Archive for the 'stereotypes' Category

05
May
09

Can guys actually be bisexual? Oh, I don’t know, let me consult my magic 8 ball…

Hm. It says “Yes, definitely.” Let’s try again. “You may rely on it.” There, I think that means “No…”

A couple of days ago, bi email lists were buzzing about the two op-eds about bi men on Gay.com. The first was Ari Bendersky wondering “Can guys actually be bisexual?” — and of course concluding that they can’t, they can only be gay men who haven’t yet realized that they’re not actually into women.

Is it really possible for a guy to be bisexual? There are a lot of opinions about this, but when you ask gay men, the answer is often “No.”

Because, of course, gay men are the experts on male bisexuality. It wouldn’t make far more sense to ask self-identified male bisexuals. Their opinions are pretty dismissable, since we already know they’re almost certainly gay, straight, or lying. It’s far more sensible to ask a group which in many ways has privilege over the people in question.

The crux of Bendersky’s argument seems to be this:

In our culture, if a guy has oral or anal intercourse with another guy, most would say that he’s gay, because, for many of us, “being gay” describes a man who has sex with other men.

Sure, we can say that many other things go into being gay, but sexual activity is what many of us believe what makes up the person who is gay. A man could be into leather and Levi’s; he could really like theater; he could really be into fashion. These interests don’t necessarily make a man gay, though. But when this man has sex with other men, there’s really no denying what camp he falls into.

So what do we make of these guys who define themselves as “bi”? Are they really fooling themselves as they screw their way down the path to gayhood, or do they really enjoy having sex with women? I realize that some people are just sexually charged and will take it wherever they can get it. But I say that if you’re a guy having sex with another guy, chances are there’s a part of you that’s in denial, and only time will tell when you finally come around to the realization that, yup, you’re gay.

Allow me to translate: “Let’s examine whether male bisexuality seems like a possibility. Well, our culture says that having sex with another man automatically makes a man gay. If we stipulate that, it becomes clear the bisexual men, being men who have sex with other men, are really one epiphany short of identifying as gay.”  That’s a very rigorous, logical approach, and not at all circular. It’s terribly useful to define “gay” as “all men who have sexual contact with men” and then declare that all men who have sexual contact with men are gay. Consider me completely won over. Not to mention the nod to the typical just-looking-for-the-next-warm-wet-hole stereotype that seems to be the only type of bisexuality some people will concede the possibility of. And I do like the way he asks whether bisexual men genuinely enjoy having sex with women, and then ignores the question as if it were totally irrelevant — which it is, to him. After all, even if they enjoy it, it must be only because they haven’t realized yet that they don’t. That makes sense, right?

As well as being less than persuasive, this argument strikes me as buying into a lot of our culture’s oppressive heterosexism. Sex with another man taints you, and once you’ve had it the only possibility is that you’re a big gay homo forever? None of your other behavior or opinions on your own desires and identity matters because you’ve touched teh cock? Um. I know I’ve heard that before, and it wasn’t from our friends.  (Well, actually, I heard it from my first boyfriend, too. “I didn’t know you had a foot fetish,” I said to him one day. “All gay men have foot fetishes!” he declared. Because, um, he was from Texas, and apparently in Texas all men who’ve hooked up with another man are gay. Even if they’re currently lying in bed with me, naked, still catching their breath from the sex we were just having. He identified as bisexual most of the time, but it was a weird moment…Oh, and speaking of my first boyfriend. And my last boyfriend, come to think of it. Yes, guys can be bisexual. I promise. I was there, I should know.)

Now, this sort of faulty and vapid reason is pretty common. And Gay.com is a personals site, it’s not really where I’d expect to find a political analysis of bisexuality. So, while sucky, this is a pretty expected level of fail. But of course, in a space that’s centered around dating it’s especially important to acknowledge and support the existence of bisexuals and treat us like legitimate dating partners. And with a large audience comes a large responsibility to set an example and treat everyone respectfully. Do they really want to serve only gay men, rather than any men seeking to date men? That’s what it seems like right now, and that would be pretty unfortunate.

Also disappointing was the follow-up by Robert Lawrence, which was about as rambling, petty, and illogical as the original post:

Let me pull my mouth away from my boyfriend’s crotch long enough to respond to this question.

The best studies of identity panic show that denialists are the ones you meet later at the glory holes, so maybe there’s a woman in your future. If you ask the scientists, the answer is “Yes, Vagina, there is such a thing as bisexuality.”

Huh? There are a couple of promising leads (“Now you tell me why you refuse to believe in the existence of my female and trans lovers. Do you have the right to define what I am?” “When I came out, our very lives were illegal. We fought for everyone’s freedom to choose partners without straight lines holding us back.”), but they kinda go nowhere. And while I understand Lawrence’s anger and think it’s completely justified, I question Gay.com’s choice of this piece to represent the bisexual community/standpoint.

I’m already irritated by the Point/Counterpoint approach to whether a group of people actually exists. But if Gay.com is going to do such an offensive thing, they could choose an articulate, persuasive counterpoint. They had a chance to showcase an intelligent, reasonable opinion on male bisexuality, and passed it up. I can’t help but think that their choice of this bloggger/article says more about their stance on male bisexuality than even the fact that they ran these two pieces at all.

02
May
09

Raise your hand if you’re a unicorn!

Check out Franklin Veaux’s utterly hilarious flowchart for those hunting the elusive hot bi babe.  It’s dead on.

I’m sure at some point I’ll write at length about my own feelings about M/F couples looking for another F. But in the meantime, the Sex Geek eloquently feels about the same way I do on the subject.

if I knew of a couple who was actively seeking to bring a bi girl in, it would likely decrease my interest in them because I’d worry about how they’d like to fit me into a pre-existing plan, without necessarily considering that I’m a third person involved in the dynamic, as opposed to the embodiment of their hopes.

Basically any situation in which I felt like a predatory eye was being turned my way, or I was being pressured to hop into bed, would be an instant turn-off.

when the quest for a hot bi babe effectively or explicitly becomes a rule about what sort of non-monogamous arrangement is permissible for a given MF couple, what assumptions does such a rule make about the validity or “realness” of same-sex relationships?

Yeah.

05
Mar
09

Round-up

All of my time and energy for writing right now is going toward processing in my relationships. (It’s always something, isn’t it? I will never not be busy, and there will never not be something of that moment that I point to and say “It’s this, soon I will be less crazy.) It may be a few more days before I can sit down and write something thoughtful about anything else. Also, I dropped my Eee PC and cracked the screen today (apparently the world was trying to see how much hard stuff it had to throw at me to kill my high from an amazing Saturday night — okay, world, you win!), so blogging on the train and bus will be out until I come up with money to get it fixed or replace it. So in the meantime, a look at the things I might be blogging about if I were doing so at all…

Girlfriend, Esq. pointed me to Greta Christina’s response to Dan Savage’s latest insensitive comment about bisexuals. I’d missed it somehow, but as always, Greta Christina does a thorough and brilliant job of responding. I don’t think I have anything to add. Other than that Dan Savage may make his reputation on his snark, but the occasional columns where a dozen questions get brief answers really help no one. They just let him showcase his wit without giving actual advice. Even he could probably have done a better job of answering that one if he’d fleshed it out more; at least we’d know which fucked up thing exactly he was getting at.

Alex at Bilerico is doing a week-long series on abstinence-only education, looking at a new report on how abstinence-only education is actually implemented in Texas (the state that receives the most federal funding for it). Two days ago he wrote about homophobia in abstinence-only, yesterday about religion as part of the curriculum; today it’s sexism. Keep an eye on that one; it promises to be interesting and important.

Meanwhile, Bil at Bilerico posts about the Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders filing a challenge to DOMA that they seem to hope to bring to the Supreme Court. He has a lot of really persuasive things to say about how the push for marriage actually harms the push for more basic rights in places other than the two coasts. I’m a coastal dweller myself, so I can’t say anything other than that it sounds about right, and lines up with/complements a lot of my reasoning on why pushing for marriage is not where our energy should be going. He also left a heart-wrenching comment on a different post by someone who supports the move. And Nancy Polikoff points out that it will only benefit couples with income inequalities, and talks about how the queers shouldn’t be shoring up heteronormativity — and you know how I love that.

HRC has announced some long-overdue changes to its Corporate Equality Index. I’m not best pleased with how long these changes will take to kick in and how long employers can continue to skate by while treating trans employees in really fucked up ways, but I have no way of assessing HRC’s claim that companies need that long to bring themselves into compliance. Of course I’m less concerned than HRC is about employers who don’t treat trans employees well getting to keep their perfect scores for a couple of years while they fix that, but they may have a point that companies are more likely to comply if they’re not ticked off. Since after all we’re not hoping they’ll do this out of the goodness of their hearts; we know they have to be shamed into it/get something out of it. And it is a positive change. Also, because he wins all of the links today, Bil talks about his disappointment that HRC will still not be assessing companies on their behavior internationally and factoring that in.

Have a lovely week!

05
Feb
09

Queering it up, dumbing it down

I’ve found myself, a few times in recent months, dumbing down my queerness so it will be visible at all. This mostly consists of allowing people to perceive me as a lesbian in situations where I know bisexual girls will be viewed as straight girls with a sexy, exotic add-on rather than as genuine queers. Even though  I am so much queerer than many lesbians. As an example, recently when a waiter mysteriously brought an extra order of sausage to our table at a friend’s birthday dinner and the classic straight girl next to me declared “Everybody always wants more sausage,” all I could think to do was tell her that I don’t. Even though, comparisons of body parts to sausages aside (ew! Wrong on so many levels I can’t even count them!), I’m a big fan of that particular body part. Store bought or factory-installed, on boys or girls, I could not be less grossed out by it. But here I was pretending to be, just to register on the queer-o-meter at all. And even then, at first she thought I was referring to being a vegetarian and just couldn’t take a joke.

Sitting around talking to a couple of coworkers a while ago, I was remembering just how alien my sexual views and practices are in Heteronormativeland. Continue reading ‘Queering it up, dumbing it down’

28
Jan
09

What happens at college stays at college?

Thanks in part to this post at She’s A Carnivore, I’ve been thinking about the way people are all too happy to chalk female same-sex attraction and activity at college up to phases and experimentation.

I think a lot of things are coming into play here. One is a general dismissing of female sexuality, and thus the idea that these women actually know exactly what they want. Similarly, the idea that young folks have no idea who they are and what they like, and so we can ignore all of the things they do as meaningless, or at best as figuring it out. Of course, both of these are exacerbated by the idea that queers in general and especally bisexuals specifically are confused or indecisive, and just need to find happiness with a member of the “opposite sex” to see the light. As the girl writing in points out, there’s probably also a healthy dose of a good old-fashioned suspicion of educating women at all.

Unlike men, who can be painted gay for life for one same-gender experience (and trust me, I don’t think that’s an ideal model either), society is only too happy to tell women that we’re just going through a phase and can come right back over to the side of good, healthy heterosexuality once we’ve gotten it out of our systems. That seems to be what this whole idea of “experimentation” is about. Go on, have fun while you’re young and stupid and don’t know any better; eventually you’ll come to your senses, marry a man, and raise his babies. Because, hey, women can’t be counted on to know what we want, and so a certain amount of “experimentation” can be forgiven, as long as we eventually let men take care of us and tell us what’s best for us. We’ve ranted about this idea of fluid female sexuality here before, and I’m sure we will again; in the queer until graduation model, it seems to be used to imply that queer female sexuality is temporary and thus not to be taken seriously. This plays into stereotypes about bisexuals in general. That we’re on our way in one direction or the other (in the case of bisexual women, generally back to heterosexuality), that we’re fluid and changeable and thus fickle and not to be trusted, that we’re experimenting and just haven’t made up our minds yet. All of these stereotypes seem to be seen as even more applicable to college students than other women.

Some of that has to do with our culture’s general disrespect for youth. There’s a lot to be said about the kyriarchy treating women like children, but it’s also true that the way we treat “young people” is disrespectful in and of itself as well, not just when applied to adults (and have you noticed that the dividing line between the two moves later all the time?). It makes sense that we’d tell college students that they don’t know who they are or what they want. We don’t trust anyone under 30 or 35 to know those things. Anything a 21-year-old does is subject to the suspicion that they’re experimenting, not in touch with themselves, just haven’t settled down to their real lives yet. There’s also this idea that later changing one’s mind negates everything one currently thinks, feel, and believes. When I was an outspoken 14-year-old spending most of my time with adults, I remember arguing constantly that what I was feeling and doing was valid regardless of whether I continued to feel or do it my entire life. I was told that once I’d really faced hardship I’d recognize my melodrama for what it was, that I couldn’t possibly know what it felt like to be in love, that as I grew up I’d realize how the world worked and stop being so liberal and idealistic. As I didn’t have the right to struggle because life would have worse to throw at me later, as if the pain and angst that so often go along with being an adolescent matter less because they’re widespread and they usually pass, as if it’s better to have become exhausted and given up on the world than to still be trying to change it. I didn’t believe it then, and I don’t believe it now. Even if the vast majority of self-identified bisexual college girls later go on to not only marry men but also identify as straight (and I don’t believe this is nearly as much the case as the media would have us believe), that doesn’t change the validity of their attractions, desires, or identities right now. And certainly the expectation that some of their peers will change their minds shouldn’t mean that we dismiss them all as straight girls in disguise. Like everyone else, young people should be trusted to know their own reality and report it accurately, rather than being told how we think they should be acting or identifying.

And really, let’s be careful, educating all of those women to begin with! They’ll get all uppity and start thinking they don’t need men at all! Particularly at women’s colleges — it’s interesting how the culture at large can both assume that queer women will eventually come to our senses and realize we need men, and that if you let women have only or mostly each other’s company for a few years, they’ll never look back. As Ms. Carnivore writes, framing things in terms of a woman being bisexual or a lesbian “until graduation” is a way of delegitimizing female same-gender relationships and so making them less threatening to heteronormativeland. It also tells women that everyone else understands them and their sexualities better than they do themselves. Because it’s not at all insulting to tell women that men/science/cultural bias have discovered that we’re wrong about what we think we want. The assumption with young women in college is that they show up straight, and pick up this add-on of attraction to other women that will eventually be jettisoned. It’s not possible that they’ve actually discovered things about themselves and what they want though the experiences they’ve had, or that because college coincides somewhat with sexual maturation, people are discovering there what they would have wanted all along. No, they’re being swayed to the dark side by all those liberal professors, pretty fellow students, and persuasive women’s and queer studies courses. They just need a little while away from it to clear their systems and come to their senses. And so of course we don’t have to take anything they might do now seriously.

I’ve fallen prey to some of this myself. I’ve wondered how I would be different if my father had lived and I’d stayed a clergyman’s daughter, if I hadn’t move to New York and fallen in with such a politicized crowd. Then I remember that this is who I am and what feels right to me, that I sought it out. I moved into an intentional community full of queers and activists because it appealed to me to be surrounded by that level of analysis and skepticism of the dominant culture’s paradigms. I may have met my first girlfriend there, but I’d known for years that I was bisexual. And besides, if my father had lived surely I’d have gone to college and discovered my subversive woman-lovin’ ways there! Clearly there was no hope for me.

Actually, maybe that’s what’s wrong with me — since I didn’t go to college, I didn’t have a chance to give up my queerness at graduation. Oops. Maybe the solution is to send all queer women to college, so they can be straight again when they get out. Hey, it could work, right?

05
Jan
09

Fort-nightly Round-Up, Part 2

Whew! This should be it on everything that happened in the past month. We should now be back to our regularly scheduled weekly round-up.

It’s been a fun couple of weeks for me. My sister is in town between a semester in Russia and her last semester in Wisconsin (she should have something to say for us about that soon!), and I’ve been spending tons of time with her. We hosted a dinner party last weekend, spent this week getting my apartment from mostly-moved-in to fully set up and looking like a home, and two nights ago broke it in with a housewarming party. It’s been lots of fun, but blogging and spending time with my other friends have been falling by the wayside a bit as I try to stock up on time with her enough to last me the next three months. They say that how you spend the New Year is how you spend the next year, and I would be so okay with spending this year in people’s living rooms with a few close friends. Eating homemade soup, tearing apart neocon craziness, and laughing til it hurts. Bring it on.

Meanwhile, in the world:

Continue reading ‘Fort-nightly Round-Up, Part 2′

29
Oct
08

What makes a film bi, anyway?

Last Thursday night, I went to The Bi Eye On Queer Film at NYC’s LGBT Community Center. It was a two-hour program of arguably bi-themed short films (or short films with arguably bi characters), with time in between for discussion. And it was, all in all, an interesting evening. I have a somewhat narrower idea of what constitutes a bi film than the person who did the selecting, but the discussion gave a place to say that. And I met a couple of very cool bi women whom I will, with any luck, be seeing at future events (now that I’m all activisty and blogger-like, I’m really making an effort to make time for more of NYC’s bi scene. Further reports on that to come, I’m sure. And as of this coming weekend I’ll be done moving, with all kinds of lovely time to fill up!)

With the caveats that I’m not particularly into film, nor am I any good at reviewing a film without spoiling it, here’s what we saw: Continue reading ‘What makes a film bi, anyway?’




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