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Defining My Sexual Identity

African American teenage girl using a laptop
By , 17, Contributor Originally Published: April 16, 2015 Revised: July 27, 2015

Whenever there are enormous posters of shirtless guys and I am surrounded by my cooing friends, I feel uncomfortable.

“Look Emma! Look at his abs!”

“He’s so hot. Don’t you think?”

On this particular day, my posse and I were strolling into a huge Hollister store decorated with intimidating images of guys with facial hair and muscle. What do these girls find attractive about this guy? I thought. I mean, I know he’s a model and all, but why don’t I have the same carnal desire for him my friends have? Despite my lack of attraction, I played along.

“Oh yeah, he’s hot.” I felt awkward because I totally forced those words off my tongue, and my friends felt the awkward vibes, too. They shot me funny looks and directed the conversation to a pile of shirts next to the seemingly perfect toes of Mr. Hot-Abs.

Is Something Wrong With Me?

This is how it’s been for most of my life. Although immersed in a society that revels in the physical beauty of actors and athletes, like Leonardo DiCaprio and David Beckham, I’ve never understood the wild attraction my adolescent counterparts seem to have toward the opposite sex. I’ve never understood “guy-hunting” at the beach or the thousands of shirtless pictures of guys that girls post on social media sites like Twitter and Instagram.

Recurring questions ricocheted inside my brain. Am I a lesbian? Am I just asexual? Is there something wrong with me? What am I?

I thought to myself, No, I can’t be a lesbian. I haven’t been interested in girls. But I have been interested in guys before, however without interests in abs or arm muscles or back muscles, but rather with feelings of wanting to hug a guy, to hold his hand and tell him I like the way he smiles, not with feelings of wanting to ravenously rip off his clothes.

I figured that I was just romantically attracted to guys, that sexual attraction was completely out of the picture, and that I’d probably remain a virgin for the rest of my life, until my best friend (and now boyfriend) came along.

Who Am I Attracted To?

I had always thought he was adorable, with adorable eyes and adorable hair, but nothing more. As we started talking, a strong emotional bond formed. I had no qualms about doing embarrassing things around him; I was comfortable in his presence. I was excited to wake up every morning, looking forward to what crazy topics we’d talk about that day.

The relationship, along with emotional and physical intimacy, progressed. We started dating. My anxiety kept me up at night. I was anxious about my lack of experience with boys, and my head was filled with “what ifs.” What if I can’t do this whole “sex” thing? What if I never become sexually attracted to him? What if he breaks up with me? What is wrong with me?

I actually was physically and sexually attracted to him, but the attraction grew subtly. I still didn’t understand the posters in the mall, but I was beginning to understand how my friends felt. I began eyeing his muscular arms and gorgeous 5 o’clock shadow.

OK, so I’m not a lesbian, I thought to myself. I’m romantically interested in guys and only sexually attracted to my boyfriend. I’m attracted to guys, but only sometimes?!

I Stumbled Upon Demisexuality

I’m usually not a fan of labels and the idea that people can be wrapped up into a simple box, but I wanted closure. I wanted to know if I was alone in this or not.

Turns out, I wasn’t. After some research and YouTube video-hopping, I stumbled upon the term “demisexuality,” accompanied by a definition. Demisexuals are people who don’t experience sexual attraction unless they form a strong emotional connection with someone, and demisexuality is usually seen in (but not confined to) romantic relationships.

Finally! I had something to identify with. I didn’t feel alone. Though this orientation isn’t too well-known, maybe my story will help some of those who have no idea what their friends are fawning over. You’re not crazy. Nothing is wrong with you. I’ve realized sex and sexuality have different meanings for everyone, and they should never be a measure of worth. My own sexuality frees but does not hold the power to define me.

Emma Scoville is a 17-year-old contributor who lives in New Jersey.

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