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Sexual Orientation versus Sexual Arousal or Desire

How to tell if you are lesbian or bisexual

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I often hear from people who are questioning their sexual orientation because they became aroused by watching lesbian porn or the thought of two women together turns them on. These women wonder, "Am I a lesbian?" "Could I be bisexual?" For example, here is a question I recently received:

Am I a Lesbian or Bisexual?

I am 40 years old. My question is, am I a lesbian or bisexual for being aroused when I see two ladies having sensual sex? I am in a loving long-term partnership with my boyfriend, but the idea of touching a beautiful body of a woman, especially the breasts is so arousing even just to think about.

This is a great question and one that people of all ages may ponder. Sexual orientation is complex and it encompasses more than just sexual desire, although desire and arousal are certainly part of it.

Erotic images, such as those found in pornography, artwork, the movies or sensual writings can turn us on, no matter what the gender of the participants and our own sexual orientation. We may even be attracted to friends or acquaintances. You may have fantasies about what it would be like to be with them sexually.

Are you a Lesbian or Bisexual?

But does that mean you're a lesbian or bisexual? Not necessarily. Sexual images may arouse you, but arousal is only part of sexual orientation.

What is Sexual Orientation?

Being a lesbian means you want to have intimate and sexual relationships with women. Yes, you are aroused by women. But is also means you see yourself in a relationship with another woman. You may want to share your life with another woman. Or see yourself dating women, falling in love with women, spending most of your time with a woman.

People tend to think of sexual orientation as being three choices. A. Straight. B. Bisexual. C. Gay or Lesbian. But in reality, sexual orientation is a continuum, one that you may slide up and down at different points in your life. We may be drawn to different people in our lives at different times for different reasons. Those reasons may or may not have to do with our sexual orientation. They may have to do with societal pressure or our desire to have children.

I strongly encourage people to question their desires when they come up. Don't discount them, but take a look at them in the context of your whole life. Is this same-sex attraction a one-time thing, surrounded by a lifetime of opposite sex relations? Is it something you can compartmentalize, or does it dominate your psyche? Is it something that you can enjoy and walk away from, or does it pull you in intensely?

For women especially, romance and intimacy plays a role in their sexual orientation. So consider not just who turns you on physically, but who you connect with emotionally, spiritually, romantically. Is it women, men or both? And try not to worry too much about the labels. Labels can be useful to help define ourselves, but of course, we are so much more than just our sexual orientation.

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