested in having sex with anyone else, regardless of their gender. Second, your partner may hold one of many stereotypes about bisexuality and fear that you are really gay, or at least confused, and that your love and desire were never genuine. Your partner may become outraged, allege that you are having an affair, suspect that you have concealed prior homosexual experiences, and conclude that the two of you are incompatible.

That is not a desirable outcome, though it is a risk you may be willing to take, as an alternative to having an affair or leaving important feelings unexplored for the rest of your life.

It is best to raise the topic of your sexual feelings cautiously in order to gauge how your partner will react. You can mention bisexuality in general, ask your partner about his or her prior feelings and experiences with the same sex, make reference to mutual friends or family who have come out as gay or bisexual, explore his or her interest in having a threesome (with the combinations of genders you think he or she would prefer), and gradually reveal your own curiosity. You may find it helpful to first introduce role-playing, fantasies, or pornography with bisexual themes into your love making, to prime his or her sexual interest. Or ask your partner to take the Flexuality Test.

Your partner’s reaction may surprise you. Some may be relieved that you’ve broached a topic that has been on their mind. Perhaps he or she has always wanted to try a threesome but has been afraid to say so. Some may have never considered it but become sexually excited at the possibility. Many men would enjoy having sex with two women, and many women would enjoy having sex with two men, so long as they are confident in the stability of your relationship.

Rather than feeling deceived, your partner may feel that your disclosure is a sign of your trust and commitment to a growing and deepening relationship. Relationships can evolve, just as people do, and this may introduce an exciting change. A positive outcome is more likely if your partner is open-minded about sex to begin with and has some understanding that bisexual desires are commonplace and natural, not deviant and rare.

On the other hand, you both need to be realistic about the risks of opening up your relationship, such as jealous reactions, falling in love with a mutual partner, or starting down a slippery slope away from sexual commitment.

Finding a partner can also be a challenge, though you may have someone in mind. You may be able to pick someone up at a bar or on a cruising Web site, some of which allow you to set up a profile as a couple. If you are trying to pick up a stranger, one or the other of you may serve as bait, flirting and then explaining the situation to the man or woman whose interest you have captured. If you want to invite a friend into bed, do so cautiously. Even close friends may be shocked to discover that you have sexual designs on them. Explore your friends’ attitudes towards sexual practices and swinging before you pop the question. Don’t assume that they anticipate or share your interest.

Once you work things out with a stranger or friend, keep in mind that you may have different preconceptions or desires in terms of who will be doing what to whom. You may want to establish ground rules with your partner ahead of time, and you may want to explain your preferences to the third party and establish his or her expectations before you get into bed. But that can also have a chilling effect and reduce the spontaneity and excitement that are a part of love making. I recommend keeping the discussion to a minimum, but be mindful of any discomfort or pleasure that arises. You might enjoy things you hadn’t anticipated trying.

What if you’re in a gay or lesbian relationship and want to explore your heterosexual side? The same principles apply, as with a straight couple, and the same risks. A gay or lesbian partner may be more understanding, if only because he or she is likely to have had prior heterosexual experiences. On the other hand, after struggling to come out and come to terms with a minority sexual identity and battling homophobia, your partner may be upset that you are contemplating sliding back to the majority. Your expression of opposite-sex desire may feel like a slap in the face and trigger feelings of abandonment, especially since many gay couples feel particularly fortunate to have discovered each other and to have built a relationship against the odds.

Chat Roulette

In Flexercises on June 25, 2010 at 2:40 pm

Anyone who doubts the nearly universal potential for bisexual behavior and interests should spend twenty minutes on Chat Roulette.

For those who don’t know, Chat Roulette is a relatively new internet phenomenon which allows you to chat with a series of random strangers from around the world. Everyone who visits the site becomes part of the mix. You and your chat partner are visible to each other via your web cams, and you can each end the conversation at any time with the click of a button and be flung to your next random partner.

Because there is no sign-on or membership, your participation is completely anonymous, and the site has become a giant social experiment, revealing how people behave with each other when there is virtually no accountability. Most people turn out to be curious and friendly. Sure, about a quarter of the participants at any time are faceless men jerking off in front of their camera. But if you can get past that, you can have surprisingly deep conversations with someone you don’t know and will never see again.

And what do people talk about on Chat Roulette? They ask, where are you from? what do you do? and are you gay? Most participants are male, and you will find that many, if not most, identify themselves as “mostly straight” or “bi-curious” or “experimenting” or say they are unwilling to restrict themselves to a label. Even those who initially say they are straight begin to ask themselves why they’ve never had a gay experience. Before you know it, they want to show you their underwear or ask if you find them attractive, or they inquire about the mechanics of sex between men. And many men from other countries (especially the Middle East and South Asia) quickly acknowledge that they are attracted to both men and women, even though they might be married and have children.

I’m not sure what the Chat Roulette experience is like for women. There are few women on the site, and many seem to be men masquerading as women with video loops. Statistically, it might be difficult for a woman to find a female partner to chat with.  Are the women on the site as heteroflexible as the men?