What Is 'Heteroflexible'? What It Means To Identify As Heteroflexible

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The best thing today about talking about sexual orientations has given birth to numerous terms that people of the LGBTQ+ community can use to identify and call themselves. From gay to lesbian to queer to pansexual to demisexual to asexual, there's a term out there for everyone to figure out which one works for them.

I'm often not attracted to the conventional manly/good-looking man, and I like men who explore their own sexual identity. I often find myself sitting silently when my friends swoon or trade obscene sexual quips about men in magazines or on the streets.

Therefore, heteroflexible is the label I'm most comfortable with if I'm forced to give my sexual orientation a name.

What is heteroflexible?

In its simplest form, the meaning of heteroflexibility can be found in the spectrum of human sexuality on the Kinsey scale between straight and bisexual or pansexual, which is when you're attracted to all genders, including trans and nonbinary. 

Heteroflexible is also referred to as being "straight flexible," meaning the individual has a predominantly heterosexual sexual identity but will dip their toes in the water of the opposite gender.

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Heteroflexibility is different for each person who identifies with the sexual orientation. People are never one thing, so experiences are varied. 

For example, if a woman identifies with the term, she's more than often attracted to men, but is open to experimenting with other women. A heteroflexible man can be mostly attracted to females, but can also have an attraction to men.

Heteroflexible people may or may not always act on these fleeting sexual attractions by engaging in sexual activities or dating. In the most basic sense, heteroflexible is a term that allows people to see their sexuality as fluid and not cemented in stone.

A few signs of being heteroflexible include:

1. You're mostly into the opposite gender, but you've been attracted to the same gender a few times. 

2. You're satisfied being straight, but you have tried being with someone of the same gender and liked it.

3. Absolutely never experimenting with the same gender makes you feel like you would be missing out on an important life experience.

4. You're comfortable with your sexuality but are curious about being with the opposite gender.

Where did the term heteroflexible originate?

The term heteroflexible originated in the early 2000s. A study on the prevalence of heteroflexibility, especially among white college-aged women, revealed that people began using the term to describe their feeling of being "mostly straight" as opposed to bisexual, lesbian, or exclusively heterosexual.

The exact origins of the term are unknown, but it gained popularity and began popping up on the internet in the early 2000s. The word was created by combining the 19th-century term "heterosexual," and the newer term "homoflexible" (meaning those who identify as mostly gay).

That doesn't mean this experience is new; in fact, there is a long history of straight people experimenting with the same gender as them. However, the term heteroflexible doesn't come without controversy. 

As writer Charlie Williams explained in Affinity Magazine, heteroflexible equates to "a fancy word for bi-erasure."

"It states that being bi is something bad, and that labeling yourself with a completely different term will magically erase the fact that you are bisexual," Williams wrote. "There is absolutely nothing wrong with not wanting to label your love, or being confused, in general. The problem is when your labels invalidate my sexuality, as well as other bisexuals."

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But it's important to understand that the terms heteroflexible and bisexual are not interchangeable.

Whereas a bisexual person may find themselves equally attracted to men and women, heteroflexible people are predominantly heterosexual while also being sexually attracted to people of the same gender.

For example, as soon as high school hit and puberty were in full swing, I was certain guys were on my mind, and they were absolutely in my bed. But I wanted to kiss girls, too.

At that time, however, bisexual behavior had more of a stigma, even for women, and it wasn't something people were jumping to identify with unless they'd had a "real" relationship with a woman. If you were like me, and had only kissed and crushed, then it was easier to just be a straight girl who liked watching "The L Word."

And then, at the beginning of college, I took a class where the professor had us write down three one-word self-descriptors — such as "tall, white, male" or "lesbian, Asian, woman" — and then had us each cross one out. I crossed out my sexuality.

Being "straight" didn't feel right. I crossed out the descriptor that felt the least important to me. Maybe it didn't feel as important because, as a straight person, I felt little oppression, but it also didn't belong on the list because it didn't feel a part of me.

This was a significant exercise for me because it allowed me to really think about my own sexuality.

I always felt like my sexuality was very fluid, but at the time I had only ever had boyfriends and had only kissed women before. I felt like, if I identified as bisexual, I would be discriminated against. And also that I'd be a "poser," because I'd never had a girlfriend or even slept with a woman before.

In other words, as Britney Spears almost kind of sang, I was "not straight, not yet bisexual."

Part of me still feels uncomfortable about the idea of being in a relationship with a woman. Women and romance are still a mystery to me. I don't even know what kind of woman would like me. The role I play and the type of relationship dynamics I have in my female vs. male friendships are very distinct from one another.

So, I can't help thinking that a romantic relationship with a woman would be very different from the relationships I have with men. I think I would take a more submissive, possibly not as confident position in a relationship with a woman. Whereas with men, I feel a perfect balance between mutual nurturing and free-spiritedness.

The thought of being with a woman can feel scary because it is an unknown.

I still think about women and have crushes on women, though. I sleep with women. I fantasize about women and how different being with a woman might be from being with a man. However, I always end up with bigger, more accessible relationships with men.

People identify as heteroflexible because that is what they feel is the closest label to their reality.

I could go without a label, or pansexual even hits close to home. But heteroflexible feels more honest and genuine to what I've experienced.

Maybe it's simply my lack of experience that leaves me identifying as heteroflexible — or maybe it's my heteroflexible nature that makes me lack a more bisexual existence. I suppose only time and self-exploration will tell.

Our sexuality can feel intimately intertwined with who we are. Labels can make us feel closer to or further from ourselves. They can map out and give us little pushes in the movement and labyrinth of defining oneself — being comfortable with accepting of oneself.

For now, I will let my heteroflexibility, sexual fluidity, and (oh yeah, thanks to Freud) my pleasure principle guide me.

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This article was originally published at Em & Lo. Reprinted with permission from the author.