Opinion | Allow yourself room to experiment

By Paul Beer, Staff Columnist

In 2006, a fan called in to Wendy Williams on the set of “The Wendy Williams Experience” to discuss concerns about her husband’s alleged bisexuality. She said she knew about an affair he had with another man but was not sure because he hadn’t told her directly. As the fan was trying to explain her situation, Williams cut her off, famously proclaiming, “Denial is a river in Egypt; your husband is gay!” 

Though she flubbed the saying, Williams may have a point. Many people go into their adult lives with repressed sexual desires that they then act out at inopportune times, like during marriage. 

Sexual repression happens too frequently, especially with young people in more closed-minded environments. Sexual repression is learned. Children growing up in conservative or religious cultures may learn that acting on sexual desires in certain contexts — before marriage or by masturbation — is morally reprehensible.

This repression can manifest in many different ways — refusal to engage with one’s sexuality being the most prominent. Not only do repressed people have trouble engaging with sexual desire in general, but they also might refuse to accept a sexuality different from a cultural norm. Repressing LGBTQ+ inclinations is just as dangerous for your mental health as it is for your physical health. And still, working up the courage to engage with these desires might end in guilt. 

Researchers note that overt homophobia could signal repressed homosexual thoughts. Repression becomes a chain, where repressed people keep trying to repress other people. 

Thus, giving yourself the room to experiment is so important, especially at a young age. Experimenting with sexuality now can help to prevent some of the later in life consequences of repression such as cheating, divorce and depression. 

Experimentation is something everyone needs to define for themselves. What does your scope of experimentation include? Is it something you will do alone, with a committed partner, or with strangers and maybe some combination of each? Everyone has lines to draw and limits that they know of, but everyone has equally as many desires and fantasies that they need to explore, consensually. 

Experimentation with different bedroom methods or techniques can lead to a greater understanding of yourself, which you can then share with current or future partners — or keep for your own personal pleasure. Sharing preferences will create a better bedroom experience for all parties. And experimenting with different sexualities can lead to a healthier mindset for you and those around you — and it will certainly bring clarity to your life. 

The difficult part of all of this, of course, is actually doing it. First, look to people who you can trust to make the sexual journey you take a safe and successful one. If that person is yourself, great! If that person is a committed partner, actualizing desires with them may be good for bonding and growing together — or you may realize that you two are not sexually compatible and have some work to do. 

Even experimenting with strangers can make for a safe experience. If you find that you enjoyed what you did, great, you learned something new about yourself! If you find you did not enjoy it as much as you thought, even better that you’ll never see this person again! 

College is one of the best opportunities to experiment — it’s your first true experience without your parents’ control, and you have a seemingly endless selection of people. Media often portrays college experimentation as having the “BUG” — Bisexual Until Graduation — but studies show that this notion is far from the truth. Experimentation does not, and should not, end at graduation. 

This trope is harmfully stigmatizing on LGBTQ+ experiences. It’s true that not everyone who experiments with a same-sex relationship will actually identify with a new sexuality. But many of them will choose to simply ignore labels in the long run, citing that religious or social pressures may prevent them from that identification. Concerningly, the group of people whose experimentation stops at graduation might still fall into the trap of repression. 

Luckily, I learned about my own sexuality before coming to college — and even before starting high school. The hardest part ended up being owning up to it. As I got older and gained more freedom, I allowed myself the time and mental energy to engage with same-sex experiences. But I know that the long journey that it takes to accept yourself as an LGBTQ+ person starts with a first, or second or third experience. 

Without the acceptance of yourself that comes along with new experiences, you end up trapped and guilty once again. Know yourself, and stay true to what you know about yourself. Societal pressures are shifting day by day, but there is still no time to waste in feeling comfortable with yourself. 

Taking the leap to experiment relies on giving yourself permission. Think it through and tell yourself that experimentation is normal, common and valid. Learn to take your own desires seriously, and ignore what others have pushed on to you. 


Paul Beer writes about political affairs and reads too many album reviews. Write back to him (or send music recommendations) at [email protected].