Sexual Fluidity & Fidelity

Maybe I’m not the only one who has a tough time really getting my head around what the idea of sexual fluidity means in people’s day-to-day lives. On one hand, I’ve seen over-inflated estimates of orientation change give way to the awareness that such complete shifts are rare. But on the other hand, in the world of queer theory the idea of fluidity seems readily accepted and though while more common for women not precluded from the experience of men. It seems to be a general consensus in the queer community that to try to experience shifts in your experience of sexual attraction through therapy is harmful – but if it happens all on its own – then so be it. I suppose one of the challenges is that we really don’t have any sense of how common experiences of fluidity are – nor to whom they will occur – or particularly why they occur.

But as a person of faith, who engages with people experiencing same-gender attraction who share faith convictions, this whole area of fluidity raises some questions. For someone who feels deeply convicted that same-gender sexual intimacy is not God’s best for them, is there a healthy way to explore the potential of their own fluidity? Not out of self-loathing or driven by fear, but from a place of mature self-acceptance?

I’ve heard enough painful stories of people who unsuccessfully tried to exploit a marginal sense of bisexuality to conform to Christian standards, to not be overly naïve. And while I know of many stories of couples who divorced upon the disclosure of same-sex orientation, I also know of couples in mixed orientation marriages with devout faith commitments who are making it work with honesty and integrity. And not only is it working, but they experience joy and fulfillment in their life together. Is that sexual fluidity at work? Or is it the fruit of commitment?

Because this whole area of sexual fluidity raises the question of the place of fidelity. For a person of faith, commitment within covenant is a reflection of God’s character. Without question such fidelity is deeply broken across the board – significantly seen among heterosexuals in our current divorce rates. But one does wonder how this interfaces with the concept of fluidity.

I came across this comment on a blog post about sexual fluidity:

“I notice that all the concern here is for the people who seem to be coming to terms with their sexual fluidity. What about the partners who committed themselves to someone they thought was with them for life, only to be told they now read a book and say that they are “sexually fluid”. I am a lesbian who has been in a nearly ten year monogamous relationship with a woman who had been with men in the past. After two children and the usual picket fence stuff, and having the normal tough times with young kids and my partner with PND, when the going gets tough she says “I want to have sex with men again”. Having also said though that the sex with me was the best in her life and she loved me more than she’d ever loved anyone, now I have to buy that instead of knuckling down and working through our relationship stuff it’s just that she’s “sexually fluid”. When she found out about the book “Sexual fluidity” she felt that finally she wasn’t a freak and there were other people just like her. I felt compassionately towards her but at the same time thinking, what about me and our kids? It just seems too convenient. It seems to be another opportunity to not own one’s inability to commit. When one is in a committed relationship with kids, my belief is you try everything to make the relationship work before you walk away, not just one day out of the blue say “I’m done, and by the way I feel like having sex with men again”.”

I think of intimacy and fidelity as two intrinsically linked but sometimes paradoxical realities. Everyone needs to have authentic experiences of intimacy. That is, wholistic intimacy – not only that which is reduced to genital sexual intimacy. And I would suggest that everyone also needs fidelity. Where fidelity is lacking (fidelity to values, fidelity in relationship, fidelity in family etc.) a person can become fragmented and empty. Sometimes in relationships these two can seem to be in tension. To remain faithful in a relationship can seem to mean a deficient experience of intimacy. Or conversely, experiencing intimacy may seem to demand the breaking of fidelity. But if you give up one for the other, brokenness inevitably results. And while one can certainly heal and move on from such experiences, most often scars remain.

At the risk of being pegged a hopeless conservative, I deeply believe that we are suffering from a lack of fidelity. But I also believe that we are often suffering from experiences of cheap and shallow intimacy. And I do have to wonder, if the concept of sexual fluidity might be a symptom of both.

What do you think? Have you experienced sexual fluidity? What impact did fidelity have on your experience?

-WG

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