Sexualities

Dr Asangba Tzudir

Someone said, “If you live with a monkey for a week, you will fall in love with the monkey.” This also tells a lot about the endowed capacity in people to express feelings and emotions, and which lies at the heart of the term ‘sexuality’. Sexuality is a term closely associated with feelings and emotions, and how we understand our own physical bodies and feelings and associated relationships. It therefore includes all aspects of who we are – our values and beliefs, bodies, desires, relationships, gender and our thoughts and feelings. This in itself gives an understanding that our sexuality is made up of so many different components. Human experiences also attests to the fact that even the way we understand our own sexuality evolves and change within the uniqueness of each person.

As such, though the word ‘Sex’ is prefixed in the word Sexuality, it is not about who you have sex with, but encompasses sexual feelings, thoughts, attractions and behaviors towards other people physically, sexually or emotionally attracted, and which comes to define one’s sexuality. In the study of the various types of sexualities are various diverse terms like: Alloromantic, Allosexual, Androsexual, Aromantic, Asexual, Autoromantic, Autosexual, Bicurious, Biromantic, Bisexual, Demiromantic, Demisexual, Gay, Gynosexual, Heteroromantic, Heterosexuality, Homoromantic, Homosexuality, Lesbian, Monosexual, Multisexual, Pansexual and omnisexual, Panromantic, Polysexual, Queer, Sexual fluidity, Skoliosexual, and Spectrasexual. Besides the ‘sexual’ varieties, one may even question whether all these types of sexualities are innate, and also self-defined in ways that makes sense to them?

Yet, defining and making sense of the sexualities also needs to be located within the process of human growth and development. As such these terms also needs to be defined within the dynamism of growth and development and the feelings that are exhibited, and which creates both affirmative wonder as well as confusion in the course of interactions. Can this be understood as a part of normal human development? Within the sexuality and the individuality, and because of the very nature of the sexualities coupled especially with confusion, it definitely will take time to identify one’s sexuality which may be made more pronounced by the changing dynamics and which can even enforce changes in sexualities. 

Identifying the best sexual fit while exploring the multiplicity of sexualities can definitely be self-liberating. However, the arduous unsure process one has to undergo before one finally find oneself and give consent to, can well have an impact on the overall health and wellness of a person besides the external factors at play which also adds to the larger mental and physical health and wellness. Yet, will there be liberation if one does not label oneself? Or is it necessary to label, if at all, it is possible within the developing and shifting sexualities? In a society where there are various social, religious, political, and cultural norms, it will also add to the confusion within the interplay of one’s sexuality and the various societal forces, besides the fact that it is difficult to define a politically, religiously, socially and culturally correct reaction or the very act of one’s sexual expression. It will be difficult to liberate where one is caught at a threshold between the question of being independent, and the interdependence as a human being.  

The French historian and Philosopher Michel Foucault devoted four volumes on The History of Sexuality, the fourth volume being posthumously published in 2018, more than 30 years after his death, and which focused on the study of sexuality in the western world where he examines the emergence of “sexuality” as a discursive object and a separate sphere of life and argues the notion that every individual has a sexuality is a relatively recent development in Western societies. Foucault argues that discourse on sexuality in fact proliferated during 17th to the mid 20th century, where experts began to examine sexuality in a scientific manner, encouraging people to confess their sexual feelings and actions. Foucault states that the period during 18th and 19th centuries saw society taking an increasing interest in sexualities that did not fit within the marital bond: the “world of perversion” where sexuality was being readily explored both through confession and scientific enquiry.

Into the 21st century, the challenge today in the understanding of sexualities not as a ‘separate sphere of life’ but very much a part of human experience is the place of feelings and emotions, and scientific enquiry has a role to play because science is not an emotionless pursuit or a dispassionate enterprise.

(Dr Asangba Tzudir writes guest editorial for the Morung Express. Comments can be emailed to asangtz@gmail.com)