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Sexual identity: five terms to know

Not all the terms used to describe sex and sexual identity are easy to understand. Sometimes new phrases may seem a little silly and out-there to you, but they can help people navigate their lives and find other people who enjoy the same things. Here are some terms we’ve found popping up a lot lately, with some handy descriptions.

Heteroflexible

The term ‘bisexual’ is used a lot these days, but what if you only kind of fit into that definition? Heteroflexible is a term that people use when they feel mostly heterosexual, but occasionally dabble in homosexuality. Sometimes this can be a little confusing: why wouldn’t this person just identify as bi or gay? But human beings don’t work that way, sometimes they defy labels and fit between the spectrum of straight and bi. Sometimes this can even change over time. Heteroflexibility (and its opposite, homoflexibility) might be more common than you think. ‘In-between’ terms are so common that OKCupid included twelve sexual preference choices on their site in 2014, also giving users the chance to select five categories at once.

Heteronormative

You know how most romantic comedies are about a straight guy and a straight girl falling in love? Mainstream Hollywood films almost exclusively tell stories about straight, cisgendered (a person whose gender ‘agrees’ with the sex they were assigned with at birth) people – while films like Brokeback Mountain that depict ‘non-conventional’ couples are so rare that they make big news. This is what heteronormativity is: an assumption that heterosexuality is the ‘normal’ state of things. Obviously we know the idea that everyone is naturally heterosexual is far from normal – the Australian Rights Commission reported that in 2011 11 in 100 Australians were of “diverse sexual orientation, sex and gender identity”, but pop culture still doesn't reflect this. GLAAD’s 2015 Studio Responsibility Index, which mapped the quantity and quality of LGBT characters in films, found that only 20% of the films surveyed included non-heterosexual characters.

Polyamorous

If you think of creepy stories of cult leaders with many, many wives when you think of polyamory, you’re not getting the whole story. Polyamorous partnerships aren’t creepy by nature, they are relationships between more than two people founded on mutual respect and consent – no creepy vibes allowed! People often talk about open relationships as polyamorous but that’s not always accurate, as most polyamorous relationships are full time, equal affairs while open relationships don’t usually involve such commitment. The confusion around polyamory means some people may still think there’s something inherently wrong about it – a 2015 Gallup poll found that only 16% of Americans thought that polygamy (the married version of polyamorous relationships) was acceptable. However the University of Michigan have found that 5% of Americans are actually in polyamorous relationships, and that there over a million polyamorous families in the US alone, so the stigma is slowing changing.

Asexual

There are some myths to bust about asexuality: it’s not a vow of celibacy like when the Jonas brothers used to wear purity rings. It’s also not a ‘disorder’: asexual people are often still able to engage in sexual acts (and sometimes do). And being asexual doesn’t necessarily you’ve suffered a life-altering trauma. The same way some people are born either hetero or gay, others are born asexual. People who are asexual aren’t interested in sex or have a limited interest in sex. Online resource What is Asexuality? says when thinking about asexuality you should adopt a “some people do, some people don’t” frame of mind. According to The Journal of Sex Research, 1% of Britain’s population is Asexual and of course, people’s sexual appetites are fluid and can change over time.

Demisexual

Nothing to do with Demi Lovato. Or Demi Moore. A Demisexual is someone who needs to have a deep emotional or romantic connection with someone in order to have a sexual attraction to them. This isn’t like a bad Nicholas Sparks movies where people are ‘saving’ themselves for ‘The One’ (not that there’s anything wrong with that) because it’s not about restraining your desires. The Demisexuality Resource Centre say that demisexuals are on the asexual spectrum in that they sometimes feel attraction but this doesn’t necessarily lead to them wanting to have sex, but it does rely on emotional bonds. Basically, you can’t force attraction or lust, and why would ya want to?