Welcome to Relationship Rehab, news.com.au’s weekly column solving all your romantic problems, no holds barred. This week, our resident sexologist Isiah McKimmie helps a woman understand her sexual fantasies.
QUESTION: I’m a straight woman in her late 40s and I’ve recently divorced my husband of 16 years. We had grown apart and it wasn’t serving either of us anymore. I feel ready to date again but I’m unsure about my sexuality. I’ve never been with another woman but it’s something I have fantasized about over the years. I don’t want to mess other women around by dating them if I’m not bisexual but how do I find out without giving it a try? I’m also concerned about how my ex and kids would take it if I started seeing a woman.
ANSWER: We’re brought up with such rigid binaries of sexuality. At least when I was growing up, we were basically told there were three options – gay, straight or bisexual.
Along with this went the idea that if you’re straight you are only ever attracted to, and have sex with, members of the opposite sex and if you’re gay or lesbian, you only have sex with, and are attracted to, people of the same sex.
But we, as human beings, are beautifully complex. Our sexuality is equally beautiful and complex. The reality is that our sexual attractions and practices don’t always fit with these black and white ideas.
Sexuality is diverse and flexible
As far back as 1948 renowned sex researcher, Dr Alfred Kinsey proposed that our sexual orientation wasn’t binary, but exists on a scale which he suggested had seven different points.
More recently, the term ‘heteroflexible’ has emerged to describe people who are fluid in their sexual attraction and sexual behaviors.
Someone who has previously considered themselves heterosexual can fall in love or enjoy a sexual encounter with someone of the same sex.
An infamous Schitt’s Creek scene described this brilliantly when David said, ‘I like the wine and not the label’.
It’s common for women to have sexual fantasies about women
In a comprehensive study, psychologist and sex researcher Justin Lehmiller found that 59 percent of women fantasize about sex with other women.
These fantasies don’t necessarily mean you’re bisexual or that you want a sexual encounter with a woman. Fantasies don’t always translate into behavior.
But, of course, your fantasies can open you up to a new world of exploration.
Ways to explore your sexuality
There are a few ways you might want to consider exploring before you jump into dating women.
- Talk to a queer-friendly therapist
- Talking through your thoughts out loud can help you gain clarity and build your confidence in taking the next steps.
- Connect with the LGBTIQ+ community
- Consider connecting with others in the LGBTIQ+ community through books, articles, at events or in queer-friendly spaces. There are others who have experienced a similar dilemma to you.
Take your time
There’s no rush to label or define your sexual orientation. Your feelings and attractions may evolve over time, and that’s okay. Choosing to date women now doesn’t mean that you’ll exclusively date women for the rest of your life. Allow yourself the space to explore and understand your feelings at your own pace.
Be open with anyone you engage with
I hear your consideration of not wanting to hurt anyone else’s feelings while you try to understand what you want. I know you’re not going to intentionally hurt anyone.
Being open from the get-go with anyone you’re engaging with can alleviate your guilt and empower them to make their own decisions.
Take it slowly with your family
After such a long time with your ex-husband, it’s going to be hard when you start seeing anyone – regardless of their gender.
You’re right that telling your family you’re seeing a woman could cause challenges. And, you may be pleasantly surprised at how they react when they see that you’re happy.
Keep in mind that you’re potentially a long way from telling your family about someone. There’s a lot you can explore and a lot of consider before you need to tell them anything about your dating life.