This question includes questioning my sexuality along with sexual abuse along with sexual intimacy but I didn't know which category to put it under. I'm a gay female age 19. I identify as gay now but I used to identify as bisexual. I've always known since a young age that I was attracted to women. I only started identifying as bisexual when I was 14. I had a male friend, let's call him "Lucas". Lucas asked me if I was a lesbian and I said I wasn't sure. I briefly explained some of my feelings and he told me I was bisexual and that his sister was also bisexual. From then on I identified as bisexual. A couple months later I got into a "relationship" with Lucas. It was basically him just using me for nudes and I was seeking some kind of male approval because I was very insecure about my body at the time. We "dated" for a couple years, but again the basis of our "relationship" was sexual. He emotionally and sexually abused me during our entire relationship. He sexually assaulted me multiple times. I never had sex with him, because I didn't want to. He was the first person I ever had a sexual encounter with. Every sexual encounter I had with him was non consensual on my part. During this time I befriended another guy, let's call him "Michael". Michael ultimately helped me leave Lucas and he was the first person I told after Lucas sexually assaulted me. Michael listened to a lot of my problems and helped me a lot. Towards the end of my relationship with Lucas he started to cheat on me and it made me even more insecure about my body and just myself in general. I was also struggling with an eating disorder at the time. I started to flirt with Michael and we would exchange nudes and sext. Again, I was doing this because I sought male validation since I was insecure from being cheated on. After I broke up with Lucas I almost immediately got into a relationship with Michael. This was more so because Michael is very traditional and didn't want to "mess around" anymore if we weren't dating. So I agreed to start dating him because that's what he wanted and here I am 3 years later, still dating him... We've tried to do sexual stuff and it never works out. I never feel interested in it. I can't do it unless I'm the dominant one in the case scenario, even then I don't enjoy it. One time Michael tried to get on top of me and I had a panic attack and pushed him off, almost started crying. I am unable to see a therapist or psychiatrist right now because of my family. However, I think the sexual abuse I endured during my relationship with Lucas has severally negatively affected my sex drive and my sexual desire. I also have frequent nightmares about the sexual assault and I can't stand comfortably next to any tall man with the same built as Lucas. But that's besides the point... I don't have any desire to have sex with a man, I'm still a virgin. I am still sexually attracted to women though, as I've always been. I just haven't been able to experiment with women sexually because that would mean cheating on Michael. Anyways, after reading a pdf about compulsory heterosexually I felt as though I related to a lot of the things it mentioned and now I'm questioning if I'm even sexually attracted to men at all. The problem is, I don't know if I don't feel sexual attraction to men because I was assaulted or if it's because I'm actually a lesbian. I would experiment with girls right now but because of my family situation (I'm not out to them) and COVID, I'm unable to. Furthermore, for the last year in my relationship with Michael I have felt lack of romantic feelings to him and now I'm questioning if they were ever there in the first place. I just don't know. I'm unsure of how to tackle this. I don't even know where to start I just know I'm unhappy in my current situation. I want to break up with Michael but I don't really even know how to. He suffers with mental health issues of his own and I'm afraid of hurting him.
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Thank you for reaching out to Asking Jude and trusting us to offer some advice. I can’t imagine how conflicted and distressed you must feel. You are so strong. It took a lot of courage to tell me what happened and this should not have happened to you. You are incredible at addressing your feelings and unpacking everything that has happened, and I think that will help you understand yourself better and make you hopefully be happier. My first question would be, did you agree with Lucas’s judgement of you being a bisexual? Could it be that you were afraid of coming out to your parents and therefore accepted the suggestion of being bisexual as a way out? Or rather since as women we are conditioned to seek approval from males, you thought that this would be a way to get that approval and validate yourself? If you never had any consent or enjoyment from your experience with Lucas, it might be worth analyzing how you accepted this label of bisexuality.
Similarly, think about your relationship with Michael. What about Michael attracted you to him? Why did you want to be in a relationship with him while your communication with Lucas had not ended? Often, when people are in toxic relationships or toxic situations, they jump to whatever feels comfortable to them, almost like a lifeboat. Did you view Michael as a potential life partner or rather an escape from Lucas? How do you feel now? Human beings value connection. They value intimacy and want to feel wanted by someone. Michael cared for you when you were most vulnerable, which helped you develop a bond with him (whether romantic or otherwise). However, you stated that you started dating him because that was “what he wanted”. But what do you want? He wanted you to jump into a relationship with him right after the one with Lucas ended without giving you any time to process and heal. It might be worth thinking about whether you felt pressured to say yes because he saved you from Lucas or whether you felt a romantic connection and wanted to pursue something further.
Sexuality is a very fluid concept. It seems that you are very fixated on labels. I would say focus more on figuring out what makes you happy. Think about who you are attracted to and if that person would enhance your life. You know you’re attracted to women, and that’s great. If you find any men that catch your attention, then that’s great as well. No one who truly matters to you will care much about the labels if you are happy.
You seem to have some insight into your situation. It seems that your need to be dominant might stem from your past experiences; you feel the need for control into whatever situation you walk into. Having said all that, I strongly believe that you should talk to professionals about everything that has been happening. I know you mentioned you cannot see a therapist in person because of your family, but there are a lot of resources that you can use to talk to people with similar experiences or professionals who might help you unpack your situation better.
I think having an honest conversation with yourself and possibly Michael will help you figure out your next steps. Whether or not you see Michael as a potential life partner and whether you harbor romantic feelings towards him is what matters. You deserve to be happy. You deserve to take care of yourself and have some peace, especially after everything you have been through. I would suggest that you talk to him about your feelings. I understand that you are afraid of hurting the person who saved you from Lucas. I see how you might not want to sadden him. However, your feelings are valid. You are valid. Make your voice heard and let people know what you want to do. Whether or not you decide to break up afterwards is your decision, but it is extremely important for the both of you to have a serious conversation about what is happening if this is what you feel.
As always, the Asking Jude team is always here to help if you need anything else. Here are some resources that might help:
Wishing you all the best and sending lots of hugs,
Hey there, lovely! I sent your submission to Manisha. She'll be answering it soon.