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Of Cuddling, Companionship and Coitus

iStock_000000552642_SmallQ: Is there such a thing as having a girl-girl relationship with just cuddling and kissing and no oral sex or titillation tactics?

I’m not into sex — never really have been — just companionship. (I’m 61, and have been hetero ’til now.)

A: If you’ve never felt this way before, the urge to get physically closer to another woman must be an emotionally complex experience for you.

Is sexual orientation fixed early in our development? That’s what some researchers believe. But other scholars disagree, contending that human sexuality is on a continuum, and that many people may range from a “Kinsey 2” to a “Kinsey 5” — and back! — in the course of their lives.

A word of explanation about those ratings: World-famous sex researcher Alfred Kinsey, a professor at Indiana University in the 1940s and ’50s, created a six-point scale on which 1 was totally heterosexual and 6 was totally homosexual, with variations of desire and behavior in between. Sexual orientation is not binary, Kinsey proclaimed; rather, he believed that many of us are capable of varying degrees of bisexuality.

My own position is that many of us have homosexual attractions, some of which are minor and fleeting. Other desires, by contrast — such as your sudden hankering for a same-sex relationship, even if no sexual contact is involved — may surface only later in life, or when a particular person captures our heart. (Perhaps you had someone specific in mind when you wrote to me?)

Someone who has lived a completely heterosexual life can suddenly desire — even fall in love with — someone of the same sex, and discover that their sexual orientation has changed as a result. Your desire to hug and kiss a woman may be the expression of something deeper — something that is real and true and deep about your feelings for other women. Understandably, this shift in polarity may startle or threaten any formerly “straight” person who experiences it, because homosexuality is still so deplorably stigmatized.

Readers who see their own urges reflected in your question should be honest with any woman they connect with. If another woman is interested in you, she may hesitate to get involved with someone who can’t figure out whether she wants a cuddle partner or a bona fide lover. Especially at our age, few self-respecting lesbians will be content with mere hugging and kissing.

To sort out your feelings, see a counselor or a coach. The American Society for Sexuality Educators, Counselors and Therapists provides names and contact numbers of trained sexuality experts. You owe yourself (and any partner you might meet) some introspection and self-discovery before you act.

Photo: barsik, via istockphoto.com