“I don’t believe in lesbians” was my favourite line for a while. I used to declare it loudly and emphatically to anyone who mentioned anything to do with lesbians. It worked particularly well after a beautiful story about two women falling in love. The silence would settle, hearts would be warm and glowing from the imagined romance. And then I would announce my position. If it weren’t obvious that I were joking, I would have been lynched.
The thing is, while it is a comical exaggeration, I do believe that women, on average, have a more fluid kind of sexuality than men do. Women are more likely to experiment with other women than men are with other men. What I mean when I say that I don’t believe in lesbians is that I don’t really think they are such a separate breed – I think quite a few women would be open to same-sex exploration at some point. And even if they are not, they don’t get angry about the existence of gay women the way many straight guys do about gay guys. I think of sexuality as a spectrum, and women seem to be evenly distributed along most of it.
Men, on the other hand, cluster at the extremes. The idea of gay sex is so horrifying to most straight men that they either want to laugh or to punch someone when they think about it. I am equally inconsolable when confronted by the idea of sex with a woman. In spite of all the social conditioning in our hetero-normative world, I see women the way I see renaissance paintings; I can appreciate their beauty in a remote, academic way – but it does nothing in my crotch. Nothing seems more unnatural, bizarre and depraved to me than the thought of sex with a woman.
Most gay men are very gay and most straight men are very straight. It makes it difficult for many of us to relate to bisexuality. I know that I have a kind of anatomical fascination with it – I cannot conceive of how a person can be equally attracted to the male and the female form. Not to put too fine a point on it, but our sexual organs are completely different.
I know many bisexuals will say that it is not necessarily the sex they are attracted to; it’s the person. But I just don’t buy that. For me, sexual attraction is completely interwoven with manhood. Attraction flickers to life at the sight of hairy, muscular legs. It quickens my blood when I see a broad chest, or three-day-old stubble. The person beneath these things may be lovely, but they could just as easily not be. In my world, sexual attraction has nothing to do with how lovely the person is.
“It’s the greatest tragedy of our species that there often seems to be no correlation between those we like and those we want to shag…”
I have always found sexual attraction to be visual, subconscious and uncontrollable. I have never been able to convince myself I am sexually attracted to someone just because I cared about them or thought they would make a great boyfriend. If the raw, animal spark was not there, there was nothing I could do to fake it. It’s the greatest tragedy of our species that there often seems to be no correlation between those we like and those we want to shag. Some people tick both boxes – and they are the ones we hang onto for dear life. But there are a great many, the vast majority I’d say, who tick only one.
If bisexuals are genuinely attracted to both – then that small pool of those who tick both boxes automatically doubles. It’s fantastic for them. So why this animosity we have towards them?
Is it only our sexual extremism and lack of understanding that makes us so disdainful of bisexuals? Are we really all so traumatised by the idea of vaginas that we transfer that disgust onto those who indulge in them – as if they’re dirty or somehow contaminated? We call them half-bloods. We mock charge when they talk of ex-girlfriends. We warn our friends against dating them.
I’d say that in the gay community’s distrust of bisexuals has gone so far as to become a prejudice. We dismiss them the way many of our parents dismissed us: It’s just a phase, we think. They’re in denial, we say. They’ll grow out of it and realise they’re gay – they’re bi now, gay later. We seem incapable of accepting the ambiguity, of accepting that some people are genuinely attracted to both men and women in equal parts – they are not doing it to make a point, or because they are too scared to admit that they are gay. They have the audacity to be bisexual full-time, to keep their options open for longer than is polite.
Perhaps there is a little resentment that they can choose to belong in society in a way that has always been impossible for us. They can have the wife and kids; they can bring girlfriends home to meet the parents.
Are we secretly a little attracted to bisexuality? There is a kind of heterosexual masculinity to them that many of us fantasise about. It often backfires. I distinctly remember sleeping with some really insensitive bi guys when I was younger who were quite open about liking sex with men but declared that they could “never be in a relationship with men”. They were physically attracted to men, but emotionally attracted to women only, they said.
They are perfectly entitled to that discrimination, of course, but it is a pretty raw deal for the men that they sleep with. It made me quite angry at the time, and perhaps our dismissiveness of bisexuals involves that subconscious fear of rejection. We don’t like that we are only one of many options to them; that we do not hold all the power and could be discarded for a ‘normal life’. It’s a defence mechanism against being used for sex.
Whatever the reason, we ought to learn to grow up. Bisexuality isn’t awful and we shouldn’t wish for it to only be a phase. Bisexuals are lucky enough to have sexual impulses for both sexes. That not only doubles their chances of a date, but it empowers them to be the masters of their fate. They are free to have relationships with either masculine or feminine, yin and yang, depending on their mood. It’s almost spiritual it’s so easy-going.
Instead of rolling our eyes and telling ourselves that they are en route to being gay, how about we hope, deep down, that we are all en route to becoming bi? (At least in theory it sounds good.) From my spot in the farthest reaches of the sexuality continuum, vaginas are still scary enough to make me cry. But I will resolve to be nicer to the bisexuals I meet. And to believe that they do really exist.