22
Aug
08

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!)

And yet I think in some women’s minds, this is exactly how it happens. Part of the problem is that in not really believing in bisexuality, many people assign bisexuals an identity based on what they see, not what those bisexuals say about their own lives. And so I think that some people look at a woman in a relationship with another woman, regardless of her life history and self-proclaimed identity, and decide she’s gay. That no matter who her partners have been in the past, she’s sworn off men from now on and will keep faith with the community of queer women that has welcomed her. And in that context it almost makes sense for them to feel it as a betrayal when, after her current relationship ends, another begins that night not be with a woman. Even though that is totally consistent with the desires, the queerness, and the identity she claimed all along. Because it’s not consistent with the identity they’d assigned to her. From their viewpoint, it looks like she infiltrated their community, had her fun, and ran back to the strong, welcoming arms of heterosexual privilege. Even when, the majority of the time, that’s not even close to what happened. After all, they saw her as leaving her old life and desires behind when she entered this relationship, it almost makes sense that they’d see her as leaving this one behind to go back to the former when it ends. Even if, from the perspective of the woman in question, her queerness and desires remained constant the whole time and aren’t dependent her partner’s gender.

I also wonder if some of this comes down to some lesbians’ insecurity about being in competition with men – not just with other dykes, who are a known quantity, but also the ever-mysterious “opposite sex.” Not all, mind; some. The ones who claim they’ll never date another bisexual woman because they all just go back to men in the end, anyway (and this drives me extra crazy because, um, I’m not the one who hurt you. Possibly I wasn’t even born when she hurt you. It’s really got very little to do with me, and please don’t make assumptions about my ethics and behavior because someone who shared my sexual identity hurt you in the past). This is exemplified by something a woman I was dating once said to me. She was one of those dykes, the ones who believe bisexual women all end up married (to men) with children, leaving a trail of broken hearts and wounded prides behind them. (And please don’t ask me what I was thinking; I have no idea. We had fun, but it became apparent over time that this was not the only place where our politics were completely incompatible.) I dated a men very briefly while we were seeing each other (we were never monogamous; I rarely am), and it really freaked her out. She insisted on treating our continued involvement after I slept with this guy as unlikely, and when I finally got her to tell me why, she asked, “Who knows if you’ll be interested in me anymore after you’ve had the real thing again?”

Whoa.

“The real thing.”

Um.

This took me completely by surprise. It had never crossed my mind to think of it that way. If I thought being with a man was “the real thing,” I would never have been there with her in the first place. And if she thought it was the real thing, I thought to myself, she had other problems to deal with. Ones I couldn’t help her with.

I wonder how many other dykes are out there buying into the myth that all bi women need is a good deep dicking and we’ll run back to men with glad hearts and slightly sore elsewheres, leaving sapphism behind us forever. Who think cock and penetration with it are the holy grail of sex (leaving aside for the moment the fact that some women have cocks and not all men do, since the people who believe this stuff usually seem to have missed that one, too.) Now that I think about it, I find it a little insulting. I don’t really know what I want, and all I need is a good dose of cock to remind me? (As GF said in a conversation about this months ago, when a man implied that I’d just forgotten how good sex with men is, if I’d ever known “Clearly all of your previous dickings have been too shallow.” Yes, indeed. Clearly, if I still like girls, all of my previous male lovers have failed to penetrate me sufficiently. I’ll tell the next guy so he can see about fixing that. Someone’s gotta take one for the team.)

No. I know exactly what I want, and what I like, and it has little or nothing to do with which set of genitals a partner comes equipped with. And an amazing lay, from someone of any gender, is not going to convince me that I was wrong about liking all the others.

The extra funny part of this, to me, is the idea that a man (or a person with a cock that’s part of hir body) can automatically provide me with the deepest, most thorough and satisfying penetration. Because that has so not been my experience. For one thing, dykes get to choose their size, and from a much wider range than nature provides. The only things I’ve ever had inside me that were larger than the cock of the woman so worried about competition from “the real thing” were another strap-on and a hand; both belonged to women. Having a cock permanently attached to your body doesn’t give you any advantage when it comes to penetration, so I’m not sure what certain dykes are so worried about.

I just hope they’ll soon stop letting a bare few women who are in it for the performance and the adventure ruin it for the rest of us, who could genuinely respect and desire them if they could do the same for us. The vast majority of bisexual-identified women are not with other women because we just can’t get a man right now, and we’re not about to abandon one gender for another because we don’t know what we want or are never satisfied with what we have. We’re just as capable of commitment, monogamy, and faithfulness as people of any other sexuality, and this is really not a war in which we’re looking to sell out one side and get in good with the other at the first available opportunity. I’m so tired of being treated like I can’t be trusted to keep my word because everyone buys so easily into this idea of bisexuals as changing sex partners the way some people change shoes, hurting and betraying everyone they touch.

And really, I just tired. I’m going to wrap this up now, because I think it’s getting less coherent rather than more, but I wanted to get it up before I head off for the weekend. I’ll be back next week with part 2 of this thought process, about reactions to bisexuality among straight women and straight men, and how this proves my theory that people believe everyone secretly digs dudes (and science has proven it, too!). If anyone wants to brief me on how gay men treat bisexuals before, say, Monday or Tuesday, I’ll try to include that, too…(or I can just use Dan Savage as an example? No, maybe not. Mental note: solicit guest posts from bisexuals who aren’t women, to even the balance around here a bit)

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


  1. 22 August 2008 at 9:04 am

    One thought that kept ocurring to Me as I read this, was this:

    I’m poly, have been for quite some time. When I have spoken to My last few partners (as well as other folks) about poly agreements, one of the common things that has come up is a ban on dating someone else of a similar gender. In My case, it has gotten really specific to *type of femme*, and not “women” or “men”, but I have heard many a story (and been the other gendered secondary/date in question)of partners being totally ok with someone dating/having a boy, if ze is partnered with a girl, or vice versa, and it not feel nearly as scary as potentially being “replaced” by someone of “the same” gender. Which is how many describe it. I think some of this interacts with Ds roles in particular, but some does not. (I am reminded of a married man who had permission to submit only to men that wanted to play with Me recently.) This logic of being replaceable by someone with a similar gender seems linked to a sense of *competition* with those of a similar gender. A different bisexual phenomenon, one I have encountered more often than the lesbians fearing I will leave them for a man. (Perhaps it’s because I go for the queers and not so much the lesbian-identified folks in the first place?)

  2. 2 Aviva
    22 August 2008 at 9:15 am

    You’re so right. I keep reminding myself that I’ll never be able to fit all of my thoughts into one post, that the whole point of a blog is I can always talk about things from a different angle or at more length later. But I definitely have a lot of thoughts on that phenomenon (some of them will even appear in my next post), all of which I’m sure will make an appearance here at some point.

    Bisexuality and monogamy, which I thought your comment was going to be about, is also another post on its own. Someday…

  3. 22 August 2008 at 12:49 pm

    Great post. I’ve been meaning to write about this same thing from a different perspective (exploring the reasons that lesbians have so much anxiety about bisexual women, from my vantage point as a lesbian); I think I’ll us this as a jumping off point, though you said a lot of what I wanted to say.

  4. 4 Megan H.
    22 August 2008 at 1:51 pm

    TG (and Aviva),
    How do you feel about gender-specific “bans”? I find that they often smack of essentialism and sexism. In some of the more mainstreamish circles I know, a common form of this seems to be a straight guy and a bi woman who have agreed that it’s okay for the woman to date or sleep with other women (there are some large unstated assumptions about gender here, obviously). What this says to me is that the the male partner (or maybe both) sees relationships between women as not “threatening” or that he fetishizes the relationship in a way that makes him feel he has power over it. Read that way, it’s certainly icky. But is there something I’m missing?

  5. 22 August 2008 at 1:59 pm

    I totally feel what you are saying in this piece. I am a bi-woman who is considering marrying her current male partner (and no, I did not leave a woman to date him) and the biggest psychological barrier for me is the feeling that if I do from here on out I will be rejected by the LGBT community and perceived as straight. The second I am used to…. I people always read my sexuality based on my current partner… however, the rejection by the community (which I think bi-women always feel to an extent) can only become worse if I marry a man. Thanks for the post.

  6. 23 August 2008 at 10:11 am

    This was awesome- thank you so much for posting on this issue! When I was reading about the “real thing” comment, what really jumped to mind was internalized homophobia. There’s a real element of queer self-hatred in the assumption that the kind of sex women have together is somehow always less “real” or second-best to sex their bisexual partner might have with a man. I’m not claiming to have psychological insight into all biphobic lesbians, obviously, but I think this is one of the factors that’s often at play in comments like that.
    And the stereotype that bisexual women just use the queer community for youthful fun and then invariably end up married to men? I particularly hate that one. It’s so insulting to treat someone as if they don’t know their own desires, and I think it is very tied to the stereotype of bisexuals as “less queer” than other queers. We’ve got that extra tie to heteronormativity, so of course we all want to settle down and marry men! In fact, I really dislike the institution of marriage and don’t plan to marry anyone, male or female, so it’s especially insulting when this stereotype steamrolls over my clearly stated beliefs. It’s just as patronizing as “Oh, you’ll want children someday!” which I also hear far more than I’d like to.

  7. 23 August 2008 at 10:52 pm

    Megan,

    There is something in it that’s about perception of threat, and who is competition. An ex of Mine who subscribed to the “play with whoever you want as long as that person is not a femme like me”, said to Me once that if I decided to leave her for a (insert specific gender that ain’t hers), then there was nothing she could offer Me to measure up to that, but that it wasn’t cool for Me to play with a femme with a similar gender. Another femme I know objected specifically to her partner playing with a femme with a very similar gender and style, saying something about “it’s like ze wants to replace me!”.

    (I’m using femme examples partly to disrupt the idea that this is a guy thing, cuz I don’t think it is, but also cuz much of My experience with this is around cross gender paired folks–butch-femme pairings, for example–with the femme partner only being ok with similar gender secondary relationships for the masculine partner (butch-butch, butch-ftm). What I find fascinating is that often it is perfectly fine for the femme in that cross gender pairing to play with cross gender secondary partners, but not the butch. I have been the secondary to both sides of those pairs, as well as been the primary butch/ftm in that kind of poly arrangement. I don’t know why it has worked that way in My life experience, but it has.)

    So, My sense is it is a very specific thing about what is threatening, what is competition, who you are competing against. I don’t know if the straight guy has the same thing with other cisgender guys (they are competition and women are not), but it wouldn’t surprise Me if he did. In My sense, some of this is about the ways certain folks are pitted against each other in competition for dates/mates (femme against femme, cisgender straight guy against cisgender straight guy).

    With cisgender guys, I wonder if some of it is about the presence of a bio cock being “real” competition (as Aviva referenced above)…but then I have heard so many stories of cisgender straight guys feeling like they could never be as good in bed as a dyke, so I’m not sure. In those poly agreements you reference, does they guy get to sleep with other people? If so, what genders are they?

    I keep coming back to the “replaceable” idea that was said to Me…that folks of the same gender are…well…exchangeable for each other? Even if you get specific…that submissive femme servants, or cute little femme Daddy’s girls, or fierce femme switches are exchangeable for one another? I have yet to get that, or to get why in the examples I’m thinking of (butch-femme couple, butch can only play with bois/boys), why the boys are *not* a threat? I get the sinking suspicion it’s because boy-boy relationships are not seen as…well…”real”, real threats, real possibilities for love…*sigh*

    So you ask…how do I feel about these rules? They make Me sad, in the ways that they reveal insecurities, in the ways that they illustrate how difficult polyamory is, in the ways that they do often seem to discount similar-gender relationships as, well, real. And then you get to the other things I feel. Angry that butch-butch/boy-boy relationships in queer women’s/trans communities are discounted and marginalized. Bitter about the way it often sucks to be “the other boy”, when that becomes a proxy for all the ways secondary partners get shunted and treated shabbily, and feel like they have no rights. Annoyed at the cisgender straight guy that thinks the dyke who fucks his wife is not even worth worrying about.

    I also know that poly is what it is…most people have specific limits about which kind of things it’s ok to do, and which kind of people it’s ok to do them with. I am just the sort that gets the restricted pet names, places, and activities, more than the restricted gender thing. It has been so rare to meet folks where there is not some kind of gender restriction that I just came to accept it as so common there wasn’t anything I could do about it, and just be happy when it wasn’t an issue.

  8. 8 jellybabies
    24 August 2008 at 8:49 am

    Hi Aviva, thanks for an interesting post. I wondered about a few things. Is this kind of insecurity more common when someone who is bisexual dates someone of the same gender? Do you think the betrayal of the queer community is the main issue, or is the underlying insecurity more personal (as in feeling inadequate), which then gets projected into something which is more on the political level? I understand that even if you are with someone monosexual, there is the risk of being left for someone else, but are there not particular issues which are unique to bisexuals here? For example, if there is a certain degree of cyclicity in the level of attraction towards men or women, then obviously that can potentially affect these kinds of things, no? Is it a stereotype that when in a (monogamous) relationship, someone who is bisexual may feel increasingly attracted to whatever gender his/her partner isn’t, because that’s what is unavailable? Of course, such attraction will be there in a monosexual relationship too, but although it is a little difficult to articulate precisely why, it seems to me that it is not quite the same to be insecure about your partner finding someone of the same gender as you more attractive, as having to worry about competition from a different gender altogether. Do you think that the idea of gender and the differentiation of men and women is perceived much differently when you compare monosexual persons and bisexual persons? I’m thinking about your comment about how a great lay has little to do with what kind of genitals the other person has. Well, for a monosexual person, it has a lot to do with that, so maybe it is difficult to really understand that this is a non-issue, and that it is more about the person. I can see how when men and women are just on a spectrum with no difference in attraction on either end, that it is especially puzzling to hear that you left someone “for men” or “for women!”

  9. 9 Megan H.
    25 August 2008 at 9:06 am

    TG, thanks for your extensive answer. I’m a lot less sad about gender bans when, as in your example, they don’t also involve unexamned cisgender straight guy sexism. But I do think there’s something interesting going on with the “competition” idea and also the question of what counts as real relationships.

    jellybabies, RE: genitals, I totally disagree. I am a (primarily) monosexual person, and the shape/nature/other characteristics of potential partners’ genitals are so not what it’s about. Don’t we usually become attracted to people long before encountering their genitals? I find the idea that genitals = attraction really offputting, partially because of the assumption that all people of a particular gender have the same (or similar) genitals, and partly because personally I am attracted to (female-identified) people despite the fact that I find everyone’s genitals kind of upsetting.

  10. 10 jellybabies
    25 August 2008 at 3:20 pm

    Megan, yes, we become attracted long before encountering someone’s genitals, but I suspect that to most monosexuals, once they find themselves in a sexual situation with that someone, it is going to matter. That’s all I was saying. Of course there is a lot of variation and a lot of different reasons for why someone would call himself/herself monosexual or bisexual. But my question about how bisexuals perceive gender could apply to any aspect of it. In relation to the topic at hand, I guess what I wonder is if certain underlying assumptions cause some confusion, as in the bisexual person is perplexed that he or she would leave someone “for men” or “for women” while for the monosexual person it is such a clear distinction between the two genders that it makes a real difference (and it is hard to imagine what it is like from the other person’s point of view). Perhaps that is too oversimplified, though.

  11. 11 Aviva
    26 August 2008 at 10:20 pm

    All at once now, since I’m a few days behind.

    Daisy – be sure to give us a heads up when you post about this yourself, I’d love to see it!

    Megan – I agree with you about gender-specific bans, and specifically the ways straight cis men fetishize relationships between their partners and other women and don’t take them seriously enough to find them threatening. That’s actually one of the major things my next post is going to be about, if I ever sit down and write it. As far as how I feel about such bans, I rather resent them. They feel to me like they play right into straight and male privilege, and uphold patriarchal norms rather than challenging them. I personally won’t play with women who have male partners and are only allowed to fool around with other women, I feel icky about it. And let’s not even get started on how much ickier I feel about it if the rule is also that said male partner gets to be present for any such play. Ick.

    TG – It actually makes a lot more sense to me when the gender in question is more specific than “male” or “female,” and when the fear is articulated in terms of being replaceable. I’m not threatened by my partners having other partners whose genders are similar to mine, but I am threatened by my partner having another partner whose submissiveness is in some ways similar to my own, and that often does make me feel interchangeable, so I can grasp the concern. I think that might even be part of what’s at play when straight cis men only allow their partners to play with other women, but in that case it seems less a fear that they’re replaceable by someone with a similar gender, and more a stunning arrogance that they couldn’t possibly be replaceable by anyone who doesn’t share their gender, with its obvious (to them) advantages and superiority. Maybe?
    And my sense is that, in many of the relationships where the woman is only allowed to sleep with other woman, the man doesn’t sleep around – and in many of them, he does and he’s also allowed to sleep with other women. I don’t know of any such arrangements where both partners are bi, and only allowed to sleep with members of their own gender. Nor do I know of any between bi partners of the same gender, where both are only allowed to sleep with other genders. Which doesn’t mean they don’t exist, of course, but if they do I think it’s a lot less common. Maybe bi partners are more likely to understand that similarity or difference in gender doesn’t affect whether someone is “competition?” I don’t know.
    And thanks so much for your long, thoughtful responses.

    Clare – You’re welcome, and I totally hear you on fearing being dismissed by the community. I definitely struggle with the same thing. While the gender of my partner doesn’t change the way I feel about my own queerness, I’m acutely conscious of (and acutely uncomfortable with) how it changes the way others perceive my queerness. I sometimes find myself ashamed when I’m involved with a man, for that reason – I don’t want to be seen with him, because I don’t want to be perceived as not-queer. I’m trying to work through that. And at this point I think I’ve made my own queer space, at least to the extent that I won’t lose my community if I do end up partnered with a man.

    Sarah – I agree, and think it’s terribly unfortunate the way some queers internalize mainstream society’s belief that nothing two women do together can ever be as “real” as heterosexual intercourse. Stuff and nonsense, I say. Also piffle.

    jellybabies – wow, that’s a lot of questions. Let me see how many of them I can answer.
    I have no idea, statistically, if this sort of thing is more common when someone who is bisexual dates someone of the same gender. My sense is that it’s actually more common when someone who is bisexual dates a woman, since the widespread assumption is that all bisexuals prefer men (and who, I wonder, came up with that nonsense?) In this specific case, though, it seems possible that the underlying problems could be about a perceived betrayal of queerness as well as a personal fear of inadequacy. I think that’s still all wrong – I’m sure I’ve said here that I don’t feel that being with someone of a different gender is any kind of betrayal of a bisexual’s queerness – but it’s possible people are perceiving it that way and that’s what they’re objecting to. It’s also possible that people are presenting more personal fears as being political so they don’t have to deal with what’s actually bothering them. I’ve never been a lesbian who refused to date bisexual women, and I don’t really know.
    I don’t think that, even if one is a cyclical bisexual, that means one is going to lose interest in the partner one already has. At least not if the relationship doesn’t have other problems. In my experience, that’s not how it works – often for me it works the opposite way; I’m really into women right now partially because I’m finding such happiness and satisfaction in my relationship with a woman. I think there are also people who want a variety, but I don’t think that means they’re going to get bored of being with a woman and leave her to be with a man for a while. That was kind of my whole point here. It is a stereotype that when a bisexual is in a monogamous relationship she’s more likely to feel attracted to people of genders different from her partner’s, because that’s unavailable or “missing,” but I don’t particularly believe it’s true.
    I’d be interested if you could articulate how it seems to different to be insecure about your partner finding someone of the same gender more attractive than you vs. “competition” from a different gender altogether, since that’s precisely what I’m arguing against here.
    I’m not sure how to answer you as far as the bisexuals perceiving gender differently from monosexuals. I do, however, disagree that for a monosexual a great lay has a lot to do with what kind of genital the other person has. I know many monosexuals who judge the quality of lay on things other than their partner’s equipment – even, let me make clear, when sticking to partners of their gender of preference. I think bisexuals have a reputation for being a bit more open-minded that way, and being more able to interact with their partner’s authentic gender regardless of “birth sex” or genitals, but I don’t know how deserved it is. I think it really depends on the bisexual or monosexual in question. It’s not so much that I don’t experience a difference between attraction to men and attraction to women – sometimes I do, sometimes I don’t – as that neither of those has anything to do with genitals for me. (I’m not arguing that no one out there has genital preferences. I’m arguing that you can’t assume anyone has genital preferences, or what they are, based on their gender preferences.)

  12. 12 jellybabies
    27 August 2008 at 7:15 am

    Aviva,

    I think maybe what I wrote about genitals came out as implying more than I wanted to say. When I wrote that for a monosexual person it has a lot of bearing on the sex, I did not mean that that was the one thing that mattered the most. By definition, if you are monosexual, the “wrong” gender won’t do much for you, but this doesn’t mean that the “right” gender is judged solely by its unique physical characteristics. Obviously, there is a lot more to it than that! (And obviously, this whole paragraph is a huge simplification, because there are so many layers of different kinds of attraction with a lot of variance between people.)

    Regarding the insecurity of being in competition with people of the same gender versus a different gender, a few thoughts occur to me, which I am not sure how much sense they will make, but let’s see! When people form a relationship with someone else, it is common to idealize the other person, in many different ways, including the wonderfulness of their personality, the role they will be able to play in one’s life (obviously related to gender roles too) and so on and so forth. Well, I think that it is not entirely uncommon to idealize one’s own role and identity in a relationship (in the mirror image of the other peron’s idealization, so to say). For example, a man may realize he is not the most attractive guy out there, but his partner, who is in love, thinks so. People identify a lot with their gender – the man will think “My partner thinks I’m attractive man,” not “My partner thinks I’m an attractive person.” Then if his partner is attracted to another man also (if there is no threat of being replaced!) it is not that hard to go back to the earlier idealization and think of himself as just another example of an “attractive man” – almost as if he was the representative of the male species that his partner picked1 Well, if his partner now has an attraction to a woman, this all falls apart, and he really has to face the reality of the situation, which is that he cannot replace another person (who is physically different). But now, consider the case where his partner’s attraction to the other man really is so strong that he might very well be replaced by this man. Then, it is impossible to go back to the idealized way of dealing with the jealousy. However, in the case of his partner having a similarly strong attraction for women, he can paradoxically use the idealized way of thinking to some extent at least, thinking to himself that his partner still has picked him as “the male” in his/her life, and he has not been replaced, merely his partner needed something else. I think that’s why some people are more okay with their partner having partners of another gender on the side, and “gender bans.” If your main focus is attraction on “persons” and it doesn’t matter so much what gender they are, then of course it is easier to see the silliness of thinking and feeling in this way!

  13. 13 jellybabies
    27 August 2008 at 7:48 am

    “If your main focus is attraction on “persons” and it doesn’t matter so much what gender they are, then of course it is easier to see the silliness of thinking and feeling in this way!”

    That said, I still think these feelings of insecurity need to be respected. People don’t always feel everything in the most rational or mature way, and one has to negotiate the boundaries of a relationship with that in mind. I think it is perfectly okay for a partner of any gender to say how far they’re willing to go, and that can include whether people with the same gender can enter the picture. I think it is unfortunate that this so easily get reinterpreted in a political way, in terms of the patriarch and male control, when I’m sure that more often than not it is about negotiating the insecurities and needs of two persons who are not perfect.

  14. 14 Aviva
    27 August 2008 at 12:49 pm

    jellybabies –

    I think maybe what I wrote about genitals came out as implying more than I wanted to say. When I wrote that for a monosexual person it has a lot of bearing on the sex, I did not mean that that was the one thing that mattered the most. By definition, if you are monosexual, the “wrong” gender won’t do much for you, but this doesn’t mean that the “right” gender is judged solely by its unique physical characteristics.

    Actually this isn’t what I’m disagreeing with at all. I’m disagreeing that the same set of genitals always goes with the same set of genders, and that just because one is monosexual one needs partners of one’s gender of choice to also, always have the genitals we tend to associate with that gender.

    And I agree that feelings of insecurity need to be respected, and relationships should be negotiated in such a way as to meet everyone’s needs wherever possible. I’m not sure I agree that bans on gender aren’t often political at root. And I’m pretty sure I’m not okay with indulging insecurities when doing so, on a systemic level, reinforces the sexism and heterosexism we already struggle against.

  15. 15 jellybabies
    28 August 2008 at 2:26 am

    Aviva,

    I was speaking in general, but maybe I should have been more precise. I am well aware of that a person’s gender is not always “aligned” with his or her physical body, but for most people it seems to be, and also, like it or not, I suspect that the monosexuals who are able to look beyond the physical to the extent that it does not make a big difference for them sexually are quite few. Regarding the “gender bans” I of course respect your choices. I suppose that the interaction between the personal and political, while interesting, is a whole other topic on its own (even though it does seem to come up in relation to the original topic of this post, in so far that there can be implicit or explicit expectations of bisexuals to date only people of their same sex, lest they would betray the “gay cause”).

  16. 16 Anne
    5 February 2010 at 12:04 pm

    After all, they saw her as leaving her old life and desires behind when she entered this relationship, it almost makes sense that they’d see her as leaving this one behind to go back to the former when it ends.

    This seems to me to belong to the “coming out” narrative that we’re all supposed to parallel in our own lives. You become a lesbian by leaving the closet, therefore any “straight” relationship will be seen as retrogression. The normativity of such queer narratives leaves many people out, which is painfully clear to bisexuals (among others).


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