3 min

Private bis

Men who have sex with men - and who aren't gay - are the new sexual outlaws

Every once in a while – usually after a Penelope Cruz or Uma Thurman movie or in the middle of lunch with a sexy university pal – I get the hankering for some heterosexual contact.

But it’s been more than 10 years since my last intimate encounter with a woman. Why the drought? Why have my attempts to achieve “fluid” and “label-free” sexuality fallen so flat?

Part of it is my own fault. My cravings for male-to-female action are far outweighed by the disadvantages of bedding a babe. I find it so much work, producing a comparably small reward. My attempts are rare, with predictable endings. There’s the eye contact, the flirting, the kissing, the petting. If we’ve made it that far, my victims bail out at the last minute, sometimes shyly, more often swatting me away with a, “For God’s sake, Paul, you’re gay. That’s so gross.”

It could be just that I’m an obnoxious dog, but I think it’s more than that. There’s a double standard when it comes to men who swing both ways.

Now, I realize in the scramble to determine who are the most oppressed members of the queer community, bi men don’t even qualify – they’re often “privileged” with marriage and able to negotiate around discrimination. But survey the evidence and you’ll see that bi men – they’re increasingly referred to as men who have sex with men (MSM) – get a rough ride.

Straight men’s interest in female bisexuality is famous and sustains a forgiving attitude towards lesbian flings. Women are often able to sleep with other women without it becoming an obstacle to bedding men.

In progressive circles, a woman presenting herself as bi is often accepted as such. Though she might cause suspicion among interested lesbians who worry she might be unable to commit, her love-everyone attitude is seen as an admirable quality.

A man presenting himself as bi gets quite a different reaction from people, gay and straight. “What a crock of shit!” is typical. It’s assumed he’s a gay man, lying to maintain his heterosexual privilege, that he’s confused, that he’ll end up gay sooner or later. Fluid sexuality is a two-way street for women, but a dead-end for men.

Most straight women are repelled by the idea that the man they’re snogging might have been, or will be, willingly sodomized. The resources available for women who have learned their spouse or boyfriend is bi are riddled with the language of hurt. As the on-line support group, Wives Of Bi Gay Husbands states, it’s a “highly emotional experience dealing with pain, anger, confusion and a loss of self-esteem.” Bi men are given the role of selfish traitors.

The result is that for bi men to survive socially, they need to lie. We can call them treacherous skunks because they want the best of both worlds, but the truth is that we don’t want them to be honest. Straight women don’t want to know. Straight men don’t want to know, either – their buddy’s freewheeling desire could end up aimed right back at them.

And gay men are willing to be misled, titillated by the notion they’ve fucked a straight guy.

The necessity of this double life creates additional hostility toward bi men. During the peak of the AIDS crisis – when blaming gay men became faux pas – bi men were blamed with picking up the virus and bringing it home to their innocent wives and girlfriends. (Unlike the gay men who brought it home to their supposedly not-so-innocent partners.)

In AIDS education campaigns, MSM are still considered dangerous. It’s as if they’re being willfully uncooperative in having failed to choose a sexual identity that allows them to be easily reached by marketers and public health programs. “How do we reach MSM? They don’t respond to those bright Keith Haring colours gay men like so much!”

So MSM have become the sexual outlaws gay men once were. Hard to reach and maybe they don’t deserve to be reached, anyway, sneaky guys they are.

Things aren’t likely to change until we accept that a man should be able to get it on with men – and go back to women again, if he chooses.

Paul Gallant is Features Editor for Xtra.