HIM: The other day, on a hunch, I conducted a little study. I did a random search for 50 couples on a swingers’ website, and counted how many people identified themselves as any kind of bisexual. Among the women, forty-three claimed to be sexually attracted to both males and females. Among the men, just two chose to identify themselves that way. In fact, many of the men went to surprising lengths in their written profiles to proclaim that they were 100% straight, as if it was a personal achievement worth bragging about. Now, all of this will surprise no one who has spent any time in the lifestyle, but it is a subject worth looking at a little more closely. Why is it that bisexuality is so broadly embraced among women, but among men…not so much?
HER: I don’t think I’m alone in saying my first sexual experiments were with my childhood friend, who happened to be a girl. I remember when I was five or six, we used to play ‘house’ in the basement. She was the husband and I was the wife. She would lie on top of me, sqirm around, and kiss me. I knew it was probably bad, but it felt really good. The same friend would show me girl-on-girl pictures from her dad’s Hustler magazines, and some of those images are still burned into my brain because they were so arousing.
HIM: Well, it’s not like those early experiences are restricted to females. I know that when I was no older than six I was caught by some neighborhood adult kissing the bare bottom of another boy behind the building where we lived. I was mortally afraid this woman would tell my mom, as she threatened to do, but I never heard anything about it. That scene was chiseled into my childhood memory, but as I grew older it never really turned into a full blown same-sex attraction.
HER: “Full blown” – you’re funny! As most experts agree, and as our early experiences seem to suggest, sexual preference isn’t an either/or proposition where everyone has to be either 100% straight or 100% gay. It’s more like a continuum, with people falling somewhere between the two extremes. For instance, I’d say I’m probably 70% straight. I like girls, but playing with a woman is not nearly as satisfying as playing with a man. But it’s easy for me to say that, because we girls get to kiss and lick and rub and call it sex. There doesn’t even have to be penetration, so it’s ‘safe’. For men, I think basic anatomy is part of the problem. To put it crudely, I think it’s the fear of sodomy. Women can say they’re bi without worrying it will lead to anal. However, if a man says he’s bi, he immediately has to ask himself if he’s ready to take it up the ass. Of course, there are lots of other less invasive ways to have sexual contact between men, but I think that’s where most guys’ minds immediately go. That can be pretty scary for someone who’s just 30% ‘gay’ on the continuum.
HIM: So what you’re really saying is that everyone is bi, then. Even if someone is 99% attracted to the opposite sex, there’s still that 1% attraction to the same sex. I guess that makes sense, since even the straightest guy loves to look at and fondle at least one cock: his own. Is that because, by fluke, he happens to be in possession of the only attractive penis in the world, or because male genitals are fun and his own happen to be the only set he is allowed to play with?
HER: I think we could say the same about boobs. Who – male or female – doesn’t love to play with a nice set of those? We grow up stimulating ourselves, and we spend a lot of time evaluating how our sexual bits stack up against others of the same gender, so it’s easy to imagine the not-so-drastic leap to wanting to touch those bits…if for no other reason than to see how they compare to our own.
Anyway, I can definitely tell you that I find the idea of two men playing together very hot. In fact, gay and male bi porn is the only kind that really turns me on.
HIM: And your enthusiasm has gone a long way toward making me feel free to consider contact with another guy: permission is always a big turn-on for me. I think bisexual women have had society’s implicit permission for years. This isn’t going to be authoritative, but I’d say somewhere in the 1980’s I became aware that female bisexuality was starting to become a sort of sexual ideal in our culture. It’s worth saying that this ‘small-l lesbianism’ was a voyeuristic, performative ideal mediated by male attention, having little to do with the kind of life-defining ‘capital-L Lesbianism’ that Ellen DeGeneres would recognize. Still, it represented a major expansion of erotic possibility.
Although porn led the way, lesbianism eventually made its way into popular culture. To my mind, that breakthrough was signaled in 1998 on an episode of the show Friends. Facing the loss of their apartment to Joey and Chandler, Rachel and Monica agree to kiss for a minute if the men would allow them to stay. The kiss wasn’t shown, but the fact that it was treated as valuable currency was the first pop culture validation of theappeal of same sex attraction between women that I was aware of. For their part, Joey and Chandler race to their rooms (ostensibly to masturbate), proclaiming that they considered the trade totally worth it. Interestingly, it took another five years before two women could be shown kissing in prime time, when Madonna locked lips with Britney Spears during the 2003 MTV Video Music Awards.
HER: So, wait, are you saying women today are free to say they’re bi because Rachel and Monica (or Madonna and Britney) kissed on tv? There’s a lot more to it than that. I think women have always been allowed to be more affectionate with each other than men, at least in our North American culture. In my parents’ generation, mothers would hug their sons and daughters equally. Fathers would hug their daughters but rarely their sons. So even at the level of family affection, contact between the sexes was fine, contact between females was fine, but contact between males was a little awkward.
HIM: Tell me about it. When I was six my dad stopped hugging me at bedtime and would actually shake my hand!
HER: I have to say, I never cease to be amazed by your weird upbringing. Anyway, now we’re on a swingers’ dating site (the same one where you did your study) and you don’t list yourself as bi, but you did put into our profile that you’re open to it. What’s up with that?
HIM: Well, there are a few things going on. First of all, I’ve always had that undercurrent of same-sex attraction from when I was six years old. To put it your way, I would say that I’m 85% straight, which I guess also means that I’m 15% gay. Secondly, when we got together, you let me know very clearly that you were turned on by the idea of seeing two men together. Not just a little, but a lot: you communicated that it’s not only allowed, but desired. Your desire, in turn, activated the pleaser in me, who would do almost anything to make you happy. Thirdly, my own insistence on getting the most out of life (sexually and otherwise) has made me feel like it’s stupid to put boundaries around my pursuit of pleasure. Your sexual history has been undeniably enhanced by your experiences with women. To think that it is only a one way street, that it couldn’t work between men, makes no sense at all. In every area of my life, I never want to feel that I was trapped by the conventions of my time, my choices limited by unreasoning prejudice. Still, even though we mention it in the body of the profile, I didn’t want to necessarily label myself that way. I guess I’m still sensitive to the stigma. I don’t want other couples to dismiss us simply because the man is scared off by my label. But I suppose I could at least identify myself as ‘bi-curious’.
HER: Yes. Let’s change it now! The appeal of this lifestyle is removing boundaries and doing whatever feels good, regardless of the label. If letting the other guy touch your cock (or touching his) feels good, why shy away from that? I want us to have unrestricted, fluid enjoyment all around, and if the homophobes pass us over, that’s a bonus.
HIM: Allow me to make a bold prediction: in 20-30 years, basically everyone will be bisexual. When social historians look back at our time, they’ll think it was quaintly puzzling that men were so afraid to touch each other, and shake their heads condescendingly. I don’t want to be pitied by future generations. So although I wouldn’t exactly say I’m driven by lust to connect sexually with another man, I am definitely going to explore the possibilities.
HER: Awesome. That just made me a little wet.