Omnisexual, gynosexual, demisexual: What’s behind the surge in sexual identities?


There’s been a proliferation of sexual identities.

by Olivia Goldhill

In 1976, the French philosopher Michel Foucault made the meticulously researched case that sexuality is a social construct used as a form of control. In the 40 years since, society has been busy constructing sexualities. Alongside the traditional orientations of heterosexual, homosexual, and bisexual, a myriad other options now exist in the lexicon, including:

  • pansexual (gender-blind sexual attraction to all people)
  • omnisexual (similar to pansexual, but actively attracted to all genders, rather than gender-blind)
  • gynosexual (someone who’s sexually attracted to women—this doesn’t specify the subject’s own gender, as both “lesbian” and “heterosexual” do)
  • demisexual (sexually attracted to someone based on a strong emotional connection)
  • sapiosexual (sexually attracted to intelligence)
  • objectumsexual (sexual attraction to inanimate objects)
  • autosexual (someone who prefers masturbation to sexual activity with others)
  • androgynosexual (sexual attraction to both men and women with an androgynous appearance)
  • androsexual (sexual attraction towards men)
  • asexual (someone who doesn’t experience sexual attraction)
  • graysexual (occasionally experiencing sexual attraction, but usually not)

Clearly, people felt that the few existing labels didn’t apply to them. There’s a clear “demand being made to have more available scripts than just heterosexual, homosexual, and bisexual,” says Robin Dembroff, philosophy professor at Yale University who researches feminist theory and construction.

Labels might seem reductive, but they’re useful. Creating a label allows people to find those with similar sexual interests to them; it’s also a way of acknowledging that such interests exist. “In order to be recognized, to even exist, you need a name,” says Jeanne Proust, philosophy professor at City University of New York. “That’s a very powerful function of language: the performative function. It makes something exist, it creates a reality.”

The newly created identities, many of which originated in the past decade, reduce the focus on gender—for either the subject or object of desire—in establishing sexual attraction. “Demisexual,” for example, is entirely unrelated to gender, while other terms emphasize the gender of the object of attraction, but not the gender of the subject. “Saying that you’re gay or straight doesn’t mean that you’re attracted to everyone of a certain gender,” says Dembroff. The proliferation of sexual identities means that, rather than emphasizing gender as the primary factor of who someone finds attractive, people are able to identify other features that attract them, and, in part or in full, de-couple gender from sexual attraction.

Dembroff believes the recent proliferation of sexual identities reflects a contemporary rejection of the morally prescriptive attitudes towards sex that were founded on the Christian belief that sex should be linked to reproduction. “We live in a culture where, increasingly, sex is being seen as something that has less to do with kinship and reproduction, and more about individual expression and forming intimate bonds with more than one partner,” Dembroff says. “I think as there’s more of an individual focus it makes sense that we have these hyper-personalized categories.”

The same individuality that permeates western culture, leading people to focus on the self and value their own well-being over the group’s, is reflected in the desire to fracture group sexual identities into increasingly narrow categories that reflect personal preferences.

Some believe this could restrict individuals’ freedom in expressing fluid sexuality. Each newly codified sexual orientation demands that people adopt increasingly specific criteria to define their sexual orientation.

“Language fixes reality, it sets reality,” says Proust. “It paralyzes it, in a way. It puts it in a box, under a tag. The problem with that is it doesn’t move. It negates or denies any instability or fluidity.”

There’s also the danger that self-definition inadvertently defines other people. Just as the terms “heterosexual” and “homosexual” demand that people clarify their sexual preference according to their and their partner’s gender, “sapiosexual” asks that we each of us define our stance towards intelligence. Likewise, the word “pansexual” requires people who once identified as “bisexual” clarify their sexual attraction towards those who don’t identify as male or female. And “omnisexual” suggests that people should address whether they’re attracted to all genders or oblivious to them.

In Foucault’s analysis, contemporary society turns sex into an academic, scientific discipline, and this mode of perceiving sex dominates both understanding and experience of it. The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy summarizes this idea neatly:

Not only is there control exercised via others’ knowledge of individuals; there is also control via individuals’ knowledge of themselves. Individuals internalize the norms laid down by the sciences of sexuality and monitor themselves in an effort to conform to these norms.

The new terms for sexual orientations similarly infiltrate the political discourse on sexuality, and individuals then define themselves accordingly. Though there’s nothing that prevents someone from having a demisexual phase, for example, the labels suggest an inherent identity. William Wilkerson, a philosophy professor at the University of Alabama-Huntsville who focuses on gender studies, says this is the distinctive feature of sexual identities today. In the past, he points out, there were plenty of different sexual interests, but these were presented as desires rather than intrinsic identities. The notion of innate sexual identities “seems profoundly different to me,” he says. “The model of sexuality as an inborn thing has become so prevalent that people want to say ‘this is how I feel, so perhaps I will constitute myself in a particular way and understand this as an identity’,” he adds.

In the 1970s and 80s there was a proliferation of sexual groups and interests similar to what we’ve seen over the past five to 10 years, notes Wilkerson. The identities that originated in earlier decades—such as bears, leather daddies, and femme and butch women—are deeply influenced by lifestyle and appearance. It’s difficult to be a butch woman without looking butch, for example. Contemporary identities, such as gynosexual or pansexual, suggest nothing about appearance or lifestyle, but are entirely defined by intrinsic sexual desire.

Dissatisfaction with existing labels doesn’t necessarily have to lead to creating new ones. Wilkerson notes that the queer movement in earlier decades was focused on anti-identity and refusing to define yourself. “It’s interesting that now, it’s like, ‘We really want to define ourselves,’” says Wilkerson.

The trend reflects an impulse to cut the legs out from under religious invectives against non-heteronormative sexualities. If you’re “born this way,” it’s impossible for your sexuality to be sinful because it’s natural, made of biological desires rather than a conscious choice. More recently, this line of thinking has been criticized by those who argue all sexualities should be accepted regardless of any link to biology; that sexuality is socially constructed, and the reason no given sexuality is “sinful” is simply because any consenting sexual choice is perfectly moral.

Though it may sound ideal to be utterly undefined and beyond categories, Proust says it’s impossible. “We have to use categories. It’s sad, it’s tragic. But that’s how it is.” Constructs aren’t simply necessary for sexual identity or gender; they’re an essential feature of language, she adds. We cannot comprehend the world without this “tag-fixing process.”

The proliferation of specific sexual identities today may seem at odds with the anti-identity values of queer culture, but Dembroff suggests that both work towards the same ultimate goal of eroding the impact and importance of the old-fashioned binary sexual identities. “Social change always happens in non-ideal increments,” Dembroff notes. So while today we may have dozens of sexual identities, they may become so individualized and specific that they lose any significance for group identities, and the entire concept of a fixed sexual identity is eroded.

“We demand that sex speak the truth,” wrote Foucault in The History of Sexuality. “We demand that it tell us our truth, or rather, the deeply buried truth of that truth about ourselves which we think we possess in our immediate consciousness.” We still believe sex reveals an inner truth; now, however, we are more readily able to recognize that the process of discovering and identifying that truth is always ongoing.

Complete Article HERE!


Actual things you can do to bridge the orgasm gap in your own bedroom


By Rachel Thompson

Your sexual partner just jubilantly crossed the finish line, but you’re still running a race with no end in sight. It’s frustrating. And, for an alarming number of heterosexual women, it’s the infuriating reality of sex. Metaphors aside, we’re talking about the gender orgasm gap—the disparity between men and women’s sexual satisfaction, and a struggle that many of us know all too well.

64 percent of men have an orgasm during sex, but only 34 percent of women can say the same, according to the Durex Global Sex Survey which surveyed nearly 30K adults worldwide. Women who identify as heterosexual are the demographic that have the fewest orgasms, according to a study by Indiana University. That same research also revealed something that many women are already fully aware of: penetrative sex alone simply doesn’t cut it for most women. And, that women need oral sex and clitoral stimulation if they’re going to stand any chance of coming.

The reasons for the orgasm gap are multi-faceted, and some of them will take a long time to remedy. Sex education that fails to teach sexual pleasure has been cited as one reason for the gap. A study from University of Wisconsin-Madison found a third of university-age women can’t identify their clitoris in an anatomy test. Communication, or a lack thereof, is one of the biggest obstacles in bridging the orgasm gap, according to the Durex Global Sex Survey. Over a third of people feel they can’t tell their sexual partner what they like. And, others say the reason behind the gender orgasm gap is the cultural prioritisation of the male orgasm.

We might not be able to change these things overnight, but there are a few things we can do. Mashable asked gynaecologists, sex therapists, sex educators, and orgasm equality activists what heterosexual sex partners can do to bridge the orgasm gap in their own bedroom. Here are the pearls of wisdom they imparted that will hopefully bring us all a little closer to that oh-so-coveted finish line.

Don’t fake it

Heather Corinna—founder of Scarleteen, a sex and relationships education site for young people—warns against faking your orgasm, which can cause a miscommunication between you and your sexual partner. “Orgasm tells a partner whatever you did together can gets you off. So, they’re often going to try and repeat those things to get that result again,” says Corinna. “If you faked, you gave them wrong information, and then they think things get you off that might not, or even most definitely DO not.”

Masturbate together

Angela Skurtu— sex therapist and cohost of the About Sex podcast—says couples should masturbate together so they can see see “how each person touches themselves.” “Women masturbate very differently than men do and we can teach each other,” says Skurtu. “You can also make this a competition—whoever finishes first wins something.”

Build arousal slowly

“Slow down,” says Sophie Holloway, founder of Ladies Come First, a campaign promoting pleasure based sex education. “No touching the vagina until you are really really really turned on,” says Holloway. “Your labia should be plump and erect just like the penis when you are aroused.” She recommends staying in foreplay for as long as possible to build arousal slowly and to achieve what she calls a “lady boner.” When it comes to pressure, Holloway says partners should start out “touching the clitoris with the same pressure as you would your eyelid” before applying more pressure.

‘Stay in’

Claire Kim, program manager at sex education site OMGYES, says in hetero penetrative sex, “in and out friction” is what’s pleasurable for the man, but this action isn’t conductive to the level of clitoral stimulation women need. “What’s often much more pleasurable for the woman is his penis staying inside,” says Kim. “So that the clitoris stays in contact with the area above the penis, and the top of the penis stays in contact with the inside roots of the clitoral cluster, which go around the urethra and up the vaginal canal.”

Think about what gets you off alone

We know what makes us come when we’re going solo. The obstacle usually arises when we bring another person into the equation. Corinna recommends examining “what floats your boat solo” and then “bringing it to your crew.” “Whatever that is, bring as much of it into sex with partners as you can,” says Corinna. “Whether that’s bringing the fantasies in your head, showing them how to do what you like with your own hands meshed with theirs, or doing it yourself during sex (or both!), using porn you like together.” Gynaecologist and sex counsellor Dr. Terri Vanderlinde recommends that women practice “alone, comfortably” with fingers or vibrators to learn “her body and how it works.”

Treat this as a learning curve

PSA men: this is gonna take some time. Holloway says men need to know that “until they have the map to their partner’s pleasure” it’s going to be a “voyage of discovery.” “This takes time, and patience, and love, and respect, and placing their partners pleasure and orgasm as their primary goal is a big part of it,” she says.  Partners should listen and learn their partner’s pleasure signals, and be receptive when your partner tells you when something’s not working for them.

Get on top

When it comes to positions for penetrative sex, all experts interviewed by Mashable were in agreement: getting on top will help get you off. Dr. Vandelinde says being on top provides open access for clitoral stimulation, which most women need in order to orgasm. It also gives the woman “the freedom to have more control of the movements” so you can get into a rhythm that feels good, according to Holloway. Online sex therapist and host of Foreplay Radio podcast Laurie Watson says “woman on top at a 45 degree angle gives the penis the most contact with the G-spot, and is a good position that she can reach her clitoris.”

Experiment with positions

Getting on top isn’t the be all and end all, though. Vanderlinde says doggy style can be a good position for clitoral stimulation. “Anything that can give direct stimulation to the clitoris works,” says Vanderlinde. Watson recommends lying on your back, hooking your legs around your partner’s elbows with your pelvis rocked up. “To climax during intercourse I suggest a position where their partner or themselves can simultaneously touch their clitoris,” says Watson.

As Corinna points out, women have “incredibly diverse bodies, and even more diverse sexualities.”  They say orgasm can occur with “any kind of sexual activity” and each person over time will find what works for their own bodies. “There are going to be certain positions, angles or other specifics that work best for them. But what those are is so varied, that’s something we all have to find out by experimenting,” they say.

Talk about sex outside the bedroom

Corinna says it’s actually really hard to talk about what you like and don’t like during sex. “It’s just such a high-stakes situation, and people, especially women, are often so worried about how what they say will be perceived,” says Corinna, who suggests building communication about sex when you’re not having sex. “Start by doing more talking about sex when you’re not actually engaging in sex. That can help build trust and comfort and practice that makes doing it during easier,” says Corinna.

Tell your partner when something feels good

We know that faking your orgasm will give your partner the wrong message about what’s working for you. If you feel comfortable doing so, Corinna says you should “voice it when things do feel good” and “show them what you like when you can.” “Don’t be afraid to ask a partner to keep doing what they are doing when you’re into it, or to adjust when something isn’t doing it for you,” they say. “Be explicit and clear and open.”

Add toys to the equation

If you use a vibrator on your own, then it’s worth considering using it when you’re having sex with your partner. “If someone enjoy sex toys alone, why wouldn’t they bring them into sex together at least sometimes? The idea that toys are just for people alone is silly,” says Corinna.

If you want to add toys to the equation during penetrative sex, Vanderlinde recommends using a “cock ring with a vibrator” which will afford “hands free stimulation” as well as vibrators that can fit between your and your partner’s bodies. “Or simply wait ’til he finishes and then he can stimulate her to multiple orgasms,” says Vanderlinde.

Plan to give oral

Sex therapist Deborah Fox says that the “majority” of women won’t come from intercourse alone and that’s simply down to biology. The clitoris is full of nerve endings, while only the outer third of the vagina tends to have responsive nerves,” says Fox.

If the man comes during intercourse, his next move should be to find a way to make his partner come. Skurtu says if the man comes during intercourse, he should plan to perform oral sex afterwards. “If a person finishes first, the next person can perform oral on the first or use a vibrator and/or fingers,” she says.

Don’t fret

Try not to get stressed if you don’t come. Vanderlinde says there are sometimes other things at play that could be standing in the way of reaching orgasm. “There can be interfering medical diagnoses, medications, pain, low desire, hormones, partner issues, prior abuse, trust issues, stresses, worries, depression, that have a major effect on a woman’s ability to have an orgasm,” she says. In these situations, consider seeking advice from a medical professional or trained sex counsellor.

Go forth, explore. And most importantly, have fun.

Complete Article ↪HERE↩!


For Menopause Sex Discomfort, Gel Worked as Well as Estrogen


Study find gels worked as well as prescription hormone tablets at reducing symptoms of menopause-related sexual discomfort.

By Lindsey Tanner

In a study of women with menopause-related sexual discomfort, gels worked as well as prescription hormone tablets at reducing symptoms.

The researchers say the results suggest low-cost, over-the-counter moisturizers might be the best option.

Most women in the study reported some relief from their most bothersome symptoms — painful intercourse, vaginal dryness or itching — regardless of treatment. Still, not quite half the women experienced what researchers considered a meaningful decline in symptom severity.

The problems are linked with declining levels of the hormone estrogen, which happens to all women when they reach menopause.

What baffles researchers is why only about half of women experience bothersome symptoms. Without that answer, pinpointing the cause and finding the perfect solution is difficult, said Dr. Caroline Mitchell, the study’s lead author and a researcher at Massachusetts General Hospital.
Continue reading the main story

“Until we know why, our treatments are really just pretty broad attempts,” Mitchell said. “We’re not targeting the true biological root cause.”

Researchers enrolled 300 women at a Kaiser Permanente research institute in Seattle and at the University of Minnesota. Women were randomly assigned to one of three treatments: prescription vaginal estrogen tablets and a gel with inactive ingredients; placebo tablets and Replens over-the counter moisturizer; or placebo tablets and the inert gel. Treatment lasted 12 weeks.

The results were published Monday in JAMA Internal Medicine. The National Institutes of Health paid for the study and the researchers have no financial ties to the products studied.

A journal editorial says there have been few similar studies and most were too small to reach conclusive results.

The latest results show that prescription treatment that can cost $200 is no better than over-the-counter moisturizers costing less than $20. The researchers noted that some women may prefer tablets to creams, which can be messy, but the extra money won’t buy extra relief.

Women with troublesome symptoms “should choose the cheapest moisturizer or lubricant available over the counter — at least until new evidence arises to suggest that there is any benefit to doing otherwise,” the editorial said.

Complete Article HERE!


How to use handcuffs during sex in the best (and safest) way


Please, please, please avoid cheap metal cuffs.


Considering trying BDSM? If you’re looking for a beginner‘s way in, handcuffs are a really simple and super-fun way to start.

“Restraints are a fantastic way to explore the world of bondage and discover a new level of pleasure and play,” says Megan McCormack, sex expert for Ann Summers. “Using handcuffs may seem pretty self-explanatory, but there are a few key things to know to ensure you’re getting the most of being cuffed and doing it safely.”

Introducing restraints

When most people think of BDSM, a lovely, gentle chat is probably the last thing that springs to mind. But any form of BDSM play needs to be based on absolute trust and effective communication between partners.

“Establish consent, boundaries and safe words before you begin exploring,” Megan explains. “Talk to your partner about exactly what turns you on. Having this discussion through ‘dirty talk’ allows you to go into detail and build up a scenario to play out later, while building the suspense.

“Set the scene; seduce and relax with your partner,” she advises. Don’t have too many alcoholic drinks for ‘dutch courage’ though, safe BDSM play operates on the Safe, Sane, Consensual principle. This basically means you should be in a sensible frame of mind to take part. “Light candles, kiss and build the anticipation of what’s to come. A slow build makes your body more reactive to sensations,” Megan adds.
Pick your handcuffs style

There are so many different types of handcuffs and restraints, it’s really not necessary to walk away with bruised wrists (unless you’re into that, of course). A dominatrix once told me to never, ever use that cheap metal cuffs you see because they will cut your wrists up so badly. Avoid them at all costs.

“Always begin with soft cuffs, such as Silicone Quickie Cuffs. These stretchy handcuffs allow you to explore restraints without having to worry about getting stuck,” she says. You can play around with control, all in the comfort of knowing there are no pesky keys to lose.” Hypoallergenic silicone is a great and safe material for sex toys and accessories – and they’re soft, flexible and strong.

Chinese rope restraints and rope cuffs are also great introductory restraints for first-timers. “They’re made from soft yet sturdy material, and with sliding knots rather than clasp openings,” Megan explains. “Buckle cuffs are often the easiest type to use and their fabric or leather straps cause less irritation to the wrist during wear.” Plus, they’re often adjustable so you can have them as tight or loose as makes you comfortable.

Putting them on

Before anyone gets handcuffed to anything, you need to pick your position. “Whether you want your hands tied above your head, behind your back or to the bedposts, the options are endless,” Megan says. “If you’re the one being retained, you’ll have to rely on your partner to position you in your chosen cuffs. With your discussion beforehand, you should both be quite clear of what everyone wants and is comfortable with.

“Starting with either yourself or your partner laid on your back, and restrained with hands above your head, is a simple and pleasurable position to start in.” Whatever you want to do once you’re in position, is totally up to you. But it’ll leave you free to get into loads of awesome sex positions. “It also means that you can explore erogenous zones and both give and receive oral sex,” Megan says.

What next?


“Reassure your partner by talking to them throughout, and telling them exactly what you’re going to do to them next,” Megan says. “This allows them to voice any concerns and can also settle any nerves they may have.”

Play with temperature and other accessories

Temperature play is so much fun, and introduces new sensations to your sex play. “Freezing lube in an ice cube tray is a super fun (and slippery) way to use it. With your lover’s hands already cuffed above their head, add a blindfold,” she says. “One sense becomes heightened when another is taken away. Watch how their body responds as you slide the ice cubes over them – the coldness will also increase skin sensitivity.”

Rubbing the frozen lube on their neck, nipples, inner thighs and genitals makes bloody rush to the area, too. “Kissing and licking their erect nipples, or gently blowing on their chilled, lubed neck will be the ultimate tease.”

Complete Article HERE!


You’re probably not ‘totally straight,’ according to new research


Society tends to be less accepting of men who are sexually fluid.


  • There is a new type of sexual orientation called “mostly straight,” according to new research.
  • This sexuality entails identifying as straight but occasionally experiencing same-sex attraction and arousal.
  • Men have a harder time coming out as mostly straight because society is less forgiving of male sexual fluidity.

If there is anything to be gleaned from the past thousand years of human interaction, it is that human sexuality has never been simple.

And now, we have more scientific literature to back up the claim. According to recent research from Ritch Savin-Williams, a psychology professor of human development at Cornell University, there is a spot on the sexual spectrum that is not straight, gay, or bisexual — it’s called being “mostly straight.”

Savin-Williams’ conclusion stems from research on sexuality that he conducted and published in a book titled “Mostly Straight: Sexual Fluidity Among Young Men“.

In one study Savin-Williams worked on, participants who identified as men or women were shown pornography. By measuring the dilation of their pupils — an indicator of sexual arousal, as proven by a previous study of his published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Savin-Williams and his team were able to conclude that women were aroused by pornography featuring women with men and women with women. Men had similar results, which Savin-Williams calls being “mostly straight.”

This is not to say that no one is straight. “I wouldn’t say that [no one is totally straight] and I never have, despite press reports,” Savin-Williams told INSIDER. “I believe the vast majority of men are exclusively straight.”

Sexuality is a spectrum, but society doesn’t always allow room for male transgressions.

Savin-Williams is not the first scientist to deal with the idea that sexual preference isn’t quite as rigid as was previously believed. Many people already know about the Kinsey scale, the near-ubiquitous system that allows people to gauge their sexuality on a sliding scale, which revealed that people do not always fit exclusively into heterosexual or homosexual categories. In fact, according to Savin-Williams, the Kinsey scale allows space for people who might identify as mostly straight.

The Kinsey scale.

“Because the seven-point Kinsey Scale was a continuum from exclusively straight to exclusively gay/lesbian, there was an obvious place between exclusively straight and bisexual leaning straight — Kinsey 1s or mostly straight,” Savin-Williams told INSIDER.

But men have largely been excluded from the sexual fluidity narrative.

“Very few researchers seemed to notice these [sexually fluid or mostly straight] individuals, except with women,” Savin-Williams told INSIDER. “Then, while interviewing straight men for a study, I discovered that a number of them said that they were not exclusively straight, but mostly straight. These self-reports were confirmed by their confidential surveys and by their physiological reactions to watching porn: their pupils dilated to men masturbating, not as much as their pupils dilated to women masturbating, but an elevation nevertheless.”

This exclusion is due to the fact that, as Savin-Williams said, conventional society doesn’t allow much room for variance or growth in male sexuality.

“Men are affected by the belief that any level of same-sex attraction must mean you’re gay. Our culture likes our men simple — gay or straight,” Savin-Williams told INSIDER. “We give women greater freedom to be flexible, to be affected by the environment; they can act ‘masculine’ and not be labeled lesbian but men can’t act ‘feminine’ without being thought gay.”

Women have sexually fluid representation, but men don’t get as much.

This is certainly true in popular culture. It’s hard to come across a movie or TV show these days that doesn’t feature a complex, sexually fluid female character, like Eleanor Shellstrop on “The Good Place” or Petra Solano on “Jane The Virgin.”

Male characters have some sexually fluid representation “Jane The Virgin,” for example, has a male character, Adam, who is bisexual) but, generally, male figures in popular culture are relegated to one of two binaries: 100% straight or 100% gay.

Savin-Williams believes that the answer to helping men and women becoming more comfortable with mostly straight men relies, in part, upon “more famous people coming out as mostly straight,” he told INSIDER. “Josh Hutcherson began this years ago, but few have followed. I would love to see more young men come out as mostly straight to their friends and families.”

More pop culture representation wouldn’t hurt, either.

“There are more mostly straights among the millennial generation than in previous generations, largely because there’s an incredible acceptance and celebration of sexual, romantic, and gender diversity. Young people believe in the spectrum of sexuality and romance,” Savin-Williams told INSIDER. “There are already more mostly straight women and men than bisexual and gay/lesbian individuals combined. Mostly straights need to be freed from their closets — how about a movie or two?”

Complete Article HERE!