30
Aug
08

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.

What that arrangement says to me is that neither of the people involved consider attraction between women to be serious or meaningful enough to pose a threat to men. That relegates women to something less than personhood – we’re not sexy, funny, charming, brilliant, and fascinating enough to fall for. Those agreements make women into sex toys rather than seeing them as fully realized human beings. And I have no interest in becoming involved with someone who doesn’t take me seriously, who doesn’t see me as a fully developed human being she might conceivably develop a relationship with of which sex is only one facet. I’m not interested in filling the one need that is not otherwise satisfied by her man, then disappearing once I’ve played my part. I don’t want to be anyone’s sex toy. Not hers, and especially not her boyfriend’s; I have even less interest in dating women who are only allowed to fool around with other women if their men can watch (or participate.) I’m a person, not a marital aid, and my sexuality does not exist so that men can get off on watching it.

These arrangements also, by extension, trivialize sex between women. After all, it’s the sex she’s having that couldn’t possibly lure her away from her man, that he doesn’t have to be even the least bit jealous or worried about. And why not? Because he has the cock. (Yes, you and I both know that’s not necessarily true. But show me a straight dude who “lets” his woman get it on with other chicks who understands that.) It’s no wonder lesbians worry about losing their partners to the almighty cock, when our entire culture is built around the assumption that real sex is impossible without at least one penis, that vaginal penetration by said penis is the goal of all sexual behaviour, that anything else is just play and doesn’t count. Letting your girlfriend have sex with other girls is fine because it just warms her up for your cock anyway, right? That’s the idea – that she can’t really be satisfied by it, and she’ll come back to you still needing what only you can give her. I’m pretty sure I already mentioned how ridiculous I find the idea that the best way to satisfy a woman is by penetrating her more deeply than anyone else has, or that people with flesh cocks have an advantage in that arena. Sorry, but wrong on both counts.

So, um, here’s where I admit that I have a lot more to say about being a bisexual woman than being a bisexual man because I have more experience with it. But this seems to be flipped for bisexual men. Many straight women are reluctant to date bisexual men, believing that a) that way lies HIV, and b) he’ll eventually admit he’s gay and leave you for a man anyway. Because, again – everyone secretly prefers men.

Actually, first off, it’s unsafe sex that leads to HIV. Not sex with bisexual men. You can get it from your straight boyfriend, too, if he’s infected and you don’t protect yourself – the odds of it are higher, if you’re using condoms with the bi boy and not the straight boy. This idea of bisexuals as disease vectors makes me crazy. You can never know what your partner is doing when you’re not around, regardless of his sexual identity. The fact that he identifies as straight doesn’t even tell you that he’s not having unprotected sex with other men behind your back – but more importantly, that is not the only way for him to get STIs and pass them on to you. He could be cheating on you with other women, or previously infected and lying or unaware of it. The best way to avoid STIs is to make sure the sex you participate in is as safe as possible, since you have absolutely no way of monitoring the safety of any sex that may be happening when you’re not present. Call me paranoid and distrustful (I am), but people are infected all the time while in what they believed were monogamous relationships (or open relationships where their partner was using protection with everyone but them, for that matter.) Eliminating bisexual men from your dating pool is both unfair and ineffective – really the worst thing you could do is relax your safe sex standards because hey, you don’t date bisexual men, so you’re safe.

Um. Sorry. I get a little het up about that one. Moving on. The other reason some women are reluctant to date bisexual men is a belief that he’s only made it halfway out of the closet, but he’ll take the other step any second, breaking the heart of any hapless woman who happened to get involved with him in the meantime. In the meantime, he’ll pretend to be faithful to you while sneaking around your back to suck cock, because cock is what he really craves. I’m getting pretty tired of that one, let me tell you. Why does everyone assume bisexual men are in it for a specific sexual act or organ, rather than the way they connect emotionally and spiritually with men? It’s an assumption that at core is pretty unfair to men – to claim that their only interest is in physical satisfaction, and they don’t make decisions based on their or anyone else’s emotional desires or well-being. It’s the reverse of the assumption about women – that we’re all about the emotional satisfaction, and really don’t desire or invest much in sex at all (which is why we can be bisexual, because we can fall in love with anyone! It’s not about the bits!) I just don’t believe either is true. Everyone falls somewhere in between – making decisions based on whom they can talk to and connect with, and what gets their heart beating faster and their pupils dilated. We’re all more complex than either/or.

And why does everyone assume bisexual men are just hesitating on their way out of the closet? I can only make the same arguments for the existence of bisexual men that I do about the existence of bisexual women. How very arrogant to assume that you know someone’s life experience better than he does himself – to tell him that he can’t possibly want or like what he says he does, because you know it isn’t possible. When someone’s reported life experience – when a whole range of life experiences – don’t fit our ideas of how the world works, maybe it’s those ideas that should be reexamined. Just maybe, that would be better than trying to fit everyone into the ideas we already have. Because as it is we’re telling people what their identity and experience must be, in direct contradiction to what they claim themselves — and then acting shocked and betrayed when they continue to act according to the identity and desires they’ve claimed all along, rather than those we’ve assigned to them. Who is that working for, really?

Finally, many of the gay men I’ve spoken to about bisexuality (not to mention the famous ones mouthing off about it in public) seem not to believe bisexuality exists at all – at least, not for men. The conversation I had a year or so ago that first sparked my desire to become a bisexual activist was with a couple of gay men, who were trying to convince me that while female sexuality is emotional and fluid, male sexuality is physical and either gay or straight. Generally, in the case of bisexual-identified men, gay.

This is an especially frustrating argument to have because these men often use their own coming-out stories to “prove it.” And it’s true that many people identified as bisexual for a while as a stepping-stone on the path to identifying as gay. I know people who did so – and so, I’m sure, do you. But just because some people have taken that path doesn’t mean it’s the only path out there. I also know, and know of, people who first identified as gay before coming to terms with and settling into bisexual desires and identity. I know people (including myself) who started off identifying as bisexual and have continued to do so for long enough that calling it a phase is not only condescending and offensive but also ridiculous. This universalizing of one’s own experience denies the many other possible experiences out there. You don’t have to be able to imagine it or identify with it for it to be true of someone else, and I think that’s the point that’s missed when certain gay men make the argument that all bisexual men are really gay.

In conclusion: All bisexuals really dig men. They can’t be trusted to date women, because they’ll only end up hurting them when they admit they prefer men. If you’re a dude, though, you’re totally safe dating bisexuals. Because you’ve got a cock, and that’s what really matters here.

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29 Responses to “What’s so great about cock, anyway?”


  1. 31 August 2008 at 1:11 am

    Wow. There was a lot here. I had always looked at the bisexuals really want a man as sexism vaguely hidden… but I had never looked at the view of bisexual men also really being gay. Look at that! It works both ways.

    The other reason give– that really pisses me off. Is that women really want to be mothers and so if the woman is bi, she will go for a man to have a kid. This is ridiculous because 1- you do not need a male partner to have a kid– look at all the lesbian couples and 2- because it goes back to an antiquated sexist view that a woman’s life is not complete if she is not with child!

    Okay, you did a really good job of summing it up. That is all I have to add.

  2. 31 August 2008 at 8:36 am

    Oh my God, thank you for both posts. As a bi/pansexual wo/man, I’ve seen all of this. It’s been assumed by many that just because my only relationship has been (and will be) with a woman, and because the idea of penetration really bothers me (and is actually hellaciously painful, no matter what it’s done with), I’m a lesbian. Umm, no. I adore men, find them sexually attractive, just not their genitals ^_^

    I will admit that at one time I was guilty of the ‘all bisexual men are really gay’-simply because I’d had my heart broken by a boy I liked who said he was bi at first, then came to the realization he *was* really gay. Since then, I’ve learned that one experience does not a rule make. Again, thank you for showing that not all of us need the allmighty cock, and that not all of us are mono-sexual.

  3. 3 shira
    31 August 2008 at 9:44 am

    Amen, sister! I’m always mystified when people claim to have the inside story on someone else’s sexuality or beliefs or anything else that is fundamentally internal and can be easily kept private. How did you get in there and check, sir? Was it with *SCIENCE*? Because science is never misused or influenced by the preconceived notions of its practitioners, so that would be fine. I mean, sorry to be so sarcastic, but I tend to group people who mysteriously have the goods on other people’s sexuality with people who definitely know what’s good for me better than I do. Suffice it to say, I do not appreciate the help.

  4. 31 August 2008 at 4:45 pm

    I’m one of those folks that came out as bi and have not shifted that (even though I’ve shifted my own gender quite a few times during that time period). And it’s been, oh, 15 years, so I think calling it a phase is ridiculous for sure.

    I don’t often think about bisexual concerns that occur when dating straight folks, cuz…I don’t date straight folks. And have not, a few casual encounters aside, pretty much since I came out as bi. And, well, I have trouble imagining myself dating folks that are partnered with folks that are straight in any way resembling the straight folks you describe (though that is more possible, potentially), not because of the rule, but because when I date someone, in any way other than having casual play with them, I know I’m inviting their partner into my life, and I rarely invite straight people into my very queer life. I’m glad these discussions are helpful for folks that are grappling with this, and I absolutely feel it’s important to give those concerns voice and space. I remember these very same concerns coming up in the bi women’s group I facilitated back in the early nineties; I think you are writing about common concerns, at least for bisexual women.

    I am personally interested in also discussing this kind of thing in a queered context, where we talk about multiplicity of gender (instead of “sex”), and discuss these very same rules occurring in queer contexts and relationships. It does seem from comments on the earlier post, that some folks feel somehow that gender rules are better or more understandable when it’s about gender instead of about “sex”, and I’d love to take part in a critical discussion and analysis of that kind of thing as well, because it is something I have a much more personal stake in.

  5. 5 Aviva
    31 August 2008 at 6:36 pm

    Amen, sister!

    Hee! It’s extra funny because you ARE my sister! Also you’re funny and brilliant and awesome and I’ve decided to keep you. I know you’re having the time of your life, but I can’t wait ’til you get home from Russia.

  6. 6 Aviva
    1 September 2008 at 1:58 am

    TG – given that I live as much as my life as possible in very queer contexts, I imagine we’ll be having many of those conversations here. Although by all means, if you have things to say about this kind of thing in queer contexts, do feel free to get us started!

  7. 1 September 2008 at 10:32 am

    I was hoping particularly to discuss/examine the gender ban/allowance dynamic where it occurs most frequently in my own life; in the context of queer women/trans relationships. It seems that when we are talking specific genders (and not “sexes”) that are allowed or banned, that a couple of folks find that much more palatable, and I’d be interested in hearing about why, and why it seems that this is less imbued with sexism and heterosexism, because I’m not sure it is at all.

    In my experience of this dynamic, there is often an established cross gender pairing, butch/femme or transmasculine/femme. Within that pairing, the masculinely gendered partner is limited in hir potential secondaries and casual partners, sometimes not allowed to date femmes at all, sometimes not allowed to date a certain kind of femme (this is where the fear of being replaceable idea may come in to play).

    So, let’s take the more common one I’ve found, where the masculinely gendered partner is only allowed to date/partner with other masculinely gendered people. (No other femmes allowed, only one femme rules this roost.) Somehow, femmes are out of the realm of possbility (potentially because femmes are a threat? a replacement? competition?)…but other butches/bois/transmasculine folks are not. Why is it that butch/butch or masculine/masculine pairing (which I’m going to call boy/boy from now on for ease of writing only) is not a threat to butch/femme or transmasculine/femme pairing (which I’m going to call cross-gender pairings for ease of writing only)?

    I am skeptical that this is unrelated to heterosexism and sexism. There is a way that this dismisses boy/boy dynamics as being about nothing but work (in the case of a boy servant) or sex/physical (in the case of sex/SM), or just not as “real” or satisfying. There is no romantic threat here–because boys don’t experience intimacy or love with each other? There is no Ds threat–because a boy submissive is so different from a femme one, or boy servants do such different work? There is no threat of this lover becoming primary–because boys can’t be primary with other boys, the “natural” order is cross gender pairing? There is no sexual threat–because boy/boy fucking couldn’t possibly replace cross gender sex?

    I have to say that in my heart, as someone who has seen this from all the boy angles possible (the boy who is only allowed to date other boys, the boy who is dating the masculine partner, the boy dating the femme who is allowed to date who she wants regardless of gender but limits the genders of the people her masculine partner dates), I do experience this as dismissive to boy/boy dynamics. One of the reasons I now loudly identify as a fag (which I know is often misread as gay man), is because I want to communicate to potential femme partners of mine and the masculine folks I date that I do see boy/boy relationships as potentially primary, just as important, absolutely a potential threat in the exact same ways (though I also am very ethical as a poly person and don’t actually want to threaten primary relationships, my own or other peoples), all that and a bag of chips. I do not see them as lesser, less important, less meaningful, less vital to my life.

    I have talked to other secondary boys (who date masculine partners, either in a het context or a queer women/trans context where there are gender bans like I described above), and I must say that I am not alone in feeling like boy/boy is often being treated as lesser, in a way that encompasses a lot of how secondary partners are mistreated and neglected, but is also particularly unique to that gendered rule. And I definitely feel like there is some heterosexism involved in that dynamic, where cross gender pairings are held up as the ideal, and boy/boy is dismissed as not even a potential threat. (To be clear, I would love for no poly arrangement to include fear of replacement, and perception of secondary folks and dates as potential threats, but I find that an unrealistic hope. And I think it is vital to not leave our emotional and highly personal perceptions of what is threat and what is not out of our analysis. I know, for example, that when a femme partner said to me in poly negotiations that she perceived someone as a threat because she was thinner than her, that we had some societal stuff going on, for sure.)

    It’s not a blatantly sexist dynamic in the same way as described above (with the het guy who “lets” his gf get with other girls because girl/girl couldn’t possibly threaten his dick), but it still feels like sexism at work as well, to me. A dynamic where any femme partner is a potential threat/replacement is one where femmes are in competition with each other, where femmes are seen as wanting to “steal” other femme’s partners, where femmes are seen as interchangeable, and that smacks of sexism to me. Just the idea that your gender is the essence (not one aspect but the core) of your value, your attractiveness, your identity as a partner (I’m not talking gender play here, but real world dynamics) feels inherently sexist to me.

    That’s my 50c on the subject (definitely more than 2c for sure), and I would love to hear other people’s opinions, too.

  8. 8 Rachel
    1 September 2008 at 11:31 am

    V, there’s a lot here, and I couldn’t possibly respond to it all. But while you’re obviously welcome to go for what you like and skip what you don’t, I definitely disagree with your judgments of that certain poly arrangement. Also, I think your post really is delving way more into the schematics of poly, anyway, which is a separate (if often related) issue from bisexuality.

    First of all, as we’ve discussed before, I completely agree with you that’s it’s bs that everyone thinks bisexuals (of any gender) will always leave you for a man. And it is demeaning to women to even consider that.

    But as for guy-girl couples where the bisexual girl is allowed other female companions… first of all, in my own experience it stems from not only being the only bi one in the relationship, but also the only poly one. While my partner may understand that I can sleep with other people of any gender without it being a threat to them, the idea of it is still incredibly bothersome to them. It’s hard to understand for me personally, but we both know this is a very common reaction. That said, I’ve been with partners who want to be Good Giving and Game, despite their own distaste for openness. So they want me to experience whatever it is I may need…. and one experience that a man just can’t give me himself is that of being with a woman. If they’re willing to do everything else, but can’t shape-shift, in my experience, men will make the allowance for my finding another source for that.

    I’ve never been with a monogamy-oriented man who didn’t feel jealous and threatened by my being with a woman (I’ve even had people mention the thought of it making them more insecure, given that they can’t know a female body as well). But I’ve been fortunate to be with men who are willing to put that aside as best they can, to allow me to not give up something so important to me. And frankly, were I in a primary relationship with a same-sex partner, I would expect the same allowance for different-sexed side-projects. As for everyone participating together….. well that’s just fun (and no doubt, the fact that most guys find the sight of two woman together incredibly hot –which it is– has to help). And being involved is obviously less threatening to someone who would just as soon I saw no one else at all.

  9. 9 jellybabies
    1 September 2008 at 2:03 pm

    Aviva,

  10. 10 jellybabies
    1 September 2008 at 2:23 pm

    I’m sure you have more experience with this than I do, but I have to wonder about these stereotypes about heterosexual men being with bisexual women. I am sure there are many men who are threatened by a bisexual woman’s attraction to women. Especially, if it has not come up before, they might be worried that she will eventually find out she likes women more. Not every one is mature enough or openminded enough to handle it. Then, of course, there are those who just treat it as some kind of novelty that will allow them to have threesome. But I wonder how common that really is. And of those who let their partners play around with others, if it is a serious relationship, that is pretty openminded in its own right, and I don’t think you can assume that it did not take a lot of effort to be able to accept that. In many cases, I am sure it would take a lot of effort to accept either male and female partners outside the relationship, but a male partner would take more because it was extra-threatening not being the “one man for her” (that thinking is somewhere between mono and poly, I guess). Any intelligent person who thinks about it (and those people who decide to open up their relationships hopefully do think about it a lot) will realize that for a bisexual person, it’s not that sex with one gender is worth less or anything. To me it just all seems to be so many layers, so many different perspectives, and so many different reasons for what people are comfortable with that it does not make any sense to interpret it politically in each and every case. Of course, it makes sense in the most stereotypical case, but that’s about all there is to it, in my mind. For example, are you saying that you would find it “icky” to play with a couple who were not comfortable with you playing alone with the woman, even though they explained that they felt that they wanted to do such things together as partners and that they felt “icky” about doing it separately, as in they would feel it was like cheating? I am just saying that it can be unfair to simply assume that it is about the man wanting control, wanting you there just for his enjoyment, and so on and so forth. A lot of men are a lot more sensitive and smart than that, yet are still not completely comfortable with going completely poly. I guess I am really wary of turning the personal into the political, because it always seems to end up trivializing the personal. Again, I am sure you have more experience with this than I do, so it is very well possible that the stereotypical way of operating is much more common than I realize.

  11. 11 jellybabies
    1 September 2008 at 2:34 pm

    “And of those who let their partners play around with others, if it is a serious relationship, that is pretty openminded in its own right, and I don’t think you can assume that it did not take a lot of effort to be able to accept that.”

    I meant to write “of those men who let their partners play around with other women”

  12. 2 September 2008 at 9:18 pm

    Jellybabies,
    I agree that men who prefer this particular poly arrangement are probably not all explicitly looking to control female sexuality, but I do still think there is often an unconscious undercurrent of these ideas of male dominance lurking there in the background. People can have good intentions, but still succumb to the culture they’re surrounded by- it’s only to be expected. But I am still as wigged out by the idea as Aviva is, and I think it’s worth getting the power dynamics it implies out in the open, because I suspect many of the men who feel threatened by the idea of their bisexual girlfriends with another man but don’t mind if she hooks up with women have never actually questioned why they feel this way and if it’s actually rational or not.
    I guess my biggest problem with arrangements like this is the assumption that people of one gender assignment or identity are so similar to each other that they could be nearly interchangeable. I mean, you don’t hear about, say, academics stipulating that their partners can’t date other academics, even though I suspect two academics are more likely to have something in commmon than two men or two women selected randomly from the population at large.
    I also think that if people are this uncomfortable with their partners being with someone else, they should probably just be monogamous! There’s certainly no shame in that.

  13. 13 Harper
    2 September 2008 at 10:24 pm

    FWIW, I’ve encountered some interesting twists on this as a trans woman. One woman I dated had the “girls only” rule, and if I was uncomfortable with it at first, I was increasingly uncomfortable as I began to get the impression that she was hiding my being trans from her partner on the expectation that I no longer be deemed to benefit from the rule. With another woman, I had an absolutely perfect first date, never to be repeated when her boyfriend found out I was trans. Her boyfriend was actually a really sweet guy and agreed with his girlfriend that this was an irrational hangup, but couldn’t get past it – which made it harder for me to be resentful.

  14. 3 September 2008 at 12:46 am

    Harper,

    Interesting. In a related twist, I met up with and was negotiating with a married cisgendered guy who was only allowed by his wife to submit to men. He assured me that he saw me as a man. When I asked whether his wife would also, he said, “what she doesn’t know won’t hurt her,” and was surprised when I said that answer didn’t satisfy me and my poly ethics. (Needless to say, I did not play with him, for many reasons, actually.) I figure if someone trips on whether I fit a rule like that, it’s great I found that out before I played with them, because I have found out afterwards that someone was “pretending” to “go along” with my gender identity, but “really” saw me as something else, and that was worse.

    An interesting and related twist to the rules I discussed earlier was my prior gender switchiness. (I spent many years morphing between various high femme and masculine genders.) I was a secondary boy in situations where I was literally “not allowed” to show up as or morph to femme genders, because the ftm I was playing with only had permission from his wife to play with boys.

  15. 15 a_girl5000
    3 September 2008 at 3:00 pm

    “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”
    I have a friend who a few years ago was trying to negotiate a more open relationship with her boyfriend which gave her these “privileges”. He didn’t go for it. She was under the impression that “all men” would consider it a fantasy and he should be jumping at the chance. Because women’s sexuality so very often get relegated to primarily existing for ‘men’s pleasure’.

    “Actually, first off, it’s unsafe sex that leads to HIV. Not sex with bisexual men. ”
    off topic, but try telling this to the blood banks of nyc. i’ve ranted much on the ethical quandary i’m left with when i want to donate. i don’t necessarily grill male parners as to whether or not they have *ever* had ‘sexual contact’ (whatever that means, since the question itself does not clarify) with another man, and if i had, my blood is technically banned for 6 months.

  16. 4 September 2008 at 7:08 am

    My bf and i actually have this arrangement, but it must be different for every couple. He doesn’t think about other girls as he has made a commitment to me, and i don’t about other guys for the same reason. He is very much straight and i identify as a bisexual. what we have in common is that we both like girls. it just seems like a logical thing to do.

    I can’t speak from the perspective of a girl dating a bi guy… But hypothetically, if i was in a situation like that i would have no problems if he brought boys home that we both like. As long as both parties communicate their interests, discussed it and no one gets hurt, i don’t see it as an issue. maybe im ‘bad’, maybe im wrong but it works for me thats just my opinion.

    but i agree with pretty much everything you have said.
    men, and women need to take bisexuality and same sex relationships more seriously. just because they are of the same sex as you doesn’t mean you didn’t just cheat on your partner.

  17. 17 Aviva
    4 September 2008 at 5:03 pm

    Rachel,

    You’re right that this is a post about poly as well as a post about bisexuality, but they’re definitely related here.

    Thanks for sharing your experience. I think this is something we’ve talked about before, and where we just have very different boundaries, but what you’re saying does make sense to me. I just don’t see gender as that kind of clear-cut binary, where there are two distinct things I like and my life is lacking something if I don’t have both of them. There are lots of things I like in a partner – even lots of genders I like – but I don’t think I’m going to get them all at the same time, and I don’t keep a checklist for which of them is missing when I go out looking for additional partners. I suppose my analysis is coming from a place of just not being the kind of bisexual who wants both a boyfriend and a girlfriend at any given time; I’m much more the kind who goes through phases, and my attractions to particular genders will wax and wane. I also don’t see “sex with men” and “sex with women” as two monolithic, mutually exclusive things, so sometimes I’m a little puzzled when bisexuals in monogamous relationships talk about missing being with “the other sex,” or there being that one thing that their partner can’t offer them. There are lots of things I want that any given partner can’t offer me, but generally a certain body or gender isn’t on the list.

    Thanks also for some insight into the monogamy-oriented men you’ve been with. It’s good to know that some of them are making sacrifices, rather than being completely unable to see women as competition. I still agree with what Sarah said, that it’s worth exploring the cultural undercurrents that make these compromises palatable, but you’re right that I should have been careful to talk only about men who felt that way rather than implying that all men in couples with that arrangement do.

  18. 18 Aviva
    4 September 2008 at 5:31 pm

    jellybabies – pretty much Sarah already said what I would have. I understand your concern about trivializing the personal by interpreting everything politically, but I also think we run a different risk by prioritizing the personal over the political (for the most brilliant thing I’ve read on this recently, go here http://brownfemipower.com/archives/2836) I believe there is a systemic assumption of male dominance and superiority that these arrangements often play into, intentionally or not – and that the best way to deal with that is by examining and naming and recognizing it. People will still choose to make these arrangements, but I want them to do so having thought about it and decided that, no, they’re not only okay with it because they just don’t take sapphic relationships seriously – or whatever other conclusions they draw about themselves and their motivations.

    For example, are you saying that you would find it “icky” to play with a couple who were not comfortable with you playing alone with the woman, even though they explained that they felt that they wanted to do such things together as partners and that they felt “icky” about doing it separately, as in they would feel it was like cheating?

    Yes, I am. Which doesn’t mean they should do anything they don’t feel good about, any more than I should. The best solution in that case would seem to be for that woman and I not to play with each other, since any way we could do so would push boundaries for one of us.

  19. 19 Aviva
    4 September 2008 at 5:40 pm

    a_girl – (Hi!) I totally agree! At this point it’s been long enough that I could probably give blood without lying, but the temptation is so strong, when asked if I’ve had sex with men who have sex with men, to answer “Every chance I get!” And maybe follow it up with “What, you want me to have sex with the straight ones?” Which I suppose is not an effective way to get them to take my blood…

  20. 20 Aviva
    4 September 2008 at 5:43 pm

    Linksta – my point is certainly not that anyone is bad or wrong! The arrangement that works for you works for you. I was just talking about why it doesn’t work for me, and analyzing some of the things I think can be happening with it that turn me off. But we can certainly agree that everyone needs to sake same-gender relationships more seriously, and consider them a viable source of anything one could get out of different-gender relationships.

  21. 21 Max
    5 September 2008 at 1:30 am

    “Um. Sorry. I get a little het up about that one.”

    No pun intended?

  22. 22 Aviva
    5 September 2008 at 8:37 am

    Max – indeed! Really it’s an attempt to bring back silly old words, but that’s an added bonus.

  23. 23 jellybabies
    8 September 2008 at 9:19 am

    Sarah,

    “but I do still think there is often an unconscious undercurrent of these ideas of male dominance lurking there in the background.”

    Hmm. You know what Aviva says about how it is kind of insulting to heterosexual women to suggest that they are really bisexual, but live in a society which is not so open, so they suppress it. Well, this is kind of insulting in the same way, in that you think you understand better than the male heterosexual himself what he really feels.

    I mean, it is an interesting question, as is the question about whether most women really are bisexual, but I think one needs to approach it with care. But how could you really know if this is going on unconsciously?

    “I guess my biggest problem with arrangements like this is the assumption that people of one gender assignment or identity are so similar to each other that they could be nearly interchangeable.”

    Sure, that is an interesting assumption that needs to be questioned. But as I have been trying to get across, it is an assumption that has a lot more to do about cultural ideas about “the one man/woman for me” than male dominance. It’s as if you take monogamy, and extend it just a little bit, so that you’re still the man or woman in your partner’s life – something that is true as long as he or she does not date others of your own gender.

    So, to me, there seems to be at least two interpretations here. This assumption about gender in relationships, or male dominance. Why pick one and say that the others are unconscious manifestations of that one which is more fundamental? Or why pick one and argue that the others fit in terms of behaviour with that one and therefore encourage it? I don’t understand this avoiding of a certain behaviour just because it can be interpreted in a bad way. Well, of course, it sometimes makes sense to act like that, but if it all just goes on between people who are open with each other and explain how they feel about it, then what’s the point of limiting one’s behaviour because it may be misinterpreted as having certain political implications?

  24. 24 jellybabies
    8 September 2008 at 9:43 am

    Aviva,

    Thanks for the interesting link. I can see how it relates, even though from the description it seems to be a whole lot more clear-cut what is going on in that case!

  25. 31 May 2010 at 11:47 am

    If I had a penny for every time I came here.. Incredible read.


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