Is sexuality a neurotypical construct?

I’ve never liked the word ‘bisexual’.  Although it’s probably relatively accurate, it’s never felt like the right word, and I’ve certainly not embraced it as an identity.  It comes with politics and stereotypes, assumptions and biphobia.  Just having a love of people in general, and an openness to getting to know someone because of *who* they are, not what toilet they go into, should not be associated with such negative things.  Whilst some might use the word ‘pansexual’ (or ‘multisexual’, or ‘polysexual’ – check out this cool blog if you’d like to know more), few people seem to know what that means, unless they are particularly well-informed, and people who jump to greedy or philanderous assumptions about bisexuals are likely to do the same about pansexuals.

In general I’ve preferred to use the phrase, somewhat tongue in cheek, ‘equal opportunities dater’.  It doesn’t just apply to gender identity and sexuality, I’ve been out with people much younger, and much, much older than myself.  I don’t have a ‘type’, beyond someone who makes me feel good about myself and doesn’t cause me loads of hassle.  Does that make me sound unfussy?  (Or as my friend kindly suggested, I’ll go out with anyone who’ll have me!)  I don’t mean it to, and anybody who knows me will confirm that I can be *extremely* fussy.  Just not about what school someone went to, what shoes they wear, how tall they are, or other surface or biographical characteristics.

Perhaps it comes from a sense that I don’t always make the right first impression, that it takes time to get to know me, and that some people’s perception of me changes dramatically once they do take the time to get to know me.  I like to extend the same courtesy to others.  Just because you are male/female, gay/straight, human/martian, or anywhere along those spectrums, does not mean we are not potentially compatible, something that is based on the *individuals* that we are on the inside.  You don’t hear people saying, “It didn’t work out because s/he’s a wo/man”, so why start out by saying, “It’s not going to work out because s/he’s a wo/man”.

I’ve always been like this.  I spent a while growing up wondering what it all meant, whether I was secretly gay and in denial.  None of the labels or hats seemed to fit, sexuality as it’s portrayed in mainstream popular culture just doesn’t seem to mean the same thing to me.  Later in life, after I found out I had Asperger’s, I started to discover that I was not alone in feeling like this.  Clearly it’s not a topic everybody is comfortable talking openly about, but some of the friends I did speak to at least understood what I meant, even if it was not their own experience.  What struck me was that most of the people who related to it (rather than just understanding or accepting it as a possibility) were also Aspies.  That made me wonder what role society has in shaping sexuality, and to what degree sexuality might be a Neurotypical concept.

I’m not suggesting that everybody is a blank slate (although there are some proponents of this).  Clearly lots of people feel strongly that they have had very clear preferences from an early age.  Also, if sexuality were purely socially-determined, everybody would probably grow up like those around them (and there would be little variation within a culture).  However, in addition to varying along a spectrum between e.g., straight and gay, I wonder if people might also vary along another continuum – that between genetically-determined and socially-determined sexuality.

This is not a self-congratulatory, ‘hey I’m not a superficial person’ post – on the contrary, to make this choice requires a good working knowledge of what others consider desirable, and what constitutes superficial.  If, on the other hand, you happen to fall towards the socially-determined sexuality end, but (due to neurodiversity) have great difficulty in recognising, interpreting and understanding social messages about expectations and desirability, you might end up choosing partners based on a different set of criteria to those played out in everyday society.  If you don’t know what the Jones’ think about shoes, or you don’t care what they think about shoes, you might not mind if your partner wears shoes for comfort rather than fashion.  You might just prefer that they love your cats as much as you do, and bring you a cup of coffee in the morning.

© Catastraspie, 2013.

PS Happy New Year everybody!

Pansexual flag

Pansexual flag (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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