James W. Hicks, M.D.

Posts Tagged ‘flexamorous’

Married Man Discovers His Flexuality

In Stories* on October 11, 2011 at 10:35 am

The Secret (Sex) Life of A Middle-Aged Married Man
Rex Oso
October 6, 2011
Huffington Post

Thanks to a reader of the blog for tipping me off to this post by a man who has fallen in love with another man late in his marriage.

Visit the archives to see all Flexuality posts!


In Ask the Doctor*, Sexual Types on April 8, 2011 at 7:49 am

Q: What if someone is asexual, as in completely uninterested in having sex at all with anyone, not out of fear, but simply out of boredom? Is this a sign of depression? What if said person doesn’t feel the least bit mentally stressed or poorly but, in fact, perfectly healthy?

A: I have received several questions like this, and also several comments expressing dissapointment that “asexual” is not a category recognized on the Flexuality Test. The point is well taken, because asexuality has become a self-defining sexual identity for many people, and not just one end of a dimensional measurement of sexual desire or behavior.

As with other types of sexual orientation, any discussion about asexuality is complicated by a multitude of definitions (does it refer to attraction, desire, behavior, or identity?), and even more so by a lack of research, though a couple of interesting exploratory studies have been published in recent years.

Perhaps the most common and useful definition is the one implied by the question above: you are asexual if you lack sexual feelings. You may find other people attractive in an aesthetic way, but not in a way that triggers sexual arousal or desire. Like many asexuals, you may have engaged in sex, if only out of curiosity or to please a partner, but you wonder, “What’s the big deal?” You are probably able to masturbate, but you may experience orgasm as a relaxing, physical release unaccompanied by sexual fantasy and craving. You may be concerned about your lack of sexual interest, since everyone else is so impressed (if not preoccupied) by sex, but you do not feel you have lost some necessary feeling.

Some people find themselves romantically attracted to others (either men or women or both), but the romantic feelings are not accompanied by a desire to have sex. Some people choose not to have sex, even though they experience some sexual desire, and this might be better characterized as celibacy. But those who choose to be celibate may do so, in part, because they experience less sexual desire or arousal to begin with.

For more information about asexuality, and to make contact with an internet community of asexuals, check out the excellent web site of the Asexual Visibility and Education Network.

As a psychiatrist, I should point out that some people lose interest in sex for medical or psychological reasons, such as depression or hypothyroidism. Some people have learned to fear and avoid sex, sometimes because of painful, coercive, or otherwise distressing experiences, but this seems to be distinct from the more neutral disinterest experienced by those who consider themselves asexual. If you are troubled by your lack of interest in sex, if you dread sex, or if you have experienced a change in your level of sexual desire and functioning, then you should probably consult with your doctor or a therapist.

As some readers have pointed out, asexuality is not explored on the Flexuality Test. Some questions assume that the test taker has some sexual desire (aimed at people of the same or opposite sex, or both). My intention was not to deny asexuality as a type of sexual orientation in an overall scheme. Rather, my project has been to explore only those dimensions that contribute to a spectrum of bisexual feelings and behaviors. I similarly excluded from consideration many other areas of interest, such as age preferences, sexual addiction, and fetishes. Of the categories discussed on this blog, the flexamorous sexual type is probably most likely to overlap with asexuality, in that the gender of the partner may be unimportant for some asexuals who have romantic feelings but little desire.

“Flexamorous” Replaces “Polyamorous”

In Announcements, Sexual Types on March 25, 2011 at 6:23 pm

Update (4-7-11): I have decided on the term “flexamorous,” which retains the association with love while emphasizing fluidity and flexibility rather than implying a multitude of partners. Thanks to everyone for your advice. I will be replacing the terms throughout the blog and on the next version of the Flexuality Test.


Several of you have suggested that I consider a name change for the polyamorous sexual type. The term is already claimed by men and women advocating for the right to have, and the benefits of having, concurrent loving relationships with more than one partner.

One reader of this blog pointed out that my usage of the term encroaches on a marginalized group’s efforts to clarify and establish a minority position. It may also confuse people who take my test or who share their sexual profile results with others, unaware of the differences in usage. I agree that this is counterproductive.

“Polyamorous” has a romantic sound that nicely fit the description of my sexual type. The next best term I have come up with is “ambiphilic,” a term that is already in use in chemistry, but that pre-existing meaning (molecules that are attracted to both water and oil) is unlikely to confuse and may even be seen as symbolic. Unfortunately the word also sounds a bit like “amphibian.”

I’m open to other suggestions. Please comment if you can think of a better term that captures those who have the capacity to fall in love with others, regardless of the other’s gender. Then I’ll revise the term throughout the blog and on the test.

Comedian, Travon Free

In Flexible People on January 18, 2011 at 9:44 am

The young stand-up comedian, author, and former college athlete, Travon Free, has joined the small rank of celebrities who have declared themselves bisexual. His coming out is unusual not only because he is male, but also because he is black. Read his coming-out essay on his blog, which eloquently describes his evolving sense of his sexuality, his challenges and supports, and his relationship to god, religion, the black community, and college friends.

Free describes himself as sexually interested in both boys and girls since he was 14 years old. He’s had relationships with both men and women and is currently in a relationship with another man. He politely resists suggestions that he is “really gay.”

In terms of the sexual types defined in this blog, Free might be ambisexual or flexamorous, two categories which obviously overlap. But why parse, since he is proud and comfortable with the term “bisexual.”

You can also read more about Free on his professional web site, but be sure to read his essay.

Movies about Women in Love

In Media on September 17, 2010 at 5:55 pm

Many movies portray bisexual women, even leaving aside those that feature gorgeous murderers that play into male fantasies and fears, like the character played by Sharon Stone in Basic Instinct.

Rent, the movie of the Broadway musical by Jonathan Larson, is one long anthem in praise of human sexual diversity, but it specifically features the bisexual performance artist Maureen. The supersexual Maureen has previously dated the musical’s narrator, Mark, is on the verge of “marrying” a lesbian attorney, Joanne, whom she loves, but continues to flirt unapologetically with potential sexual partners of both sex.

Fried Green Tomatoes, based on the book by Fannie Flagg, tells the story of life-long love between two women growing up in the South. One is a bit of a tomboy; the other (Ruth, played by the fabulous Mary-Louise Parker) marries a man and has to be rescued from what becomes an abusive relationship. The relationship between the women is not described as sexual, but it is implied that they are in love, and Ruth is probably flexamorous. Their story inspires the heterosexual passion of a modern housewife played by Kathy Bates.

The Incredibly True Adventures of Two Girls in Love is just that, a tale of two high school girls (Randy and Evie) who discover they love each other. The movie never suggests that either girl is bisexual, but they are both young and might fall in love again. Having chosen love over conformity, their options are wide open (though the movie is so beautiful and the characters so lovable, who would ever want to imagine them drifting apart from their first love).

Bisexuality in Fiction

In Media on August 23, 2010 at 8:16 pm

It should not be surprising that the complex reality of sexual desires are captured in some of our best novels.

One of my favorites is Vikram Seth’s 1986 novel, The Golden Gate, which defies all expectations by being incredibly enjoyable in spite of being set in rhyming sonnet verse. Believe me, you have to try it! The book tells the story of several young adults in San Francisco, including Phil, a man who has been left by his wife and is raising a young son, who finds himself falling in love with another man. Phil could be described as open-minded and flexamorous, but his lover is restrained by his religious beliefs that homosexual acts are sinful. The book is a beautiful celebration of the attitudes of the Bay Area in the 80s and 90s.

As Meat Loves Salt, by Maria McCann, is a historical novel set in England during Cromwell’s civil war against the crown. The author not only renders the speech, smells, and tastes of the period convincingly, but also the sexual possibilities in a world before the invention of “gay” and “straight.” The two main characters are both men who are unquestionably bisexual (without thinking of themselves in those terms) in both their physical desires and romantic attachments. The book is stunning, haunting, upsetting, erotic, and an utterly convincing artistic rendering of the expression of bisexual desires in a previously unfamiliar cultural context.

And of course, the international best-selling Millenium Trilogy by Stieg Larrson (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, The Girl who Played with Fire, and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest, the last of which came out in English just this year) features an ambisexual, computer-hacking heroine. The series is now being rendered in movies, with fierce speculation about which Hollywood acress will play Lisbeth Salander.

Fluid Female Sexuality

In Research on August 8, 2010 at 3:01 pm

‘Late-Life Lesbians’ Reveal Fluidity of Sexuality
by NPR staff
August 8, 2010

An interview with Lisa Diamond, the researcher I mentioned in an earlier post, about women who find themselves unexpectedly in love with another woman later in their life.


In Cultures, Media on July 23, 2010 at 1:14 pm

In 2005-2006, the HBO miniseries Rome amazingly recreated the politics and personalities of the Roman republic on the verge of becoming an empire under Julius Ceasar. The acting, sets, music, and story are fabulous.

Among it’s other virtues, Rome portrays several different types of bisexuality in an accurate historical context.

Early in the first season, Octavian is taken to a brothel by the soldier Titus Pullo, where he is offered a range of men and women to choose from. It is taken for granted that men are ambisexual and might want to have sex with both genders.

Octavian’s sister, who has previously loved and been married to a man, is successfully seduced by her mother Atia’s arch-enemy Servilia, an older woman who had previously been in love with Julius Ceasar. (Yes, it’s a bit of a soap opera, but so much more.) Atia’s daughter is flexamorous. Servilia’s feelings are unclear.

Servilia also employs a 14 year old psychopath as an assassin who is supposed to poison Atia. This versatile young man becomes a servant by offering himself as a sexual bottom to the senior slave of Atia’s household, but he also flirts boldly with Servilia. For him it is all about the money.

In one episode, Lucius Vorenus’ fellow mobsters anally rape another man, reflecting the sexual violence that can be condoned within a macho sexual culture. Marc Anthony also rapes a passing woman and expects continuous sex from his slaves. He’s never shown having sex with a man (unless you count the orgies in Cleopatra’s court, where he shows off his new tattoos), but he is presumably supersexual.

Vorenus’ tavern manager in the second season, who becomes Titus Pullo’s girlfriend, is portrayed as atypically (for the time) manly and sexually aggressive, suggesting she might have metamorphic traits.

Julius Ceasar is involved only with women in the series, but the real Julius Ceasar was known in his time to have had a homosexual relationship when he was a young man. In fact, he was assumed to have been the bottom, which could have destroyed his reputation if he were not so strongly respected by his men as a soldier. He might have been flexamorous or ambisexual.

Three New Books about Female Sexuality

In Research on July 7, 2010 at 7:27 pm

Lisa Diamond is a psychology researcher who has published a number of ground-breaking articles over the last decade based on her interviews with women who have experienced some same-sex attraction. What she found is that women are less concerned about the gender of the person they happen to fall in love with and also less concerned about having a consistent sexual orientation (akin to what I call the flexamorous sexual type).

Last year, Professor Diamond published a book, Sexual Fluidity: Understanding Women’s Love and Desire, which describes her research findings and the broader scientific context. She illustrates the book with quotations and life stories from many of the individual women she studied.

Sapphistries: A Global History of Love between Women, by Liela Rupp, is a beautifully written and comprehensive survey of homosexual desires, encounters, and identities among women throughout time and in different cultures. Sapphistries can also be read as a history of female bisexuality, because most of these women had relationships with men as well. (The same can be said of most “gay” male histories, which typically describe men more properly understood as bisexual.)

Emma Donoghue has just published Inseparable: Desire Between Women in Literature, a survey which includes many bisexual types.


In Flexible People, Sexual Types on July 2, 2010 at 5:42 pm

(Updated 4-7-11) I previously referred to this type as “polyamorous,” but the word “polyamorous” is already being used by some people to describe their non-monogamous relationship preferences. In other words, they believe in having loving, sexual relationships with multiple partners. I had used the word with a slightly different focus on the capacity to fall in love with more than one gender.

You are flexamorous if you are capable of having romantic relationships with both men and women. In contrast to those who are ambisexual, you do not necessarily view your sexual desires as equally strong in both directions. You view each relationship, whether with a man or a woman, on its own terms. You do not define yourself by the gender of your partner, even to the extent of asserting an equal interest in both. You fall in love for a variety of reasons, and sexual excitement is not the defining condition. You are sexually compatible with both men and women, but the sexual component in your relationships may have more to do with physical comfort and affection rather than intense sexual desire.

Flexamorous sexuality is a more common presentation among women than men. Many women who do not define themselves assertively as bisexual nevertheless consider themselves capable of falling in love with both men and women. Perhaps this reflects a cultural expectation that men are primarily interested in sex and women in relationships. In either case, for men or women, this category places greater value on falling in love with an individual, regardless of his or her gender.

This category also captures men and women who may have never questioned their sexuality, and who continue to have sexual desires for the opposite sex, but who have found themselves unexpectedly in love with someone of the same sex.

Cynthia Nixon, the star of Sex and the City, may be a good example of the flexamorous type. She is commonly described as lesbian, but in fact she was married to a man for fifteen years before falling in love with her female partner of the last five years. Nixon told the Advocate this month , “I identify as gay as a political stance… I would have said I think we’re all bisexual. But I had that point of view without ever having felt attracted to a woman.”

Two Short Stories

In Media on June 19, 2010 at 3:19 pm

There are many coming-out novels, but who tells the stories of the not-gay and not-lesbian young men and women who have same-sex experiences?

The title stories of two acclaimed short story collections are narrated by a young man and a young woman who are left behind when their best friends recognize themselves as gay and lesbian.

In Drown, Junot Diaz, the prize-winning author of The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, tells the story of two Dominican-American high school boys whose best friendship turns briefly sexual. But it’s the heteroflexible narrator who feels confused and marginilized, while the more confident, gay friend escapes to college.

In Drinking Coffee Elsewhere, ZZ Packer’s narrator is an alienated, Black college freshman woman who forms her first, strong emotional bond with a classmate, only to feel rejected when her friend embraces a lesbian identity. Is the narrator “really” lesbian, or flexamorous, or asexual?

Gay and lesbian labels provide an answer for the best friends in these stories. But for the young narrators, the labels don’t fit, and they feel shut out by the friends they love. Both stories are hauntingly beautiful.

How many friendships have been tested when sexual desire enters the relationship, forcing friends to think about their sexual identity without a framework for understanding their experiences?

Go Girls!

In Flexible People on June 15, 2010 at 11:41 am

Female entertainers have been leaping out of the closet recently.

Christina Aguilera, while promoting her new album Bi-on-ic, told Out magazine this month that her husband knows she’s “into girls… it’s fun to be open and play.” She describes women as more visually attractive than men. However, she goes on to qualify that she could not live without “dick” and cannot really imagine having sex with a woman, because there would be too much “estrogen” in the room. She did not go so far as to call herself bisexual, but her statements reveal flexible thinking. The singer has a young child with her husband of many years.

Anna Paquin, a star of True Blood, the X-Men movies, and The Piano, recently declared herself bisexual for a public service announcement for The True Colors Fund, an organization advocating for LGBT rights. She is engaged to be married to her male co-star.

Lady Gaga told Rolling Stone a year ago that she was bisexual, and confirmed in an interview with Barbara Walters in December that she has had sexual relationships with women. She says her attraction to women is purely physical.

Fergie of the Black-Eyed Peas told The Sun a year ago that she considers herself bisexual. She had previously revealed that she has had sex with both men and women. She is in a long-term relationship with a male actor.

A week earlier, actress Megan Fox of the Transformers also revealed that she was bisexual and had had sex with women.

Which sexual type best describes each of these entertainers? Fergie and Lady Gaga hint at being supersexual. Anna Paquin makes no apologies and might be flexamorous or ambisexual. Christina Aquilera is unafraid to say that she finds women attractive and may be heteroflexible, if not just self-promotional. If anyone knows these stars, please ask them to take the Flexuality Test!

Each of these women deserves applause for leading the way and resisting the pressure to define herself as straight.