The world of sexual expression has always been diverse. Today, people are dedicating more attention and education to understanding sexual orientations. If you are asking, “What is pansexuality?” you are not alone. The terms for different types of sexual attraction can be confusing. There is often more than one correct term.
For example, some people prefer to use the term “omnisexual” instead of pansexual. In addition, people sometimes use the terms incorrectly, adding to the confusion.
Understanding the Pansexual
The simplest pansexual definition is a person who has a sexual or romantic attraction to another person regardless of gender identity or biological sex. The prefix “pan” means “all.” Pansexual people are not attracted to all people. However, the potential for attraction exists regardless of sex or gender.
According to an article in Psychology Today, women are 5 times more likely to identify as pansexual than men. People in the millennial generation are also more likely to be pansexual than those in older generations.
Pansexual and Gender
Pansexual meaning is tied to the modern concept of gender. People once viewed gender as binary, especially in Western civilizations. People saw others as either male or female and gender aligned with biological sex. If you were born with male genitalia, people assume your gender was also male.
However, there is a new understanding of how environment, biology, and psychology influence gender roles. It is shining a light on the idea of gender itself. It can be confusing. Some people find these new concepts overwhelming or even offensive.
The fact remains that society as a whole is reexamining gender structures. Part of that focuses on how they affect—or do not affect—sexual orientation.
What does all this have to do with pansexuality? The word itself makes space for the idea that there are more than two genders to be attracted to.
Pansexual People vs. Bisexual People: What Is the Difference?
The differences between pansexuality and bisexuality are subtle and complex. Bisexuality is defined as the sexual or romantic attraction to people of “both” genders. Both genders mean male and female.
Like all sexual expressions, bisexuality also exists on a continuum. One person may be attracted to men and women equally. Another may strongly prefer males but is also attracted to females.
Pansexuals commonly express resistance to being limited by cultural traditions. Their sexual/romantic attraction is based on the qualities of an individual, not on their biological sex or gender identity.
For example, a bisexual person is attracted to people with male genitalia who identify as men and to people with female genitalia who identify as women. However, a pansexual person might be attracted to a person with male sexual organs who identifies as a female or a person with female sexual organs who identifies as non-binary.
It can be difficult to understand the pansexual definition. It challenges the categorical identities we accept as a society: straight, gay, and bisexual.
How Does Pansexuality Affect Reproductive Health?
Sexual orientation does not affect a person’s risk for unplanned pregnancy or sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Pansexual people do not need to take any special precautions. It is not necessary to do more than people of other orientations. What does impact your reproductive health, regardless of your partner(s), includes:
If you use barrier methods during sex and if you use them correctly
The type of sex you have
The type of birth control methods you use
IV drug use or other risk factors for HIV/AIDS and hepatitis
The body parts of the people involved may be the biggest factor to consider. For example, there is zero risk of pregnancy if two biological females are having sex. There is a high risk if a male and female are having intercourse.
If partners exchange bodily fluids, the risk of STIs is present regardless of anatomy. Understanding the proper safety measures for preventing pregnancy and disease transmission with all sexual encounters is key.
What Causes Pansexuality?
Science is still trying to understand all the factors that affect an individual’s sexual orientation. According to Planned Parenthood, research shows biological factors that are present since birth partially cause a person’s sexual preferences.
Most experts in human sexuality agree that a person’s orientation is not something they can control or decide. Children start becoming aware of who they are attracted to at a young age. This is not to say young children have sexual feelings, but it is common for children to have crushes and talk about boyfriends or girlfriends long before puberty.
Human sexuality is fluid and can change throughout an individual’s lifetime. While it would be unusual for a person who identifies as a homosexual to become heterosexual, it would not be uncommon for them to find they are also attracted to the opposite sex at some point in life. The same holds true for people who identify as heterosexual.
Pansexual people may define themselves as bisexual earlier in life. Then, as they come to understand themselves better, they realize the things they find attractive are not based on sex or gender. Pansexual people focus more on personality and other traits that do not involve anatomy than they do on sex or gender.
Researchers often describe sexual orientation as a continuum. Some people are on the far ends of that continuum. They are firmly homosexual or firmly heterosexual. But most humans fall somewhere in between.
It is important to remember that when it comes to sexual behavior, attraction and action are not the same. Many people have attractions they do not act on, regardless of their orientation.
Am I a Pansexual?
If you have ever developed an attraction to someone without knowing what their gender was, you may be pansexual. If you are confused by or uncomfortable with your sexual identity, speak with a trusted friend, advisor, or therapist. Figuring out who you are in this changing world is a challenge, and you are not alone.
If you need support, look online for local LGBTQIA+ support groups or contact GLAAD for resources in your area. You do not need to label yourself or define all of your feelings in order to experience them.