sex, love, and relationships for those of us who don't quite follow the rules

who’s your girl?

I’ve been having a lot of conversations about gender and attraction lately, from “what kind of guys/girls are you attracted to?” to “what happens when one member of a lesbian couple transitions to male?” I know so, so little about this subject, but I’m just going to meander through my thoughts and observations, and invite other people to contribute theirs.

Basically, um, gender identity and sexual attraction are complicated and many-layered, and the more set you are on consistency and rationality, the more mind-fucked you’ll feel. Yeah? So now that we’ve gotten that out of the way…

My “type” in men is often consistent: I like slender, bookish men, smart and/or artistic, and particularly there’s a certain lithe grace about the way some men move that I adore. Every so often there’s a category-buster, but on the whole it’s a solid trend. My “type” in women has been harder to pinpoint, maybe because I haven’t been thinking of myself as bi for as long, but I’m starting to pick up on trends. The women that turn my head when I’m out and about have a look of strong, abundant femininity about them: thick, curly hair; full, curvy mouth; dark coloring (which for some reason connotes strength and capability to my animal brain, as opposed to fair skin and hair.) Medium-to-full breasts, although I think that’s mostly just because I like breasts, whether they’re on me or someone else.

Several of my lesbian or bi friends are only, or primarily, attracted to androgynous or masculine-presenting women. Also, a couple of these friends who identify as lesbian have said that they generally find muscled, tough-looking men more attractive than the slim fellows I like. Russell Crowe and Bruce Willis, as opposed to David Tennant and Jude Law. I’ve never understood that (I like a pretty face, on a man or a woman), and of course my sample size is much too small to be significant, but I find it interesting.

I’d love to see a survey of people who admit some level of bisexual attraction (whether they ever care to act on it), that asked them to pinpoint their most common “type” on the gender-expression continuum for both men and women. I’d be interested in finding out whether more people are attracted to masculine (or feminine) traits in both men and women, or whether their attractions tend to cluster around androgyny for both types, or conversely, to strongly expressed masculinity in men and femininity in women. Or whether there’s no trend at all, just all-over-the-map craziness.

Of course that question presupposes a pretty binary notion of gender, which is what I meant when I said I don’t know much about this topic… I’m not yet terribly well-informed on the nuances of gender study. So if a better-informed reader wants to come in here and deconstruct the entire question I’ve just asked, they’re more than welcome.

I find it interesting to see how trends in attraction change over a person’s life. My sister Laurel was famously into Asian men for most of her teenage years. Eventually this broadened to “Asian and Middle-Eastern, and sometimes African-American” and then eventually she just dubbed it her “melanin fetish.” I guessed, and she confirmed quite recently, that this had a lot to do with feeling like an alien in her own culture. Recently she’s found herself more able to be attracted to Caucasian guys as well, at the same time as she’s found herself freer and freer to express things about herself that clash with the conservative, religious, suburban world we grew up in. Likewise, Charis’s preference for androgynous women loosened as she became more and more comfortable with her sexual identity (am I right, Char? We haven’t talked about this in a while.)

For myself, I wonder how much my own current attraction to strong, feminine women owes to my recent embrace of the power and beauty of being a woman (something noticeably lacking in my mental landscape as a child and teenager — I’ll post about that another time.) I wonder if it will change over time; whether I’ll become more or less attracted to women in general and that type of woman specifically. I expect it will.

I’ve found myself able to identify trends in the “types” of hetero male friends as well. My brother is drawn to women with small facial features (something he didn’t notice until I pointed it out). Shaun, on the other hand, seems to like women with strong noses. Is this just a fluke, or does it say something about the degree of power or intensity each desires in a woman? (Of course I suspect the latter, or I wouldn’t have mentioned it… but again, small sample.) And will my brother’s “type” shift if he dates other women after his current girlfriend (a very curvy, strong-featured, strong-personalitied woman indeed)?

But back to the queers. I like to hear stories from people whose lovers have transitioned, because of how radically that has to uproot your thoughts on gender and identity and attraction. I’m equally interested relationships that survived the transition and those that didn’t. I’m not so interested in questions like, “If you’re a lesbian with a girlfriend who becomes a man, and you stay together, are you bi now?” Those questions assume a rigidity of categories that seems kind of obsolete in context.

What I’m more interested in is questions like, “How did your attraction change over the course of the transition?” And, for both those who have been through it and those who haven’t, “Would it be harder to stay attracted to your partner if they changed gender or changed weight?” (I’m pretty sure my attraction to Shaun would better survive his becoming a woman than his gaining 200 pounds.) And, “What about intermediate, less-dramatic changes?” What if your girlfriend who has always worn makeup and skirts starts dressing androgynously, cuts her hair short? Or vice versa?

I told you this would be a rambly post. I don’t have a lot of concrete thoughts or answers, just questions, observations, and curiosities. And there’s lots and lots of territory I haven’t covered. Please feel free to ramble and ruminate in the comments.

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Comments on: "who’s your girl?" (2)

  1. Lately I’ve been reading two of Kate Bornstein’s books, Gender Outlaw and My Gender Workbook, and in the latter there’s a chapter on gender bending and attraction. She brings up the theory that part of attraction is “traction,” which is essentially having an identity for your partner to be attracted to. She calls it traction because its finding a place to “stand” in the relationship. They can be about male/female gender roles, but they can also be based on a lot of other things.

    That made me think of how when I’m not attracted to a guy who is attracted to me, I often think he probably doesn’t really love the real me anyways. Its one of those thoughts that has seemed almost self-evident to me, but hard to explain to other people. I think what I mean by that is that I’m still working out traction. I’m not attracted to a guy because he seems to want a role I’m not interested in playing, and I’m still trying to advertise the role I want to play.

    I’m an androphile. Masculinity is absolutely gorgeous to me. Femininity is pretty in an objective, asexual way, kind of like a vase of flowers. The tricky bit is I feel I’ve got some of what society calls “feminine” in me and some of what society calls “masculine,” and its very important to me that I’m with someone who finds the masculine side attractive, because otherwise I’m stuck being half me. So I’m attracted to males who are also androphiles. Or panphiles, or… you get the idea. I’m still trying to figure out how to present myself in a way that’s attractive to that kind of guy, as well as trying to figure out where to go to find those men.

    Recently I’ve wondered why women with masculine traits aren’t attractive to me. Perhaps part of it is the way the stereotypical butch/femme dynamic has been propagated; I imagine myself in a relationship with a butch lesbian, and I imagine myself turning into a femme, which is just as un-me as playing lady to a tough guy. Also, I’ve always loved male chests and found breasts quite a turn-off. I have no idea why. I think I’m turning a teeny bit bicurious, in that I want to poke that lack of attraction with a stick and see what happens to it.

  2. Wait, I like women with strong noses? Gotta say…that seemed to come out of left-field. I hardly ever think about noses, but I guess it’s possible that it’s a factor.

    No, I really doubt it.

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