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.


Dandelion said...

Some lesbians and gay men feel such people are taking advantage of them

I don't think it's just the pleasure/pain issue that makes it feel like taking advantage. It's the tokenism of the whole approach. Which I think is summed up in the horribly naiive words of Lindy:

You probably click with some women and not with others - just like with men!

Gee-whiz, who knew?!

Rather than seeing a potential sex partner as a human being with dignity and feelings, "bi-curious" seems to suggest the using of people to test out one's sexuality, with little regard for the real emotions and feelings of the people who they hope to play with.

It looks like using being "unsure" of one's sexuality as an excuse for using people for sex. If there's nothing wrong with it, why do they need an excuse? Because wanting to have sex with someone just to see what it's like is not quite as edifying as wanting to have sex with someone because you really like and fancy them for WHO they are, as opposed to WHAT they are.

Wanting to have sex with someone for no reason other than their gender is just...icky.

Sue George said...

It might be icky, but it is what some people do, isn't it?

And when women have tried to do it with me, I've been really pissed off. I feel strongly (very strongly) that people who are "seeing what it's like" should only be doing that with other people in the same situation.

If two het people of the same sex just "try it out", then fair play to them. The more the merrier. But if they are doing it with someone who has deep and genuine same-sex feelings, then they deserve to be sent away with a flea in their ear.

On the other hand, plenty of people have sex with people for what they are, rather than who they are. Casual/recreational sex is necessarily about that, surely, and that's really widespread at the moment.

Your response made me wonder if I was being too "lenient" but I think perhaps in this post I have mixed up being unsure with wanting to try out same-sex to the extent that pretty much anyone will do.

Certainly, some people say they are bi-curious precisely to use people for sex (see a post I haven't written yet!) but by and large they do seem to use people in the same situation (through online sex sites and so forth).

Dandelion said...

Well, I don't know. I think most people who do casual sex, at least do it with someone they fancy. So it is about who they are, not just what they are. The person that they do it with can at least take a compliment from it in that regard.

To talk about being "unsure" of one's sexuality sounds all well and good, but what does it boil down to in an actual situation? Does it mean one is "unsure" as to whether one fancies the person? In which case, why have sex with them? And in which case, is the common practice to be upfront about one's "uncertainty"?

"I don't know whether I fancy you or not, but will you have sex with me anyway?" dosn't strike me as a terribly good chat-up line.

I think the two things you mention mixing up are mixed up because they are, if not identical, exceedingly similar.

I quite agree it should be people in the same situation, and it should certainly be honest, otherwise it's just disrespectful and downright rude.

Anonymous said...

I consider myself bicurious because as a guy I -know- I like being with another man, but I don't have the balls [sic!] to pick up a guy (I have had a few experiences). If the right guy came around, no problem. But where I turn, it's all about hard gay sex (yuck) and gay bars seem more like meat markets. sigh. so if I can unlock how to find meaningful relationships to engage in, I'll consider myself curious...

Anonymous said...

Great article. Answered many questions I have had. Thanks for being so open.

Anonymous said...

Bi-curious as a term doesn't make sense to me, I mean where are the terms homo/lesbi/hetero curious? Also you know if you're attracted to somebody or not. So if a woman for example, sleeps with/dates/has a relationship with another woman, how is she different from bisexual and lesbian women?

Anonymous said...

Great article... my questions have been answered and now i know what people want when they look for "sex" on the web...

Btw i'm a closeted gay man and i hate the fact that I cannot find the right person to be with.. like someone said.. if they know you are gay they just want hard core sex.. if not then you are being used... It's just a mess!

bresea said...

The newest post over on the Lovingly Shared blog is all about bisexuality and lesbianism. She has some real insight into female sexuality that all women should read and men should be aware of.