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 inject: 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 mandigo 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 coördin­ator 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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