Wednesday, September 20, 2006

With his tongue down my throat

Or: 57 varieties of bisexual
1. men who don't kiss men

Picture: Juergen Teller, for Marc Jacobs

There's a very interesting discussion going on at the moment in the forums at A man is asking why men do (or don't)like kissing as he has found that many gay men assume bi men won't do it. Most of the men on the forum say they do like kissing men, consider it essential to enjoying sex. But some don't like it at all. They don't want to kiss anyone (part from their most significant female other), or they don't want to kiss men.
I have found this very interesting myself, although it was not something I thought about at all before I did research into male bisexuality for this new book. It had never occurred to me that men wouldn't want to kiss each other. But then I'm a woman.
Now please, politically conscious bis, don't be cross with me for looking at this. I know it could be construed as stereotypical, y'know, bi men who might be just looking for sex and not relationships or community. Behavioural bisexuals as HIV prevention workers did or do call them. But they do exist. You know and I know they do. So can we not just take a calm look at what might be going on?
Right then - when it comes to boy on boy action, why do some men keep their mouths below the belt?
Here's a much-edited extract of the relevant section of my book, The Truth about Bisexuality, to be published at some time or other. Really.

"Many men report a great deal of ambivalence about their bisexuality - far more than do women. They seem to want to keep men at a distance, and keep the sex distant too - no kissing, no stroking, no sensuality - simply animalistic.
Here's Jeff:
I am only attracted to men in terms of their genitals, their butts and the unique feeling of pleasure that a penis can give me in my ass.
I never even stare at men on the street like I do with women, but I do sneak looks at naked men in the gym. I guess the clothes must be off. Plus, I have to have chemistry with the right guy. Most men turn me off. I would never kiss a man. Jeff, 42
Some men need a bit of a nudge to understand what's going on. For instance, Steve said,
Ask me to kiss a man I would run a mile. Figure that out if you can.
When I asked him to elaborate, he said:
It's too intimate. I don't want to be that close to a guy. Steve M, 45
So is it all about intimacy, then, closeness? Or rather rejecting it?
As one MTF transsexual (who describes herself as a "she-male", and still lives part of the time as a man) said:
I do not have ANY emotional relationships with men. It's only sex. I cannot imagine even having breakfast with a male partner. As soon as the passion is gone, I look for my things and start to say "goodbye". Cherry, 49
Some of my male interviewees were very ambivalent about having sex with men. They said they only have sexual contact with other men if the situation is right. They do it, then say they won't do it again because they feel sick, but then they do it again anyway. Several men pointed out to me that there is a gradation from gay men to really bi men to men who will have some kinds of sexual contact with other men contingent on all sorts of things and often deny that they really want to do it. For instance, some male swingers will only have sexual contact with each other when women are there too, and claim that there is no desire behind their actions. Their relationships with men do not include affection; or to be precise, if they involved affection (their friends and brothers, for instance) they did not involve sex.
HIV researchers June Crawford, Susan Kippax and Garrett Prestage, working in Australia, found a big difference between bi men who had some involvement with the gay community and those who hadn't.
Evidence suggests that bisexually active men, particularly those who are separated socially from gay communities, distance themselves emotionally from their male partners.
They quote surveys that show that whereas only 60% of such men kissed their male partners, 89% of out gay men did. They used terms like fooling around, and saw themselves as sexual adventurers, having also often done SM, bondage, voyeurism etc. Their sexual practice with men was not central to their lives or who they were." It comes from this book.
The men on have a vast range of identities, politics and lifestyles. They are out and no-not-never-in-a-million years. They are part of bi groups and aren't. But they do go on a site where you are assumed to be bisexual, discussing things to do with bisexuality. To that extent they aren't in the closet. Whatever they are doing, they are doing it consciously.

Girls gone slightly wild
There is another discussion on that site too. A woman says that a female friend of hers has been kissing and cuddling her in a nightclub and she wonders whether the friend is sexually interested; another respondent says that is just what women do in clubs.
So, there is some interesting gender politics stuff going on here - the perceived difference between bi men and bi women. Women having a snog is perhaps the least bi thing they can do, while remaining titillating: Madonna and Britney with their tongues down each others' throats, for instance. Girls in clubs looking round to see who's watching. They are still as straight as a straight thing, if that's what they want. For straight-identified men, kissing is the most bisexual thing they can do. It implies desire, vulnerability, intent. It threatens their masculinity.
While traditional notions of feminity have been largely abandoned, masculinity has changed much less. While David Beckham and metrosexuality mean that men might seem to be in touch with "their feminine side" it only penetrates as deep as their moisturiser. In particular, the fact that men in general look down on femininity and prize masculinity has not changed at all. This is key to the way many bi men see gay men: they equate "gayness" with a lack of masculinity, and this seems to them to be a direct attack on their sense of self.
As one of my interviewees put it:
In succumbing to bisexuality, men are surrendering their masculinity. There's no surrender of identity for [bisexual] women. Clive, 50
He's right. And God knows, surrendering their masculinity is the last thing many men want to do. Patrick Califia, actually writing about transsexual autobiography here (and who is himself FTM transsexual), puts it succinctly:
Such books, he says, "reinforce the vigilance that even the most macho of men are encouraged to feel, lest their precious manhood be swept away in one unguarded moment of tenderness, grief, femininity, or homosexual passion".
Of course, many bi men snog away with each other, fall in love, are part of the gay community, are bi activists out and proud. There are also women - prostitutes but also swingers - who don't kiss their clients or casual sex partners. Probably they want to keep their distance too. But readers, this post is not about them. There are at least 56 varieties of bisexual left. And Be Warned: eventually, I will be writing about all of them too.


ForsakenBySunRa said...

Being a married bi-sexual woman, it has been difficult at times, to comfortably go out with my friends...

Let's say that I am with a couple of female friends at a bar. We get sloshed. Of course, the old kiss-me-cause-i'm-cool-and-edgy standby takes place. I am very upfront and say that things could go farther if desired, and then...poof...people get cold, distant and I end up feeling like a leper.

If you aren't interested in me sexually, why would you grope me and jam your tongue down my throat in public...

Phtt...straight girls.

Sue George said...

Phtt.. straight girls indeed.
What I really hate is when they complain about men and then come on to me because I'm not one! Not that they are actually interested, you understand..

Clare said...

I hate when straight women flirt with me in a oh-what-a-laugh-this-is kind of way, and then I discover the whole thing has been staged for their boyfriend's titillation.

But as a very flirty but also mainly monogamous bi woman in a relationship with a man, I sometimes worry that when I flirt with women they'll think I'm one of those straight women who is just doing it to be cool and would never dare follow through - because the truth is I probably wouldn't follow through these days, simply because I've discovered that polygamy is more hassle than it's worth! But I do love to flirt... (with both men and women - I lead both genders on indiscriminately).

Kate said...

This reminds me of the 'g0y' movement - have you heard of it? It seems really self-loathing to me, almost a parody in it's denigration of the 'feminine' - see, for example,

Sue George said...

I have heard men saying this, of course - that they like "real" men, not gay men; or another option is that they don't like/ won't countenance anal sex at all. But I had never heard of it being called g0y until now. That group you mentioned seems to have been started in April this year so it must only recently have become an identity, as it were.
I will investigate...
Thanks Kate!

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