Sunday, July 27, 2008

There’s no such thing as abroad any more

You may have noticed that I’ve downloaded some of those cute little flags which you click on and your blog gets translated into another language. Japanese, on my screen, just comes out as little rectangles, but Arabic seems all present and correct and Portuguese I can almost understand.

Any blogger who checks their site stats knows that many of their readers don’t come from the country they live in themselves. Most, granted, probably come from the US wherever the writer comes from, but I would say – and I have before – that while 30-40% of readers come from North America, and about 15% from the UK, the rest come from absolutely anywhere. On earth, natch, although every now and then one of those no-fixed-abode satellite services makes me wonder.

So why oh why do so many US writers (bi ones included) write as if all their readers are coming from the US too. I find it tremendously off-putting. I mean, it’s not “this political season” for me; I’m very unsure as to what a 401(k) is, and I certainly don’t have one myself; and if a congressman has been misbehaving in a toilet (bathroom!) I have no idea what the specific ramifications might be. They write about a “we” that doesn’t include the rest of the world and include stats that only apply to the US without specifying that it is just one country out of c163… It is OK to write about just the US – of course it is – but in fairness to your readers who aren’t from there please make some reference to the fact that’s what you’re doing!

Anywhere and everywhere
Back to the “readers all over the world” tack… Of course, I am writing in this blog from the standpoint of a particular sort of conscious bisexuality. It’s often assumed by those well-schooled in such matters that consciously being bisexual is something that only happens in specific parts of the Western world, and only happens now. People might have felt or behaved bisexuality across time and place, but they wouldn’t have felt they were bisexual.

I think it’s more complicated than that. I have written a fair few posts on bis in Times Gone By (see history links, right)but there’s clearly some kind of self-conscious bisexuality going on around the world too. Otherwise, why would people from, say, Singapore and Saudi Arabia be reading this blog.

Now, of course there are places across the world where sex is treated spectacularly differently than the West: Oman, for instance, where you need to be married to consent to sex; or all those countries where sex between men is illegal and subject to terrible punishments – even death. Not to mention the many many places where men have a degree of freedom undreamed of by women.

Different lives
There are many places where men and women’s lives are so completely separate that I would have thought some form of bisex was probably inevitable. I organised a London bi conference in 1991 where a man from a North African country gave a talk about how prevalent sex between men was there. Someone asked him if women in his country had sex with each other, and he said no. The two Arabic women there rolled their eyes at each other. Well, I suppose that if the sexes were completely divided, then he wouldn’t know, would he?

Given that everyone with an internet connection can be exposed – at least in theory - to all sorts of ideas from absolutely everywhere, there’s no reason people from Romania shouldn’t think about the sort of bisexual a New Yorker might be, or a Tanzanian read about what Sydney bisexuals are up to. And vice versa.

Geographical differences
Of course, there are still geographical differences. For instance, when I visited the Philippines (for work, not on holiday) a few years I was totally flummoxed by the number of open and not-passing male to female transsexuals who worked in the sexual health field, talking to born women about family planning and sexually transmitted infections. They seemed to be accepted as women, but as somehow wiser.

Alongside these people who were queer in a culturally specific way, there were also queers who had been more influenced by western ideas of being gay. So we also met gay men and (one) lesbian who saw themselves in that way. The gay men didn’t like bisexuals: more exactly, their experience had been with those cheating married men who couldn’t understand why any man would not want to have sex with women too and considered gay men as Not Real Men. Well, I don’t like them either.

It did make me think, though, that the world is in a state of flux, with western and non-western ways of sexuality co-existing in interesting ways.

Anyway, now that I’ve done the flags, it’s time to update my blogroll next… Getting on for half of those lovelies gave up the ghost yonks ago but you’re still clicking on them! Time to give some new ones a chance.


Anonymous said...

I've recently started a bi blog at Would you be interested in a link exchange?

Sue George said...

Certainly Petra...
As I said in this blog post, I do need to update my links. It's just a matter of carving out the time. I am on a prolonged work trip at the moment, but hopefully when I come back...