Confusing Attraction with Sexuality: Our Culture’s Obsession with Alternative Lifestyles

TNT, known for its character-driven dramas, just threw their hat into the ring again with their series Rizzoli & Isles, a crime drama based on a best-selling book series about two best friends who just happen to work in law enforcement. One of them, the street-wise, tough-talking Rizzoli, is the cop, and the other is a Prada-wearing coroner. While the pilot episode was nothing fantastic, it did turn out to be entertaining… and it was not twenty minutes after it ended before “it” started: the rumors, the insinuations, the expression of hope that Rizzoli and Isles will take a lesbian turn somewhere and we will see the two gorgeous women hook up. Out of the handful of reviews I read about the premiere the next morning, several of them mentioned the same-sex chemistry… which admittedly, I did not notice because it wasn’t there. It’s certainly obvious that both these women are heterosexual, but because women cannot be friends anymore, there has to be more going on, right?

Or so states our culture. It is a sad day indeed for relationships. Nor does it end with a popular cable series. The other day, at the hairdresser’s I was thumbing through a popular magazine and came across an article discussing the increasing trend in women kissing one another. And I do not mean a platonic, “How are you?” peck on the cheek, either. The accompanying photo of two women sharing spit made me lift the magazine out of the eye line of everyone around me as I skimmed the article, which encouraged its female readers to experiment but not necessarily believe one same-sex kiss makes them a lesbian or even bisexual. “It is normal to experiment,” the author soothed. “It is even healthy.” She went on to encourage young women to consider whether they would like to spend the rest of their life with a member of the same sex, and from there determine their sexuality.

I have even encountered this obsession in person, when a young man taking down my information for whatever reason discovered I did not have a boyfriend and fired the next question, with a hint of interest behind it: “Do you have a girlfriend?”

There are times when I feel distinctly as if I must live in an alternate universe, and this was one of them. But over the last few years, our culture’s obsession with “alternate” lifestyles has increased tenfold. Our society is so smut-saturated that I cannot even enjoy some of my favorite television shows without listening to the “hopes” of the fans.

Wherever any of us stand on the issue of same-sex relationships, this underscores something frightening about our modern society: its inability to discern between romantic and non-romantic attraction. This sexual confusion allows others to prey on instincts and insecurities, to convince confused young people to doubt their natural emotions, because to be perfectly honest, attraction to individuals of both sexes is entirely normal. It is also no indicator of sexual preference, because attraction does not necessarily negate sexual desire. I think that anyone who said they have never been drawn to a person of the same gender would be lying. Our society places an immense emphasis on this as an indication of an alternative preference, but that is placing a twist on it that does not need to be there. It is assuming that all chemistry and attraction must be sexual, when in fact this is not the case. We are drawn to others out of interest, respect, or in the awareness of a kindred spirit. I grew up with a number of female role models – and to this day, am drawn to older women instinctively. It’s not a romantic attraction, but one that expresses my deep inner desire to be like them. It is the yearning for a mentor that many women experience. We gravitate to older, more experienced women out of a willingness to be taught. It is our greatest misfortune that the world assumes things that are not true, and makes us afraid of having close female friendships. We don’t want to appear to be lesbians, so we maintain an emotional distance that really did not need to be there.

There is a difference between being aware that someone is attractive and being sexually attracted to them. There is a difference between feeling close to someone and desiring physical intimacy with someone. And it is an awful thing that society has altered all our views to the point where we look at female friendships with suspicion. This preoccupation is even creeping into Christian communities, where friendly behavior between girls raises more than one eyebrow. It kicks in somewhere around childhood these days when all the sudden our normal attentiveness to our friends is rudely interrupted by a warning from a parent not to be so affectionate or not to hold hands. That’s what little girls want to do, hold hands, tug on arms, curl up together in a corner and read a book. I would love to know when children can have their innocence back, and just interact with one another as children again. I would love to enter a department store with my girl friends and not have a question lingering in the checker’s eyes as she watches us.

I was encouraged to remove a picture from my Facebook profile awhile back that was considered “iffy” in terms of sexual orientation. It was of two girls acting silly for the camera, nothing inappropriate or suggestive… but a more conservative woman worried about the impression it would make on people who did not know the girls involved, so it had to come down. I resent that. I resent not being able to admire older women in real life or on the screen without being accused of having a “girl crush” on them. I resent the fact that when secular relatives outside the immediate family hear that I am still single, they assume I am a lesbian.

Most of all, it saddens me that we are missing out on such vital, important relationships through mentoring and simply “connecting” to one another. It’s a case of the world dictating our behavior, rather than us learning to understand our emotions and contend with them in sensible, healthy ways without assuming the worst. I think a lot of people are confused and assume their emotions toward someone of the same sex are different than the reality. This is particularly turbulent within Christian households, since it is universally believed that such preferences are against God’s plan for our lives. Enter tremendous amounts of confusion and guilt and we are just where the enemy wants us: conflicted. The World wants to tell us one thing, and God wants to tell us another. Which one has our best interest at heart?

Obviously, this is an instance when we cannot change what the world thinks… but we can take pains not to make assumptions ourselves and to train our minds not to lean in that direction when it comes to being suspicious. Even I fall prey to the world’s influences now and again and start wondering about orientation among people. Well, maybe I shouldn’t and it’s none of my business anyway. If nothing else, I encourage young people not to assume that an emotion or a longing to be close to someone indicates who you are in your sexuality, because emotion can often be misleading and you may be making too much of a natural connection.

In other worlds… let’s allow Rizzoli and Isles to be best friends and nothing more, all right?

4 Replies to “Confusing Attraction with Sexuality: Our Culture’s Obsession with Alternative Lifestyles”

  1. I agree, although I find it more with male characters. It seems impossible to have 2 male friends be genuinely close to one another without someone muttering about a homoerotic subtext. I blogged about it the other day at http://worldisoutthere.blogspot.com/2011/08/eagle-of-ninth-aka-curse-of-bromance.html If you don't mind I'd link to stick a link to your post on mine, since you seem to describe it with a bit more clarity than I think I do.

  2. I agree with everything you said. 🙂
    However, I think the phrase girl crush is misunderstood. I've always taken it to mean admiring or having an attraction to a person of the same gender without thinking of them in a sexual light e.g., I have a girl crush on Audrey Hepburn.
    I just looked it up on the Internet, and according to most sites, it's being attracted without any actual thought of sex involved. It's probably meant to be the same as admiration, when you look up to someone and are interested in what they do.
    Of course, if you don't feel comfortable with such an expression, you don't have to use it. I must say I don't have a problem using it because I know it doesn't refer to sexual attraction, but who knows, it might be changing.

  3. Really good post! The sad thing is that the idea of deep friendship, or personal chemistry = sexual attraction, is one that seems to be permeating deeper and deeper into our society. I worry that one day this “alternate” mindset might become the norm.

  4. *applauds* I often thought along these same lines. I have eyes, I can see when a girl is pretty. I’m drawn to personality traits that I admire. I can want to be like her, I can want to be her friend, I can copy her fashion style.

    I find it so ridiculous that so many people can not express a pure admiration for someone of the same sex without prefacing it with phrases like “if I was gay…” or “girl crush.”

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