Hm. It says “Yes, definitely.” Let’s try again. “You may rely on it.” There, I think that means “No…”
A couple of days ago, bi email lists were buzzing about the two op-eds about bi men on Gay.com. The first was Ari Bendersky wondering “Can guys actually be bisexual?” — and of course concluding that they can’t, they can only be gay men who haven’t yet realized that they’re not actually into women.
Is it really possible for a guy to be bisexual? There are a lot of opinions about this, but when you ask gay men, the answer is often “No.”
Because, of course, gay men are the experts on male bisexuality. It wouldn’t make far more sense to ask self-identified male bisexuals. Their opinions are pretty dismissable, since we already know they’re almost certainly gay, straight, or lying. It’s far more sensible to ask a group which in many ways has privilege over the people in question.
The crux of Bendersky’s argument seems to be this:
In our culture, if a guy has oral or anal intercourse with another guy, most would say that he’s gay, because, for many of us, “being gay” describes a man who has sex with other men.
Sure, we can say that many other things go into being gay, but sexual activity is what many of us believe what makes up the person who is gay. A man could be into leather and Levi’s; he could really like theater; he could really be into fashion. These interests don’t necessarily make a man gay, though. But when this man has sex with other men, there’s really no denying what camp he falls into.
So what do we make of these guys who define themselves as “bi”? Are they really fooling themselves as they screw their way down the path to gayhood, or do they really enjoy having sex with women? I realize that some people are just sexually charged and will take it wherever they can get it. But I say that if you’re a guy having sex with another guy, chances are there’s a part of you that’s in denial, and only time will tell when you finally come around to the realization that, yup, you’re gay.
Allow me to translate: “Let’s examine whether male bisexuality seems like a possibility. Well, our culture says that having sex with another man automatically makes a man gay. If we stipulate that, it becomes clear the bisexual men, being men who have sex with other men, are really one epiphany short of identifying as gay.” That’s a very rigorous, logical approach, and not at all circular. It’s terribly useful to define “gay” as “all men who have sexual contact with men” and then declare that all men who have sexual contact with men are gay. Consider me completely won over. Not to mention the nod to the typical just-looking-for-the-next-warm-wet-hole stereotype that seems to be the only type of bisexuality some people will concede the possibility of. And I do like the way he asks whether bisexual men genuinely enjoy having sex with women, and then ignores the question as if it were totally irrelevant — which it is, to him. After all, even if they enjoy it, it must be only because they haven’t realized yet that they don’t. That makes sense, right?
As well as being less than persuasive, this argument strikes me as buying into a lot of our culture’s oppressive heterosexism. Sex with another man taints you, and once you’ve had it the only possibility is that you’re a big gay homo forever? None of your other behavior or opinions on your own desires and identity matters because you’ve touched teh cock? Um. I know I’ve heard that before, and it wasn’t from our friends. (Well, actually, I heard it from my first boyfriend, too. “I didn’t know you had a foot fetish,” I said to him one day. “All gay men have foot fetishes!” he declared. Because, um, he was from Texas, and apparently in Texas all men who’ve hooked up with another man are gay. Even if they’re currently lying in bed with me, naked, still catching their breath from the sex we were just having. He identified as bisexual most of the time, but it was a weird moment…Oh, and speaking of my first boyfriend. And my last boyfriend, come to think of it. Yes, guys can be bisexual. I promise. I was there, I should know.)
Now, this sort of faulty and vapid reason is pretty common. And Gay.com is a personals site, it’s not really where I’d expect to find a political analysis of bisexuality. So, while sucky, this is a pretty expected level of fail. But of course, in a space that’s centered around dating it’s especially important to acknowledge and support the existence of bisexuals and treat us like legitimate dating partners. And with a large audience comes a large responsibility to set an example and treat everyone respectfully. Do they really want to serve only gay men, rather than any men seeking to date men? That’s what it seems like right now, and that would be pretty unfortunate.
Also disappointing was the follow-up by Robert Lawrence, which was about as rambling, petty, and illogical as the original post:
Let me pull my mouth away from my boyfriend’s crotch long enough to respond to this question.
The best studies of identity panic show that denialists are the ones you meet later at the glory holes, so maybe there’s a woman in your future. If you ask the scientists, the answer is “Yes, Vagina, there is such a thing as bisexuality.”
Huh? There are a couple of promising leads (“Now you tell me why you refuse to believe in the existence of my female and trans lovers. Do you have the right to define what I am?” “When I came out, our very lives were illegal. We fought for everyone’s freedom to choose partners without straight lines holding us back.”), but they kinda go nowhere. And while I understand Lawrence’s anger and think it’s completely justified, I question Gay.com’s choice of this piece to represent the bisexual community/standpoint.
I’m already irritated by the Point/Counterpoint approach to whether a group of people actually exists. But if Gay.com is going to do such an offensive thing, they could choose an articulate, persuasive counterpoint. They had a chance to showcase an intelligent, reasonable opinion on male bisexuality, and passed it up. I can’t help but think that their choice of this bloggger/article says more about their stance on male bisexuality than even the fact that they ran these two pieces at all.