Thursday, September 20, 2007

Something for the weekend

It's Celebrate Bisexuality Day on Sunday (23rd) - a bit shocking really in the "where has time gone" kind of a way. So what to do, ladies and gentlemen, what to do?

Well, most people will probably be carrying on as normal, possibly having a drink, or dipping into a box of chocolates, doing usual Sunday stuff. There doesn't seem to be a lot of organised activity this year, compared with last.

The main celebration I can find in the US is in Boston this evening (Thursday 20th) where they are launching a new Bisexual Health book.

In London, there's Poly Day on Saturday - there's a fair old overlap between the organised poly and bi communities, so expect to see some people there.

In Holland, also on Saturday, they are having a Bisexual Symposium.
If, like me, you don't read Dutch it's easy enough to automatically translate it. It seems as if they are getting the results of a big survey of 50,000 people entitled "How Bi Are You", which used Fritz Klein's sexual orientation grid. When I find out some more about it, I'll let you know.

So on to Sunday, and in Glasgow: at the MED cafe at the LGBT centre on Bell Street, they'll be serving bi-pride coloured cocktails during the afternoon and evening.
Is that a sky-blue pink cocktail then, and if so what's it made of?

Apparently, though, Second Life is where it's all at. At a blog called Second Life Insider, I found this.

September 23 is Celebrate Bisexuality Day the world over, and now it's finally come to SL. Erasmus Hartunian of the BiCafe Beach Place will be holding an event from 5 AM to 7 PM SL Time that will include Live concerts, DJs, Fashion Shows, Art Exhibits, Games, and Contests, with over $100,000 in prizes and give-aways scheduled for every hour of the day.

Interestingly, SL boasts the largest association of bisexuals in the world -- its Bisexuals in Second Life is over 1200 members strong., the longest running social web site for bisexuals founded in 1997, has its virtual home in BiCafe Beach Place, and will be celebrating its 10th year anniversary at this event. Come join the party and show your support!

Hmm.... does anyone who reads this blog go on Second Life? Maybe Second Lifers spend all their time there instead of the wider internet world.... When I get a home computer with a broadband connection that actually works properly, I'll check it out.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Bi-curious? Part one

Look around online, through dating and sex sites, and you’ll see it mentioned all over the place: bi-curious. There are sites for bi-curious men, women, guys, gals/girls/chicks, couples. But what does bi-curious mean exactly? Go back 10 years or so, and the term probably wasn’t even invented. My first memories of seeing it date from around the late 90s but it seems to have leaped and bounded into the 21st century.

In recent years, this term is seen more and more – particularly online. It implies bisexuality extra-lite, focusing on the sex. But is that all it is?

What, precisely, bi-curious means is very much up for grabs and indeed seems not to have been publicly discussed - as far as I can discover - except here.Two sorts of (not mutually exclusive) people describe themselves as bi-curious: either mainly straight people who are playing down their interest in the “wrong” sex while wanting to have sex with them (or perhaps playing up a scarcely existent interest for the benefit of, say, gaining a gay audience for their product); and people who are genuinely unsure about their sexuality.

I'll talk about the first group in a future post; this is about the second - people who are literally curious in some way about their sexuality.

These days, it seems there are quite a few people who actually don’t know if they are interested in the “wrong” – usually the same – sex. They might be literally curious as to what this experience might be like. Perhaps – having had a fair bit of sexual experience with one gender, they wonder what it would be like to do it with the other. That’s what the women in the book A Straight Girl’s Guide to Sleeping with Chicks were doing – putting sex with women on their “to do” list. It’s a sentiment that doesn’t speak of any great desire, but rather of experimentation and seeing if you are missing out. (I've written about experimentation on this blog before, but I'm badgered if I can find the link.)

Then again, some predominantly straight people consider themselves bi-curious because they want to experience what they think their girlfriends/boyfriends feel. They don’t have any desire for same-sex partners per se.

Some people who say “I think I’m bi-curious” might, in the past, have said, “I think I’m bisexual” instead. Lindy, who I interviewed for my book, describes herself as bi-curious, rather than bisexual. I asked what that meant to her, and how it differed from calling herself bisexual.

For me, it means that you have been straight in practice, but have had same sex leanings that you have not explored. I think it is different to being bi-sexual. I once said to a bi-woman that I dont feel that i can yet call myself bi-sexual because I have not had a same sex sexual experience. She countered with the argument that the world is filled with virgins who know they are straight. She had a point, which made me think. I guess in the end, I'd rather "try it out" before I make up my mind.

Bi-curious in this context is about questioning your sexuality – something that is generally considered acceptable by lesbian/gay and straight society as long as you come out with a decisive answer at the end of the process.

This is the most popular stereotype of bisexuality per se, indeed what many non-bi people consider it to be. Some lesbians and gay men feel such people are taking advantage of them – trying to get their pleasure without any of their pain and some politicised bisexuals feel similarly - yet I think this is a little harsh. Not everyone actually is sure of their sexuality. They may indeed feel tentative about their desires. Bi-curious is, true, an apolitical definition; there is nothing “out and proud” about it. But so what? Groups to promote safer sex that want to attract the biggest number of men who “behave bisexually” have found that putting the word “bi-curious” in their title has helped reach their target audience.

Bi-curiosity may mean, literally, people being curious about their desires and once their curiosity is satisfied they can go back to their usual sexuality. Or, alternatively, they may change it completely. It is ridiculous to expect everyone to spring out, all guns blazing, to shout out their one true sexuality.

So when, if ever, might you stop thinking of yourself as bi-curious and move on to actually being bi? According to Lindy:
I think if I had some positive experiences, I would class myself as being bi. If I had negative ones though, I would not be quick to discount the possibility of me being bi though...You probably click with some women and not with others - just like with men!

Sites specifically geared towards bi-curious people are:
For women, a fairly extensive site which I am surprised is not better known (by me, certainly.
For men, although I think this is mainly porn.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Divine decadence darling

Like a fair swathe of London last weekend, I had a brief “Sebastian Horsley experience” on Saturday.

I went to The Last Tuesday Society dinner and ball where the dandy/artist/writer addressed us as part of the launch of his book Dandy in the Underworld. Mr Horsley, His Royal Lowness, looked spectacular, wearing a sequinned suit that had to be one of the most gorgeous outfits I have ever seen - like black mirrored water. His famously stunning girlfriend and muse, Rachel 2, was indeed jaw-droppingly, hypnotically beautiful. (I wonder what it’s like to be a muse… do you have to actually do anything, or is doing something exactly what you mustn’t do?)

Anyway, SH has built up a bit of a reputation for himself as being the embodiment of decadence in a Baudelaire, Byron, Earl of Rochester, overdosing 60s pop star, “I have had sex with X-thousand prostitutes” and “my clothes are my art” kind of way. His main claim to fame, in so far as he has one, is being sacked as sex columnist of the Observer newspaper for answering questions about oral and anal sex a bit (lot) too graphically. (But they were the ones who published his answers. They could always have asked for a rewrite.) And the other was through crucifying himself (literally) in the Philippines in the name of art. He fell off.

The reason he’s appearing in this blog is because of his sexual behaviour. His notorious mention in his Observer column of: “I’ve buggered and been buggered by men and I’ve buggered and been buggered by women”. While being simultaneously homophobic and misogynistic, it seems. Still, for someone who writes as if he is appalled by practically everyone, he seems to have quite a few friends, many of them women or gay men.

Not many people can boast (the right word) of being having anal sex with a mass-murderer - the by-then reformed gangster Jimmy Boyle, apparently , like SH does. While Boyle was also having an affair with his wide. Lawks! And unrepentantly taking shedloads of drugs too.

This, then, is the polar opposite of the wholesome bisexual activist approach to bisexuality. It’s the “all life’s pleasures” approach – why wouldn’t you have sex with that gorgeous person? Why wouldn’t you try this that or the other sexual activity – it might be fun?

Certainly, dandyism - which is a growing scene in London at the moment, and one I certainly enjoy very much - has a homoerotic element to it, whatever the overt sexuality of the men who are involved. Personally, I love men who take an unusually close interest in their appearance and could look at them all day. It is possible to make yourself into a work of art: dandyism reminds me of one of my all-time heroes, Quentin Crisp, who certainly knew how to give good front and quip elegantly.

Earthy crunchy me

But I’m useless at decadence myself. If I do something even mildly naughty – such as not going to bed till 4am or getting drunk – it takes me several days to recover. When I had hospital-administered morphine I couldn't believe anyone would take it for fun. I live on salad, for heaven’s sake. I don’t mind observing it, though, from a pretty safe distance.

Not that I know what it is really - I read The Decadent Handbook without really being any the wiser about what decadence is. But I suppose sex and drugs and rock'n'roll, with a bit of added death-wish, probably covers it.
Obviously, a life solely consisting of self-destructive self-indulgence is actually pretty boring and empty. Not to mention short. Women never really get to be decadent, either. To be decadent, you need money, leisure, no children or other people to look after; people, preferably servants, to do the cleaning up for you. And perhaps that’s why decadence seems to be having a bit of a moment: because everyone in Britain now is expected to work so bloody, unrelentingly hard. To be career focussed and desperate to pay off the credit cards and the mortgage. To not smoke and only eat healthily and never take any risks we haven't paid good money for (white-water rafting, anyone?) Faced with the hamster-wheel of the modern world, it’s not surprising that people dream of drug-fuelled orgies – of which there were surprisingly few in The Decadent Handbook.

Of course, much of SH’s decadence is really a fantasy – in the Story of O sort of way. I had expected to feel at least queasy at his readings but SH, for all his claims of being the devil incarnate, or at any rate one of his henchmen, was very funny and seemingly self-deprecating. His book sounded very entertaining; his relationships quite sad and difficult.

I had intended to buy it and get him to sign it with some kind of lurid message. But by 2.30am, when I left the ball, he, his books, and Rachel 2, were long gone. Oh, I thought, they've gone off to put their feet up with a cup of cocoa. But no, nothing so cliched. They had changed into matching red sequinned outfits and gone to the second launch of the night - for his Soho exhibition Hookers, Dealers, Tailors.

Alas, like so many disappointed fans, I left with my innocence intact.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Further reading

Two reports on books on bisexuality today – not reviews exactly, rather some observations about them…

Look Both Ways: Bisexual Politics is by Jennifer Baumgardner. She’s prominent in the Third Wave feminist movement that seems to be quite lively in the US.

[On one British feminist mailing list I am on, come International Women’s Day, US feminists who happen to be in London always ask why they can’t find out what’s happening. Answer, always, comes there none: nothing is happening, that’s why. If there is anything it’s usually along the lines of “Businesswoman’s association tells you how to reach empowerment through setting up a highly profitable pampering organisation”. Which, to me, isn’t feminism at all. Of course, some sort of feminist movement does exist – see the Observer Woman section of the Observer newspaper section this Sunday (perhaps it will be online too, via where a range of young feminists aged 19-26 talk about what they are doing. Heartening stuff. Still and all, feminism is in a lull before an inevitable storm comes up in the future. Politics goes in cycles, I believe.]

Look Both Ways is a memoir first and foremost – reminiscences about Baumgardner's own experience of bisexuality and how it has and hasn’t fitted in to her life and where it does and doesn’t fit into feminism. She also interviews some famous feminists of the 60s and 70s era to see how having relationships with women was seen and the impact it had on those feminists who had them. But her main argument, I suppose, is that young women these days are embracing a certain sort of light-hearted bisexuality as a positive way-station to being a complete person. Hmm… possibly. Some of them.

What it isn’t about is about bisexual politics. Although she mentions prominent bi activists Robyn Ochs and Lani Ka’ahumanu(both of whom are feminists who have edited books on bisexuality), and the organisation BiNet, she never once mentions the Bi community. I find that baffling… It seems as if she only perceives of the politics of bisexuality within the feminist movement. Indeed, she seems quite clear that there is no bi movement, even though she lives in New York City where I would have thought the most casual search would have found her a group.

Bi America: Myths, Truths and Struggles of an Invisible Community, by William Burleson, is the polar opposite of this – being only about the bi community – in particular in the Minneapolis-St Paul area where the writer lives. Indeed, it discusses exactly what it says on the cover. I just wonder about the many bi people who aren’t in that community: what do they think? “Bi people” and the “bi community” are not synonymous terms, even in the US. Of course, he does mention this, and mentions where else you might find bi people, what exactly the community consists of and where it’s going to. I suppose trying to find out what these “non-community” even more invisible bisexuals think is one of my own hobbyhorses. There’s a lot in here and it certainly would be a helpful book for someone coming out as bi or their loved ones who want to understand them.

These books are also both “very American” – relevant only up to a point to people who aren’t in the US. They’re both enjoyable, interesting and readable books, but they feel to me like they’re written about a very foreign country.