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’….

14 thoughts on “Male Bisexuality: Is it Cool?

  1. Actually I think with my X the “full attention” thing is pretty much spot on. Ironically she would always compare me to her gay best friend and say “why can’t you be more like him.” my response was “Because he’s gay and if I were more like him I wouldn’t want to fuck you.” Her gay best friend worshipped her and gave her far more attention. But I fucked her and nursed her back to health after cancer treatment. But I also think that this was her own homophobia of herself. When I told her of my x lover I thought she was also bisexual and I told that to her. And my biwomen friends thought the same. And there was an interesting thing occuring with one of her girlfriends where it seemed almost like seduction right before we broke up. I told them “if you guys want to explore this, it’s ok with me but can I have your boyfriend for the night.” – yes perhaps I pushed it passed the limits of comfort but I really thought they were going for it. And who knows they may have.

  2. “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.”

    I’ll extend this.

    “There’s a long, long way to go before male sexuality is even approaching the same level of acceptability let alone coolness as female sexuality.”

  3. Hermes: Sorry to hear your story – and alas, it sounds very familiar. I suspect your experience is much more usual than the ‘cool’ one. And is part of the reason why the vast majority of men who are bisexually active, let alone bisexually responsive, never publicly state it.

  4. COOL? I recently went on a dating site as “bisexual” male seeking female in the fill in the blank profile. I received vile bigoted unsolicited emails from hetero women. I am 39 and have been out since highschool and gay men still think I am lying. Most of my relationships are with women. My last girlfriend was horrified and many of her friends are gay. My bi female friends said if they saw an ad that had a bi man who was seeking a long term monogomous relationship with a woman THEY would not respond. HENSE I have just claimed a new identity I am now “straight” but I am actually bisexual male seeking a long term monogomous relationship with a woman.

  5. What is the difference between Bromance and or being Bi. As you can see I am from Canada and trying to understand.Or a person who is Bi uses Bromance to show interest. What is Bromance, is it a way to show your true feelings.

  6. Yes, I think highlighting the problems with language in regards to sexuality, especially when it’s not restricted to sexual orientation as well, is something that should be celebrated and be used to expand language to encompass more than the boundaries it’s currently restricted by. I mean it doesn’t take much to point out the obvious problem with ‘bisexual’, which I don’t think I need to go into.

    I agree about having to be ‘discreet’ about sexuality (and discreet about many other things too). The attitude of, yeah that’s fine, but don’t -flaunt- it, don’t make an -issue- of it. Partly because it makes people uncomfortable, partly because of homophobia, partly because of general sex-phobia and also because if you don’t acknowledge that it’s happening, then it doesn’t exist. Until people are willing to accept the existence of different types of sexuality outside of binary, monogamous sexual orientation then we’re not really moving forwards.

  7. So before I reply, I’ll start by saying that I’m an openly bisexual man.

    Is it cool… that’s a tricky question. I know a couple of gay male friends who have had sex with straight men, and that seems pretty cool. Bearing in mind that both men tend to be pretty stunning and it’s only really ever a heat-of-the-moment physical thing. But then, the ‘coolness’ of female bisexuality tends to be treated in a similar way. It’s cool because it’s generally two attractive women having rebellious sex. The coolness of bisexuality seems to balance precariously on that ‘sex’ bit of the word. Because if you have a relationship, then your sexuality tends to be dictated by that relationship. If I marry a woman then I’ll be in a straight relationship; if I marry a man I’ll be in a gay relationship. Can there be such a thing as a monogamous bisexual relationship? It doesn’t seem to make sense. I doubt many would suggest that sexuality is based solely on behaviour, but when it comes to bisexuality, it rests on the partner that you’re with to determine what you are at that time.

    I’ve been told many a time that my sexuality doesn’t exist. So to an extent that they believe not that I don’t, but that I simply can’t exist. I believe that most of these people (from what I know of them) accept that sexuality is pretty fluid. Straight women can have sex and relationships with other women; straight men can have sex and relationships with other men; gay men can have sex with women; gay women can have sex with men. But the label bisexual seem very confusing to most. I had a friend specifically tell me that ‘bisexual MEN don’t exist’, directly implying that bisexual women do.

    I get the feeling that people are comfortable with stable states that can be deviated from, but they can’t comprehend, let alone be comfortable with a constant fluidity of state. I’m not sure what most people see me as; I tend not to label myself as bisexual and let people make their own minds up, and they do tend to stick quite rigidly with gay or straight and tell me they want to find me ‘a nice boy’ or ‘a nice girl’. Is bisexuality cool? No. Because I don’t think such a broad term which can’t be pinned down by girls who kiss other girls in a photo shoot, or people who are attracted to people regardless of sex, or gay people who are curious about the opposite gender or straight people who fall in love with someone from the same gender can ever be represented by one word. We are lacking words and I think we’re in a stage right now where words we’ve used before are starting to lose their meaning and are becoming really unhelpful.

    I just keep using it because it’s easier, but it is very rare that I say that I’m bisexual without a description of my sexual orientation first.

    And so ends and a relatively drunken ramble.

  8. I suppose I asked for it by quoting a character in a Hollywood film, but my comment was really meant as a reflection on real life rather than the movies. Loved the ‘Valkyrie’ piss-take by the way.

  9. Thanks for the zoology, but I don’t look that much like a feeding bowl. Even when I was at school.

    And as for ‘I Love You, Man’ – I don’t know how to break this to you, but Rudd isn’t being entirely honest here. The difficult thing in Hollywood movies has always been male hook-ups not friendships.

  10. Bravo!

    Coolness aside, trend or no, it has been around, and will continue to be around – sexuality is far more flexible than societal contstraints. In a world that produces Queer studies, Black Studies, Women’s Studies
    etc…it seems we are only happy in fracturing the human experience.

    I’m just thinking of the shock on people’s faces when I marry the woman of my dreams and how this will fly in the face of so many pre-conceived notions that people have of me. I’m not bisexual or gay, I’m just human.

    Alas, Mr. Simpson, I sorta agree with you – that were there to be a revolution in ideas about Bisexuality – there would be a drying up of certain types of trade – but also a veritable explosion of others. Think of how many are held back because they dare not walk across that line in the sand. They might however pair up with each other – since it would be so easy, and as common as dirt.

    This is not that different from the heady salad days of the eighties when everyone had to go to the queer dance clubs in order to really have fun. Yes some went as a way of putting their toe in the water, to test out some sexual identity they might later inhabit – but also lots of people were blurring the lines at the time in an adrogynous way – allowing for more fertile combinations.

    The difference now – is it is talked about more, and hence becoming more inhibiting. Pretty soon – a girl will not worry if her boyfriend had some gay fling, but how many. The more out things become the more they get driven underground.

    Prime Example – Gay Marriage has turned us into the citizens next door – even Brothers & Sisters did an episode where the gay married couple was offered a three way – and they declined – too much trouble, or some other something. A blatant cop out to portray what seems to be the party line. I hardly think if Jarrod from Sex & the City fame can’t seduce a couple – then all is lost for homos worldwide!

    Alas tho’ as you have noted earlier – if they can turn Harvey Milk into a saint, and sanatize that bathhouse of SanFran in the 70s then they can do just about anything.

    Keep up the good work, and call me when you get the grant, or if you need help writing the proposal!

  11. “Coolness” is the issue, not reality. Doubt less, a large number of gay men seduced by the myth of genetic disposition , accept the correlary that the bi claim is claptrap; They hard work hard at acting masculine,but would not be caught dead anywhere near a snatch. A correlative is that they don’t believe in the verity of anyone’ else’s claims at having that exotic proclivity.

    For some fellows, for varying social reasons, usually some form of closetedness, claiming to be bi is fashionable. That has the advantage of standing up to straight masculine superego standards(being a man) but yet getting away with being caught bedded with men. It also serves married men who ‘wander’: far off in the wrong direction depending on their wives, My experience with many of these guys is that they spend most of their sexual time with other men in uncommitted situations.The fact is that with most women, a degree of trust and commitment is necessary; a person truly searching out bisexual encounters would have to be willing either to pay hookers or to not expect a lot of anonymous sex.. When I lived in San Francisco their was a large Straight /Bi bathhouse with several stories, entertainment etc. My impression of what happened was that straight men were looking for lose women or gay men were voyeurs wanting to watch straight men perform. Despirate women or nymphomaniacs would go.

    There are not many situation where straight men try to pass as being homosexual, that happens only to deceive usually women who are convinced that they can turn you.on or for some criminal

    It is terribly naive to believe that ones sexuality amounts only to the kinds of acts one performs; which the question about ‘coolness’ implies a further question about life style

    Although I think that one has to go through certain ego adjustments to enjoy both sexes, amounting almost to a sort of split-personality agenda, it is possible, in my experience to be bisexual. I don’t think really that it is easy to live comfortably and with authentic intimacy with people who believe you to be bisexual, because one way or the other, you cannot share the exclusivity of interest that most people have, homo or hetero, there is always a complex intrinsicality to one’s relatedness to others in the world. which is connected to sexual choices. This difference disappears with intelligence and empathy but is clear with people who are inflexible.

    So it really depends on what you mean by “cool” . If it means that “people really understand and accept you, no! If it means that you can ‘pass ‘ in certain’ otherwise difficult situations, yes.; I think that it allows many men to not have to admit to being queers and still be caught at sodomite affairs.

  12. I love how an article on how men have more sexual limitations ends with a lament on female sexual oppression.

    Anyway, I don’t buy that men had more sexual freedom in the past than women, at least not in America. Having a strong sexual drive was considered more normal for males; however, sexual urges were at the same time demonized. In the US, there was an attempt to promote circumcision as a means to prevent masturbation in boys and girls, but it only became a widespread operation to commit on boys, while for girls it has become illegal. Yes, women have had much of the true extent of their sexuality denied, but it wouldn’t surprise me if that allowed them to do a lot of “experimenting” under the radar, while men’s sexuality was being actively prevented and corrected.

    I can see why there’s such a prohibition on male bisexuality, though. Societies curb sexual liberty as a means of forcing people into becoming dutiful citizens. Islamic countries don’t stifle female sexuality because they hate and fear women, they do it because it’s easier to convince sexuality frustrated young men that it’s worth becoming a human bomb if you’ll be rewarded 72 virgins in the afterlife. A man who is able to free express any sexual desire he may have cannot be sexually bartered into fulfilling unfavorable societal expectations, and that frightens a lot of people.

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