Archive for August, 2008


What’s so great about cock, anyway?

It warms my heart to see that the comments on my last post took the discussion in the same direction I was planning to; it’s good to know I’m following a coherent train of thought.

Thinking about the way some lesbians react to the bisexuals in their midst got me thinking about other responses to us. They all seem to come down to “bisexuals really like men” – like all bisexual women are essentially straight and all bisexual men basically gay. A nice conclusion in a culture that always assumes men are superior and preferable, and men’s pleasure is top priority.

The flip side to some lesbians’ wariness of bi women is some straight men’s amused tolerance of us. The thinking seems to be, in the sphere of the straight world where bi men barely exist and bi women are everyone’s favorite fantasy, that women are only good for fun and titillation. These people find it inconceivable that a bi women would partner with anyone but a man. Everyone remembers Rage from Bi The Way, right? “Yeah, it’s possible that Taryn could leave me for another woman…but it’s also possible that a meteor could fall on my head right now.” To steal some phrasing from Megan, since she put it better than anything I’d come up with — these men seem to fetishize their female partner’s relationships with other women without ever taking them seriously enough to find them threatening. The same way lesbians worry about dating bi women because they see men as (sometimes inherently superior) competition, straight men don’t worry about dating bi women because they can’t possibly imagine ladies as their competition.

I can’t tell you how many different-sex couples I meet where the man is straight, and the woman is bisexual, and their arrangement is that she can sleep with other women, but he’s to be the only man in her life. Sometimes the arrangement is made even more attractive with the qualification that he gets to be present for any such extra-relationship play, or even that he gets to participate. Frankly, these particular boundaries around open relationships give me the creeps. I understand that every couple (or triad, or whatnot) has to negotiate their boundaries in ways that work for them. And I understand that some people are more threatened by, and feel more replaced by, their partners having sex with people of their gender. But it seems to me, especially in the case of bi women in relationships with men who are allowed to have sex with women but not men outside of their primary relationship, that the personal can never be entirely divorced from the political. And a widespread adoption of these sorts of boundaries amounts to a tacit acknowledgment that women are not a serious threat to men, that we’re not viable as real partners. That cock is the be-all and end-all of sex and that any sex that doesn’t involve a penis is less enjoyable, less meaningful, and less real. While I have a lot of issues with Kant, I do think it’s a good idea to think about what would happen if everyone made the same kinds of decisions one is about to. And arrangements like this contribute to a system wherein men are more privileged and powerful, where they get to dictate women’s sexuality, and where what sexuality women do get to enjoy is really for men’s pleasure. At the very least they don’t do anything to help dismantle it.

I personally won’t date women who are in serious relationships with men and only “allowed” to fool around with other women, for a multitude of reasons. One is simply that, while casual sex is fun and I’m open to having more of it in my life (and there are always people for whom I’ll make exceptions even when I decide it’s not a good use of my energy), mostly what I want at this point is a relationship that has a chance of evolving into a primary partnership — and there’s no possibility of that with someone who already has a primary partner. And that, of course, has nothing to do with the genders of anyone involved and everything to do with what I feel is lacking in my own life. But most of my reasons are about that particular set-up.
Continue reading ‘What’s so great about cock, anyway?’


But you’ll leave me for men! (Or: Don’t make your penis envy my problem)

Gee, thanks for the spotlight, Sarah. I’ll do what I can to live up to it. And you can return the favor in October, when I’ll be too busy looking for an apartment to give this blog the attention it deserves. And, um, I just realized that I’m writing two posts in a row about lesbians. That was kinda unintentional, but I have this post all written now. Um, sorry, lesbians? (And now I sound like T-Rex. That doesn’t seem like it will make anything better…on the other hand, I clearly should have quoted him in the post on bicuriosity.)

Writing the second half of this entry, hanging out with our friend Megan (who introduced us!), I worried aloud that I was accusing all dykes of penis envy. When really I’m only accusing some dykes – the ones who don’t trust bisexual women – of penis envy. I found myself saying “Now I want to write ‘Don’t make your penis envy my problem’ somewhere in the entry. I suppose that would be a bad idea.” She responded, “I guess saying ‘It could be the title’ doesn’t help?” Everybody thank Megan.

So. Onward:

I’ve spent a lot of time the past couple of years in the queer women’s/women and trans community. One of the things I can’t fail to notice there is a deep distrust of bisexual women from some lesbians, and a subsequent reluctance to date us. Happily, there are some lesbians (my girlfriend and at least one commenter on this blog, for example) who are delighted to date bisexual women, or simply don’t care whom else we like as long as we like them. But on the part of lesbians who won’t date bi women, it seems to come down eventually to a conviction that a bi woman will eventually “go back to men,” most likely leaving her partner for one in the process.

This has always driven me crazy. There’s an unexamined assumption here that bisexuals are fickle, flighty, and not to be trusted; that we’re having ourselves a little adventure in the magic queer kingdom before settling down to heterosexual marriage, thus betraying the women’s community we should never have been allowed into in the first place. But the truth is that people leave their lovers for others all the time. Straight women leave their boyfriends for other men, straight men leave their wives for other women. Even lesbians leave women for other women. It’s frustrating that this whole discussion is based on the assumption of any given bisexual woman being unfaithful and untrustworthy, when this is something that some but not all people of all genders and sexual orientations do. And yet it gets singled out when the person doing the leaving is bisexual, and the person being left is of a different gender than the new partner. Infidelity and abandonment are not flaws unique to bisexuals (or common to all bisexuals!), they’re human faults. I just don’t believe that the betrayal is worse when the person one is left for is of a different gender than oneself. I don’t believe one is being left, not for another person one’s former partner currently likes better, but for a gender as a whole — being left, not for a man, but for men. This is absurd, and I struggle to understand it. Because having a male partner after having a female partner — regardless of whether one cheated or simply broke up and later started a new relationship — is totally consistent with a bisexual life. It was on the table as a possibility the whole time. If one is attracted to people of more than one gender, then the odds are that at some point, she’ll have partners of different genders in succession. It’s statistics, not betrayal of the lesbian community. Not “going back” to a straight life and leaving queerness behind. Relationships with men are just as much a part of bisexuality as relationships with women (or anyone else). They don’t contradict our queerness; they’re part of it. We’re not gay on days we spend with other women and straight on days we spend with men, and going from one to the other doesn’t effect a great change in our sexuality, identity, or loyalty. (And when we’re single, none of those things ceases to exist!)
Continue reading ‘But you’ll leave me for men! (Or: Don’t make your penis envy my problem)’


Can you hear the crickets?

Hey there, blog-and-readers! I assure you, I have not forgotten about you. I’ve just been neglecting you lately because I’m moving on Sunday and holy crap, I always forget just how much work that is!
Once I’m set up in my new place, I’m sure I’ll have plenty to write about, but right now, there’s just nothing particularly bisexual about the dust bunnies under my dresser or the seeming impossibility of transporting my entire book collection from one city to another.
Another exciting day in the life of a bisexual superhero! Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go clean out my closet. Hopefully Aviva has some deep thoughts to tide you over until I’m back…


“Lesbian relationships” and bi visibility

I was talking with my girlfriend the other day while she and her wife Lee drove through West Virginia, and we were speculating as to why a guy in a pick-up truck had given them the finger. The relevant information here, which I’m sure you all were about to figure out for yourselves, is that my girlfriend is a lesbian and her wife is bisexual.

Me: Maybe they were like, “Fucking lesbians, wasting it on each other.”
GF: We weren’t smooching or anything.
Me: But you were being gay, weren’t you? Well, you were, anyway; Lee wasn’t.
GF: Yes, it’s true, I was being gay. And Lee was, too, she was just half-assing it.
Me: Oh! You’d better watch it! I have a blog now!
GF: A blog! Now I’m scared. I’ll never have dinner on the internet again?

Hmph. Half-assing it indeed. At first I just thought I’d share the giggle, but this also reminds me of something I’ve been meaning to write about.

Every once in a while GF refers to ours as a lesbian relationship – which, what with it being between two girls, makes a certain amount of sense. And it’s a phrasing Lee doesn’t have a problem with, so of course GF used it with me without thinking it might be problematic for me. But I can’t quite figure out how I feel about it.

(Note: this entry is not to be interpreted at “My girlfriend does this thing I hate, and I’m airing it on the internet because I can do that now.” I really haven’t figured out how I feel about it. I’m thinking it out here, where I can get feedback and opinions from other bisexuals and queers of various flavors.)

The thing is, obviously, that I’m not a lesbian. And yet, does that necessarily mean that what I’m in is not a lesbian relationship? It is a relationship made up entirely of women, which seems to fit the definition. I understand why it doesn’t bother Lee; it seems accurate. Hell, even I defaulted to the phrasings “fucking lesbians” (even if I was speaking for a most likely straight dude who most likely wouldn’t know any better) and “you [collectively] were being gay” before I specified. And I’m not coming up with anything when I try to brainstorm other things it could be called – while I always refer to “same sex marriage” rather than “gay marriage,” to say I’m in a “same sex relationship” seems awfully cold and detached. But I manage to get by somehow not only never referring to it as a lesbian relationship but also never thinking “This would be so much easier if I could just give in and refer to it as a lesbian relationship!” I refer to my girlfriend, or say “relationship with a woman,” and I can’t remember it ever coming up in such a way that my vocabulary seemed lacking. Possibly I’ve even referred to it as a queer relationship, which is true on so many levels. And I tend to think that referring to relationships that contain at least one bisexual as “gay” or “straight” erases bisexuals in a way I’m not comfortable with. Bisexuals are so invisible already that it never crosses anyone’s mind unless you say it straight out. You hear someone say “lesbian relationship” and you think, “Aha! Two lesbians!” I’m not willing to play into that. It reminds me of the commentary on all of the straight allies at Pride, which misses the possibility that many of those supposed straight allies are actually queers in different-sex relationships.

And there’s another particularly awkward construction for you – “different-sex relationships.” And yet all of this is complicated by the fact that I would never, in a million years, refer to (or let anyone else refer to) a relationship I was in with a boy as straight. (And I’m not going to refer to an opposite-sex relationship, since that assumes that there are only two sexes and they’re, um, opposites.) There’s just nothing straight about me, including my relationships with boys. I used to walk around with my cock-sucking faggot boyfriend and think with frustration that, if the people around us thought anything disapproving, it was probably that he seemed a bit old for me. And yet we were as queer an item as it’s possible for a (mostly) cisgender man and a cisgender woman to be, and the sex we had was completely unrecognizable as straight. And that’s pretty typical, really, of my past relationships with men; I don’t think I’ve had anything that could be recognized as straight sex since I was 19, and I’ve been with precious few straight boys. I want that to be reflected in the language I use to discuss those relationships. I don’t want to tuck it away into “straight” because it was with a boy.

“Lesbian” at least recognizes my queerness, seems less to erase my identity than “straight” would. But it still seems to overlook not only my bisexuality, but all of the other ways I’m subversive and queer. Perhaps I could fold all of those into “lesbian,” or use it in conjunction with other words, if I only dug chicks. But that’s not the case, and it just doesn’t feel like the kind of word that speaks about me. I don’t know if the way it leaves so much out as a description of me also leaves a lot out in its description of my relationship. I just can’t tell.

And can you imagine the reaction if someone referred to their “bisexual relationship”? I imagine a lot of confusion, and I wonder if all of it is due to the way that the name doesn’t tell you anything about the gender of any of the participants. That is the kind of thing many people are uncomfortable with, and I think that’s worth challenging. I also imagine the non-bisexual partner (if there is one) objecting (although that seems less likely from my particular non-bisexual partner), and that in and of itself tells me that I’m not crazy to object myself. I think your average non-bisexual person would not only have a problem with the way “bisexual” in regards to their relationship failed to describe their identity, but would also strenuously object to the possibility of being mistaken for a bisexual. And whether something could be turned around is a great litmus test for whether it’s acceptable.

So what do you all think? Do you have a better way to refer to a relationship between two girls than the cold “same sex” or the sometimes inaccurate “lesbian”? Is this one of those things I should just let go, accepting that a description of my relationship is not the same as a description of myself and we’ll never have all of the language we need to represent our varied, uncategorizable selves? What terms do you use, and how well do they work for you?

(PS: reading this, GF suggested both “queer relationship” and “sapphic relationship.” I use the former, and am absolutely delighted with the latter. I want to go out and use it right now. But I still want your opinions and suggestions.)


Getting sappy with you already

Bi-Furious! is a first blogging experience for both Sarah and myself, and so far I’m startled and delighted by just how positive the reaction has been. All of your warm, supportive comments our first time out of the gate have meant the world to both of us, and turned blogging from something big and scary into the most fun I’ve had in a long time.

Even with this wealth of comments that make me squeal happily and call my roommate over to the computer to see, the one Maggie left on my post about queer identity deserves singling out. She wrote:

I am falling in love with this blog! I think I might begin to identify as bifuriousexual.

Thanks for reminding me that I’m not the only one who feels lost between two worlds and under a mountain of misconceptions.

To which I say:

Um. Hi. BIFURIOUSEXUAL. This is the best idea anyone has ever had. As Sarah responded, if anyone starts identifying this way, our work here is — well, if not done, then at least clearly being accomplished.





Stuff I’m Reading: DAR by Erika Moen

As people who know me already know, I am enjoying a bout of planned unemployment before grad school starts in September, which means that I have spent a frightening amount of time this summer sitting around in my underwear and reading webcomics.
But some good comes of this slothfulness, as today I stumbled across DAR: A Super Girly Top Secret Comic Diary by Erika Moen. Here’s a sample:
Things I Like
I’m totally charmed by this witty autobiographical comic that doesn’t take itself too seriously to make fart jokes. I especially love her take on the absurdities of sex. And her perspective on being a queer girl with a boyfriend is pretty awesome.

That last one really resonated with me because I, too, was pretty insecure about being seen as a L.U.G. (damn, that concept needs to die!) for a little while, even though I didn’t even identify as a lesbian for most of college. But still, I met my boyfriend about a month after I graduated… from a women’s college! So the timing was kind of hilarious. Now, I am way more secure in my still-queeritude, but it’s still always nice to find someone else who resists the “it was just a phase” stereotype.


Quick hit (with parentheses)

I’d write a thorough critique of this piece of nonsense by Anna David at the Details blog (what if you thought you dug men for years, but were totally wrong about yourself and were really just a straight guy at heart? What, bisexuality? Never heard of it), but Jess at Bilerico (with whom we’re quickly forming a mutual admiration society) has already done so beautifully (and quoted me in the process!); I’m not sure there’s anything more for me to say. Except to quote my friend Steven channeling Triumph the Insult Comic Dog: “This looks like a great article…for me to poop on.”


I’ll tell you what you can do with your freakin’ superpower…(An open letter to Dan Savage)

I’m a big Dan Savage fan, but every time he opens his mouth/picks up his pen on the subject of bisexuality, I love him a little bit less. His contribution to Bi The Way is a good example of this, and I’d post a response to his comments here if I could find a transcript of them. My roommate pointed me to this week’s Savage Love column, with which I also have issues. And this is the point where I thank all of you for giving me an audience and prompting me to actually write and send letters like this. I used to be the sort of person who thought “I should write a letter to the editor!”, but never actually got around to doing so. Now I seem to be the sort of person who actually does so, and then posts it in her blog (when writing about the Tangowire kerfuffle, I found myself typing “I’ve just emailed him to tell him so” and thinking “Well, I had better go do that before I post this” — and I did). So:

Dear Dan,

I want to start by saying that I love your column. I’m a regular reader, and I’m deeply grateful that someone is out there telling straight boys they can’t go from anal to vaginal sex without pausing to change the condom, and reassuring people that their fetishes aren’t hurting anyone (when they aren’t). I appreciate the way you work in political issues like AIDS awareness and hypocritical Republicans. So I’m not writing to you to rant about how evil you are and what terrible advice you give, but I have some concerns about your recent advice to A Concerned Kousin.
I was surprised you never took on the assertion that everyone who meets the man thinks he’s gay, and gay men think he’s handsome. Neither of these things actually means anything in terms of his actual sexuality, after all. There are plenty of masculine, “straight-appearing” gay men, and plenty of effeminate or otherwise “gay-seeming” men who really dig chicks. And in dismissing the idea that “playing for the other team” in college could have been “just a phase,” you didn’t consider the possibility that the man is bisexual, not as a phase but as a stable identity — maybe he wasn’t just experimenting when he slept with men in college, but he also loves and desires his fiancee. It does happen. You suggest that his fiancee might have seen him sucking cock and liked it, and I agree that it’s possible she’s really into the boy-on-boy action, but that doesn’t mean she’s not getting plenty of action from him herself. The evidence, after all, is that he “seems” gay, had sex with men in college, and is engaged to a woman. If someone told me those facts — and no others — about a man, my first thought would be that he’s probably bisexual. It seems at least as likely as the theory that he’s lying to everyone who cares about him.
I was also surprised to see you quoting “legit scientific research” with no skepticism, as if science hasn’t historically been used against minorities, and as if there aren’t several points at which public understanding of scientific research can break down – the study can be poorly done or the scientists can be biased or otherwise misinterpret the results, and even when these things don’t happen the media usually reports it in the most sensational way possible, regardless of whether that reflects the actual findings. In the case of the study you mentioned, what the research showed is that a small group of bisexual-identified men tended to show greater genital arousal when watching either straight porn or gay porn, but few or none of them were genitally aroused the same amount by both types. This hardly proves that male bisexuality doesn’t exist. The sample was tiny; genital arousal in response to visual stimuli is not the only factor involved in sexual attraction; and the differing sensibilities and aesthetics in gay and straight porn could influence whether someone is aroused by them as much as the bodies involved do. And after all, the men involved in the study claimed to be aroused by both types of porn – wouldn’t they be in a position to know? Haven’t you ever, once in your life, felt aroused without getting a measurable erection? I’ve never had a penis that was part of my body, but I suspect it must happen.
And finally, saying that something isn’t an insult doesn’t magically make it not insulting. You may think having fluid sexuality would be a superpower, but the myth of fluid female sexuality is damaging to bisexual women and insulting to gay and straight women. For the latter, it’s more than a bit condescending to tell anyone that you and science understand what they want better than they do, and they would be bisexual if they weren’t so brainwashed, unenlightened, or repressed. As to the former, saying that all women are bisexual completely erases the experience of women who actually identify and live their lives that way. Having the innate capacity to desire both men and women (if this is even true of women as a whole, which I don’t believe) doesn’t expose one to homophobia when walking down the street with a female partner, or ostracization from the queer community when with a male one. The trope of fluid female sexuality tells bisexual (or other multi-gender-loving queer) women that we’re just like everyone else, and can’t possibly have the same need for community, tolerance, etc. that other minorities have. And that’s just not true; living a bisexual life exposes one to plenty of difficulties and dangers that straight people don’t face, even if in a different culture those straight people could be attracted to members of their own sex. Ditto plenty of animosity from some other queers, even if deep down those queers are capable of attraction to people of other genders. Chalking it up to fluid female sexuality dismisses that entire range of experiences.

A Concerned Bisexual


Passing and Privilege

In her last post on the cabaret duo The Wet Spots, Aviva wrote:

The Wet Spots play up their queerness in a way that’s engaging and hilarious, and don’t seem at all self-conscious or apologetic about doing so while being in a different-sex marriage. It’s refreshing to see them appearing to avoid the trap even I sometimes fall into, of preferring to be seen with someone of a similar gender and assumed gay than seen with someone of a different gender and assumed straight.

I want to use this as a jumping-off point for my post on different-gender relationships and straight privilege, because I often wonder why you don’t see that many couples like Cass and John in the public eye, and why different-gender relationships seem to lead so many bisexuals to feel their queerness has been rendered invisible.

I definitely fell into that trap of invisibility for a while, and I think a huge part of it came from my obliviousness to the privilege I reaped from being assumed to be straight. I could have been more visibly queer then, but being seen as straight was so easy, I barely even noticed it was happening at first, and being out seemed impossible and scary. Why? Because I would have lost some of my privilege, and I think the prospect of losing privilege that you don’t even understand is much scarier for a lot of people than understanding your privilege and voluntarily giving some of it up. Sometimes I wonder if this is what is going on when some bisexuals pass as straight. But I ultimately can’t speak for anyone else, so here’s how it was for me. Continue reading ‘Passing and Privilege’


You picked it up and you stuck it in your mouth! That’s how you know!

I got home yesterday from DC, where (among other things) I saw The Wet Spots play. I’d heard of them in passing, and I’d seen the video for Do You Take It, which has very little to do with the post at hand, but is so awesome you should watch it anyway:


Right. So. I’d heard of The Wet Spots, but knew very little about them and showed up having no idea what to expect. And what I got was Cass King and John Woods: a self-proclaimed bisexual, polyamorous, kinky, sex-positive cabaret duo. They’re utterly adorable. Utterly. I thoroughly enjoyed their show. I went into it kind of tired and sad, and two sets later I was giggly and flushed and looking forward to anything the evening might throw at me. Continue reading ‘You picked it up and you stuck it in your mouth! That’s how you know!’