Megan Barton-Hanson bisexuality column VICE
ILLUSTRATION: BRIDGET MEYNE; PHOTO: MEGAN BARTON-HANSON
Life

How To Explore Bisexuality When You’ve Only Been In Straight Relationships

As one of the few out bisexual British celebrities, Megan Barton-Hanson' weighs in on where to start with dating other genders.
September 6, 2021, 8:00am

It’s hard to pin-point exactly when I first realised that I fancied women. I had a best friend at college who I thought was really sexy, and I definitely liked her as more than just a friend. Later on, I had a threesome where I was more interested in the girl than the guy. I really liked her, too, but it felt like fighting a losing battle because she was in a long-term relationship. Still, that really established things for me: I was interested in dating girls. 

Exploring your sexuality can be difficult, especially when you live somewhere rural or suburban. There must be at least a handful of lesbians in Essex, but there’s loads of gay clubs and no women anywhere! I didn’t have anyone to talk to or go out with, which felt very isolating. In the end, it was years before I finally came out as bisexual

Because I came out in quite a public way, I faced a lot of judgement from people saying it was for press attention or for TV. That created an intense amount of pressure, which made me feel like I had to work to ‘prove’ my sexuality. That’s something I imagine a lot of people deal with to varying degrees, maybe with friends or family who don’t understand. So, based on my experiences, here’s some tips on how to explore dating different genders when you’ve only ever been in straight relationships.

BE PREPARED FOR AWKWARD FIRST DATES 

The first date I went on kind of put me off a bit to be honest. She was trying to establish stereotypical gender roles, like ‘oh you’re definitely the girly one!’ It was a headfuck, because I felt like I was supposed to take on this role of being quiet and feminine just because I’m more girly, when that’s not really how I am. One day I might be in a really sassy mood, like ‘babe, we’re going here, get ready!’ And then the next day I could be like ‘look after meeee’. Why not, you know? The world’s our oyster!

It can be difficult to know how to act when you first start dating other genders, because it isn’t widely spoken about. I like being free, and that’s always been the biggest issue I’ve faced. In my experience girls have been very quick to establish a dynamic, and I don’t like that. I’m more like: we could be friends, we could fuck one day, it is what it is! 

TRY NOT TO TAKE ‘BISEXUAL SUSPICION’ PERSONALLY

Some people are nervous about dating bisexuals because there’s an assumption that you’re just going through a “phase” or using them as an experiment. That can happen, and it can be hurtful. The thing is, everyone has insecurities and everyone is worried about being hurt – but that’s true whether you’re gay, straight or whatever. Bisexual people have this unique reputation for being indecisive and horny, and they would be two good words to describe me, but not every bisexual person is like that!

DON’T WORRY ABOUT BEING “BAD” IN BED

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I’m not bigging myself up, but I know for a fact that I’m good with the guys! And in a way that made me even more worried about being bad in bed. In the beginning I was literally petrified about sleeping with another woman, especially because of my reputation in the media as a sexual person. It felt like a lot to live up to. 

When you meet the right person, though, all that worrying goes out the window. It’s all about being intimate and having a connection, at the end of the day. It’s not about technique. If the other person is more experienced, get them to lead the way – get them to show you what they like on you, and then you can just copy. For me, sex is more about the connection of being close and physical. You don’t have to be the best fingerer in the world, just let it be raw and new and exciting!

DON’T TAKE CUES FROM PORN

I know I say this every week, but lesbian porn on mainstream sites is made for the male gaze. It’s not accurate representation. I’m a fan of this fit American couple called JellyFilledGirls who make WLW content. You never see their faces, but you can tell that they love each other and it's such passionate and intimate sex. So if you’ve never slept with a girl before, maybe watch some of their videos for tips!

FIND YOUR COMMUNITY ONLINE

I live in a very typical Essex area, where all the girls are girly girls. So for me it’s been great finding communities online. I follow a lot of lesbian meme pages, like Princess Dyke, which have really made me feel more confident when dating because it took away a lot of the confusion and isolation that I was feeling. I was like ‘oh, all these people can relate to me!’ That’s been a cute way to feel a sense of community at times when I’ve felt alone. I also found this queer event called LxZ, which Khelani performed at recently and looks amazing.

If you’re a bit shy or awkward or suffer from anxiety, immersing yourself in online spaces can feel like a more natural way to get to know people without dating. It doesn’t have to be flirty or sexual, you could be chatting to someone halfway across the world, but it’s about connecting to people you relate to. Often you’ll come across people who are just as unsure and isolated as you are, and you can arrange to go to an event or a club together on a friend vibe. That’s the thing I was lacking the most, at first. I had loads of gay guy friends but no gay girl friends, I was like… how do I meet people? Sometimes the answer is: online!

DON’T ASSUME YOU KNOW WHAT YOUR ‘TYPE’ IS

What Your Taste in Women Says About You

When you’re ready to start dating, don’t be afraid to put yourself out there. I think that’s the only way to get a clear picture of what you’re actually looking for. Early on I assumed that my type would be very similar to me – eyelashes, nails, hair – but when I actually started dating and feeling the energy of different girls and experiencing the dynamic, I liked more masculine girls or tomboys. I think if I was with a girl who was on a similar page to me we’d constantly be faffing, like ‘oh my god, does my hair look good?’ We’d never get out of the house!

RESIST THE URGE TO LABEL YOURSELF

I get a lot of DMs from people who, for example, have been married for several years but are really keen to experiment. I'm not saying go and cheat on your husband, but you don’t have to worry about labelling yourself right away. You can be married to a guy and also be curious about women. You could sleep with a girl or guy once, enjoy it, and never do it again.

There’s more stigma attached to being a bisexual man, too, which can make it that much more difficult to explore your sexuality. I have so many men messaging me on OnlyFans about this, so there’s loads of men wanting to experiment but don’t know where to start. 

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People often feel like being attracted to other genders is this massive decision that they’ll be judged for, so they’d better dive in and quickly have sex with as many people as possible to justify it. But you don’t have to justify anything to anyone. Everyone’s journey is different, so take your time and take the pressure off yourself.

DON’T FEEL PRESSURED TO DO ANYTHING

If you’re used to having casual sex, don’t be surprised if that doesn’t translate in the same way. I wasn’t vibing at all with the first couple of girls I was seeing, and I was very confused about why I didn’t want to sleep with them. I thought something was wrong with me. I was like, ‘maybe I do just like men?’ Then, one day, the vibe just clicked with someone. I’m exactly the same way with men, really, but there’s less pressure around that because it’s seen as ‘the norm’. 

At the end of the day you just have to meet the right person, and that’s always going to be the case regardless of gender.

@meganbartonhanson_