PLEASE BE AWARE, THIS TOPIC INCLUDES SEXUAL AND BIOLOGICAL LANGUAGE AND MAY TRIGGER MEMORIES IN SOME PEOPLE.
Sexuality is a simple word that can cause so much confusion, embarrassment, fear, and questions for some people.
- Just What is Sexuality?
- Does it mean when your gay?
- Do I have a sexuality?
- I’m straight so I don’t have one, do I?
- Its just talking about sex isn’t it?
Well simply put, Sexuality is the word that’s used to describe a persons sexual being – their preferences, interests, which influence a persons thoughts and feelings regarding sex and their choice of partner or partners. It is widely accepted now that a persons sexuality begins to develop from birth but most of us become consciously aware of our sexuality in our early teenage years as a part of puberty. Science has also discovered that when people feel sexual desire, a number of regions in the brain (several in the temporal lobe) become active and neurons stimulated.
From the people we like because of their physical appearance or their personality to some unseen, unspoken connection that you can only feel within you, a persons sexuality is theirs alone and no-one can take that away.
However, as survivors of sexual abuse and rape we can often have many issues with sex and become extremely confused about our sexuality. Having a ‘problem’ with your sexuality is not uncommon and is something many of us share. There are lots of different reasons why some people struggle with their sexuality and it would be impossible to talk about every issue. But from our own experiences, what others have told us and therapeutic research, we have highlighted some common issues and themes. Remember though, your sexuality is unique and personal to you… everyone has one, you just need to understand yours.
The ‘Gay’ Thing?
Historically, society’s messages about homosexuality have been extremely negative and being gay has been seen as a sin, a perversion and even a sickness. Gay men have been viewed as being weak, dirty and often not real men – more like women?!. One thought is that because the world is predominantly set out for being heterosexual (from parenting, schooling, education, medical care, religion, the books and magazines you read, the TV and films you watch, the music you listen to, and the laws you live under), heterosexuality is normal so therefore gay is wrong. When a guy becomes aware of his sexuality and realises that he finds men attractive, an internal conflict may arise within him. One part of him will want to accept his feelings (which may mean him accepting he is not heterosexual) and start to express and embrace his sexuality. On the other hand, another part of him will be saying, “Gay is wrong, it’s a sickness, sinful and perverted”. So the conflict arises but which part does he listen to? The part saying, “I’m gay?” or the part that has been absorbed and internalised from the culture around him that is saying, “Gay is wrong?” This internal conflict makes it difficult for many individuals to accept their sexuality.
But some for some male survivors, the internal conflict can also be complicated even more by the memories of the actual abuse and the feelings we had at the time and since, in regards to sex and gender.
It Was A ‘Gay’ Act?
If the abuser was a man, then some people can confuse that as being a ‘gay’ act. The reality is that the abuse of a boy or man by a man is no more of a ‘gay’ act than the abuse of a girl or woman by a man is a ‘straight’ act. It is an act of abuse or rape. It is an act of the removal of power and control by one (the abuser) from another (the victim). It is not an act of a sexuality.
Some men remember feeling stimulated, having pleasurable feelings and climaxing during the abuse. So often, this can be confusing and results in a thought “i liked the abuse” and therefore (again if the perpetrator was also male) concluding that “I must like men and therefore I must be gay”. To break this down, we need to recognise that the human body is an extremely complex and incredible machine that automatically reacts to situations and events in certain ways. Touching and stimulating parts of a mans body will cause a chain reaction which he has no control over (like pressing a light switch will cause the light bulb to become light) – its a automatic reaction.
Certain touch or touch to certain parts of the body will cause the nerve endings to be stimulated which in turn, send signals to the brain which are rewarded with pleasure chemicals. This then causes the blood to rush around the body (increasing breathing, heart rate and pulse) and flood the erectile canals in the penis, resulting in an erection. Stimulation of the erect penis over a period of time will cause an automatic response resulting in ejaculation. Its simple human biology really.
But we can often not think in these biological terms and seeing our body’s own physical reaction to what is happening can confuse us. In our mind we don’t like what is happening during the abuse act but our body is reacting in a way we don’t want it too and we cant stop it reacting that way.
I’m Gay/Bi Because Of The Abuse!
There is no one clear reason why some people are gay, bisexual or heterosexual. A number of factors are suggested including it being innate (we are born lesbian or gay); genetic or hormonal factors; a result of our childhood and parenting; or maybe a result of the society and culture we grow up in. The reality is that no one has a clear and proven answer. What we do know though is that unlike many of our animal counterparts, human beings are sexual creatures and our sexuality is very fluid, it doesn’t always stay the same throughout our lives but please don’t confuse this with the belief that conversion is possible, we are wholly opposed to the unethical and dangerous practice of conversion or reparative therapy.
Maybe the point is to look at understanding and accepting that although we may not know what our sexuality is, we know we have one. We should never deny ourselves the right to explore our sexual feelings as long as we know we are not aiming to hurt another person and that both we and our partners are comfortable in what we are doing.
There is not one person in the world that has not worried about their sexuality or doubted themselves because of their feelings at some time in their lives. The most important thing is that we come to understand our feelings and use them to express ourselves in a way that can help us celebrate who we are and make sure that we give ourselves the opportunity to share our thoughts and desires with someone we really care about, and our own self!
The most important thing is to relax and take time to understand your emotions, your moods and when the time is right for you to share your sexual thoughts and feelings. The only person you have to be honest with is yourself. Always remember that you are not the only person who may be feeling confused about sex and sexuality, it is one of the most common things that human beings share the world over. Without sex their would be no -one left in the world and if it didn’t feel good we wouldn’t want to do it.
Your sexuality is unique to you, don’t hide it away. You are not only denying yourself the pleasure of sharing one of the most important parts of your life, but you are denying someone the privilege to love you for who you are.
You know what, we all have the right to love and to be loved, that includes YOU!
Working with us, our friends at the Lesbian & Gay Foundation have developed a fantastic resource for gay and bisexual men who have experienced sexual violation and we think its pretty damn good (if we do say so ourselves). You can download a copy by clicking here or go take a look at their specific sexual violation page on their website by clicking here.
The Lesbian & Gay Foundation