I have recently been exploring my bi side and experimenting with other men. I’ve come to a point of being perfectly comfortable with my sexuality: I’m attracted to both women and men, but I’m predominantly attracted to women. I hate the idea of having to hide this. I’ve read Dossie Easton’s book The Ethical Slut and have come to the firm conclusion that I don’t want to lie about my sexuality.
So wouldn’t it be nice if I could come out as bi? But my problem is this: Are out bi men gay by default? If I come out as bi, will 99.9 percent of women be skeezed out, leaving me with only bi or gay men as my sexual partners? That is not what I want! As I said, I’m predominantly heterosexual! So do I have to choose between being a closeted bi or a de facto gay? Some choice!
So what do you think? Is there any hope for being male, out, and bisexual-not-gay? How can I meet women who aren’t bi-phobic?
—Seeking to Unburden Deception
Want a woman who isn’t bi-phobic, STUD? Then find a bisexual woman.
I’ve been writing this column for 40-odd years now, and in that time, I’ve gotten shitloads of mail from bisexuals. But I have never received a letter from a bisexual who counted other bisexuals among his or her potential sex partners. From the bi guys it’s always, “Boo hoo, I’m bi and gay men won’t date me and straight women are scared of me!” From the bi girls it’s always, “Boo hoo, I’m bi and lesbians won’t date me and straight men just want to watch me make out with their bi-curious girlfriends!” It never seems to occur to bis that they can avoid all the mean/clueless/insensitive gays, lesbians, and straights by dating other bis exclusively.
In fairness, it’s possible that all the smart, hip, together bis are already contentedly banging other bis, and since they’re not having problems, I don’t hear from them. But still, what kind of statement does it make about the general desirability of bisexuals when so many bisexuals can’t even conceive of dating other bisexuals?
Oh, and while we’re on the subject of bisexuality…
The splashy results of a study conducted at Northwestern University in Illinois and the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto made the newspapers last week. Researchers recruited 101 men—38 guys who said they were homos, 33 guys who said they were bi, and 30 guys who said they were straight—and showed them porn in attempt to answer that age-old question: Are bi guys all liars? The guys’ dicks were wired up, they were shown girl-on-girl porn and boy-on-boy porn, and their arousal levels were measured.
“Three quarters of the [bisexual] group had arousal patterns identical to those of gay men,” the New York Times reported. “The rest were indistinguishable from heterosexuals.” In English: 75 percent of the bi guys got aroused only by watching boys; the other 25 percent of the bi guys got aroused only by watching girls. None responded equally to images of men and women.
So what does it all mean?
“We couldn’t find a bisexual arousal pattern,” says Gerulf Rieger, the study’s lead author. “The conclusion that I draw is that most of the men who identify as bisexual behave like gay men in their arousal patterns. Does that mean [75 percent of bisexual guys] are truly gay? I can’t say. But it could mean they are confused about their sexual orientation.”
That some men who ultimately identify as gay claim to be bisexual for a time is a well-established fact, so it’s entirely possible that the 75 percent of the bisexuals whose dicks were wired up in Rieger’s study are on their way to embracing their big gay selves. But what, I wonder, is up with the 25 percent of bisexual guys in the study who responded to the girl-on-girl porn but not the boy-on-boy porn? There’s no such thing as a closeted straight guy, so what exactly is up with them?
“They might be straight,” Rieger speculates, “but go in for sex with other guys because it’s so much easier for a male to have quick sex with another male than with a woman. But their true sexual feelings are still for women.”
Needless to say, Rieger’s study has kicked off a shitstorm. The study was co-authored by Dr. J. Michael Bailey, a professor of psychology at Northwestern University and the author of The Man Who Would Be Queen: The Science of Gender-Bending and Transsexualism, a book many homos think is deeply homo- and trans-phobic. John Aravosis has been kicking the shit out of Bailey, and the study, on his influential blog, AMERICAblog.org.
Rieger, however, rejects the notion that Bailey hates homos. “It’s very hard for me to be subjective when I hear that criticism,” he says. “I’m very fond of Michael Bailey. I’m his grad student, and I’m gay. He is not homophobic.”
Bailey’s myriad issues aside, I don’t think the study can be dismissed out of hand. At the very least it jibes with, er, field observations I’ve made of male bisexuals. The sad fact is that male bisexuality is rare, much more so than female bisexuality. While there are a lot of guys out there having bisexual experiences—probably more than ever, God bless ’em—there’s a difference between someone’s true sexual orientation and his sexual capabilities. A lot of guys like STUD—predominantly straight guys who enjoy messing around with other guys—will tell you they’re bi. But these nominally bisexual men are not emotionally available to other men—in other words, these guys may have sex with other guys, but, like STUD, they have relationships only with women. Which is why dating bi guys isn’t something most gay men are willing to do. Even if the bi guy you’re dating is single, you’re still just his piece on the side.—Dan
Am I morally bound to be true to a woman I’ve been in a loving relationship with for three long years if I have a bisexual curiosity? I want to see what it’s like to be with a man! She would be devastated, so I can’t tell her. But I want to do this!—Gonna Blow It
You’re morally bound not to be a total shit, GBI. If you can’t bring yourself to tell her you want to smoke some pole, at least have the decency to break up with her. Once you’ve satisfied your curiosity, you can go running back to your girlfriend—if she’ll have you back, that is.—Dan
I’m in my early 30s and straight, have never been attracted to men, have never fantasized about having sex with a guy, have never been turned on by looking at a guy. If I had been, I’d tell you. This is anonymous; why would I lie? But undressing in front of a man who clearly wants to see me undress turns me on. What gives? (I also get hard when a woman watches me undress.) I’m in a committed relationship with a woman, but this exhibitionist streak won’t go away. Any thoughts on where it comes from and what to do about it?
—Men Ogle and Notice
Where it comes from? That’s an easy one—so easy that you already nailed it. You’re an exhibitionist, MOAN. You get off on being seen, being desired, and, in the case of gay men, inspiring desires you have no intention of indulging—which makes you a bit of a prick tease, too. What to do about it? Enjoy it, of course.
Dan Savage’s Skipping Towards Gomorrah: The Seven Deadly Sins and the Pursuit of Happiness in America (Dutton) is available at bookstores nationwide. Send your Savage Love questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Art accompanying story in the printed newspaper is not available in this archive: Illustration by Robert Ullman.