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In Praise Of Experimentation

Recently, one of my most expressive friends shared a little nugget of new information: she found herself attracted to women sexually. This is someone I routinely talk to about menmainly hers because she gets out moreso this was a notable shift in her narrative. Yet, I noticed she added a caveat: as curious about women she felt sexually, she had absolutely no interest in having a romantic relationship with women.

I could never, ever see you actually dating another woman.

Oh, I know. I know.

Still, the need to add that clarification was tellingmore so about how we discuss and dissect sexuality than her. This is someone keenly aware of and advocates for the needs of queer and trans people. I presumed her asterisk was offered to make certain that she wasn’t trivializing the experiences of those of us who are capable of having romantic relationships with people of the same sexgay, lesbian, bisexual, pansexual, and so forth.

As I told her, I absolutely understood her position. If given the opportunity, I would let Rihanna place her vagina directly on my face. It could stay there as long as she wanted. I would do my best to make it worth both our whiles. Then, afterwards, I would tell ask her could she hook me up with one of her dancers from the last tourthe one with the bubble specifically. And if she wanted me to hook her up with one of my homegirls, I would whip out my Instagram and tell her to have her pick because I imagine they would be just curious.

For those of us who have read my old blog, The Cynical Ones, they are all too aware of my Rihanna affinity. Friends may have joked about me being a fake gay, or “fauxmo,” as I am listed in someone’s phone as, but I have long known that human sexuality is a lot trickier than our sex-ed deprived nation suggests.

To be gay is to have a predominant attractionsexual or romanticto someone of the same of the same sex. To be bi is to be on equal footing. On and on it goes for each respective label. I’ve said it maybe a thousand times now in my writing, but it always bears repeating: it’s never been the labels that are the problem, but the prejudices attached to them.

Now, there is new research to lend credence to such a claim.

Indeed, a new study examined approximately 24,000 undergraduate students about their sexual experiences. Of that figure, a reported 25% of women along with one in 8.5 men revealed that they have had sexual experiences with people of their own sex but didn’t consider themselves gay or bi. It shouldn’t be a riddle, but here we are.

Arielle Kuprberg, who co-authored the study, explained: “Not everybody who has same-sex relationships is secretly gay. There was a big disconnect between what people said their sexual orientation was and what their actions were.” Ding-ding-ding.

As for why folks have these experiences, the two main reasons were experimentation and performance. Experimentation is self-explanatory, but apparently, “‘performative bisexuality’ happens when people (usually women) enjoy sexual contact with other women because of the attention that it garners and the arousal that it provokes in others.” So it is “more about reaction than the actual act,” which is why the experimentation doesn’t lead to an embrace of the labels gay or bisexual.

Yes, I am thinking of all of those articles about “bros” who have sex with “other pros” and all of those other curious descriptions to address men who smash other men. If you are a fan of Insecure, uh huh, I am thinking of the episode where Molly couldn’t wrap her head around that fine ass man experimenting with another dude only to realize he in fact was just a straight man who attracts small-minded women a time or two.

There are indeed men and women who are in denial about their sexuality for varying reasons. However, that is not the case for all and that is something peoplestraight and not alikeought to be more considerate of. Sometimes experimenting can lead to a confirmation; other times, it was just something to try. Literally, if most things can be trial and error, why not human sexuality?

I will say that I am curious if men were giving more space to escape such rigid concepts of masculinity, would men experimenting with their sexualities at a more comparable rate with women? It is so much easier for women to escape prejudices because misogyny makes it far too easy for simpletons to slap a feminine label on mena tag men typically try to avoid at all costs despite there being nothing wrong with that. In a more secure, less misogynistic world, perhaps time will tell.

In the meanwhile, when met with a curious friendno matter the ageI hope you can follow my lead and be encouraging without projection.

Girl, be free, fuck, and fuck whatever anyone else thinks about it.


Michael Arceneaux

Michael Arceneaux writes the “Dearly Beloved” advice column at INTO. He is the New York Times bestselling author of the newly released I Can't Date Jesus from 37 Ink/Atria Books/Simon & Schuster. His work has appeared in the New York Times, the Washington Post, Rolling Stone, Essence, The Guardian, Mic, and more. Follow him on Twitter.