“I don’t have to make the choice, I like girls and I like boys!” Peaches climbed up the stage as the crowd went crazy, dancing and cheering on her refusal to choose. Her concert was the most kick-ass show I had seen in a long time. This weekend I had an epiphany about the fundamental nature and man-made constructs of human sexuality. Whether this realization was induced by drugs, the unrelenting desert heat, or the music of Coachella, I will never know. I do know that it came at a perfect time – on the eve of UCSB’s Queer Pride Week – to talk about the confines of the sexual labels that are imposed on us every day by the society we live in. In our society, I have found that it is common practice to categorize people based on the sex they have and define them by the people they choose to get buck wild with. As my girl Peaches would say, why should we have to choose and stick to any specific sexual orientation?
The Kinsey scale is the best-known tool of measuring sexual orientation. The scale ranges from zero to six, with zero being exclusively heterosexual and six being exclusively homosexual. Kinsey shied away from categorizing people as either homosexual or heterosexual and felt that this eight-point scale – including an “asexual” preference – was closer to reality. In his survey from the 1950s, Kinsey found that a full 46 percent of males had “reacted sexually” to persons of both sexes and 37 percent had had at least one homosexual experience (the numbers for females were smaller, but still significant). How can we attach a label and dismiss such a wide range of sexual preferences and feelings? These labels attached to sexuality have been routinely used against populations who don’t associate themselves with the predominant heterosexual population. This has lead to an emergence of bigotry, marginalization and fear of a now clearly labeled group. Fortunately, history provides examples of how tolerance of any consensual sex can survive in a large community of people without being overturned by societal fears or judgments.
The excavation of the ruins of Pompeii during the Enlightenment of the early 1800s unearthed the sexually explicit frescoes depicting sex in every position and label possible. These so-called enlightened Europeans were shocked at this “obscenity” demonstrated by their Roman ancestors, and the sexually explicit artifacts were locked away in what is known as the Secret Museum. All this proves is that, in terms of tolerance for the nature of human sexuality, our society today is more backwards than that of our Roman ancestors. The labels that categorize sexuality are a modern construct; before it was considered socially or religiously unacceptable, people could sleep with anyone they wanted, be it man or woman, and it was all sex and all good. Penis-vagina sex, anal sex, oral sex, lesbian sex, hetero sex, gay sex, group sex, transgender sex – it was, and still all is, simply sex. There is no reason to define it any other way.
The promotion of sexual tolerance is the first step to take if we want to enter a new era of letting go of the labels and restrictions of our own sexuality. Sexually speaking, I am considered just another heterosexual woman in America. If I ever decided to be experimental with other people, new labels and the connotations that came along with them would be slapped upon me, without ever changing the person that I inherently am. This week, remember to be accepting of the people and lifestyles chosen and embraced by other people. If you’re still on the fence about what you like, take a cue from Peaches and refuse to choose and consequently identify yourself as something you aren’t. People should not be defined by those they choose to sleep with or have slept with. I could be in deep shit if someone took a sampling of a few of my previous lays and judged me for it. You could define me by the smart, artsy boys I’ve gone to bed with or, conversely, by the horrifically embarrassing, alcohol-saturated, idiot frat boys that I’ve had sex with. Instead, I’m heeding the advice of one of my favorite singers and refusing to be encumbered by labels, and I suggest you do the same. Free love people, it’s all about free love.