James W. Hicks, M.D.

Posts Tagged ‘lesbian’

Sexuality in Sri Lanka

In Cultures on March 13, 2011 at 7:51 am

I posted previously about widespread bisexuality among men in South Asia, but I noted that women’s sexuality in South Asia has remained somewhat invisible. Equal Ground, an organization addressing the sexual and gender rights of the Sri Lankan community, has just launched a campaign to make women’s sexuality more visible. Check out their powerful poster, which reads, “A Woman Loving Another Woman is Also a Woman: Respect Her Rights.”

Homosexual acts are still illegal in Sri Lanka (if widely practiced by men who think of themselves as straight) and homosexual status is persecuted, but we should keep in mind that Sri Lanka was one of the first countries to grant suffrage to women, and it was the first country to elect a female head of state. Also, nearby India recently decriminalized homosexuality. So change may be under way.

If you are interested in bisexuality (and the history of women’s suffrage) in Sri Lanka, read the excellent historical novel, Cinnamon Gardens, by Shyam Selvadurai. He is also the author of another beautiful novel, Funny Boy, about growing up gay and gender atypical in Sri Lanka.

After Track

In Stories* on February 12, 2011 at 7:01 am

Maria and I had not been particularly friendly before the season started. She hung out with a different group of girls, and even on the field, we were just competitive at first. But competition turned into admiration, and within a few weeks we were seeking each other out in the locker room or going out for pizza after practice. I’d never had a friend like Maria before; she talked faster and laughed freely and couldn’t care less about shopping at the mall or dating.

One night at the pizza parlour, I got a cramp in my leg and was squirming in the bench. I was probably dehydrated from practice. Maria looked at me with concern and then said, “Give it here.” She grabbed my ankle under the table, pulled off my sneaker, pushed my toes back with one hand in her lap, and squeezed the back of my thigh through my jeans with her other hand. She did it so casually, no one who was looking would have even noticed. I found myself staring at her with amazement as her fingers pushed apart the knot in my muscles, but she was looking down, either in embarrassment or concentration.

“I owe you a massage,” I said as she finished and lowered my leg.

She took me up on the offer that weekend, when we were hanging out in my room, though she brought it up hesitantly.

“I remember,” I said, putting away my homework. “Take off those pants and lie down on the bed.”

She turned her back to me and stepped out of her jeans, pulled her shirt over her head, and took off her bra. “Okay?” she asked, sitting down on the mattress and looking at the floor.

I put my hand on her shoulder and nudged her to lie down. Then I reached down to take off my shoes and added, “I’m going to make myself comfortable too.” Down to my underwear, I sat across her legs, put my hands on her back, and waited, feeling her chest rise and lower with her breathing.

She turned her head and smiled. “You got any massage oil?”

How Many Bisexuals?

In Research on November 5, 2010 at 11:16 am

I posted previously about the incidence of bisexuality among men and women. Since then, the results of two more national surveys have been published.

The 2008 General Social Survey involved face-to-face interviews with about 2,000 adults (though nearly 13% declined to answer the questions about sexual orientation and behavior). According to an analysis of the data by The Williams Institute, less than 2% of men said they were gay, less than 2% of women said they were lesbian, and less than 2% altogether identified as bisexual. But another 6%, who consider themselves straight, reported having had sex with someone of the same sex. In total, nearly 10% could be considered something other than heterosexual based on self-identification or sexual history.

Of note, women were twice as likely as men to consider themselves bisexual, while men were twice as likely to consider themselves straight even when they had had a same sex partner. This may reflect greater stigma for men in being anything other than straight.

The National Survey of Sexual Health and Behavior of 2009 focused more on specific sexual behaviors and was conducted over the internet, which may have been less embarrassing. Nearly 6,000 adolescents and adults agreed to participate. According to the special issue of the Journal of Sexual Medicine which published the results, about 8% of adults consider themselves something other than straight, with women much more likely to identify as bisexual or “other.” The highest rate of bisexual identification (8.4%) was reported by adolescent girls (who were also much more likely than boys to engage in same-sex behaviors).

The published findings regarding sexual behaviors are frustratingly incomplete, in that they do not distinguish whether insertive anal practices and mutual masturbation were conducted with same-sex or opposite-sex partners, and cunnilingus seems to be the only same-sex activity identified for women. That said, the following rates of same-sex behavior were found among adult men: 8-15% have received oral sex, 6-13% have given oral sex, and 4-11% have received anal sex. Among women, 4-17% have received oral sex from a woman, and 4-14% have given oral sex to a woman. (The ranges reflect the rates in different age groups.)

Again, the rates of same-sex behavior are considerably higher than the rates of gay and bisexual identification, which confirms previous findings that most men and women who have had homosexual experiences nevertheless consider themselves straight (in my schema, most would probably be heteroflexible).

Of note, neither of these surveys sampled institutional settings, such as dormitories, barracks, and jails, where same-sex behavior may be more common. If we were to add in those settings and consider any same-sex behaviors that lead to orgasm, rates of de facto bisexuality would probably be closer to the 20-30% originally identified by Kinsey.

Sweet Fruit

In Stories* on October 31, 2010 at 9:30 pm

Even though we couldn’t keep our eyes off each other on the base, I was nervous when I finally walked over to Jackie’s room to get her for the movie. I’d never been on a date with a woman before, and I had no idea what two women were supposed to do in bed. It couldn’t be anything like having sex with a man, unless she had one of those strap-on things, and that would be just ridiculous and anyway out of the question in the dormitory. I told myself not to worry. We were going off base, and if I could just hold her hand during the movie, that would be enough.

I had butterflies in my stomach as I knocked and heard her footsteps approaching from the other side. My cheeks were suddenly hot, and my mouth was dry. She opened the door, still wearing fatigues. We just stood there, smiling at each other like idiots. Then she took hold of me by the wrist and pulled me inside, closed the door, and pressed me up against the wall.

There was no talking and no kissing, at least not on the lips. She dropped down in front of me and pulled my panties down from under my skirt and pushed my skirt up with both hands and dug in with her tongue. I was still too shocked to do anything but lean my shoulders back against the wall and tilt my legs to give her room. She slid a finger into me, or two, while nuzzling and tugging with her lips. Her whole face was slippery against me now, and I put my hands on her braids and pulled her tight as my legs started shaking uncontrollably.

And then we lay down on her bed for more. We never did make it to the movie. In fact, I don’t think we even took a break for dinner. Thank god her roommate was on leave.

Queer

In Sexual Types on October 28, 2010 at 5:26 am

If you are young or engaged in political and academic discourse about sexuality, you may prefer to identify yourself as queer rather than as gay, lesbian, or bisexual. By calling yourself queer, you challenge the idea that heterosexuality is normative, you imply that the gay-straight and male-female binaries are overly simplistic and restricting, and you assert political solidarity with others who resist being judged on the basis of their sexual preferences or gender identification. You may consider yourself post-gay and beyond labeling. You are open to exploring sexual feelings for the opposite sex.

If you are queer, others might view you as simply gay or bisexual, but your choice of terminology reflects the value you place on the potential for change and variation in sexual matters and your reluctance to fix a restrictive label on complex erotic tastes, emotional ties, gender roles, and behaviors. If you are primarily attracted to members of the same sex, you may identify as queer to reflect your own commitment to remaining flexible, or you may call yourself homoflexible.

Some who identify as queer also feel more comfortable thinking of themselves as androgynous or are attracted to men and women who are not typically masculine or feminine. In that sense, queers reject gender roles and stereotypes as well as fixed sexual orientations.

Michael Stipe, the lead singer and front man for R.E.M., identifies as queer rather than gay. He has said in interviews that he is most attracted to men but has had feelings for women as well and considers the label gay too narrow for him.

Gay and Lesbian

In Flexible People, Sexual Types on October 25, 2010 at 6:23 pm

If you are gay or lesbian (the term usually preferred by gay women), your sexual interests are directed almost exclusively towards members of the same sex. You have probably had some heterosexual experiences, but they have felt uncomfortable, unpleasant, mechanical, or devoid of passion and affection. From an early age, you have been most attracted to, fallen in love with, and sexually desired other men (if you are gay) or women (if you are lesbian). Over the years, you probably began to realize that forming a relationship with the opposite sex was not for you, and if you continued to date, you did so to provide a cover or to please your family. You began to identify with the idea of being gay or homosexual, especially if you were exposed to gay family, friends, or role models.

Since society discourages homosexuality in so many ways, those who identify as gay or lesbian tend to be those who feel they have no other choice. You may feel you were “born that way,” and several scientific studies suggest there may be a genetic component. If you have any feelings at all for the opposite sex (in other words, if you are naturally homoflexible, ambisexual, flexamorous, or some other flavor of bisexual), you may be tempted to favor those feelings and identify as straight rather than pursuing a path that can put you at odds with your family, church, and society at large.

Some lesbians and gay men express what are generally considered, respectively, masculine and feminine traits (see the description of the metamorphic type). But the opposite is not true: most gay men and women do not grow up feeling that they are, in other respects less masculine or feminine than their peers.

There are many men and women who have come out in recent years and identified themselves as gay or lesbian. Two of the most famous are the Democratic senator, Barney Frank, and the entertainer, Ellen Degeneres.

Only 1.5% of Brits Are Gay or Bisexual?

In Research on October 5, 2010 at 5:52 pm

Last month, the UK released the findings of a government survey conducted in 2009 which found that only 1.5% of adults (aged 16 or older) are gay, lesbian, or bisexual. The low rates have attracted media attention, particularly since previous surveys in the UK had suggested rates of 5-7%.

The survey was a general survey on a number of topics, to which one question about sexual orientation had been added. Subjects were asked to identify themselves as heterosexual or straight, gay or lesbian, or bisexual. 1.0% identifying as gay or lesbian and 0.5% identifying as bisexual.

A closer examination of the government’s report, produced by the Office for National Statistics, provides some explanation for the unexpectedly low findings. The survey was conducted mostly door-to-door and face-to-face, which is known to lower rates of honest reporting on sensitive topics like sexual orientation. In fact, adults living alone (who may have been more likely to be gay or lesbian) were less likely to answer the question about sexuality.

The figure of 1.5% also does not include the 3.8% who refused to answer, stuttered in embarrassment, or identified themselves using a different term. That leaves 94.8% who identified as straight, but the survey did not ask about sexual behavior, sexual attraction, or sexual desire. We know that many people call themselves straight, in spite of having sexual feelings and experiences with both sexes. In fact, among men who have had sex with men in the US, half consider themselves straight (see my earlier posts on US surveys of men and women).

There were a few interesting findings from the survey. Young adults and women were more likely to identify as bisexual than gay, and non-whites were more likely to answer “other” or not answer at all.

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).

Pornography

In Media, Sexploration* on August 29, 2010 at 2:19 am

Many of us discovered our sexual preferences in adolescence while flipping through an older friend’s or relative’s stack of pornographic magazines. Now everyone is more likely to find pornography on the internet. A wide selection of pornographic studios provide free content to thumbnail gallery posts (TGPs), so you can browse and see what catches your interest. Most straight TGPs (for example, PicHunter) have links to gay, bisexual, and “shemale” material, so you may have already taken a peek at same-sex or transgender pornography, if only out of curiosity.

All pornography involves acting (not all of it very good), and a single twenty minute scene may have actually involved hours of uncomfortable intercourse. The real sexual orientation of the models may have little relation to the acts they perform (i.e., they may be versatile or simply miscast). So don’t be surprised if the participants don’t always look like they are having fun.

Most “lesbian” pornography, unfortunately, is aimed at straight men rather than women and may seem particularly artificial in its depiction of female passion. But there is at least one good, free lesbian TGP that depicts women who look and behave more naturally, at RealLesbianPorn.

Some gay pornography exploits the gay-for-pay concept by presenting “amateur” straight men who have been tempted to explore their gay side for money, only to find they enjoy it. This may hold particular appeal for bi-curious viewers who can identify with the models. Gaysexer is a good TGP with a wide selection of studios and model types. Gaydemon organizes its thumbnail galleries by type of model and action and includes bisexual and shemale directories

“Bisexual” pornography typically involves threesomes in which two men have sex with each other and another woman. Again, it is created for men but may appeal to women who are turned on by gay sex. “FFM” (female-female-male) porn rarely features women who appear genuinely interested in each other. PenisBot has straight, gay, and other galleries, including a fairly good selection of bisexual images.

When browsing through pornography on the web, beware of fake TGPs that endlessly redirect you to other TGPs and studios or that carry malware. The sites listed on this post seem to be relatively safe. Video clips may carry more malware than photographs.

Flexible Films

In Media on July 18, 2010 at 10:17 am

The new movie, The Kids Are All Right, tells the story of a lesbian couple whose children track down their sperm-donor father, with unintended consequences. All five principle actors are fabulous. The movie also reveals some interesting examples of flexible female sexual desire and behavior.

On the subject of movies that depict flexible sexualities, I also recommend Y Tu Mama Tambien, a 2001 film from Mexico, in which two young men discover their heteroflexible side with the assistance of the older woman whom they both desire.

I understand that Penelope Cruz plays a bisexual woman in last year’s Vicky Cristina Barcelona, but I haven’t seen the movie myself.

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.