by Bill Brent, excerpted from Black Sheets
"If God had meant people to be bisexual, there would
be two sexes."
"To make a sexual choice which sexually rules out
half the human race seem[s] idiotic."
I distrust absolutes. I believe that rigid heterosexuality or homosexuality is largely a product of social programming and has only peripherally to do with innate desire. Bisexuals take a lot of flak for being "confused" about their sexuality, yet this particular bisexual is far more confused about the sexuality of others. I am confused by men who will suck a breast yet steadfastly refuse to suck a penis, as well as those who will fuck a man's butt yet not a woman's vagina. As one of my friends is fond of saying, "Parts is parts." Of course, we are more than parts. But don't these rigidly programmed people ever observe that all these acts are about equally as easy, physiologically speaking?
Desire is blind to social programming. In an all-male setting, such as prison or the military, men have sex together, although they may identify as heterosexual and have heterosexual sex on the outside. Sex is a basic and driving force, and when options are limited, the choice between male and female partners changes to a choice between sex and abstinence. And, yes, in an all-male setting, some men will view abstinence from sex (partnered sex, at least) as a test of will and an indicator of strength. Yet if same-sex intimacy is so unnatural, then why does it take will and strength to abstain from it? This in itself implies that these men are making the "unnatural" choice to abstain from copulation with the pool of available partners. Furthermore, why do the powers-that-be in these institutions enforce such harsh penalties for same-sex acts if not to curb the natural impulse?
One effective way to oppress a group of individuals is to keep them apart. When people come together for sex, they tend to come together for other goals in common as well. This is known as forming a relationship. All over the gay world, buttons and bumperstickers exhort me to "Celebrate Diversity." Like most good slogans, this one is catchy yet simple-minded, ignoring the underlying complexity of the situation it purports to address.
I do not believe that everyone is innately bisexual, but I do believe that most of us are more flexible— sexually diverse— than we give ourselves credit for. Whether we act on that diversity is a different issue than whether that potential exists within us. Like any muscle, it strengthens with exercise. Now, I'm not ordering you to go forth in search of sex with the gender opposite your normal gravitational pull, but I have always questioned the vehemence with which some individuals cling to their own side of the pond, whether gay or straight.
Same-sex-oriented individuals frequently express to me that they are repulsed or intimidated at the prospect of getting it on with the opposite sex. Throughout my life, heterosexuals have expressed the reverse sentiment as well (though often in far less polite terms!). From whence springs this fear? Is it a fear to show our vulnerability by admitting that we don't know how to do something? Dealing with an unfamiliar form of sexual energy—fear of the unknown. Let's admit that we all started out having sex that way. Our early negative sexual experiences often cloud our perceptions of sexuality for a lifetime. (Craig Moskowitz's "The First Time," p. 41, touches on this phenomenon.) Then there's often the fear of stigma—of losing one's straight privilege or queer "credentials." (Strangely, this seems to be a more poignant issue in the lesbian community than with gay men. Most of my gay male friends simply don't want to acknowledge my female-attracted side, or won't take it seriously.) Then there's fear of entrapment—gay men may fear that, once fucked, a woman will try to "trap" them into commitment; lesbians may fear that a man will use sex as a way to dominate and abuse them; straights fear that they "can never go back." All of these are legitimate concerns (and there are certainly many others), but left unaddressed, these fears often become overriding ones that keep us apart.
Regardless of orientation, I believe that access to same-gender space is vital. There are certain kinds of affirmation that can only be received from one who understands intimately the complexities of one's own gender—and I extend this to FTMs, MTFs, hermaphrodites, and all the other "in-betweens." But mixed-gender space is equally important. We are diminished when we do not appreciate, or refuse to appreciate, gender difference.
I organize both mixed-gender and all-male safer-sex parties, and I also field calls for a number of diverse groups who sponsor similar events. Lately I've gotten complaints about the mixed-gender parties from gay men. Involving women, of course. One gay friend says that "heterosexual" couples have been making too much noise in the basement (while playing or not playing, I wonder!). Another tells me that the women he sees at the parties are too fat to be sexually attractive.
Therein lies a whole other essay, and I leave it to Johanne Blank to address that issue in her thought-provoking "Fat Fucks," p. 48. Yet I also intuit that my friend is using the fatness issue to mask his quite genuine apprehension—in any case, women in every weight range attend the parties.
My intuition also tells me that this is the beginning of the end. When the gay men become disenchanted with a mixed-orientation party, they move on, which signals the beginning of the heterosexual predominance. Once the men present won't be seen taking a dick in their mouths, the group dynamic shifts, becoming more traditional, more predictable, less diverse. The host either accepts this or reconstitutes the guest list. Such is the life cycle of most mixed sex spaces.
It pisses me off that many gay men have such an elitist attitude—you'd think they knew better. Yes, there's the undeniable reality that women smell, feel, taste, look, and cum differently than the men they're used to. But in San Francisco, they have plenty of access to male-only parties, so I don't like being knocked for mixing things up. As if to illustrate my point as I'm composing this, the phone rings:
"I heard you have a sex party coming up."
These are the worst calls I get, where the caller lacks even the social skills or discretion to introduce himself and ask if he's reached the right party (no pun intended). How does he know who will pick up the phone on the other end?
Sometimes I can be juggling several parties at once. "What are you looking for?" I ask noncommittally.
"Well, I wrote something down about parties on Saturdays, but I can't come to the weeknight parties because I work."
"Well, there's a pansexual party coming up this Saturday."
"‘Pansexual?' What's that?"
"It means mixed-orientation, mixed-gender."
"Like with women?" Apparently the concept is distasteful to him.
"Yeah," I say enthusiastically. Might as well scare him off quickly.
"I can't do that," he mutters.
"‘Bye." I cheerfully hang up.
I have also gotten some wildly affirmative reports from gay-identified men who are surprised at how much they enjoy themselves in a mixed-gender playspace. Occasionally, one of them confides that, to his amazement, he enjoys the mixed-gender energy more than the all-male events'.
Is bisexuality, as some have said, an orientation beyond gay or straight, rather than between them? (See Carol Queen's essay, p. 31, for some insight.) Is our culture really "celebrating diversity," or just becoming more marginalized and alienated? I think that both of these forces are pulling on each of us simultaneously. When I see folks of all stripes playing side-by-side at a sex party, I see us celebrating diversity in a very genuine way, yet one that would shock the gay mainstreamers—not to mention the larger American melting-pot.
There is no correct way to be diverse! Is that not obvious?
I am beginning to view any act that confronts marginalization and alienation as subversive, since we are working counter to the purposes of the marketeers who would rule this culture through segmentation. Therein lies a conflict of interests, and the battle is upon us. It's really the same old story—does the individual rule society, or does society rule the individual?
Bisexuals and bi-supporters hold within our grasp a unique opportunity to challenge conformity and celebrate diversity in a truly fundamental way—through the most intimate of alliances. Sex grants each of us affirmation of our lives and our worth through intense, direct experience, unmediated by any commercial or other controlling interests. This is the real subversive power of sex at the millennium.
The challenge for each of us is to decide whether we will retreat into a tightly focused special-interest group or grasp the opportunity for exploration and development. Each option has its dangers and advantages. The challenge and excitement of traveling to new sexual places is upon us, but it is up to each of us to choose. I choose to explore.
copyright © 1998 Black Books. Written by Bill Brent. Reprinted by permission of the author. Excerpted from Black Sheets Number 14, "Damn Bisexuals! Part Two"
Order Your Copy of Black Sheets Magazine Today!
Back to Mind Caviar
Back to Bi-Articles
Back to A Bi-Friendly Place Main Page
Join Our Free Bi Discussion Group