For a long time, I've felt uncomfortable with the idea of having a sexual orientation. Here's a shot at explaining why.
Sexual orientation is, I suppose, a label for a taste or a capacity. Most labels for tastes and capacities, give information about what a person likes, or is capable of. Sexual orientation labels are a little different: they also give information about what the person doesn't like and isn't capable of.
When people ask, I usually say I'm straight. I've never slept with a woman, and I probably won't in the near future--I'm in a long-term, monogamous relationship with a man. But straight women supposedly aren't attracted to other. They don't stare at other women (but politely! always politely), or get sooky crushes on their female friends.
I suppose I could embrace the label even though it doesn't fit. I'm already a lousy straight girl for being too pushy in bed, for not wanting to feel pretty, for not minding if my partner sleeps with people, and for thinking that romantic wuv, as it's commonly sold, is a load of crap. That I can get my head around, but a straight woman who might be interested in women? That I can't quite get my head around.
"Bisexual" is bad too, because how do I know whether I'd like something that I haven't tried? Sex with women might be like novelty freeze-dried ice cream they sell in museum shops. As a kid I begged my mom to buy me some (ice cream, not sex), but was disappointed when I actually tasted the stuff. It might be like custard apples, which are sometimes delicious and sometimes do nothing for me.
"Queer" is terrible. I don't feel entitled to that, because I'm much too gender-conforming. Okay, I dress a little bit butcy-granola, but as soon as people realize I'm not a lesbian, I get reclassified as a big straight girl scout. People like my relatives, who aren't big on the "lesbian" concept in the first place, bypass that and immediately assume that I'm a big straight girl scout. Calling myself "queer" feels like a great way of marginalizing people who take actual abuse for their gender nonconformity. I slide under the radar.
Don't even start with "bi-curious". Ugh. I might as well start wearing a sign that says "I'm a huge, sleazy poseur".
I'm not so sure about "dominant" and "top" either. They don't describe my non-sexual behavior, and just because I tend toward those activities with partners, doesn't mean I never want anything else. "Switch" is better. Nobody can accuse a switch of false advertising just because she feels like being on the other end of a good whipping every once in a while. (Is there such a thing as a dominant masochist? I hope so. That sounds like a nice thing to be.) Oh, yes, and I'm one of those odd sadomasochists who likes vanilla sex. Or vanilla people who likes sadomasochistic sex? Best to call the whole thing off.
At least "woman" seems to work. My body is female, and gets read as female--or gets a "sir" followed by a quick apology when they notice the prominent boobs. I'm pretty used to the body, it's one I can deal with, and my figure does not respond well to ace bandages. Female it is, then.
If only there were some sort of physical marker for sexual orientation too. (The navel? I've been staring at it enough this afternoon. Phew.)