Hey guys. Since this thread was helpful to me in coming up with a mental strategy, and making breakthroughs, I figured I'd post some things that helped. For me, the unwanted sexual thoughts were of a homosexual nature. This was disturbing to me because of this fear that 1) what if I am gay (and mistaken about my sexual identity for the last 14 years)? 2) what would happen then with my parents, friends, etc.?, and 3) could I lose all that I gain out of being attracted to women (which feels to me, yes, like a lot to lose)? But I feel like I'm at a good place with that now, and here's how I got there.
First, I went down the line of finding this article. It was very, very helpful to know that I wasn't alone.
Second, I had to work through why it bothered me so much. What I figured out was that I believed, on at least some level, that if I turned out to be gay or bi, I would be rejected by friends and family and that I would no longer be worthy of love. For me, the solution was unabashed self-acceptance; I acknowledged, affirmed, and repeated that I am worthy of love regardless of my sexual orientation -- whatever it happens to be. (At this point, I calmed down a _lot_).
Third, I looked up information on "figuring out your sexual identity," watched a documentary on bisexuality, and did some basic research on sexuality, including the perception of sexuality through the ages. Some interesting and highly useful things I've found include:
- Arousal and attraction are not the same. For example, there was a study done with couples where they would eat onions and make out. The association of made it so the smell of onions started to physically arouse them. Were these people "onionsexual"? I think not. Simiarly, I have a friend who gets turned on by the sound of pencil clicks (no idea why). Pencilsexual? Hardly. In other words, arousal is LEARNED and TRAINED. Attraction is something quite different.
- Attraction is hard for ANYONE to put their finger on, and historically and in contemporary perception involves everything from finding someone physically attractive to wanting to be with them emotionally to wanting to be with them physically to developing feelings for them. It is _not_ having sexual thoughts about them. Sexual thoughts do not define who you are sexually, or who you are attracted to.
- Sexuality can be largely cultural. There are many eras where bisexuality was incredibly prominent, in part because it was so accepted. First, these people lived happy and fulfilling lives, so even if you are gay/bi, you can be totally happy. And second, this means that there's a social element to our attraction. Why would that be? Maybe it's "top of mind" thought and curiosity -- the very thing people here are struggling with and obsessing over. But, again, even if it impacts your thoughts, it does not determine who you are in sexual identity.
- If you have had crushes on the opposite gender before, or fallen in love with them, then you are either bi or straight in capabilities. If you really don't want to be gay, then bisexuality gives you the option to simply _decline_ sexual opportunities with men and move on.
- Focusing your mental thought on a part of your body will generally increase nerve sensitivity and bloodflow to that area. This can be, at least to some degree, confused for low-level arousal. Don't call something arousal until it's evident that it is such!
- It's normal to be aroused by anything having to do with sex -- two men, two women, whatever else. Your body will respond when it sees something sexual. This doesn't make you gay/bestialist/whatever else. It just makes you human.
- The "Kinsey Scale" says we're all somewhere between gay and straight. It's normal -- historically and in the present era -- to have some degree of physical/emotional attraction to the same gender. In fact, the rare ones are those who don't have any attraction to the same gender. So relax! You're normal, even for a straight person.
Okay, so there's a ton of information! But it's not where I stopped.
Fourth, I went to a very low-grade experiment with physical arousal to see if I'm aroused by men. I used pictures (not pornographic, which are likely to arouse people simply because they're sexual) and found that I start out _worried_ that I'm aroused by men, then after looking think that they're decent to look at, then quickly get bored. With women, I start out somewhat bored (I'm guessing because I've looked at a lot of porn in my life, and so I've built up a "tolerance") and become increasingly aroused. So the end-game for ME is men = boredom, women = arousal, in physical appearance.
Fifth, I made a decision on my values and sexuality. I'm NOT a Christian, and I do NOT believe homosexuality is evil. The idea of ######, though, makes me very uncomfortable. I respect my discomfort, and so won't experiment or try to "push through it" (why would I? that's essentially trying to convert myself, which we know people can do. Remember how people are in prisons? When at sea for a long time?). But true love is hard to find. If another man enters my life and he's everything I want in a partner, and he's willing to be patient and understanding with me sexually (I do think it would take a while to learn enjoyment with ######), then I wouldn't turn him away. I would still, however, acknowledge that men come at a much higher social price -- given the fallout with family and even myself -- than women do. Especially with that being considered, it's clear in my mind that I prefer women (even if I'm not totally closed off to the idea of men). Do you know what they call preferring women when you're a man? Heterosexuality. At _most_ I'm "heteroflexible" -- which is increasingly common, given the values of the 21st century.
Sixth, I came to terms with my femininity (I have a lot of feminine and masculine qualities, and one of the reasons I started getting paranoid was that so many have assumed I'm bi). Remember, "masculine" and "feminine" are cultural, not sexual or genetic. With the exclusion of obvious things like childbirth and building muscle mass, we're physically and emotionally very similar. I'm allowed to be however feminine I am. ######, there's "metrosexual" people out there who act completely gay but still come home to women. Femininity doesn't determine my sexuality.
Seventh, I worked out other stressors in my life. Once I calmed down on this area, I started dealing with some other issues I've been having with work and school. Once I'd worked through those things, my own emotions came through more clearly -- and it was apparent that the reason I wasn't feeling super attracted to women lately had nothing to do with being attracted to men (I wasn't). I was just distracted -- and that's okay! Also, after calming down, I had sex with a girl who I care about and really enjoyed the experience -- since I'd stopped worrying about whether or not I was enjoying it -- and had it confirmed that I am, yes, straight. But that can't come if you're freaked out about it. Attraction is an _emotion_, not a thought. If you're clogging up your emotion with worry while trying to capture it analytically, you can't see what's there -- whatever it is.
Eighth, I had a blunt conversation with this girl about the sexual paranoia. I said, "I think I'm straight." She said, "Yeah, I think you're straight too." It was such a relief just to hear it from someone else. I needed it just to calm my nerves, I think! But people are more understanding, open, and on the same page as you than you realize they are. If you're looking for reassurance, try to find people you can turn to.
Anyway, I feel really good about where I'm at with all of this. I hope some of these ideas and factoids help!