Back in the early-00s, a real fuss was made about a few studies that attempted to prove that male bisexuality does not exist. “You’re either gay, straight, or lying,” was the general gist of it. The general consensus seemed to dictate that, If young men were bi at all, they were just going through a phase, a temporary flush of omnivorous sexuality that'd eventually wane into the more reliable black and white shades of the homo/hetero dichotomy. Scientists even went as far as to conduct a series of experiments in which men and women who claimed to be bisexual were shown porn while hooked up to a plethysmograph, AKA "boner detector". While the women in the study group were aroused by both gay and straight videos, the men tended to only be affected by one or the other.
These findings, while hardly conclusive evidence for anything except that boner detectors are real, and that a team of people spent several years watching other people watch porn and recording how horny it got them, got the media and the LGBT world pretty worked up. Journalists and academics wrote endlessly about the “myth of male bisexuality”, also citing another study which suggested 40 percent of gay men had at one point identified as bi before nutting up and choosing a side like good, decisive men.
The march of progress kept on until 2011, when researchers decided to revisit the issue. This time, it wasn't enough merely to identify as bisexual; if you wanted the boner detector strapped to your dick, you also had to have engaged in long-term relationships with people of both sexes. The results changed – these men were largely aroused by both types of porn – and finally we abolished the stigma surrounding male bisexuality forever.
JKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKK! No slacking, society, you’re still pretty terrible about alternative sexual identities.
People are cooler about bisexuality these days, certainly – even American LGBT spokesman Dan “men can’t be bi” Savage has redrawn his pronouncements – but simply admitting that a particular sexual orientation exists isn't exactly acceptance. Also, no duh, it’s still harder to be on the LGBTQ spectrum than a plain old straight. And yet, how many of us really are plain old straight?
Kinsey’s scale has six points, only two of which are fully hetero or homosexual. As early as the 1860s, Karl Ulrichs was publishing research that suggested men and women could not only be bisexual, but that there were two distinctive forms of bisexuality: conjunctive and disjunctive. Conjuctive bisexuality means “loves both, fucks both,” while disjunctive is more of a “fucks both, loves one” situation. Makes sense to me. I know lesbians who once in a while get a real peen craving, but would never dream of putting up with a man in the long term. Ditto for the gay guys who are obsessed with boobs past the point of “cute boobs, girl.” The majority of straight people can probably relate to setting off their inner plethysmographs with some queer porn once in a while, y’know? Yeah, ya do.
So by 2013, it appears that lots of us can recognise it's inherently wrong to consider bisexual people gross liars or greedy perverts or any of the other available stereotypes. The “your life is a lie” mentality behind early-2000s bisexuality research appears a thing of the past. Wait for it. Yes. I regret to inform you that, as far as I can tell, basically nobody actually believes you can be happily bisexual. At least, not if you’re a boy.
Picture this: Everyone at a party is sharing tales of sexy adventures gone by. Two girls admit they used to fool around with other girls at uni, because why not? People giggle or applaud or whisper. What a fun revelation! A man in the party adds, “I once sucked a guy's dick, just to check it out.” Crickets. Record scratch sound effect. A delicate tumbleweed rolling across the savannah. Everyone is immediately weirded out and stops sharing and the night is over before anyone's even cried on the stairs, killed the dog or puked in the laundry.
When Captain Shares-a-lot goes home that night, his girlfriend is confused and nervous. Has she been dating "A Gay" this whole time?! Why would he tell that story to all their friends? How embarrassing. The same approach has been applied to a hierarchy of threesomes: a “good” threesome involves two girls and one dick, while two men and a lady is literally called a “devil’s threesome” by some people. I’ve seen open relationships that have an “anything goes” rule regarding the female partner and any other female partners she chooses to have, while the male involved stays monogamous and faithful, just happy to be gettin’ in on some mucho desirable lesbian action.
We may have relaxed about out-and-proud bisexual men, but guys who have dabbled in dick still have the “gay, straight or lying” thing levelled at them pretty regularly. Even in a casual context, women are set up as more fluid than fluid itself, while men are barred from authentic participation in disjunctively bisexual activity. It’s a bit of a don’t-ask-don’t-tell thing: the elephant walk in the room, as it were. But why? Why is the idea of non-commital girl-on-girl action universally greeted with two dick-sized thumbs up, while man-on-man is like, “Woah, guys. Gross”? Why is a full-on lesbian relationship in college a cute lil’ phase, while one experimental blowjob after football practice in sixth form is enough to declare a guy GAY 4 LIFE?
I think it has to do with outdated gendered ideas about sexuality. According to this way of thinking, female sexuality is passive and yielding – “Ooh, another lady wants to get with us? Okay, sounds fun! We’re up for whatever as long as we’re pleasing someone other than ourselves! Our personalised license plate as a gender reads ‘LUVS2SUBMIT’” – while big hulking men love to aggressively jackhammer soft, placid receptacles with their big, manly man-penises. Fluidity is not threatening to many people because they already view female sexuality as as pliable and yielding. But you can’t mix sexual fluidity with a hard, throbbing concept like masculinity – you’d end up with a kind of jelly phallus. Which, if you're from the 18th century, I guess you might find weird and frightening.
I would like to call for a collective getting over of it. Antiquated ideas about who gets to have what kind of sex are bad for literally everyone, and there are potentially loads of guys. family members, friends and partners, who feel obliged to suppress healthy, normal sexual feelings to avoid judgement. Whoooooooo cares? Why can’t they talk about it with the same freedom as women? Eating one hamburger doesn’t void someone’s vegetarian card; it just means they wanted something different with their chips that day. Anyone who thinks otherwise can eat a dick. And then tell me about it, I will be totally supportive of your right to do so, whether you have one of your own or not.
Follow Monica on Twitter: @MonicaHeisey
Previously: Shut the Hell Up About My Open Relationship