We Have a Healthy Sex Life When I Am Not Panicking

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Reader’s Question

I am a 24-year-old male who has been straight since before he can remember.

Being with girls was effortless, and I enjoyed being with them/fantasising about them, etc. Rarely I would also have same sex fantasies. Sometimes they would turn me on more, and sometimes they wouldn’t, but in either case I was not attracted to men at all and didn’t even consider them as anything remotely sexual in my everyday life.

About six months ago I noticed a severe reduction in my sexual drive for women. I could still have sex with women and enjoy it, but it wasn’t as intense and it was hard to fantasise about them. I was going through a bad time and was obsessing about my relationship and the fact that I wasn’t as aroused by women which probably didn’t help.

One day I remember going shopping and seeing a handsome looking man and thought he was good to look at but nothing more. Then I panicked and thought “could I be gay?” I’d remembered I had had same sex fantasies in the past and this scared me further. Luckily the rational part of me kicked in and said that it doesn’t prove anything and I went about my life. Not too long after that though, whenever I couldn’t get aroused by a pretty girl I would panic a lot! Particularly because I found I could be aroused by men. I started to obsess that “I must be gay and I have to come out.” I started to think I would feel better if I did because I was growing tired with the stress of fighting it and reminding myself I’m straight.

It seems I am split in two. My conscious self wants to stay straight at whatever cost. The other part of me gets extremely anxious now when I look at a woman in a sexual way and therefore I obsess that I cannot be straight and that I’m just in denial!

So my question is could my obsessive style behaviour have led to my current troubles? I never thought it was possible to change your sexual orientation and I never wanted to! I have no problem with gay people at all; one of my best mates is gay, and I went to him with this and he said that you would know from day one and that I am not gay or latent gay (which he thinks is stupid) because I don’t want any part of it and I am consciously fighting it.

I should also mention that I am in a relationship with a woman. It has been bumpy at times and I have panicked that sometimes I don’t love her (which is ridiculous because I would do anything for her and am committed to making things work) but we get along great and we are really supportive of each other.

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We have a healthy sex life when I am not panicking and I enjoy it.


Psychologist’s Reply

My, you do have your knickers in a twist, don’t you? GP, catch your breath, close your eyes a moment, and let’s explore this.

It sounds like you are looking to a gay identity to solve a problem for you. Being unresolved about an issue seems intolerable, so you look for a quick solution to that issue — whether it makes sense, feels right, or suits your moral standing. Also, it seems that being gay vs. being straight carries a huge stigma, since you imagine that you are in such powerful denial. What we can say with some confidence is that the problems in your current relationship will ‘resolve’ or be settled if you tell her you’re gay. By that I mean, your romantic relationship will be over. Is that what you want? Are you looking for a way to tell her you don’t want to be with her any more? If so, then I hope you can summon up the courage and respect for her and tell her so. Don’t use ‘being gay’ as an excuse to escape other problems that are too formidable to face.

There are two points I’d like to address here. First is your ‘obsessive style’. When one obsesses over issues of this nature, it is often a displacement from the core issue that is really troubling you. If you need help addressing your problems directly or if you need help with your anxiety per se, help is available. I do strongly recommend that you enter individual psychotherapy to sort out the issues you raise. In addition, you may consider an evaluation for medicinal treatment of the anxiety and obsessiveness. Having an evaluation by a qualified psychiatrist does not mean that you will necessarily begin taking medication. It does mean that you will have another professional watching you, that you will establish a baseline for your current condition, and you will know whom to approach should the condition get worse.

Second, let’s talk about sexual orientation and gender preference. Most psychologists would agree that we are born bisexual. As infants, we can accept and be aroused by physical attention from both mother and father. Sexuality is not arousing to an infant as it is to an adult, nor does the physical sensation of arousal mean that an infant wants to orgasm with the male or female caregiver. It does mean that we can accept nurturing and physical love and care from multiple caregivers. Later in infancy, gender preferences develop, gender identity starts to develop, and we start to recognize ourselves as either a boy or girl. Later, our preference in sexual partners develop. These developments are predicated on both nature and nurture. Why do I bring this up? To try and normalize this for you. Sexuality does not neatly fall into ‘gay’ or ‘straight’ categories, nor does the orientation remain fixed from cradle to grave. What our sexuality means to us is also fluid and is strongly influenced by our culture and social norms. For example, being gay in San Francisco is pretty normal, but being gay in Iran may cause a person some anxiety. The anxiety can push a person to foreclose their query about their own sexuality and make a decision to conform with — or rebel against — the social norm. When that happens, their choice will certainly determine their behavior but not necessarily their unconscious preferences.

Bottom line, it’s not terrible to be gay or straight or bisexual, so relax about it. Allowing the anxiety to spiral up as you have does not help your ability to examine your feelings. Whatever you sexual orientation is, you are discovering it, not inventing it. Keep talking about it with your friends and therapist, GP. I think you’ll find that you can accept love, understanding and support from both men and women, that accepting their support doesn’t necessarily mean that you want to have sex with that person, and your horizon about whom you can love can expand beyond your current level.

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