Sexual education happens through actions and experiences that help someone to find out what they identify as and not knowing is a big part of this also, because people can find out. Sexuality has become a vague and varied topic of conversation, as the binary of heterosexuality and homosexuality are no longer viable. Sexual fluidity dominates and subverts ideas of sex and intimacy in everyday conversations.
Four individuals outed themselves (revealed their sexualities) in interviews and filled out questionnaires in order to get a personal and inclusive understanding of the concepts of sexuality that exist at Rhodes University.
“What is your sexuality?” is a vital question when having a conversation about sexuality and intimacy because of the kinds of non-normative relations that happen. Sexual identity is about discovering what makes a person comfortable and whether or not they want to get intimate.
As a “heteroflexible” individual (A person who identifies as heterosexual and chooses to participate in homosexual behaviour at times), I explore my sexuality through experience and actions that others may constitute as belonging to another sexuality. Sexuality is for the individual and should therefore be defined by the individual. These were the answers when the participants were asked “Are you aware of your sexuality?”
Person 1: “What is my sexuality… Oh right, let’s go with heterosexual”.
Person 2: “Yes and I’m homoflexible (A person who identifies as homosexual and chooses to participate in heterosexual behaviour at times)”.
Person 3: “I believe that everyone is attracted to what or who they want, regardless of their sexuality”.
Person 4: “I’m unsure even though I identify as heterosexual”.
The group held the common notion of sexuality meaning different things because of their different cultural contexts. Sexuality requires self-examination and self-construction in order to actualise and align yourself towards your ideal sexual orientation.
“Does sexuality correlate with action?”
Person 1: “No, people can kiss anyone without that redefining their identity or sexuality”
Person 2: “I’m attracted to men. That’s it. But it doesn’t correlate because thoughts drive action, and thoughts change”.
Person 3: “I’m not sure. For some it very well may be, but for me I don’t believe that they do.”
Person 4: “Yes there is a correlation, I am heterosexual and I enjoy dick”.
Rhodes University has a very fluid sexual environment where concepts like After 9’s (Men who are heterosexual but go out and hook up with the same gender, often after 9 PM, hence the name). These phrases and terms represent the fluid culture at Rhodes University and how sexuality is constantly shifting for most people.
Everyone who was interviewed had come to the consensus that sexuality is dynamic. Sexuality shifts, moves, winds and changes as people and circumstances change. “There is no binary for liking someone” said Person 2. This perspective shows how “identity changes, and that can influence sexuality” (Person 1). Sexuality being circumstantial shows that people can be different and we should accept those experiences in a similar manner to race, gender and other identities.
Learning takes the form of practical and theoretical processes where knowing something does not necessarily mean understanding. Sexuality can fall into this idea. Experimenting and being experimental is important “I have constantly questioned my sexuality, it is not impossible for me to end up with a womxn” (Person 4).
“Do you think Rhodes University has made your sexual identity more defined or complicated?”
Person 1: “F***ing Complicated”.
Person 2: “Complicated. Interactions are based on the idea of the “What IF” Very experimental and liberal culture”
Person 3: “Defined. Rhodes has encouraged me to be comfortable with my ‘sexuality’ ”. Person 4: “Much more complicated, I have been exposed to so many different sexual orientations. Therefore I don’t know where I stand”.
The romantic and physical aspects of intimacy need to be questioned and clarified because confusion and disillusionment can occur if people do not show the “typical” signs of attraction. Fetishes aren’t something to be ashamed of and neither is experimenting with these fetishes. As long as those involved are fully consenting adults. The Rhodes Community embraces experimentation, which is obvious through pages like Rhodes Crushes and Rhodes Confessions, where posts frequently question this notion of sexuality and the steadfastness of normative relationships.
Knowing a person’s gender does not always mean the interaction has ended but if people feel uncomfortable often it is because of poor or minimal understanding. People want to know more about people that other them and at Rhodes University people can actively engage with their environment and other orientations.
Consent is the only uncompromising aspect of sexuality and intimacy. If someone says ‘no’, respect it and move on. Sexuality should constantly be an education process of self-discovery and self-categorisation and if a person does not like being labelled, that should be OK. People should be who or whatever they want to be and if you do not want to engage in either physical or romantic relationships then you might be asexual and that should also be respected.