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Male Bisexuality: Is it Cool?

Rachel Kramer Bussel at The Daily Beast thinks that male bisexuality has become ‘cool’.

‘…whereas bisexual women had their fling with pop culture in the 1990s-when everyone from Drew Barrymore to Madonna messed around with women, not to mention the famous Vanity Fair cover showing Cindy Crawford shaving k.d. lang-“bromances” are now the driving force behind Hollywood comedies and Style section features, as men find more ways to play for both teams, or at least act like they do.

Examples are everywhere. In John Hamburg’s recent movie, I Love You, Man, the gay guy who unwittingly goes on a date with Paul Rudd isn’t just played for laughs, but to some degree, sympathy. This summer will also see Lynn Shelton’s buzzed-about Humpday, in which two straight male friends decide to make a homemade porn video. And Brody Jenner’s reality show Bromance blurs the line separating friendship and attraction in what Videogum’s Gabe Delahaye calls “basically the gayest thing ever, made more gay by everyone’s desperate attempts to provide chest-bumping proof of their heterosexuality.”‘

For my part however, I’m not entirely convinced that male bisexuality has become ‘cool’, not least because most of the bisexual guys I meet are still terrified anyone will find out – and I still can’t name off the top of my head a single out male bisexual celeb in the UK (aside from my friend the novelist Jake Arnott – but as a self-described ‘gay bisexual’ he is rather exceptional).

Whereas almost any female star under the age of 40 has to pretend to be bi-crazed or else risk that Nuts/FHM cover.

And the recent trend for ‘bromance,’ far from proving the hipness of male swinging is, as the name suggests, almost defined by its incest-taboo-driven need to purge the male love affair of the possibility of anything physical, any trace of erotics whatsoever – to a degree which male buddy flicks in the past didn’t, and in fact often went out of their way to suggest: e.g. Top Gun, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Thunder & Lightfoot, Midnight Cowboy.

By contrast these modern buddy flicks make me think ‘bromance’ is just another word for ‘bromide‘. Or lesbian bed-death for straight men without the honeymoon. (The arthouse movie Humpday seems to be another story – and precisely because it is another story, it is highly unlikely to be a hit.)

But we are certainly living in interesting times, and the culture is slowly – and frantically – trying to negotiate, however ineptly, however deceptively, the thing staring them in the face like the outsize erections in the mandingo gang-bang porn so popular with straight guys these days: male bi-responsiveness is probably very common, rather than the deviant, bizarre, incredulous exception. (It certainly was at my boarding school.)

The metrosexual is also, of course, part of this journey – and also sometimes perhaps part of the attempt to deflect it.

But there’s a long, long way to go before male bisexuality is even approaching the same level of acceptability let alone coolness as female bisexuality. A recent study published in the Canadian Journal of Human Sexuality found that the famous ‘sexual double standard’ has now reversed polarity and shifted in the direction of inhibiting men’s sexual adventurousness while encouraging women’s. According to The National Post men are:

‘…more limited by what is considered taboo in the bedroom; hit by a new double standard that expects men to be highly sexual, and yet expects them to be less experimental – while the opposite is true for women.

The study, published in the Canadian Journal of Human Sexuality, found that society accords men less “sexual latitude” than women, deeming it abnormal for a man to be disinterested in sex, to engage in homosexual fantasy, and to engage in submissive sexual acts.

“The double standard used to give men more sexual freedom than women, but these findings indicate that the dynamic is changing” said Alex McKay, research coordinator for the Sex Information and Education Council of Canada. “Men are forced to abide by a certain gender role, while women are today more free to be themselves. In this sense, the standard actually works against the man.”‘

I came to the same conclusion three years ago in a piece posted on here called ‘Curiouser and Curiouser‘ – based on my own very private ‘research’:

‘That women are being encouraged to talk about their bisexuality as an enhancement of their femininity and sexuality is rather marvellous – but it also heightens the double standard about male bisexuality, one as pronounced than the double standard about promiscuity used to be (men were ‘studs’ and women were ‘slags’), and makes it more inevitable that male bisexuality – by which I simply mean ‘straight’ male sexuality that doesn’t fit into heterosexuality, and boy, there’s a lot of that – will have to be addressed candidly sooner or later.

The tidy-minded inhibitions which keep male bi-curiousness under wraps are still powerful, but have largely lost their social value, their attachment to anything real; they are mostly remnants from a Judeo-Christian (re)productive, world that doesn’t exist any more, except perhaps in Utah, every other Sunday…. When enough young men realise this – or maybe just the desperate preposterousness of the prejudice and ‘science’ deployed against male bi-curiousness – the change in attitudes will occur very quickly and dramatically indeed.’

As the Canadian report suggests – and Canada is about as liberal and relaxed a country as you could conceive – that day is not yet here. However, the fact that such a study exists at all is perhaps a sign that that it’s coming closer.

Either way, more research is needed. And I need a grant to conduct some more ‘interviews’….

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