You're into guys, but you kissed a girl (or think you want to ) and you liked it (or think you will). Does that make you bisexual? Lesbian? Does it matter? Research says it doesn't, and you're definitely not alone. So what's going on?
Raise your hand if making out with a shirtless Zac Efron on a yacht in Italy is your favorite fantasy. Hell, yes, right? Now picture glam queen supermodel Cara Delevingne in a frisky tangle of limbs with you at a basketball game. Just as hot? Maybe? No need for mental images though—you can always live vicariously through Michelle Rodriguez, whose smoochfest with Zac Efron hit our collective consciousness right on the heels of her smoochfest with Cara courtside at an NBA game. What she did raised eyebrows, but Michelle said it quite succinctly when she came out as bisexual in an interview with Entertainment Weekly in October 2013:
"I've gone both ways. I do as I please. I am too fucking curious to sit here and not try when I can. Men are intriguing. So are chicks."
Hollywood praised her bravery, and online media outlets have since then reaped many hits from her forays into feeding said curiosity. The flippant will say she really is just doing as she pleases—and it just so happens that it's two of the hottest celebs on the planet. Rodriguez's reality is a far cry from ours (no Efron or Delevingne lips within kissing distance, definitely), but like all of us, she isn't immune to attraction or fantasy. She's fully acting on what she feels, but what about the rest of us who are content to remain curious?
From Oxford to Urban, the standard dictionary definition of being bi-curious is to be exactly that: curious about other, different sexual practices.
Those who identify as bi-curious simply acknowledge the fact that they desire the same (or opposite, if they're gay) sex. What differentiates being bi-curious from being bisexual is that bi-curious women simply accept that they have entertained or continue to entertain sexual fantasies or dreams about other women, or they wonder what it's like to be intimate with them.
Carmela, 26, an account executive for a telecom company in the Fort, always thought it was normal to be attracted to other girls. "My friends and I always joke that it's a rite of passage when you're from an all-girls school. But in college, I found I couldn't shake my attraction to women. I would have crushes on girls in an I-wonder-what-she-looks-like-naked way and not in a jealous, I-wish-I-was-like-her way that most other women with 'girl crushes' do." But Carmela isn't about to commit to her attraction to the same sex, and continues to date (and sleep with) only men. "To me, it makes sense that I'm in relationships with guys but I can admit to them that I get turned on by girl-on-girl porn.
"What's the rule ba? Am I called bisexual already because of that? I don't think so."
Much is made of the "rules" of sexual identity. Carmela isn't alone in constantly thinking about what to call herself—"straight" and "gay" seem too polarizing, and "bisexual" still too strong a word because: "I haven't slept with a girl and I don't know if I will."
Samantha, 25, an entrepreneur based in Quezon City, readily admits to fantasizing about other women. "I once kissed a girl on a dare. Since then, I always wondered what it would be like to have sex with one. Sometimes I have very graphic dreams about random girls I meet at clubs. I used to be really ashamed, but then I realized that I'm only curious. I don't believe I'm truly a lesbian. Maybe once I actually end up with another girl that's when I'll decide."
And why the rush to decide? Despite what some might say, what flips our switches sexually is not bestowed upon us at birth, and is never a fixed point throughout our lifetime.
Even sex research pioneers the Kinsey Institute (Masters of Sex, anyone?) recognized this as early as the 1950s, when they created what is known as the Kinsey Scale to try to adequately gauge sexual orientation (0=strictly heterosexual, 6=homosexual, with 3 representing bisexual). They found that many factors (such as environmental or sociopolitical) cause people to associate somewhere between 1 to 5, and very rarely a definite 0 or 6.
Taking this further was researcher Eli Coleman in the 1980s, who discovered that while a small percentage of people do consistently identify as straight or gay all their lives, a greater majority of people don't. Lots of people consider themselves bisexual in terms of attraction or sexual fantasies but stay in exclusively straight relationships, or decide later on in life to fully embrace being gay. As gay icon Megan Mulally (Karen on Will & Grace) put it in an interview with LGBT-interest magazine The Advocate, "I consider myself bisexual, and my philosophy is, everyone innately is."
Being bi-curious doesn't always lead to realizing you're bisexual or even lesbian.
It's up to you to decide if you want to or are ready to explore that. Whatever gets you off is your private business, after all. And your sexual identity shouldn't be burdened by other people's misconceptions. Openly bisexual actress Anna Paquin told talk show legend Larry King when she was asked if she was still bisexual despite being happily married: "Well, I don't think it's a past tense thing. Are you still straight if you are with somebody? If you were to break up with them or to die, it doesn't prevent your sexuality from existing. It doesn't really work like that."
Paquin is right—sexual identity and preference is constantly in flux, and research shows that this is true especially in women. A 2011 study by Boise State University in the U.S. found that women are naturally bi-curious when it comes to sex and intimacy, and become even more so as they age. Psychology professor Elizabeth Morgan attributes this to the fact that "Women are encouraged to be emotionally close to each other. That provides an opportunity for intimacy and romantic feelings to develop." Her research on bisexual and bi-curious women found that that this emotional closeness to female peers at a formative age (like puberty) encourages women to explore sexual attraction and practices (many of her respondents reveal that their first kiss was with a girl, and it was simply out of curiosity. Eric Julian Manalastas, assistant professor of LGBT psychology at UP Diliman, agrees:
"In many cultures, including ours, the boundaries of friendship and intimacy are more flexible for women. They are given more leeway to explore and express intimacy and tenderness for each other, and this freedom increases with age, as women become more independent and care a bit less about societal expectations."
Dr. Lisa Diamond, author of Sexual Fluidity: Understanding Women's Love and Desire, conducted a study in 2008 that revealed that over time, women changed what they label themselves when it came to preference. Instead of sexuality being clearer as women aged or matured, Diamond says, "I've seen it's really the opposite."
If all science is to be believed, being curious about other women is in our nature (being more emotionally plugged-in) and how we were nurtured (the estrogen-ridden environments we were raised in). So, in the continuing saga of sexual identity, we could all do with a lot less of the stigma and a lot more bravery. We'd probably all be better off taking our cue from Michelle Rodriguez herself, who said: "I'm not big on people's opinions, you know? I don't care what people out there have to say. But I do realize the importance of having the bravery to live as who you are and I feel like a lot of people don't have that bravery."
This story originally appeared in Cosmopolitan magazine, September 2014.
* Minor edits have been made by Cosmo.ph editors