Tuesday, 22 January 2008
05:01:48 PM (GMT)
Bisexuality has enjoyed an increase in popularity in recent years. I attribute much
of this to youth 'movements' such as the emo subculture, as they--emo
particularly--are often geared towards subverting gender and all associated with it.
No longer is it required for a man wearing effeminate clothing to justify himself in
terms of masculinity, as he can equally claim to have abandoned it. Sexuality is one
of the ways in which this abandonment expresses itself. Out of all the people I know
to be bisexual, nearly all are members of youth subcultures. These subcultures are a
route through which both men and women can express their dissent against the roles
they are expected to play.
A question often asked is whether this surge of bisexuality is genuine, or whether it
is just a phase of rebellion. To counter this question, I would like to ask whether
heterosexuality is genuine. It is certain that just because most people profess to
following it does not mean it is the 'natural' state for a person, nor can any tests
be satisfactory because any results can be put down to the way someone was brought
up. Moreover, there is the imbalance in the genders, women are generally more open to
homosexual experiences, whereas men are generally more closed. How does one explain
this? I believe a large contributor to this phenomenon is masculinity ¹.
Masculinity is a set of ideals and values that define how to be 'male'. When this is
examined, it becomes a pretty absurd idea. Men who are effeminate still have male
genitals, and so they are still male. Though this is not simply an absurd concept, it
is unhelpful in practise also. Masculinity is defined by what it is not. Masculine
people do not wear pink, they do not fuss about their appearance, they are
emotionally 'strong', but above all they are not feminine.
Aided by the triumphs of the feminist movement, femininity has become less and less
restrictive a role, women can do anything men can do, so the saying goes.
Unfortunately no real masculist movement has arose, and so women can in fact do more
than men can. Though both gender roles are restrictive, they have to be if they are
to exist, masculinity is clearly the more restrictive.
For the masculine man, homosexuality is often the ultimate act of betrayal against
his masculine identity. To have sex--the culmination of the masculine man's idea of
gender--with a man is the most feminine thing that one could possibly try to do. To
enjoy it? A crime equivalent of treason.
Emotional self-reflection and introspection is something that masculinity also
restricts. Considering what one feels is often unfamiliar. So it is unsurprising
that, when a man is confronted by a scene of homosexuality, he will not have space in
his mind for any sensual exploration of the image, the sound cannot be heard over the
claxons of his brain telling him that this is not masculine and thus it is a threat
against his own identity ².
I am reminded of a story in the paper recently. The story of two twins, separated at
birth and adopted by different families, finding each-other in later life and
becoming married. The reaction to the man in that case seeing his naked sister would
be very different to the reaction of a brother seeing his naked sister when they had
grown up together. There are similar occurrences today with cousins. These examples
firmly support the view that how you perceive someone has an ability to override your
view of them sexually. A man who has grown up in a strictly masculine environment is
less likely to find a man attractive than one brought up in a more feminine
environment, because the former sees men sexually in a different way to the latter.
When considered, this becomes obvious.
Moving on to another point about heterosexuality, and even homosexuality. A man might
ask himself what part of a woman's body he finds attractive, he might say--as a
friend of mine has--that he finds legs the most attractive. I asked him what made a
woman's legs more attractive than a man's legs, to which he replied that they were
hairless and the muscle structure was different. This is not certainly not always the
case, since women do not have naturally bare legs and some men's legs may appear very
similar to women's legs. I asked him what the difference was, and he replied that he
could just tell.
When one considers all the places between the genders (transsexuals, intersexed
people), the boundaries between sexes become more and more fuzzy. Men and women
rarely choose genitalia as the primary attractive aspect of their partners, but
various other things. Their eyes, their face, all of these different things that
could occur in a male or female. If a straight man comes across a feminine looking
man, why would he not be attracted? The idea that all of these different aspects of
what we find attractive--eyes, facial structure, leg muscle shape--are encoded in DNA
is also absurd, especially considering that these traits are obviously not
The conclusion of this thought experiment, to the extent that there is one, is that
it is not simply sex that we find attractive, else straight men would find all women
attractive. It is a combination of all different aspects, defined by past experiences
(as people's view of what is attractive can change often). This leads us to the final
conclusion that the notion of heterosexuality as a default, or perhaps even existing
at all, is false. When we accept that sex itself is not solid, all concepts relying
on it (i.e. absolute sexuality) also become fluid.
So why are seemingly most people heterosexual? Why does bisexuality have such a high
'drop-out' rate? It could be for many reasons.
Firstly, the heterosexual-centric society that we live in will certainly play a role.
Where the only sexuality that is catered for in mainstream society is
heterosexuality, the pressure is often intense. People who are resilient to this,
members of subcultures for example, will show higher rates of bisexuality, as is
Secondly, the emphasis in society is that you must be either homosexual,
heterosexual, or (recently) bisexual. If you are a woman who finds more men
attractive than you do women, you must be straight. This is why many people are seen
to be just 'experimenting' or 'going through a phase', and they will find their
'true' sexuality later. The pressure to 'grow up' and find your 'true' sexuality is
intense, otherwise how will people know what you are? Many people do not even
consider that they could abandon the idea of sexuality in its entirety and follow
what they feel. There has been some advancement in subcultures where someone might be
seen as bisexual but leaning towards men, or heterosexual but I'd go gay for
whomever. Nevertheless, this is a restrictive western 'trichotomy', many people end
up erring on the side of heterosexuality, since it is seen as the most 'likely' or
Finally, there is the fact that--by associating bisexuality with the youth and
subcultures--when someone feels the pressure to 'grow up', they may discard their
former folly and move towards the nuclear family dream (indeed, many cannot concieve
of a life outside of this ideal). Because the youth are open to new ideas, they are
often identified with immaturity and discarded to become more like their parents.
Though this essay may seem prescriptive, it does so for the purpose of removing
prescriptions. Some of my assumptions may not apply to you, but some may, and this--I
hope--will be enough to sew the seeds of doubt, so that you may explore your own
sexual preferences. Without this shove in the direction of self-discovery by my
mother and a happy coincidence, I am fairly sure I would not be in this position
Now go make out! :D
¹ You might notice that this essay is primarily concerned with the male perspective.
This is because men have far more difficulty with realising their sexuality
than women do, due to the ideological control of masculinity. In addition, I am male,
so I have more of an insider perspective on how masculinity functions.
² Unless, of course, he is drunk. The oft-heard explanation of drunkenness for
sexual 'misbehaviour' ignores the fact that alcohol removes inhibitions, it doesn't
create new desires.