The Hook Up: Is casual monogamy a thing?

How would you “label” a person who gets really intense crushes on female friends and has only had a physical relationship with one woman, who also sometimes seems to feel a physical spark (briefly) for an attractive guy, but has no interest in getting to know him or having a relationship?

For the most part, I feel mostly asexual, in the sense that I don’t really ever feel truly sexually attracted or turned on by someone. I find many women beautiful and check them out, and can be drawn to them and crushing, etc., but not a real physical spark. The relationship I had taught me that I was comfortable being physical with a woman and could enjoy it, but it wasn’t mind-blowing (of course, that could be because the relationship itself was kind of a train wreck).

The weird thing about the guys is that I’m pretty squicked out by the idea of having sex with a guy and by maleness (body hair, their genitals, etc.), but still have that unwelcome buzz every now and then. I’ve had that happen for women too but the little buzz seems to be more from a guy, where all my romantic and emotional interest goes to women.

If someone hooked me up to some wires and found out that my true sexual nature was to be attracted to men and somehow I’ve repressed that for whatever reason, I would choose not to pursue it. Partly because having come out, I wouldn’t want to deal with the fallout, but also because however my body chemistry might act occasionally, I truly am put off by the idea of being with a guy. I don’t WANT to be straight or bi. But even as I type that, I compare that to an avowed straight person who feels a buzz for someone of the same sex but refuses to acknowledge or accept it.

There have been times where I’ve wished that I could pull off the butch and/or androgynous look, and as a child I enjoyed putting on my dad’s clothes and suits and even did the stuffing my underwear with socks thing a few times. Am I attracted to maleness on some level because I have aspired to it in some ways? The fact that I am stressed over all this and what it means has only made it worse.

Basically, I feel like I’m screwed now matter how you look at it. I want to be in a relationship with a woman, but question my validity and motives. I don’t want to be alone forever, but would not consider being with a guy. Is any of this normal? Or perhaps typical or not uncommon would be better descriptions? —Stressed in Texas

Anna says: My my my. It doesn’t matter what you call yourself, Stressed. It really truly doesn’t. You can identify as “queer” if you’re looking for a catch-all term, but it’s OK if you’d rather call yourself “asexual” or nothing because you’re still figuring it out. Read this previous column on asexuality.

There’s no need to put pressure on yourself to be any one thing. And I guarantee you that LOTS of people are still figuring it out. Shoot, I am too, and I am very self-assured in my sexuality. But sometimes I wonder. Like, why do I feel more attracted to men after several beers? Why is gay male porn so amazing? Why do I fantasize about x but only want to do y? Etcetera. I will also tell you that these Big Worrisome Questions you have about yourself and your identity will get quieter and less intense the older you get and the more experience you have. Not to sound condescending, but really, chillax is the most pertinent advice here.

There’s nothing wrong with being introspective and asking yourself questions. The trouble comes when you start to police yourself for not being or behaving or desiring the One True Thing that lady-lovin’ ladies are/do/want. Because (spoiler), there is no One True Thing. We want different things. We behave inconsistently. Sometimes we fantasize or get crushes on people we might not typically be attracted to, like dudes or really hot drag queens or straight, married women. That’s fine. It doesn’t make you less queer (or bi or ghey or lady-lusty or whatever), if that’s how you feel on that particular day.

So. Again, chiiiiiiillax. You’re not “screwed.” Not even a little. You don’t have to question your own motives or go back in the closet or date people you don’t like or any of that. You are who you are: Own it. Insist on the right to claiming your own unique sexuality and your right to define it however the hell it suits you, even if it confuses other people or makes it harder for others to put you into a specific box. I like to identify as: a political bisexual, whose heart is gay, but whose vagina is less picky at times. If that takes too long to say, then I’ll often opt for “queer.”

You can be attracted to “maleness” for no reason at all. It doesn’t have to mean anything, I promise. Maybe you just like bolo ties or cargo pants or stuffing a sock down your skivvies. There’s no need to psychoanalyze every possible facet of gender expression because, for one, it’s exhausting. Grad students do this every day for years and come no closer to figuring anything out, so you’d be advised to spare yourself. Two, what turns us on is complex—it can be chemical, emotional, hormonal, alcoholic, subversive, subconscious, healing, damaging, because of the full moon, and so on. Most often it’s a combination of many of those things. You can’t look at one thing without seeing the whole thing, to put it in terms that would probably never appear on a bumper sticker.

Approach your love life on a case by case basis, and whatever you do, don’t hold back or avoid pursuing the people you’re interested in because they don’t fall into a specific category of people you think you should be attracted to. Also, not to bad mouth and stereotype Texas, but it’s quite possible you’ve internalized some of the homophobia that the Lone Star State is pretty vocal about. Regardless, you’re gonna be fine.

Keep asking questions, just don’t get attached to any one answer. Date or don’t date, but do things you want to do, not what you feel you should do. But maybe for now, do nothing, since this seems to be stressing you out a great deal. Practice getting comfortable with the not-knowing. Tell yourself, “I don’t know the answer to this” and accept it. Look into that scary, infinite void that is the future until you can feel OK that you won’t know what will happen, who you’ll become, or who you’ll be seeing naked. Once you’ve mastered that, then you can move on to the more trivial questions, like how to ask your crush out for a latte.

Good luck, Stressed.

Hailing from the rough-and-tumble deserts of southern Arizona, where one doesn’t have to bother with such trivialities as “coats” or “daylight savings time,” Anna Pulley is a freelance writer living in San Francisco. Find her at and on Twitter @annapulley. Send her your The Hook Up questions at   

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