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’.…

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 naïve 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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