Friday, March 14, 2008


There’s a saying, I don’t know if you know it, which goes roughly as follows:

What do gay men take on their second date? What second date?
What do lesbians take on their second date? All their furniture because they’re moving in.

So far, so clichéd. But what about:

What do bisexuals take on their second date? Their friends, because after all what’s the difference between friends and lovers?

I read that, or something like it, on a wall at a bi conference once and it’s stuck in my mind. For many people, particularly – but not only - in the politicised bi community, the friends/lovers blurriness is something to celebrate. You ought to be friends with your lovers, right? And people who have been your lovers, who have shared that kind of particular closeness ought to stay your friends. The relationship ought to be able to change and encompass being sexual or not.

Then again, you can be so close to your friends that you find the attraction growing into a sexual one.

Sounds lovely. Now doubt some people, some of the time, can manage this (and I’m not even going to go into jealousy, emotional trauma, and so on in this post!)

And/or lovers
But for myself, I have always found the friends/lovers thing very hard to manage. My normal pattern, for instance, is to have a group of friends rather than one particularly close one. However, when I have had a female “best friend” as I have had a couple of times in my life, the sexual tension has always been hard to navigate. To start with, they have always been heterosexual. Then again, I have sometimes felt confused about what sexual attraction means in that context. With someone I hardly know, if I feel a desire to be with them a lot of the time, I’d put that down to attraction. But if you are already close, what does that mean?

I remember a woman I interviewed once – and I think it is women, much more than men, who are confused by the borders of sex and friendship – who said that she felt her sexual feelings towards women kept her distant from other women as she was worried about how they’d react to her bisexuality and made her fearful of rejection. So much for all women being bi! I understand what she means, too, as I have felt it myself. When other (straight) women have said things in my presence like: it’s so relaxing being with women because you don’t have to worry about sex, I do feel like quietly screaming. No dear, not for me it isn’t.

Straight people, most of the time, don’t have to think about this. This is something lesbians – and to a lesser extent gay men - have to face as well. So how do we all manage it?


Monozygote said...

Well, at least you don't have to worry about getting pregnant.

Anonymous said...

While I agree that it is harder to navigate single-sex spaces when you're same-sex attracted, I resent the straight assumption that they must be being checked out because it implies that the queer person is by default some kind of sex-fiend. I like women-only spaces not because they afford me access to naked women but because I'd rather share spaces such as locker rooms and restrooms with people who are built like and have the same requirements as me. And despite having known my fair share of grubby women and fastidious men, I still think women-only spaces tend to be cleaner than those shared with men. That's it.

Anonymous said...

I so identify with the woman you interviewed, the one who discussed her fear of the negative impact her sexual feelings would have on friendships with women. There are certain assumptions about bi women by both gay and straight folks--at least from what I have experienced--that we are all just looking to hook up with whatever/whomever. Its hard to navigate the potential mine fields at times and establish deep, meaningful friendships without sexual issues.

Anonymous said...

That quote really hit home for me. I am a bi-women and am having a really hard time with the whole friend/lover issue. I have 4 really good friends and have been sexual with 2 of them. One has been able to handle it and the other has not. The problem is that they are both "straight" so they are paranoid about people finding out, where as I wear my sexuality on my sleve. Its hard for me to have to hide that with them. I also worry that any women who finds out im bi will just assume I want to sleep with her. That is not the case, but how do you let them know with out making it sound like it has already been on your mind, or without sounding defensive?

Francesca said...

I'm glad I've come across this blog. You are discussing some of the very issues I feel very affected (afflicted?!) by...

I don't like the bisexual label a lot of the time because I do feel that lots of bisexuals are focused on the sexual thrill of bedding both sexes and they flit between the two, constantly. Surely, that is not the case for everyone, but for many bisexuals I seem to come across it seems to be the case. Clearly, many lesbians are of the same opinion and have a tendency to treat bisexuals like bloody lepers! Naturally, this doesn't bode well for those of us who are not of that ilk.

Anyway, I also relate to the sentiments of the woman you interviewed. I am becoming less and less comfortable with being closeted, but I feel I must for a number of reasons. Not least of which is this issue of navigating same-sex friendships.

Oh goodness! I feel about ready to go off on a (further?) tangent!Lots I want to thinking far beyond that which my fingers can type! Will leave it for another time.

Thanks for the thought-provoking posts and blog, in general. I'll definitely be back!

Anne said...

Responding to an old post, but oh well.

I have the same concerns about coming out to straight female friends. I don't always think of them in a sexual way any more than I think of all men I meet in a sexual way. Besides, I'm monogamous so I'm not going to have an intimate relationship with anyone else of any gender at the moment, but I don't think they would hear that.

So I don't tell them, which means I'm not being totally honest about a defining issue, which calls the strength of the friendship into question. Catch-22.

I, who so reject the assumptions made by society about bis, end up making assumptions about my friends on this issue. Perhaps I'm selling my friendships short.

Anonymous said...

the blurring of female friendships is something I struggle with too. I have had at least 2 close friendships in the past five years when i have got closer and closer to a particular friend and eventualy 'fessed up' when i was completely in love with them. By that stage i was mis interpreting messages all over the place and just hoping for what I wanted to hear. All this despite my rational mind knowing they were straight. I am now in a situation where i don't want to develop close friendships with straight women. These hopeless crushes are just too painful, I'm happily married to a man, am 41 and have 2 young kids. Shouldn't I have grown out of all this by now!