Maintaining a relationship is often a solution best sought internally, rather than externally. Understanding yourselves is the first step to understanding your partners. In one survey, specifically directed at those women who identify as lesbian, 30% said they were “Penis Pure and Proud”- having never had sex with a man. In that same poll, another 30% said that they had been married to a man, and the next highest number said they had had sex with a man once or twice, and that’s all they needed to know. A smaller percentage also stated that they had had sex with a man, and “might do it again.” In the confines of a committed relationship, this is an important point of self-knowledge. You misrepresent yourself to your partner if you are likely to sleep with a man, but tell her you are a lesbian.
Some might criticize me for applying labels, here, but humans naturally label things in order to categorize them, and so gain some understanding. In this context, understanding ourselves as sexual or romantic beings carries the labels straight, gay, lesbian or bisexual. (Even if someone is a “non-practicing” sexual being, like the ones in an ashram in Tibet, they still identify with one of these, were they to begin sexual activity again). If a woman calls herself “lesbian” but thinks she will probably sleep with a man, she is more accurately a bisexual, not a lesbian.
When a relationship is heading toward intimacy, the two of you should discuss previous partners. Your potential mate has a right to know. If you find that you cannot remember most of your sexual partners, this is not exactly something to be proud of, but some people have done things they are not proud of, especially while under the influence of alcohol. Perhaps you can mark this off to the folly of youth, but the point here is that your potential partner feels safe with you, both in the areas of communicable disease and in fidelity. A fresh battery of STD testing should suffice for the first part, (provided you’ve only had safe sex for the past six months), and candid discussion about the level of your commitment should help assuage fears about the other.
Sapphodite suggests asking pretty early on about previous sexual partners, for more than just the obvious reasons. Often, you can ferret out any tendency toward unfounded jealousy by her reaction to the information. If she asks you about your previous sexual partners, and then gets disturbed or threatened by these past lovers, this is a red flag, and it’s good you find out before you continue the relationship. “Unless you’ve lived in an Amish community, or been in prison,” Sapphodite offers. “you’re going to have a sexual past, and it’s unrealistic to expect you’re going to be with a virgin.”
Yet there are women out there who will react as if your past behavior is somehow linked to your current relationship with her. As odd as this sounds, some women exhibit jealousy, even though these other pairings occurred before you met her. This response has a deeper and more disturbing color to it. It’s not rational, and it should be considered at least a red flag, if not a deal-breaker. A more realistic response to any doubts about your moral fiber would be, according to Sapphodite, “I’ve had every kind of sex you can dream of, but you’re the one I love.” This is to say, that even though you have given your body to others in the past, she is the one you have given your heart to. She elaborates, that if your sexual history quiz of a significant other is in the area of being with men, ask why she thinks this would not be something she would want to do again. Then you won’t be ensconced in a relationship later, only to discover she is not ready to be settled, or not an actual lesbian.
What is the difference in orientation, identity and behavior? By way of explanation, sexual orientation is which gender you are attracted to sexually/romantically. Sexual identity is what you label yourself. Sexual behavior is who you actually engage in sex with.
These things aren’t always mutually exclusive. For instance, you can be attracted to women only, but call yourself a bisexual, yet only have sex with men. This can be because you are naturally a lesbian, but afraid of the label because perhaps you perceive lesbians as frequently masculine, and you love being feminine and are attracted to feminine women. Bisexuality may seem more acceptable label to you, even though you may not have had the opportunity to act on your desires with women, and might have only slept with men.