Supposedly Johnny Depp’s daughter, who is 16 years old by the way, has come out on Instagram that she is ‘sexually fluid’. As I read this, some questions started to pop up in my brain: what does this mean, being sexually fluid? Can you know this about yourself at the age of 16? Why feel the need to ‘come out’ and share this insight with the world? And the most important question of all: Why do people need to complicate life so much by putting labels on themselves?
To answer my first question: sexual fluidity means that ones sexual identity or sexual orientation is not fixed or stable. For instance, a person who considers/labels himself heterosexual could at some point in his life develop a sexual interest in one or more persons of the same sex or both sexes. Scientifically there is no consensus regarding sexual fluidity. Some scientists differentiate between sexual orientation and sexual orientation identity, saying that sexual orientation or sexual desire is something one cannot choose cq. is born with, whereas sexual orientation identity is a choice and therefore can chance during the course of life. Some researchers say that sexual fluidity is not that common: “The vast majority of people are straight, with their sexual identities, attractions, and behaviors lined up like ducks in a row. A small percentage of people aren’t straight, and their sexuality is far more complicated.” Straight men are supposedly less sexually fluid than heterosexual women. Etc.
Based on the information above I find it hard to believe a 16 year old can conclude he or she is sexually fluid. I think teenagers experience sexual attraction to both sexes. Maybe it is equally divided between the sexes or maybe he/she feels more attracted to one specific sex than the other. Teenagers are curious, discovering themselves, their desires and romantic/sexual inter-human relationships. I’d say it is normal that their sexual orientation or sexual identity is not ‘stable’ in that phase of their lives.
Before getting to the ‘coming out’ issue I go straight to my last question about our urge to put labels on things – and on ourselves. Why do we find it necessary to call ourselves hetero, bi, homo, gay, lesbian, a-sexual, sexually fluid or whatever? Why do we need to decide what sexual identity we have? What does that do other than putting us in a pigeon-hole, stigmatising people and limiting our sexual options and sexual experiences? Sexuality is complicated? No, we make it complicated.
The ‘complicated’ part of sexuality – in my humble opinion – is not sexual identity or orientation, it is sexual arousal. Things or situations can arouse us, but that does not mean we want to experience or do the things that arouse us. For instance: I get aroused by looking at breast – I love them – but I do not have the desire to touch them or have sex with a woman. Many heterosexual men like to see big penises and cum shots in porno’s, but that does not mean they want to experience men ejaculating on them or have sex with other men. Although our minds are shocked by seeing a rape scene in a movie, we can experience physical arousal against our will nonetheless. Same goes for observing animals mating. Getting aroused by something doesn’t say anything about what we want to be aroused by. I believe it is a basic, primal physical reaction to observing sex, no matter what kind of sex it is. The discrepancy between body and mind is confusing, but it does not mean we have to start fixating and labelling our sexuality.
I am convinced we can make our lives a lot easier by understanding that we are either sexual, meaning we feel sexual desire and attraction towards other people, or that we are non/not-sexual, meaning we do not feel sexual desire and attraction towards other people, leaving out the gender of our sexual interest altogether. Some people are always attracted to people who do or do not have the same sex, others may find themselves in a situation or phase where it shifts. There can be stronger, lesser or non-sexual phases in our lives. Certain sexual practices such as men receiving anal sex are not strictly seen as ‘gay’ anymore because we do not use these sexual identity labels. See where I am going?
The wonderful outcome of sweeping the words ‘hetero’, ‘bi’, ‘homo’, ‘gay’, ‘lesbian’, ‘a-sexual’, ‘sexually fluid’, etc. from our vocabulary would be that no one needs ‘to come’ out anymore, because apart from the fact that it is no one’s business what gender we feel attracted to, it simply has no meaning. We all know chemistry is a bitch – we can’t control it. We desire, connect to or fall in love with a person. Man, woman or transgender, it does not matter.
How about we give it a try? It’s easy. I’ll start: I am sexual.