Letís talk about
(Hablemos de la sexualidad)
A CubaNews translation. Edited by Walter Lippmann, April 2007.
Sexual orientation. What are we? Which way are we headed?
Homosexuality is not vice, degradation or disease
--- Sigmund Freud
Consistently at the expense of different appraisals as to what is deemed to be normal and pathological about any of its expressions, sexual orientation and the moral debate around it, it have always been high on the agenda of psychologists and sexologists alike.
There are three main variations to sexual orientation: heterosexuality, homosexuality, and bisexuality. Given its prevalence and links to reproductive possibilities, the former has long been taken as the supposedly right conduct to be led. However, faced with new moral and scientific conceptions, most people have come to accept every form of sexuality as ordinary and that everyone has their own way of enjoying it.
Defamed, tolerated, rejected or evaded, homosexuality has been the object of various interpretations throughout history. A personís sexual choice is tied to as many parameters as any other sex-related behavior, which makes it clear it can never be comprehended through any one of them. In other words, itís impossible to discern from just a single point of view, be that morality, legislation, psychology or statistics.
Homosexuality is no longer in the World Health Organizationís list of diseases, and the American Psychiatric Association (APA) pronounced itself against so-called corrective therapy. Yet, in its DMS-III version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, the APA made a distinction between egodystonic homosexuality (subject is in conflict with his/her leanings and suffers for it) and egosyntonic homosexuality (subject is aware of his/her choice and totally pleased with it).
Anthropological studies have it that homosexuality is a constant feature of universal culture which has existed in any civilization regardless of its religious values, hence seen both in the Stone Age and highly-developed nations as much as in decadent societies and those hitting their apogee.
Much as it has been saddled with hormonal, sociocultural and cerebral origins, its root cause remains unknown. Simon Levay, a U.S. Ėand gayĖ neurophysiologist, came up with a much-questioned theory about brain zones with structural differences that has been approached by psychoanalysis from the equally doubtful viewpoint of oedipal configurations and family identifications (there has been talk about a mother and a father with a given set of traits).
Whatís certain, however, is that family ties play a key role in peopleís sexual selection, be they homo-, hetero- or bisexual.
A bisexual individual develops his/her orientation toward both sexes. From an evolutionary and morphological viewpoint, fetuses have a bisexual constitution wherein the sexual characters gradually come down in favor of either genetically defined sex. At a first stage, embryos are morphologically feminine up until Ėin the boyís caseĖ they are singled out by the fetal androgens. Without this, they could be born with either feminine traits or manifestations of hermaphroditism, even if they are genetically male. Founder of psychoanalysis Sigmund Freud introduced the bisexuality concept and said that itís in every human beingís nature to have male as much as female leanings, as is evidenced in the subjectís conflicts to assume his/her own sex.
Throughout the evolution of sexuality and in the way it is assumed by people of various ages, children have been known to play games of exploration, even with others of their own sex, by no means a sign of a homosexual orientation, just a search for knowledge and ways to behave and learn that come with such games, very often misinterpreted by adult relatives who usually stigmatize those boys or girls and squarely lay on their shoulders the blame for a conduct that as a rule they only notice by reference from parents, teachers or friends.
Research has also proved that people can take on a sexual orientation at any given time in life, especially in their younger years, though some do it as adults and even at the third age, in general when a family figure (usually the fathers) whose rejection or prying they feared has already passed away. Still others claim to have had frustrating heterosexual relationships in the past, but this behavior canít be said to be a reason for a given sexual orientation.
Whether or not the presence of homosexual fantasies defines a personís leanings has been the object of extensive debate. Itís not true, though, since a human being can dream of or fantasize about a homosexual experience and still be undefined. Nor can anyone be assumed to have a given orientation just because of certain traits typical the opposite sex.
current of opinion at odds with reality holds that homosexuality is a
liberating, easygoing experience while it tags heterosexuals as prudes of a
sort who never enjoy pleasure to the max. Merely proselytizing messages
conveyed by people who do little more than discriminate against each other.
Everyone has a personalized sexuality and therefore particular preferences,
desires and needs, nothing out of the ordinary as long as they remain within
a framework of respect, commitment and privacy and no one is harmed or
coerced into anything in the process. Remember, people must never be
discriminated against on the basis of their sexual choice, be they hetero-,
homo- or bisexual, nor a ďcorrectiveĒ therapy must be indicated to change
Homosexuality: when the compass points toward the same place
Iím 28; some time ago a friend of mine used my e-mail to send you a message, and then I read your reply in the paper, and I truly think it was very professional. Iím gay, just like him, and Iím happy that he was brave enough to shake off his prejudice and do what many people wonít. Many people think that gays are softy and weak, so I thank you for your courage.
My problem is that I feel inferior to all those who already got a university degree, which brings with it other complexes, and thus I end up feeling lower than everyone who, in my twisted opinion, are above me. Iíve taken to size up other people, trying obsessively to find something in them that makes me feel superior, needless to say, a reason for a lot of trouble. I can hardly talk when Iím facing someone who I believe is ďsuperiorĒ to me, and then thereís no way to shut me up when Iím with an ďinferiorĒ. This is growing out of control; I keep getting into trouble, since I can just as likely to overstep the mark as to completely retreat into my shell.
By a twist of fate I never graduated from the university, but now Iím studying by distance learning and will soon reach that goal, although I still feel frumpy and outdated. Of course, I have problems as well with my sex life if Iím not at a higher level than the person Iím with, and believe me when I say that there are many, many people who make feel that way. Iím helpless then, unable to speak or kiss, let alone have sex. Iím beginning to think that Iím ugly, potbellied, half idiot, and things like that, and find it incredibly hard to focus; Iím supposed to concentrate on my relationship but end up with my head ďon the cloudsĒ instead.
Affection is a rare thing in my family; weíre all on the gruff side and rather apathetic. Iím not happy about, it but thatís how it is. Whatís worse, they know Iím gay, in their eyes a weird flaw, and therefore I think itís what everyone believes. My problem is, I take refuge in masturbation, which I do all the time, so when the time comes to have sex my low self-esteem gets mixed up with what little desire I may have and then I end up forcing things up, only to make a fool of myself. Itís incredible; there are times when I jerk off just to loosen up some, to the extreme that I seldom do it for pleasure but so I can reach a state of mental emptiness that by now has become permanent. And for all the pain that I sometimes feel in my urethra or my testicles, I keep doing it, as if I had a chronic addiction to masturbation. This has been going for a long time, so much so that as I was going through puberty, and since, Iíve never had a wet dream. How could I? With what semen? I guess it all started when I was 13 and studying in high school, where I was everybodyís laughingstock for being dumb and self-deprecating (which I had been since elementary school). I donít know whether it was my situation at home or school or any other reason what made me a pervert, but I do know itís got to stop because Iím really hurting myself both physically and emotionally. Mark my words, Iíve got a lot of things to keep me busy: thereís my orchids, my dog, my books, a computer, a thousand friends, the universityÖ in sum, plenty of choices, however Iím stuck with this: first I masturbate, and only after can I pay attention to the rest, as long as I donít become depressed.
I tried to practice abstinence for a week once, but to no avail; it was sheer torture. Yet, when I manage to do it less often for a while (two days) things change, and I feel different, handsome, attractive, and even eager to do anything, but then I have a relapse, junkie-style. I donít know whatís wrong, but please help me. I canít go on like this.
Thank you for keeping in touch with our section and letting us know that you find it useful.
Concerning your worries, I guess that regardless of your homosexuality you tend to develop a very low self-esteem, which brings along a nonstop need to measure yourself against other people and find ways to feel ďsuperiorĒ, to use your own word. I think your main problem lies first of all in that you fail to realize that weíre good at some activities or skills and not so for the rest, and thatís a fact in everybody elseís life. You donít have to be superior to be comfortable with yourself, but satisfied with what you do, respecting yourself as a human being, happy to do fruitful things for you and the others, and stop making comparisons all the time.
What you call superiority is not achieved with just a university degree, but through your qualities as a person who strives to improve from the inside out. Of course, being cultured and learned is a valuable asset, but not meant to rub other peopleís nose in it. A qualification must be used to do better things with more knowledge and creativity.
Of all your personal traits, insecurity is easily the standout, both at school and in matters of sex, a major sphere of any individualís personality. By constantly underrating and assessing yourself, your mind gets distracted and prevents you from enjoying sex, inasmuch as you become a judge of your own actions and thus stonewall pleasure, spontaneity and deliverance.
As to your comments that affection never abounded at home, you must learn to understand that, even if that may affect anybodyís life, itís not an indelible mark. As adults we can do a lot of things for ourselves without putting ourselves in a victimís place, like try to show our family how important love is. By and large we are responsible for improving our lives and those of people around us and to do so we must look for alternatives and means such that we leave no room to reproach and guilt.
You have got deeply into the habit of masturbating, which you do as a way to feel relaxed and safer. Still, guilt follows, since you know youíre withdrawing into yourself and therefore limiting your relations with others and impairing your life elsewhere. Youíre right when you say you need help, because much as masturbation is another way to express oneís sexuality and a perfectly normal thing to do, thatís not your case: you take refuge in it not only for pleasure but also, in my opinion, to avoid having contact with others and remain inside that closed circle where guilt has become commonplace. You need both sexological and psychological counsel in general, a fact you must assume with the same certainty that you use in your statements. You need help because you must get rid of that permanent suffering and anguish. Thereís a solution to everything you have told me, but your improvement really depends to a great extent on your persistence and willingness to achieve it.
I hope these reflections will come in useful, and although I never give my readers any recipes Iíll make an exception this time: you must start by seeking the advice of a specialist who can provide guidance to make your life better, safer and steadier.
Iím a woman of 27. All in all life has been good to me; Iíve never had inner conflicts or been a problem to anyone, but now I seem to be experiencing an existential crisis that is going too far and affecting too many people. Iíve had a boyfriend for 12 years, but a year and a half ago, when we had already arranged for a wedding date and a place to live, it dawned on me that I had fallen for a girl one year younger than me. My love life has been a complete shambles since: after a few months and much thought, I broke with my boyfriend, with the consequent family drama Ėheís a very nice person who you canít help liking. My folks just couldnít understand that I simply stopped loving him, even though I never mentioned the second half of the story.
I started a relationship with that girl, albeit much to my regret it only lasted one month, what with my great fears and insecurities and my worries about the future and how I was hurting my family, all the time thinking whether letting everything I had go down the drain had really been worth the trouble. My mind Ėand my love affairĖ were in turmoil over all those things. Besides, why not say it, I doubted that I could handle a homosexual relationship. As a result, I found myself missing the peace and quiet my life had enjoyed before, unable to think straight, and incapable of carrying things any further. Thus, a short time afterwards I went to him to try and get right back to where we had started from, eager to make amends with everybody and feel fine with myself. And so it was at first. Now Iím OK, but after five months I keep thinking of her, missing her very much and longing to be with her, even if I still uncertain as to whether things would work in the long run. Nor do I feel comfortable or at ease having sex with him, and I find it hard to look him in the eye. Iím quite fond of him, we shared many good years as one and Iím sure that, should we remain together, weíd have peace and stability for the rest of our lives. But thatís all Iíd have to give. And Iím positive that if I leave him it would be the same all over again, nothing but fear, insecurity and a guilty conscience.
Thatís all I ask, I make do with what I have now, even if I sometimes cry for hours, but Iím sick and tired of going over the problem time and again without making up my mind about what I want, and of course heís not coping very well with this. Sometimes Iím afraid I will sink into depression because I donít feel a bit like doing anything with my life and my future. Work keeps me afloat, and I havenít felt so pessimistic of late. Iím willing to take things as they come, although heís given me a sort of ultimatum. Iím amazed at my getting up to such silly antics at my age, but come this point Iím seriously convinced I need help. So please help me.
What you call ďexistential crisisĒ has to do with important decisions about yourself, concerns for your sexual orientation and the stability and security we all hope for in our love life. Moreover, being homosexual or bisexual Ėin case your desire leans toward one sex or the otherĖ is not a consequence of your emotional imbalance, nor is it related to your being a maladjusted, troubled person (judging from your own words, ďAll in all life has been good to me; Iíve never had inner conflicts or been a problem to anyoneĒ, since being other than heterosexual is by no means a sign that youíre sick.
Coming to the conclusion and acknowledging that youíre homosexual or bisexual brings with it a great deal of distress and insecurity, for it means you have to challenge the very rules of conduct you were always taught to abide by and also get over many deep-seated myths, taboos and social norms, in itself a hard task for most individuals to accomplish.
That you feel insecure and at times even ďguiltyĒ of having ďimmolatedĒ your stability for the sake of something bound to generate clashes to a degree that extends to your own conceptions about life makes a lot of sense; however, when it comes to sexual orientation, i.e. an attraction to or a liking for a given gender, a personís will can only hold sway over certain decisions and behaviors, not his or her preferences.
Your relationship with your boyfriend offers some security but no peace of mind, busy as it is with thoughts of and yearning for someone else, in such a way that being happy with him is out of the question. Under these circumstances you can have no breathing spell, so itís important that you think carefully before taking any decision because, on one hand, there are social and family issues to take into account, and on the other, you must live your life according to your interests. Itís a very personal call that demands paying attention to what you value the most: to please everybody, honor the rules of conduct, or build up a relationship you really care for, regardless of the price to pay.
In our professional experience, we often see that sidestepping a crucial decision will only make things worse and add to your misery and depression.
Iím 20 years old and, strange as this may sound, I had my first sexual experience only a few days ago. With a man, which means Iím gay. Iíve always felt attracted to men, but Iíve just had sex with one and didnít feel fine; it was not what I expected. Still, I like them. Whatís with this confusion? Please help me define my preferences.
I suggest you think about a number of things so you can have sufficient facts before you form an opinion concerning both your sexual orientation and what happened with your first experience, since judging from your clear-cut, sustained desires for other men it seems obvious that you have well-defined preferences; that is, according to your words, you are a homosexual.
This is one thing you must bear in mind; the other is the result of your first sexual relation.
Irrespective of their sexual leanings, most people tend to envision what their first intimate encounter will be like with equal parts uncertainty and great expectation, largely a consequence of myth, fantasy, and even idealization. At any rate, everything often combines to prevent many men and women from putting their mind properly to their new experience and getting much pleasure from it, if any. Besides, as Iíve told other readers, having a first same-sex relationship fuels concern about and speculation upon homosexuality, considering the important role such decisions play in a personís future life.
Thereís also who youíre having sex with, and hence the following factors:
ō Is it also that personís first time?
ō Is foreplay properly taken into consideration?
ō Do we really like him/her?
ō Is there mutual trust and understanding or is it a one-night stand with little emotional commitment in detriment of a fuller, more dedicated relationship?
Throw in the fact of whether you really wanted to have sex on that occasion because you were in love or only excited or just because it was your first chance to ďcheckĒ if you were gay or not. These alternatives will give your first experience either a positive or a negative touch.
Other factors have to be appraised as well, namely:
ō Degree of privacy
ō Completion by mutual agreement
ō Use of drugs or alcohol, which can just as easily spark off desire as they can make it fade depending on the kind of substance and the amount consumed.
Simply put, you must in general give some thought to all those factors that may turn a first sexual experience into either something worth remembering or a fiasco better left forgotten.
Browsing through your website Ėthat I find most interestingĖ I thought of asking your advice. Iím a 29-year-old gay or lesbian, or whichever name you wish to use. For the last six years Iíve had a relationship which has gone into a tailspin lately, since itís been over a year and a half that I have an affair with a married woman, whom Iíll call L. She and I got along very well from the start, but now we argue a lot Ďcause Iím jealous and bitching all the time about how she can love me as she says she does and stay by her husbandís side. She says I must understand itís for her children. Iím very, very fond of her; actually Iím head over heels in love, but what do I do about my jealousy and my helplessness at having to share her?
Broadly speaking, same-sex relationships comply with the same codes and rules that heterosexual couples follow. Hence, an extramarital affair or love triangle centers at first on enjoyment and pleasure, but in most cases, if the attraction remains and both parties identify, communicate and exchange better with each other, they feel a greater need to give and take more, which is at odds with the very basis of their ďunlawfulĒ liaison. You must assess the importance of your relationship and what each of you is willing to jeopardize to keep it. Things get even worse if your partner has children to think of, for they might come into conflict with their motherís homosexuality, a reality likely to have an impact not only on how they will come to terms with the fact but also on the overall family structure itself and what their future life will be like.
It will all depend on how you handle the situation and understand what itís at stake if the relationship really matters to both of you and how much you can support one another to determine the best way to ride out the storm together for the sake of the children and in order to find a solution to whatever situation such a difficult decision may create.
On the other hand, your jealousy is a sign of insecurity. A relationship needs to rely on trust and understanding; any evil thought must be chased away lest it becomes a shadow forever hanging over your happiness and stability.
Iím a girl of 16 who had an affair with a girl of the same age. After some obvious difficulties she left me, claiming she felt like being alone and unwilling to be with a woman any longer. Five months have passed since we broke up and we remain friends, though I miss her and depend totally on her. OK, life has no meaning without her and, well, thatís hurting us both since she left me and, to some extent, doesnít have a new life because weíre together all the time, but truth is, I canít spend too much time around her, and on top of that, she being my problem and I hers, we canít open up to each other to the max. I donít know, Iím wearing myself out, but I canít help being completely dependent on her; yet I donít want to split up. Iíve lost about 10 kg against my will, and it would much worse were she not around. My heart is broken, but I love her. What can I do?
Independently of your homosexuality, which leaves a certain stamp on your relationships given that many still frown on this kind of orientation and force some to stay in the closet for fear of what their family, friends, etc., will say (especially during adolescence, with its great questions and doubts regarding what we are, feel and wish), you must also realize that whatís happening to you is typical of the stage of life you and your friend are going through. For the most part, relationships at your age tend to be less steady, and even if theyíre lived with greater passion they seldom last very long, its members unsure of what they feel for each other.
I believe you should have an honest talk, but even if youíre very much in love with your friend, it takes two to have a relationship, not just one of the partiesí intentions. If yours is an unrequited love, you should learn to live with your loss and take in the fact that being constantly within striking distance of each other will help you bear your grief no more than it will make you grasp the need to wipe the slate clean and make a fresh start.
Bisexuality: two ways, two choices.
Iím 22, and for over two years Iíve had a relationship with a girl that I like and I think Iím in love with. We have sex, which I really enjoy, but the problem is that Iím starting to feel attracted to men too. Whenever I see a handsome boy with a nice body that turns me on, I canít take my eyes off him. Actually, itís not a new thing, but itís been getting to me more and more in the last few months. If I watch a sex scene in a movie, I look at the man, not the woman. Sometimes I even get an erection by looking at a man, either in the flesh or in a photograph (to the point that I have masturbated). Maybe I should make love more often than my girlfriend is willing to, but I donít want to force her to do it, since we would both feel bad. Besides, what Iím going through now might be affecting us too. Of course, Iíd rather she doesnít know anything about it because I donít want to hurt her.
I donít want to be a homosexual, first of all for my parents and my girl, but also for myself, since I know Iíd never be happy, and not only because of society: I want to have children and raise them in a normal family where they can be happy. Iím aware my girlfriend is the best Iíve had (well, actually the first one); sheís a wonderful person whom I owe a great deal, so I donít want to wake up one day and see her as a friend instead of a woman. I want to marry her because I now sheíd be a perfect mother for my children, not to mention that we have a lot in common and I fear that I might stop liking her and prefer men instead.
What can I do? Iím embarrassed about going to see a psychologist and Iím scared to death that people find out, especially my girlfriend.
To begin with, you should know that every individualís sexual orientation is defined as the direction of his or her sexual interest, explicitly or otherwise, toward members of the same, opposite, or both sexes (that is, homosexual, heterosexual, and bisexual men or women, respectively).
According to your words, you seem to be bisexual, since you find satisfaction in having sex with your girlfriend at the same time as you are attracted to men. First of all let me put you straight about something: itís not a disease, and I tell you this because, for a very long time, everything different from a heterosexual behavior -the socially accepted normĖ was deemed pathologic.
Thereís such a thing as sexual diversity, and the most important thing is that everyone assumes his or her own. This phenomenon depends on many factors, in other words, any explanation as to why people have various sexual orientations involves biological, psychological and social learning factors (your familyís role in your education, behavioral standards, etc.).
As you assume your real orientation you must bear in mind that youíre still very young and just having your first steady relationship.
Studies made about bisexual individuals have it that most have a distinct preference for a gender, although thatís not always the case.
I personally suggest that you seek professional help for guidance as to how to undertake the process you need to assume your own sexual orientation, taking into account that you have it wrong in several counts, namely:
ō Having heterosexual sex more often will not change your present sexual orientation.
ō Being hetero-, homo- or bisexual is not about willing or setting goals; an individualís will is known to be helpful when channeling acts, not preferences or needs, which as a last resort could be repressed. Remember what I said above: several factors concur on your sexual orientation, and either organic or social causes may prevail at the very outset in any particular individual.
Assuming a homosexual or bisexual orientation is a complicated process and usually a distressing, depressive decision darkened by the fear of exposure to family and peers inasmuch as the individual has to choose a path to follow taking into account his/her wishes to have offspring and a partner rubber-stamped by a society that is still prejudiced and thus likely to tamper with these sexual leanings.
Iím 22 and seeing a boy for 9 months now, but for some time Iíve been noticing that I feel a certain attraction to women, and I donít know why. Iím sure about what I feel for my boyfriend, albeit this makes me have second thoughts. Is there any way to clear up my doubts?
I believe that telling you what to do to ďclear up your doubtsĒ about your sexual interests is hardly the point of this exchange. Instead, you should examine yourself regarding your true leaning and preference, taking into consideration that a personís sexual orientation or sexuoeroticism (the target of oneís sexual desires, attraction, urges, thoughts and interests) can be:
ō Homosexual Ė toward members of the same sex.
ō Heterosexual Ė toward members of the opposite sex.
ō Bisexual Ė toward members of either sex.
The above orientations, as well as the choice of a sexual partner, are conditional on many specifics ranging from genetic to psychological and social factors.
Actually, since both homosexuals and bisexuals are the victims of many prejudices, myths and taboos, ďbecoming awareĒ of or coming to terms with any of these two orientations is a difficult, time-consuming task made worse by concerns about what family, friends and others will say.
Therefore, you should reflect on your real preference before you travel through this process of identification and acceptance. If need be, you can get further information or ask for more specific guidance.
Should you conclude that youíre bisexual, itís in your interest to start from the premise that a bisexual person has the ability to give a sexual respond to and show attraction and interest for members of both sexes with a considerable number of alternatives.
For a long
time any orientation other than heterosexual was tagged as a deviation or a
perversion. Nowadays, however, theyíre all nothing but alternatives to
sexuality for which we must have the proper respect.