Dissents Of The Day

A reader quotes me:

Let me place a bet with Friedman: Daley will never have a sexual relationship with a woman again, because his assertion that he still fancies girls is a classic bridging mechanism to ease the transition to his real sexual identity. I know this because I did it too.

Wow, Andrew, that’s strikingly arrogant of you. After all the conversations you’ve hosted on bisexuality, I’m amazed you would be so black-and-white and presumptuous about it. There’s no call to be so instantly dismissive of others’ own declarations of their sexual preferences. If and when Daley admits he’s in it for the cock only, then you can trumpet your own theories about bridges and men’s simpler sexuality.

Let me rephrase my bet with Friedman. Check in in ten years’ time. As for airing discussions in which male bisexuality is regarded as widespread as female bisexuality, of course we air such threads. Part of the point of this blog is to push back against my own views with those of readers and other writers, studies and stories and the irreplaceable role of human narrative. But it doesn’t mean I am totally persuaded. I absolutely believe in male bisexuality, its integrity as an identity, its total validity as a sexual orientation. I just believe it’s much less common than female bisexuality, for reasons to do with nature, rather than nurture. I know this enrages some liberals, just as other views of mine enrage conservatives. I didn’t mean to constrain Tom Daley’s future life in any way, and perhaps I was too glib in writing what I wrote. But it remains what I think. Another reader:

“I know this because I did it too.” That’s precisely the problem, Andrew. What you think of as a point of argumentative strength is actually analytical weakness. You’re extrapolating from your own experience, with no actual ability to live Tom Daley’s experience. Now I think that is a very natural response, as you came of age in a time when homosexuality was something to be ashamed of. The pain and frustration of that, I’m sure, colors your perception of any man who claims to have sexual attraction to both sexes. I have no doubt there have been many men who have claimed to be bisexual out of a desire to avoid the stigma of being gay. But insisting that any individual must necessarily be an example of that is a cruel thing – even if you turn out to be right.

I don’t think my overall response to Tom Daley could be fairly called cruel. Another:

You snappily respond to Ann Friedman: “Not much evidence of fluid sexuality among men there, is there?” Hmmm, why would that be?  After all, it’s not as if there’s any real COST to men admitting to fluid sexuality, is there?

And another:

Let me say first off that I appreciate the amount of coverage you’re giving to bisexuality, and that I’ve really enjoyed reading the “What’s A Bisexual Anyway?” thread. I know you get this a lot, but your willingness to have an ongoing discussion about a subject like bisexuality is why I’m a subscriber. But your latest post on Daley made me see red! In response, I’d like to quote from the chapter on bisexuality in Dan Savage’s most recent book, American Savage.

Savage has long been accused of biphobia because of his past statements that male bisexuality doesn’t exist, a belief he admits was based on a now-discredited study. (Discredited, I should add, by the same researcher who led the initial study). In a chapter called “Mistakes Were Made,” Savage makes the point that yes, “many gay men briefly identify as bisexual during their coming-out processes” but that “bisexuality is not a phase for bisexuals” (emphasis in original):

I can see now why this is all so enormously frustrating for bisexual men. Many gay men think all bisexual guys are lying because a lot of men who claim to be bisexual are lying. But it’s not bisexual guys who lie about being bisexual. It’s gay men like me … who lie about being bi. And what do we do after we stop lying about being bi? We insist that all bisexual guys are liars because we were liars.

I know you’re not accusing Daley of lying; I’m sure you think that he genuinely believes that he still fancies girls. But if you add “to themselves” to “lying,” the point still stands.

By the way, the reason that new study got different results? They made the participation criteria more stringent by restricting the sample only to men who actually exhibited bisexual behavior, i.e. excluding gay men, like you and Dan Savage, who were in a “transitional” phase.

Lastly, I’d like to add my perspective as an out bisexual woman in the LGBT community: I’ve encountered so much prejudice and disbelief surrounding bisexuality that I’m not surprised when bisexuals who are actually in same-sex relationships don’t feel safe identifying as bi, and prefer to allow everyone to assume they’re gay. Although this contributes to our invisibility, for some it might seem a better option than being rejected by the very community that is supposed to support us, especially if you’ve already been rejected by your family and straight friends. Also, I think this situation is probably worse for bisexual men, because while bi women may be accused of “experimenting,” bi men are actually accused of being cowards or liars.

By the way, Dan discussed that study and bisexuality in general for one of our Ask Anything videos. Another reader:

I love you, Andrew, but: bullshit. Daley is in love with this man, and there is a chance – a small chance, but a chance nonetheless – that he will spend the rest of his life with him. If that happens, and he does not ever have sex with another woman, and he still says he is bi, he is still bi. Likewise if he just never meets another woman he wants to have sex with before he finds the right person (who happens to be a man) to settle down with, which is also possible. Likewise if he is sexually bi but romantically oriented towards men and doesn’t enjoy casual sex outside of a committed relationship.

I could keep going, but my point is this: sexual orientation is not defined by behavior. There are straight men who have the occasional homosexual or even homoromantic experience. Those men aren’t straight, but they aren’t gay either. There are gay men who remain closeted their whole lives and sleep with and even marry women. Those men are still gay. There are straight and gay and bi men who remain celibate for whatever reasons. They are still who they are.

One more:

I’m a 37-year-old man, and in the past year, I’ve come out to many family members and friends as bisexual. I started incorporating men into my fantasies when I was 12 or 13, and they’ve been present there ever since. And sometimes, indeed, I feel such a strong desire for sex with another man that I do wonder if I’m just fooling myself; I’ve certainly still got some latent shame and self-directed homophobia. But other times, the urge to be with a man recedes considerably.

On the other hand, I almost always want to have sex with women, and my fantasies usually specifically focus on me going down on them. My sense is that eating pussy is about the least gay thing I could be jerking off about.

Of course, that’s just me. What’s more interesting to me is that in the past couple months, I’ve had conversations with two different guys around my age who are openly gay. Both expressed interest in having sex with a woman, especially as part of a three-way with another guy. One said most of the porn he watches is of straight sex. These are not men who are figuring out their orientation; these are guys who’ve been dating and in relationships consistently with other men for years. So their sexuality seems kinda surprisingly fluid to me.

I’m betting against your confident prediction. I think homophobia has done a far more pervasive and pernicious job of repressing a lot of men’s desires than even you give it credit for. In fact, I think that because male sexuality is, as you put it, “much cruder, simpler and more binary,” we could see a small explosion in the popularity of same-sex hookups among men in the not-that-far-out future. Not all men, of course. But dudes wanna get off, and as it increasingly becomes OK for them to get each other off, I think they’ll take advantage of that.

Finally, I’d be interested in seeing whether women’s reported reactions to man-on-man sex have changed at all. Whereas twenty years ago it seemed like women had no interest in such a thing, I’ve met a number of them lately with “watch two dudes getting it on” on their sexual bucket list. And I think for a lot of bi or curious guys, that sort of “permission” is also a big deal.

I’ll be as fascinated as my reader in seeing how things shake out. Or don’t.