How Sexually Fluid Are Women Really? Ctd

by Phoebe Maltz Bovy

More readers have reacted to my post on the great, cascading river that female sexuality is, or isn’t, as the case may be. One makes the fine point that, even if bachelorhood goes unremarked in some locales, that’s not always the case:

I have to dissent. Since the stigma against being gay is more intense for men, I suspect there are still more gay men who are covering it up by getting into relationships with women. Especially in small towns across America.

This same reader goes on to agree with Savage that the problem is monogamy:

I don’t dispute your point about women having far more pressure to project desirability and to pair up; but as for the woman in Dan’s podcast, isn’t it just as likely that she’s simply bored of monogamous straight sex with this particular guy? Maybe she’s thinking of women 90 percent of the time because every instance of bland sex with her boyfriend reminds her that there’s another kind of experience she’s depriving herself of.

I can’t listen to the podcast, since I’m at work, but I’m assuming the boyfriend knew she was bi when they started dating? If so, then the boyfriend knows there’s a dimension of her sexual appetite he is utterly powerless to satisfy. I’d be curious to know how bisexuals get around this issue. Because while the boyfriend sounds selfish, he has reason to fear that his girlfriend’s sex with another woman will develop into much more than that. On the other hand, if he gives the affair his blessing, then would it be fair for him to expect to indulge based on his attraction to a physical trait he desires but his girlfriend lacks?

Of course, these are the absurdities that come with our society’s imposing sexual monogamy on creatures who don’t really want it. As more of us straights talk candidly with gay men who are in open relationships that last, you’ll see polygamy go mainstream. In 50 years, there will be a Mad Men-type show set in the early aughts, and the next generation will mock us for being Puritans. (Also, for being fat and haphazardly destroying the planet, but that’s an email for another day.)

Another reader thinks that not just bisexual women but straight ones, too, feel the occasional or more-than-occasional tingle for a woman:

You wrote, “Savage, in his response, likens her persistent desire to be with women to kinks and fetishes people try to repress over the years (he mentions foot fetishes), and it’s like, gah, this woman is a lesbian!”

Nope. She’s not.

I came out as bisexual in my late teens because hey, most of the time (maybe not 90%, but definitely more than 50%) I fantasized about women. But then, at university, I tried dating some girls, and the reality was way different from the fantasy. Not my thing at all. This wasn’t a fear of the social consequences of not being straight; I had already come out to all my friends. This was me being faced with the reality that vaginas, in person, are not my thing. I’ve been married to a guy for a few years now, and my fantasies haven’t changed, but my in-person sexual preference is definitely for penises. I bet this is not uncommon among straight women.

I’m still waiting to feel something other than envy when I see pictures of Natalia Vodianova, but who knows, that day may come! And I’ll leave it to the trans activists (not the bisexual activists this time) to offer up the obvious suggestion for where someone might turn if they’re into women but not vaginas. Or, I’ll save them the trouble: Not all women have vaginas.

Yet another reader dissents, and might have something to contribute to a certain hit TV show:

I’m following your thread on female sexual fluidity with interest for I was a Federal female inmate for over 11 years and believe me, it is real.

In my experience, well over half of the general prison population and probably more than 75% of long-timers, paired off – got girl friends. (Sex outside of a relationship happened but wasn’t the norm.) These pairings were not merely high school-type, best-friend stuff. A few, due to religious scruple or fear of breaking rules were chaste, albeit with lot of smooching. Most were sexual … or as sexual as was possible in an overcrowded institution where caught-in-the-act meant weeks in the hole.

From what I could gather, most of the women did not think of themselves as lesbian or even particularly bisexual. Many were not sufficiently sophisticated to know what they were but if they’d had to select, most would have probably chosen “straight.” Often they maintained relationships with lovers or husbands on the streets and I would watch at mail call as an ardently committed couple swooned over pics of each other’s boyfriends. Now that’s pretty fluid. So I’m here to profess that, lock us up at least, and we’re a sexually fluid gender.Behind the walls we even gave it a name. We called it being “gay for the stay.”

The real question is, what does Natasha Lyonne think about all this? But the relevant question here, which is probably answerable, is how this compares with what goes on in men’s prisons. A lack of opposite-sex options has been known to cause a kind of fluidity in both sexes, but I’m not sure what that says about life in the coed world at large.

And then there’s a reader who agrees with me, and who shares the following anecdote:

I have a female friend who was with her boyfriend exclusively since high school.  She thought sex with her boyfriend was OK.  No complaints.  Then one night when she was in her late 20s, she had an extremely vivid sexual dream involving a female celebrity and everything changed.  Up to that point, she had never even considered sex with a woman, now she had become obsessed with it. Luckily, her boyfriend was very supportive and helped her explore these thoughts (and not in a creepy way) by renting lesbian movies, reading books about lesbian sexuality, going to group discussions at the local LGBT Center about questioning your sexuality, etc…

It took over a year, but she was eventually sure that she was a lesbian even though she hadn’t actually been with a woman sexually (or even kissed a woman) up to that point.  So she and her boyfriend officially split (they remained very close friends) and she started going on dates with women she met online or through events at the LGBT Center.  She eventually met a woman through some mutual friends, fell in love, and went to Vermont to get a civil union. They’re still happily together today.  They went back to Vermont on their 10-year anniversary and got married.

I’ve talked with her at length about the whole crazy roller coaster ride.  She says that she never even considered that being gay was an option when she was growing up. Never crossed her mind.  You don’t really know what other people are feeling or what’s normal.  It’s kind of like being a kid who is nearsighted and not knowing that you need glasses.  You just assume that things are blurry because they’re far away and that everyone else is seeing the same thing.

So, in at least once case, a woman who identified as straight stopped over at bi before arriving at lesbian. Doesn’t mean all bisexual women will do so.

And finally, a reader gets at the essential:

I think that the “female fluidity” thing is a male fantasy superimposed on flimsy evidence just because, as I said earlier, men think they know it all. They know how to be men and they know how to be women too. And yeah, Dan is gay but that doesn’t make him immune to the socialization and stereotypes. Males are taught to believe a lot of nonsense about women. Just as we are taught to believe nonsense about them.

Ultimately, I’m not particularly concerned with how sexually fluid the typical woman turns out to be, and am far more interested in the reasons we keep hearing the ‘women are sexually fluid’ refrain. It is, as this reader notes, partly about how neatly this matches up with something many straight men have long hoped to hear: A threesome’s in the cards, not for me, oh, no, she’s the one who wants it! Not, of course, that that’s what it actually means for a woman to be bisexual, or sexually fluid, but it does help explain why there’s such a receptive audience for every scrap of evidence that this is just how women are wired.

But the bigger issue, for me, is that ‘women are sexually fluid’ is used as a way to affirm what many already believe about female sexuality of all stripes: That it’s basically nonexistent. That women care about relationships, but don’t experience intense physical desire. The way it’s often framed, this allegedly fluid female sexuality isn’t so much about lusting after men and women at various points in one’s life or one’s afternoon, but rather, about women never lusting after anyone, and thus being equally content with a male or female best friend.