So a question for all you women out there: does watching animals having sex turn you on? Does your brain immediately start thinking about sex? Are you physically turned on? And I am talking about any kind of animal: dog, gorilla, goat, turtle, butterfly, worm. I am even talking about humans who you might not find attractive. I will answer first: YES I DO. As long as it is real sex, and not some fake act (I am thinking of bad, cheesy porn here—I don’t know if you could find non-human animals who have fake cheesy sex), I am turned on. What the hell?
What the hell, because: J is not turned on by anything, he maintains, except attractive humans having sex. (J now editing: I swear, it just doesn’t do it for me!). What?? Sex at Dawn goes a bit into the research behind this, and the research behind what turns on gay men versus straight men versus straight women. Apparently gay men are turned on by other men, straight men by women, and straight women by… pretty much anything. Lesbians are similar to gay and straight men, in that they are turned on primarily by other women (according to the studies in Sex at Dawn). I get turned on—that “switch” flips—when I watch pretty much anything have sex- bugs, gorillas, lions, and humans! J is pretty much only turned on by seeing attractive humans having sex… I am even turned on watching people who are unattractive to me having sex… do I just have an indiscriminate switch?
This also relates to something that I have been thinking about since we started exploring our open relationship, and the swinging community in particular. I think that it is much more culturally acceptable for women to explore their sexuality than for men, even if it isn’t acceptable to be gay. I think we get a lot of messages about how it is okay for college-aged women to “explore” their sexuality by being with other women, even if deciding that one is bi or gay is not ultimately okay in our society. Men don’t have that brief encouragement. In the swinging community, bi women are the norm, at least from our limited experience. Bi men, however, and not to mention gay men, are excluded; there is also a strong sense I get from many straight men in the community that “Of course, I’m not into men.” Why? Frankly, it turns me on to think about J with another man, or even being with two bi men… maybe I just need to get some gay porn. (J again: This was MY suggestion!)
I have had erotic and sexual dreams since middle school in which my partner is a woman. I have also had many dreams with men. Recently, my erotic dream partner was a trans woman. Since negotiating and experiencing our open relationship, I have been able to explore how I feel sexually with women; J hasn’t had that opportunity to do that with men, and while it is not something that he is interested in, it bothers me that he doesn’t have similar cultural messages to at least explore. J feels, like nearly every other straight man we have gotten to know, that he is not interested in exploring sexual encounters with other men: is this deep, deep cultural repression, or something different about men and women? The authors of Sex at Dawn maintain (based on multiple studies) that men’s sexuality “cements” at an early age: you either cement into a straight or gay orientation and there are very few men who lie along the spectrum between straight and gay. However, they point to research that says women have a fluid sexuality throughout their lives, and are also more flexible in how they express their sexuality in accordance with cultural norms.
For me, this line of thinking fits my experience. J asked me how I felt growing up having dreams with women in them. I told him that I was never ashamed I had them; I just didn’t think deeply about them or think about actually trying it: it was just a dream. My first few times with women were for selfish exploration: what does it feel like to grab someone else’s boob? Or to finger someone else? Or to even kiss a woman and hold a woman’s hand? My comfort with women grew, and became something I liked to do as part of group play: I could now sexually connect not just with J and another man, but the other woman as well! Thinking about playing with women, especially on my own, really turns me on now. I don’t know where that puts me on the sexuality spectrum, but I am fairly confident that if J and I hadn’t opened up our relationship, I would not have tried to experience being with a woman on my own. It just wasn’t something that had really been brought to my attention; it wasn’t in my immediate lens for what my life could feel and look like.