What Exactly is Female Same-Sex Attraction?

“Danielle, 45, lived with one lesbian lover for over a decade, She believes God called her out of lesbian relationships but has little hope she can ever relate to a man.

 Cathy is 37 years old, married with two children. She has had three nonsexual emotionally dependent relationships with women. Although she longs for a woman’s touch and comfort, she does not identify herself as homosexual.

Rebecca was surprised to find herself in the arms of one of her female friends three years ago, at the age of 22. Although the closeness and affection felt great, she does not want to further explore or pursue a same-sex relationship. She has always wanted to marry and have a family.

 Lisa, who is 55 years old, has tried to have same-sex relationships but struggles with knowing how to build any kind of relationship, with either a man or a woman. She doubts anyone really wants to be with her (p. 21).”

The above sketches illustrate the reality that every woman who experiences SSA, does so uniquely. However, the following four descriptions, lay out the feelings each woman with SSA admits to having on some level (p. 22).

Same-Sex Attraction: “Same-sex attraction includes any desire toward another woman, in reality or fantasy, that may involve erotic feelings, sexually charged sensations or a strong preoccupation with nonsexual physical affection such as being held, hugged, casually touched or cuddled” (p.22). It is important to note that this only refers to the desire, and not any actual behavior.

Same-Sex Sexual Behavior: This includes any actual sexual behaviors with other women. Woman can and do engage in same sex sexual behavior without having same sex attraction (a phenomenon I may discuss later), or it may be accompanied by same sex attraction. Likewise, same sex attraction does not necessarily mean there is any same sexual behavior (p. 22).

Same-Sex Emotional Dependency: “The state of a same-sex relationship wherein one or both of the women become intensely emotionally and psychologically dependent on the other for a sense of self, attachment, identity, purpose, security or well-being” (p.22).

Sexual Orientation: “Sexual orientation is typically assessed by evaluating one’s sexual arousal patterns, attractions, fantasies, yearnings, behaviors and identity. If a woman reports most of these factors as being predominantly associated with other women, especially across her life span, she would be said to have predominant homosexual or same-sex orientation” (p.23).

Many women who experience same-sex attraction, emotional dependency, behavior, and/or orientation do not necessarily assume those things as their “fundamental identity” (p.23). A woman can experience just one or all of the above. So as you counsel women with SSA it will be important to not assume what they identify as or that they are using these terms in the same way you do. As my last post stressed, you will need to listen and ask questions to understand how each woman has/does experience her SSA. I found that thinking through these different categories and experiences of same-sex attraction beforehand was helpful in this process.

Janelle, throughout her book, has chosen to “rely on the acronym “SSA” to encapsulate all of these broader definitions and possible struggles and identities within a woman’s life” (p.24). I will be doing the same.

(All of the page references are from Hallman, 2008)

Hallman, Janelle. (2008). The heart of female same-sex attraction: A comprehensive counseling resource. Downers Grove, IL: Intervarsity Press.

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