Bisexuality in The Shadows

Posted: September 20, 2011 in bisexuality
Tags: ,

Last night Tom Robinson, the man who sang ‘Sing if you’re glad to be gay’, way back when, discussed bisexuality on Radio Four UK. He is now married with children, but I am glad he has not presented his story as one where a man went through a ‘gay phase’ before settling down with a woman. Tom is bisexual and proud. As the programme shows, this is not as easy as you may think in the world of Gay Rights and Gay Marriage campaigns. Because gay people are just as ‘biphobic’ as straights if not more.

Over at Rabbit White HQ we have also been having a discussion about bisexuality, and why it is harder for men to be openly bi than women.

‘What is going on with this double-standard of the ubiquitous girl-girl kiss and the bi guy seen as a barely existent depressing weirdo? And, with a rise in awareness around male bisexuality– are we seeing this change?’ – asked Rachel.

One of my favourite comments from below the line at Rachel’s blog was:

‘But here’s a reason why bisexuality isn’t that open and it has nothing to do with 2 men fornicating. Heterosexual anal play. It is known enough that a man can receive great pleasure and stimulation from anal play but if a heterosexual man receives anal play from even the most beautiful woman in the world, many men would feel that is “gay.” Just the act of of having something stuck up your ass by a woman can be considered a “gay” activity. I think that stigma needs to be overcome before bisexuality among men can be considered accepting.’

I would add that I think the taboos around hetero men ‘taking it’ are actually a lot to do with two men fornicating. It is a representation of homo-sex and so difficult for men to accept (and women). And, even some gay men find it hard to ‘take it’ –  once again, this suggests what quite a lot of us have been saying for a while now- the ass really is, the final frontier.

As ever, Mark Simpson is the man with his finger on the throbbing pulse of  men’s bi-curiosity. And, on the reasons for its erasure in our culture.

  1. Simon says:

    You’re spot on as usual QRG, the majority of women’s first reaction to a man instigating a bit of anal play is “you’re not gay, are you?”

    And while you hear plenty of sexual bragging along the lines of “oh, she gave me a great blowjob last night” you’d be pushed to find a guy mentioning a girl giving it to him with a toy or whatever presumably for fear of being labelled gay. I know a girl who was told by a friend “you’ve got to get rid of that fag and get some proper sex” as if there’s a right and wrong way to do it and anything different is gay.

  2. I think this concept goes back quite far–the ancient Greeks considered it fine to be the giver in a gay relationship, but weak and womanly to be the receiver. So there’s thousands of years of bias against gay homosexual sex.

    And there’s no question about bi-phobia, which is a minefield of frustration and walking on egg shells, caused by ignorance and insecurity, among other things.

  3. elissa says:

    That queasiness some (most?) men have to have their butt played with is very palpable, and enough so that far too many avoid medical rectal examinations like the plague.

    I have done my share to convert a select few, finding that one of the best means of introduction is during the giving a blow job in conjunction with the renegade finger. Butt, there is something to the submissiveness of that sort of sex play that some men find difficult to overcome. So maybe it’s more about the act of submission than it is about the butt…taboo

    • I think elissa the two are hard to separate. you have to submit your ass, in order to submit properly, as a man. some ‘gay’ men *claim* to avoid anal altogether and just do cock-sucking but that seems so weird to me. why go all that way to taking on the gay identity and then avoid the main signifier of homosexuality- buggery?

  4. But yes I think elissa is right and maybe one reason men dont admit to or brag about taking it from a woman – as Simon mentions- is that seems like a sign of weakness, of submission.

  5. elissa says:

    It does seem quite complicated as you say though – there was the other fellow, a few weeks back on another one of your posts, who made the statement that intimacy above the waist is also a significant hurdle – suck a cock yes, but no kissing allowed…which leads me to wondering if there is a different dynamic/preference to do with missionary versus doggy style anal among bicurious men. Since missionary seems more intimate yet less submissive – and since it may still not be the preferred warming choice with those having trouble relating to their bisexuality – then maybe submission is still trumped by intimacy hurdles in the overall hierarchy juggernaut.

    As my darling niece likes to say: if it’s got nothing to do with elephants, then it’s irrelephant

    • well, elissa I had a relationship with a man who I consider to be bisexual at the very least, and we didn’t do much kissing but we did a lot of doggy style and anal.

      I am not sure where this is going…. but I think it may underline your point!

  6. paul says:

    Nice to hear news of Tom Robinson again. Such an excellent guy–got to hang out with him a couple of times when I lived on the other side of the pond and he also took the time to write a kind and helpful email when I was going through something really rough. I remember reading that he was actually booed at the first London Pride festival after the news broke about his domestic situation–just amazing, given how much he’s done for the community. And then his response to all the flak by adding a new final stanza to “Glad To Be Gay” was just brilliant:

    For 21 years now I’ve fought for the right
For people to love just whoever they like

    But the right-on and righteous are out for my blood

    Now I live with my kids and a woman I love

    Well if gay liberation means freedom for all

    A label is no liberation at all

    I’m here and I’m queer and I do what I do
And I’m not gonna wear a ‘straight’ jacket for you

  7. Jasper Gregory says:

    Wonderful post. San Francisco had a bisexual movement in the 90’s but it collapsed. Within the political lesbian community bisexual women get a lot of shit, but at the same time it is acknowledged that ‘lesbians’ pick up guys, but that does not make them bi-sexual as long as they do not pleasure him and preferably talk shit about him after the fact. One acquaintance crossed the line in her bad-ass dyke community when she admitted to giving a man a blow-job. It became a scandal that divided the community.

  8. Jasper Gregory says:

    THe term bisexual has such a negative connotation here in San Francisco that it is usually referred to by other terms among which are pansexual, queer, and heteroflexible/homoflexible

    • good lord that’s mad! I would be ‘bisexual’ if I lived in SF just to piss everyone off!

      • Jasper Gregory says:

        You would not piss anyone off, you would just lose your coolness. Speaking the language is the price of entry into Queer space. The words are like secret passwords to switch from public sphere to queer counterpublic. Non-hegemonic San Francisco is a highly ghettoized society. Each group has its own fashion and language. It is like the Turkish Millet system or the Dutch Zuilen.

        • I don’t have any coolness to lose! That’s why I don’t live in Sanfrancisco! 😀 It sounds very complicated. I am interested in Williamsburgh in New York, I don’t really know anything about it ,just that it is a particularly ‘cool’ area and they always have interesting codes and dynamics.

          • Jasper Gregory says:

            I am also interested in Williamsburgh. The reports i get conflict and I have never spent time there. Someone told me that ‘All the boys look like David Bowie’. I am sure its not all of them but I would love to see pictures

          • Jasper Gregory says:

            QRG, regarding coolness. You used the term ‘Mortifyingly Square’ somewhere. Hipster Identity Politics in San Francisco have ‘evolved’ in such a way that to label yourself Bisexual makes you Mortifyingly Square. You may not think of yourself as cool, but I hope you don’t find yourself mortifyingly uncool.

  9. […] tip to QuietRiotGirl 37.774929 -122.419415 Share this:RedditFacebookEmailTwitterDiggStumbleUponLike this:LikeBe the […]

  10. […] am very impressed by this discussion about Male Bisexuality. Quiet Riot Girl (QRG) is doing some very important work by creating space to understand Male […]

  11. ‘Mortifying squareness of heterosexual adulthood’ was a quote from Mr Simpson.
    (with full reference to him!)

    Yeah, I don’t think I am mortifyingly square, or mortifyingly uncool. I just don’t respond very well to any ‘grouping’ and I have aligned myself or tried to, once or twice with one or two.

    • Jasper Gregory says:

      I struggle with the group thing. I do not like any of the identity groups, but if you do not address them then who?

  12. impeus says:

    A friend of mine was interviewed in that radio piece with Tim Robinson.

    That “ubiquitous girl-girl kiss” is often evidently just bandwagon jumping – Britney Spears saying “I’ve already done that,” for example (

    And I can’t believe you said “Mark Simpson is the man with his finger on the throbbing pulse of men’s bi-curiosity.” Surely he’s the man with his finder in the throbbing anus of men’s bi-curiosity.

  13. paul says:

    And oh yeah, anality… Speaking as a guy who utterly, absolutely loooves guys (though not exclusively), I must also say that I just have no interest in it. And honestly don’t think it has anything to do with submission-phobia or whatever. It just doesn’t turn me on. I’m still open to the possibility though, especially if I actually do ever end up meeting a guy … before I die (yeah it’s that bad!) … who is into it, I can at least conceptually imagine finding it very wonderful. But at this point it’s only conceptual. The one time or two anyone entered that region of my body–a woman, as it happens–it just felt unpleasant and yukky.

    And that’s why I often find myself getting uncomfortable with the association let alone *identification* of “gay sex” and anality. Because I personally know of so many guys, otherwise straight, who would be open to other forms of contact with guys but are definitely profoundly turned off at the thought of anal sex. So I believe that this association which is just hammered into everyone’s psyche by the media, comedians etc. actually has a negative effect, serving to solidify the Wall. Ie, “those guys over there like to do *this*, therefore I must clearly be all the way over here in the other corner…” But just my view, obviously.

    • I agree Paul. Though I know some gay men who do not do anal (or claim not to! I always find it difficult to get my head round, as someone who has had a lot of anal) either. But still identify as gay.

      Sexual identity is a joke. But so is buggery which is not very good for anyone, especially men who love men.

    • Matthew says:

      As I mentioned on Mark Simpson I am not into anal either. For several reasons, I tried it it does nothing for me, shit makes me nausseaus, and hemroids. But also can’t even watch it on gay porn hense I watch little gay porn unless blow job porn. Perhaps there is fear of submission I almost always take a dominant role in sex, but afterwords I can be quite submissive and vulnerable. It is why also that I try to carefully choose partners that I can trust with those vulnerabilities. Any man or woman shut down emotionally is a big turn off for me.

  14. Sean says:

    On the anal sex, it is not necessarily submissive. This is one of the stereotypes about it that makes it not a pleasure center but a political center. Watch a woman strap a guy to a table and mount his pole you won’t call it submissive. You talk about anal as ‘taking it’. This implies he’s getting nothing out of it, but doing it for some other persons pleasure. That the penetrated partner is not controlling the pace, the depth, etc. We need to acknowledge that the terms we use paint pictures that define the act, even if it is wrong or too limited.

    I am not saying by the way, that it isn’t often submissive in some way. I am just saying that to separate bi from gay/straight, we have to separate anal from dom/sub. Anal play involves far more than just penetration. You can lick a man virtually anyway but there (protected or not) and he will rarely have an issue, but there and you challenge his identity. Men would be far better off if could experience sensual pleasure without the politics. How did we get to the point where some of the most sensitive flesh on our bodies is off limits. Never mind the interior button, just touching the exterior in a shared shower is off limits. Sad.

    Sorry, slightly off topic.

    • ‘People do get out of this situation — I got paid to write this, for instance. All I’m saying is that the journey is something like trying to go from the Earth to the Moon. By letting them launch a Saturn V rocket directly into your butthole.’

      haha yes very true.

      even that piece today in the Graun about the particles travelling faster than the speed of light. a scientist was quoting as saying ‘if we don’t have causality we’re buggered!’

  15. Matthew says:

    It is also worthy to note that in my twenties I had two affairs with two different women. They both knew I identified as bisexual and that I did not like receiving anal sex. They both said, “you see if you don’t like anal sex then you are not gay.” I had to convince them that I was gay enough to do all sorts of other things. But this is an immediate association of what two men do in bed.

  16. stavvers says:

    This is a good point, but I think what’s been missing from this discussion–and the others linked–is the spectre of AIDS. Even thirty years on, there is still the attitude that HIV is something which is primarily a condition which affects men who have sex with men. When the Centre for Disease Control are calling bisexual men “a significant bridge for HIV to women”, and bisexual men and women who have had sex with bisexual men are excluded from blood donation, it’s not hard to see why there’s this ugly stigma floating around for male bisexuality: the big sinful bummers are giving nasty diseases to the poor innocent women.

    While anal play is certainly a factor, I suspect the big AIDS scare, which has been used for driving homophobia for decades, also plays a part.

    • AIDS will have driven the blood donor rules you are right – I have read things mentioning that fact. I don’t think though that it is so relevant now, when we all know HIV can be transmitted via any form of penetrative and oral sex. But yes it hangs over that particular situation.

      This post is how bisexuality is more stigmatised than gay sexuality, even or especially by gay men. So AIDS and its ‘spectre’ are not the key factors in that stigma, as gay men would suffer from it too.

      and you could say it was homophobia that ‘drove’ the AIDS scare rather than or as well as vice versa.

      Anti-Gay by Mark Simpson, and other articles by him do take AIDS into account, but I think he is right to not always link homo/biphobia to the AIDS scare as it is only one factor in it.

  17. Matthew says:

    I think the AIDS fear is a significant one as far as dating goes but it really just scares off female dates who are ignorant and too squeamish to ask questions about sexual practices, and STD tests. But also women will not be as diligent with hetero men and hetero men are usually less aware of safe sex and degrees of risky behavior. For example most of my sexual practices with men are often safer than vaginal sex without a condom which hetero men often do without mutual pre-screening.

    But the real issue has to do with “masculinity” the very idea of homo sex is interpreted as not masculine.

    A bit of bizaareness though through online dating I got very few dates. And on one of the few dates I had with a straight woman I think she was expecting a feme-guy because of the orientation “bisexual”. When she met me she said, “Your bigger than I expected.” (I am 6’3″ 230lbs) and my masculine demeener also frightened her a bit. I brought food for a picnic and started cutting it with a knife and she said, “the way you are holding that knife scares me a bit.” I left really wondering what her pre-conceived idea of “bisexual man.”

    Of course I have a gentle side, I work with and teach children. But can be pretty assertive, outspoken, loud, with a deep voice. So I left wondering what the stereotype she had in mind.

    • I never ask if men are bisexual online. I just am a ‘F seeking M’ and whichever M contacts me I then speak to. If you only want to meet ‘M seeking F’ then I guess you can but I never thought to narrow it down to that. Having said that I have met very few bisexual men via online dating! They really are ‘in the shadows’

      • Matthew says:

        OKcupid requires sexual orientation when you post your profile. My experience on that site is what had me truly realize the stigma. I put “straight” and “gay” just to test and got all sorts of responses (8 visitors a day plus emails). But with “bisexual” if I am lucky I get one visitor and only two people contacted me first within a year. However the nice thing is it really does prescreen people. And I have met my girlfriend plus other bi females and the guy I dated was actually really cool. But truth be told with the knowledge of “bisexual” before hand very few people will visit or respond. And the reality is I also received harassing emails from a gay man and a straight woman who kept sending harassing emails. On one date with a straight woman, it was not really a date, it was an attempt to set me up with a gay friend. It really wasn’t until online dating that I realized just how marginalized bisexual men were and misperceived. I then read article after article and read the comments and was pretty shocked at what people were saying. Also there is an option on okCupid that searches for “straight guys only” so a lot of women place that on. I then had talked to all my straight female friends who said they would never respond to an ad that said “bisexual man”. I think I have been way to naive about the social perception, I thought “I am degreed, good looking, funny, a good writer, etc. When I found out differently was when I started writing on these blogs.

  18. Sean says:

    Matthew is right on target. I asked a friend to do the multiple profile angle and the difference in response was huge. I was less surprised than Matthew, but I was still shocked by the specifics when I started researching the topic.

    Keep in mind that gay liberation has not been a general pro options movement. The primary rhetoric has been one of a lack of choice. Changing what was once a mental illness (read moral failing) to a medical condition (read harmless physical disability). The argument being that you simply cannot be happy with a hetero relationship. If it was just hard for you, but possible, you would not have the success the gay movement has had.

    The trans activists have a similar debate going over who’s trans enough. if you have any room for choice your not a real transsexual, your just a fetishist.

    Being bi implies to hetero normal society that you can be just like them if you didn’t have this moral failing. Because you can like the opposite sex, your not hetero disabled, you have given in to a weakness.

    Being bi threatens gay identity by implying that anyone could have a choice. Many folks in the gay world have a history of homophobia, and having no choice about who you are is an important part of self acceptance. It also threatens the justification for the rights you have gotten.

    Being bi, or claiming such, is an integral part of coming to terms with a gay identity for many. This creates an impression in many that being bi is almost equivalent of being immature. Adopting a bi identity becomes someone refusing to grow up and acknowledge reality. How often have we heard the comment ‘they need to grow up and pick a side’ in nearly the same breath they say that there is no choice in which side your on.

    Not fully developed but a few thoughts more on topic.

  19. Matthew said: ‘Also there is an option on okCupid that searches for “straight guys only” so a lot of women place that on’ – yes I wrote about that because OK Cupid did a survey and they manipulated the results based on hiding the fact that some people use the ‘straight guys only’ option. I will dig out my piece on it.

  20. Matthew says:

    Yes, indeed. As a football player in highschool I came out to my teammates individually (I was there captain). There was enough homoeroticism on the team That I got the response I wanted. Half the team admitted to those feelings. Our Morman center (he is not suppose to lie) said “of course I feel that way but you have got to fight it.” (he is married with 8 kids), a Soon to be Marine and Army guy said yes (they became completely homophobic next I saw them and one admitted to having sex with a guy), another guy asked on the team asked me to kiss him while he masturbated (married with children), another guy said a homophobi comment I challenged him he admitted to his feelings (Etc). I have been challenging people on this ever since I came out. I look straighter than gay, date women, and when I say “I am bisexual” straight guys will tell me.

    So when one of my girlfriends said to me once during a break up “I want a 100% hetero boyfriend” my response was, “I don’t think you will find one.” I have meet men who have said they gave had no homo feelings – the pattern I have noticed is they are usually completely emotionally shut down and have no insight into themselves.

    So for me my hetero feelings were very strong, I was curious about the homo feelings and they opened up when I explored them. And as I emotionally opened up I found I could actually love a man and not just have sex. But even today it is still easier to project “romantic object” onto woman, so I continue that preference. And the only men I can project that onto are very feme guys.

    The THREAT is many many men are completely capable of the same experience that I have if they open themselves up to it.

    This is where the GAY community is mind bogglingly stupid. First they deny the existence of bisexuality in men, when if they actually embraced the fact they would be actually be helping end mass homophobia in the closet bisexuals who are “fighting it” all their lives.

    But also part of the gay communities mistake is to say that bisexuals are “only gay” because this accusation has closet bisexuals fight more because they fear they will loose their heterosexuality if they induldge in homosexual sex. Or they will be tag as “only gay” so they loose all opportunity for hetero sex. I certainly have lost a few opportunities, but Ironically I actually have had more hetero sex than heterosexual guys (about 20 sexual relationships – yes I am bragging) Women do not find my bisexuality attractive but they do find my openness attractive and that openness is coming directly from not repressing my feelings!!!!!

    And as my lover Kyle said, “Bisexual liberation, I totally support it their is a serious shortage of tops in the gay community.”

    • haha that’s brilliant- Kyle has some good lines.

      But I have to tell him most of the repressed ‘bisexual’ men I have met seem like bottoms to me.

      I think there may be a shortage of tops full stop.

  21. Matthew says:

    Because I never hung out in gay culture that much I don’t think I meet these folks. Almost all the bisexual men I met in the art community are discreet and appear and act straight. And I think these “straight” artists are open to experimenting and some find out they like it more than they thought they would. So the biggest shock in the last few years of hearing the Bailey report repeated by gay and female artists is I wanted to burst out laughing if it didn’t have scary implications. Because a good number of their “straight male” peers were experimenting with dudes in their art studios. They would tell me, but they are not telling their gay peers or women.

  22. M Pierce says:

    I prefer the handle “queer” – is this a residual/internalised biphobic trace?

    But like H Devoto I find myself shot by both sides. Denunciations from angry drag queens, half-jokingly being told to leave a gay bar, being informed that I’m alternately gay/straight [delete as appropriate]. Y’all know the score.

    I concur with QRGs assertion that these prejudices go beyond HIV / AIDS. With the caveat that I still hear statements to the effect of: bi men give you AIDS. That myth stubbornly persists.

  23. M Pierce says:

    Oh yeah – and there’s a gross shortage of tops.

    • can’t help you there! But I think part of the reason is that we still have a situation where traditionally ‘women’ are bottoms and ‘men’ are tops. It is changing but not enough and until people of all gender identities become more versatile, I think we will be stuck with that situation. Because the fact is, most men still identify as ‘heterosexual’ so they are busy ‘topping’ or attempting to ‘top’ women, even if what they really want is to be topped by a man. I can’t solve this problem!

      • Jasper Gregory says:

        Because the fact is, most men still identify as ‘heterosexual’ so they are busy ‘topping’ or attempting to ‘top’ women, even if what they really want is to be topped by a man. I can’t solve this problem!

        Why do you assume they do not want to be topped by women? There are not that many women who dare be sexually assertive, the assumption is that the straight man has to be the toppy one whether he likes it or not.

        • yes that’s partly what I meant. That ‘heterosexual’ to us, still means man on top woman on bottom.

          However, my belief is, that if we got rid of that assumption, and men were more open about their desire to be ‘bottoms’, they would also open up to having sex with men. I mean they do. That’s a fact. Men go off and get done by other men now.

          Maybe I am old-fashioned. Or ‘cock-o-centric’ but I can’t help but feel that the desire to be fucked is a desire to be fucked. You know. By a cock.

          • I think what a few of us have been saying, is that the ‘top/bottom’ and ‘man/woman’ and ‘straight/gay’ binaries are all linked. So if we break them all down, it starts to become more fluid in all directions…

          • Jasper Gregory says:

            I fit into these binaries differently, my desire for strong women is not a secret desire for men. It is a desire to break out of the straightjacket of heterosexual sexual roles. Some people like me just are not bi. I am attracted to men doing drag well, but the clothes come off I just am not turned on by male bodies. don’t trade bi-denial for gynephilia-denial.

  24. Like I said I am ‘cock-o-centric’ – I don’t deny any possibilities of desire. I just am probably biased in a certain direction.It’s my one weakness. (well, one of them)

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