It seems that in our society we operate using a “heterosexual until proven otherwise” approach to understanding sexuality. It’s similar to the “innocent until proven guilty” logic. We seem to believe that heterosexual is the default sexuality, such that every new person we encounter is assumed to be heterosexual until they tell us otherwise. The “innocent until proven guilty” approach is logical because we are protecting the rights of accused citizens. In contrast, our “heterosexual until proven otherwise” logic is harmful because it polarizes sexualities into the binary of heterosexual or other.</p>
The more familiar I become with the study of sexuality, the more convinced I am that the default should actually be pansexuality. The way that I conceptualize pansexuality is that we all have the capacity to love every individual under the sun who is consenting and has the ability to consent. It simply means that we don’t value gender or body parts over personality characteristics — doesn’t that sound great?
For the most part, sexuality is fluid and indistinguishable. Every single person who has ever lived has his or her own distinct expression of sexuality that can change in unpredictable ways from one moment to the next. Have you ever showed your friend a picture of someone you find exceptionally attractive, but they respond with “meh”? To believe that the majority of society has been ascribing to the same label of “heterosexual” is absolutely ridiculous. Instead, the label “pansexual” really does make a lot more sense when describing the default sexuality of the collective population.
When we assume that normal sexuality is heterosexual, we communicate to people that they can either commit to being exclusively attracted to someone of the opposite sex, or they will need to adopt a sexual minority label. What would make a lot more sense is to believe that every person is pansexual, because that would allow people to express their pansexuality however they choose. From there, they can adopt a different label that is more suitable to their individual sexuality.
To be honest, I actually believe that being pansexual makes more sense in modern society. Yes, you can argue that heterosexuality is more advantageous from a reproductive perspective, but I highly doubt that everybody is trying to reproduce right away. A lot of people are having casual sex for pleasure, and wouldn’t it be easier if they didn’t limit their prospect pool by only looking at one gender? In my opinion, what is more advantageous doesn’t actually matter because sexuality isn’t a choice. We are born with more or less concrete sexuality preferences, and no rational logic can change whom we are going to love.
The point of this column isn’t to convince you to reconsider your own sexual identity. We don’t have to change our own identities in order to change how we see other people. I think that part of the problem is that people tend to frame what they think as normal based on what they personally do. That is why we come to believe that heterosexuality is normal in the first place, when in actuality there is no norm whatsoever in regards to sexuality. Strip away the concept of “normal” sexuality. Change how you perceive the default sexuality to pansexuality. Once you do, sexuality will become so much easier to understand. Pansexuality introduces the opportunity for many interesting dialogues.
As it is right now, someone might say, “Oh, I’m not actually heterosexual, I’m bisexual.” This can be an awkward conversation for everyone involved because you made an unfair assumption, and they had to go out of their way to correct you. In contrast, the new dialogue would be, “Oh I’m not pansexual, I’m Ryan Gosling-sexual.” This would be an interesting conversation because you get to ask what that means to them. Pansexuality allows us to loosen our rigidity on talking about sexuality. We can rid ourselves of the binary of being heterosexual or otherwise, and we can start working towards fully realizing all of the exciting expressions of sexuality.
It’s time to take a step back and allow people to tell you their own label, if they choose to. Turn the default into everyone being everything and nothing all at once, so that they can have the space to be who they actually are.