Wanted: Bi Guy

Bisexual and bi-curious men, a minority still in the shadows

I saw a personal ad that read, "Bi Guy Seeks Throbbing Rod," and thought, how appropriate. In our society, bisexual men get the shaft whether they want it or not. This summer, a research team from Northwestern University and Toronto's Center for Addiction and Mental Health published a controversial article in the journal Psychological Science about male bisexuality. They showed porn to 101 men—38 gay, 30 straight, and 33 bisexual—and measured their arousal in two ways. They asked the subjects which images turned them on, then compared their answers with actual dick data, measuring just how hot and bothered the men got with a device called a penile plethysmograph. Researchers concluded that gay men were turned on by images of man-on-man sex, het men got off on women diddling women, and bisexual men . . . well, that's where things get more complicated. Bi men said they were turned on by both the gay porn and the "lesbian" porn (I use quotes because while the film may depict women having sex with women, most of the performers don't identify as lesbians, unlike in gay porn). But the sensors on those scientific instruments told a different story: 75 percent of the bi-boy penises responded to the male homo humping only and the rest to just the femme on femme. This caused the researchers to conclude, and The New York Times to report, that bisexual men don't really exist.

Before you hurl your copy of Bi Any Other Name at me, let's go a little deeper. Head researcher J. Michael Bailey's book, The Man Who Would Be Queen, was widely criticized by queer organizations for its homophobia and unsubstantiated assumptions about female transsexuality, and several of Bailey's subjects filed complaints against him, claiming that he "studied" them without their consent. Bailey and his cohorts demonstrate some of the same assumptions in the bisexual study. For example, about a third of all the participants did not respond to any images (making the real total of those who did about 20 from each group). Instead of incorporating that into their findings and attempting to account for it, the researchers simply left the unstimulated out of the final analysis. The fact that so many guys were not into what they saw proves just how faulty the system was. What if a dude didn't like the porn they showed him at all (or he liked it, but it didn't give him a woody)? In this study, would that make him an asexual?

The study, along with a lack of visibility and nuanced representation of bi men, reinforces the stereotypes that they're just confused, indecisive, or in denial. It also assumes that what makes men hard defines their sexual identity. What about men who masturbate to het male-female porn? How does this account for blokes who only like blowjob scenes? Or guys who jerk off to foot fetish videos? If a man likes tranny porn enough to register on Bailey's erect-o-meter, what does that make him? What about the fact that gay porn is more hot, raw, and full of chemistry than "lesbian" porn (probably because the former is performed by mostly gay men while the latter is performed by mostly non-lesbian women)? And how come no one thought to show them bisexual porn?

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  • Last month, I met just as many (if not more) bisexual men as were in that study. I didn't have my penile plethysmograph handy, but they demonstrated or verified their bisexuality in, um, other ways. How did I come to be in the middle of bi-guy paradise? I co-produce an event called Dark Odyssey, meant to cross-pollinate different communities; it attracts folks interested in BDSM, swinging, polyamory, tantra, and sex and spirituality. This was our fourth gathering, and we started to notice an unanticipated trend: More than half of the male attendees identify as bisexual or bi-curious. Lots of the guys who come to our events are already part of one sexual community or another, but when they come to Dark Odyssey, they seem itching to be openly bi. Why?

    Although swingers promote a free lifestyle, most perpetuate a rule that girls can get it on with other girls, but man-on-man action is not allowed. As a result, there are lots of closeted bi swinger men. In the BDSM world, there's a level of bravado that goes along with being a top with a cock. Call it Het Male Dom Syndrome: These men want you to know they're straight, they're in charge, and those roles are not open for discussion. In both cases, men who identify as straight but who are curious about or hot for other men can't express their desire. So while they may find a sense of validation among like-minded folks, there's still one part of themselves—a big part—they can't disclose or act on, even among their outlaw brethren. Even perverts have double standards.

    It's more acceptable for women to engage other women sensually or sexually than it is for men. There's The Straight Girl's Guide to Sleeping With Chicks, but we're not holding our breath for The Straight Man's Guide to Sleeping With Dicks. If a het girl has a few drinks and shoves her tongue down her best friend's throat (especially if she's a hip, college-educated urbanite) and tells her friends the next day, they'll call her open, daring, a little bit naughty. Even one sexual encounter would not render her bisexual. If a man reported the same thing to his social group, unanimously they'd agree: Dude, you're gay. And since bi men don't consider themselves gay or even queer, venturing to a gay male bar or sex club can feel way too intimidating. Plus, some gay men are suspicious of bi men and may ostracize them for not identifying as gay. So bi men (and women in this case) are often caught between communities that want them to choose.

    Women still have much more freedom to experiment erotically with other women, especially in public. Since so much socializing among swingers and leatherfolk is about public displays of debauchery, and swingers identify as hetero, while straight people and dykes populate pansexual s/m events there is plenty of queer-girl sex, but the stigma of male homoeroticism lingers. Bi men are isolated and marginalized even in places on the margins. When more venues and groups welcome bi men, they will live up to their sex-radical potential.

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