Are women at last escaping from the clutches of an agenda set long ago by Cromagnon Man’s fear of sliding scale sexuality where we can be what we want to be and not what society and all its restrictive (and self-serving) norms, expects us to be?
By Sam Bonum
I don’t mean to over-inflate my ego (or age myself, for that matter), but I always considered myself somewhat of the Lewis and Clark of pubescent homosexuality in my small California town. I came out to all my high school friends by age 15, and had no shame in the fact that in a town full of summer church camps with a steeple on every corner, I would stay up extra late to watch reruns of Queer as Folk. Like so many other young men that grew up in the timeframe that I did, though tens or hundreds or thousands of miles away from me, I was QAF’s Justin, Sacramento was my Pittsburgh, and the questionably sanitary Mexican restaurant turned 18-and-under “gay hotspot” downtown was my Babylon.
Regardless of teasing, condemnation, and the lack of a mentor who could tell me exactly how to use a flat iron, I made a choice in high school to be unwaveringly myself, and for the most part that won the respect and friendship of my classmates. Though I was forbidden by my school district at the time to start a Gay/Straight Alliance, I was elected class president, I earned superlatives in the yearbook, and was voted to prom court. For my small town high school, I was the face of gay. I will never forget that the week I graduated, one of my best friend’s little brothers, then a freshman at our school, came up to me and said “I think you made it easier for a lot of kids to be themselves here.”
Flash forward five years to an age that will let you be married to whoever you want, regardless of race, creed, sex, or number of mutual friends. I’m sitting with an old friend, back in California for the first time in almost a year, reminiscing about our old Spanish class and the typical chatter over her becoming a teacher and me (still) waiting tables.
Finally, we come to the “who’s getting married” section of our usual conversation, which leads, of course, to the “romantic oddities” portion. This usually encompasses which former Academic Decathlon member is dating which former cheerleader and things of that nature, but today’s topic is a little hotter: the amazing number of girls in our graduating class who have since discovered bisexuality. While at first I’m skeptical to say that there’s any kind of a trend, she mentions three, five, seven girls that have been up to bat for both teams and have never gone back, all from different social circles and walks of life, so I know it’s not one of those “pregnancy pact”- style group mentality things. Though statistically I knew this day would come, when I was not the only one in my graduating class who could hope to tumble through the West Village in a Pride parade (maybe that part will stay the same…), I still felt a tinge of ordinariness knowing I was no longer the shining face of non-heteronormativity at my high school, that I would have to let my freak flag fly among the company of others. It got me thinking, however, why so many girls who five years ago were crying into their diaries every night over our big men on campus have diverged on such a different path in a short amount of time. Did these numbers reflect some truly deep self-discovery or is there something more socially constructed to be discovered here?
I think it is safe to say that multisexuality is heavily trending in the American social landscape, and that the doors of experimentation have flown open (at least for some) without consequence, creating a sense of freedom, expression, and sexual autonomy. Bisexual experimentation and pansexuality (sexual desire regardless of gender identity or biological sex) definitely appear at first glance to be some of the most sexually-liberating experiences a person can experience in their lifetime. To encounter in our discursive society such a break from prescribed social boundaries of who you can love and lust for, and allow yourself to feel the same deep and truthful connection with another human being, regardless of the plumbing they were born with, sounds blissful and idyllic to say the least. But we all know that when sex is involved, nothing is ever that free of complication. In an age where “bisexual” is a label that every college girl is donning on her lapel like “pledge” or “political science major,” multi-gender menagerie enthusiasts are sprouting up everywhere, and in some cases for all the wrong reasons. Sexual experimentation that deviates from the heteronormative structure has led to the launch of many careers and the revamping of many others.
But what have we learned from all this? Taking a few steps over on the Kinsey scale can be a great attention-grabber. While doing a little research on the subject, I found an article written by a group of teenage girls that details their “Eight Reasons Why It’s Cool to Pretend to be Bisexual.” The reasons are: “it’s naughty, it’s sexy, it’s forbidden, it’s intriguing, it’s attention grabbing, it’s cool, it’s tolerant, and it’s a political stance.” While all of these reasons can contribute to any girl’s climb up the social ladder, none of them have anything to do with self-discovery and honesty, two of the biggest reasons I would say any homosexual would attribute to sexual exploration.
Bisexuality as a concept is something easy to grab hold of in the liminality of your teenage years, yet another thing in the adult world. I personally am all about sexual self-discovery if it stems from personal honesty, but these trends toward sexual popularity contests seem downright dangerous and degrading in a period of life that’s already riddled with awkwardness and questionable behavior.
Almost tangential to this desire to get the attention of teenage boys is a school of thought developing that the increase in young female bisexuality is correlated with the rise of young male sexuality at an earlier age and especially the influx and influence of pornography in the lives of young men. In his studies, Dr. Leonard Sax, a PhD psychologist and author, found that many young women felt a huge deal of pressure from their male counterparts to be as sexy as the girls they saw smeared across the internet, and that instead of creating an uncomfortable sexual relationship with these young men, these girls were reaching out to the emotional and spiritual connections they felt they could find in relationships with other young women.
There is even another school of thought that digs down deep to the pleasure center of women on the whole and claims that unlike men, who generally label themselves by the body part they admire most (“tit men”, “ass men”, “rippling shoulder men”… maybe that’s just me), women are attracted to sex as a concept, and for many, it doesn’t matter who’s performing the act. Women respond to the level of intimacy and sensuality in a situation, and are turned on by the act of making love more so than the specific body parts that are flying. Thus being able to label yourself as bisexual is liberating in the search for pleasure in any way it comes naturally for the average woman. Women physically don’t seem to differentiate between genders in their sex responses and for heterosexual women gender doesn’t matter; they respond to the level of activity. It might be safe to say that bisexuality is something contained in every woman, and that the bisexual revolution is merely a way for the repression to be lifted without social repercussion. If all women truly have the ability to feel equal pleasure from any sexual situation, who am I to deny them this awesome awesome right of their sex?
It seems to me, after the research I’ve been doing has had the time to settle into my body and my brain, that the idea of sexuality is probably something that was constructed by a man (aaaaaaaand HALF the staff at Wellesley say “I told you so!”). Though I fear that “bisexuality” for some is merely a safety blanket to cover up other insecurities or make it through tougher times in teenagedom, as a gay man I can say it is nice to feel a stronger presence of those who seem willing to accept, experiment, and discuss in this newfound age of Gaga “bluffin’ with her muffin.” Though the doors haven’t quite yet swung open for a man to be as liberated socially and sexually in his pursuit of coupled bliss, I think the way sexuality is trending will slowly creep toward an overall inclusion someday soon. And if not, I hope at least somebody will be making music about it.