Mostly Straight, Most of the Time

by lauran on June 29, 2011

One of the interesting things about the swinging lifestyle is how female bisexuality is celebrated while male bisexuality is forbidden.

Actually, most women who occasionally enjoy sex with another woman don’t think of themselves as bisexual. They just like playing with another girl.

But for men, in or out of the lifestyle, it’s a different story.

In Mostly Straight, Most of the Time Ritch C. Savin-William and Kenneth M. Cohen talk about four types of guys who have sexual feelings for other guys. They aren’t bisexual or homosexual but they aren’t totally straight either.

All four guys have one thing in common: unlike their totally straight brothers, they’re not averse to sexual or romantic feelings, encounters, or relationships with other males.

In their study, Savin-William/Cohen discovered behavior that went much further than the old “bi-friendly” label. But a significant number of men in the study did not identify as either bisexual or gay.

National surveys in the U.S. and Canada show that 3 to 4 percent of male teenagers, when given the choice to select a term that best describes their sexual feelings, desires, and behaviors, opt not for heterosexual, bisexual, or gay, but for “mostly” or “predominantly” heterosexual.

An even higher percentage of post-high-school young-adult men in the U.S. and in a handful of other countries (including New Zealand and Norway) make the same choice. There are now more young men who feel they are “mostly straight” than who say they are bisexual or gay.

In Male to Male Sexual Feeling author Ed Tejirian questions the line between gay and straight relationships. Ed surveyed college students about their sexuality and what he found is a lot higher than the 3 to 4 percent in the Savin-William/Cohen study.

In four different groups of students across four semesters, 25 of 74 women (33 percent) and 24 out of 56 men (42 percent) reported experiencing some degree of same-sex feeling or had an actual sexual experience with someone of the same sex (after the age of 16). Virtually all of them were aware that their same-sex feelings were disapproved of by society.

Some women had shared these feelings with female friends or even boyfriends, but none of the men had told anyone about them except me. By all outward appearances, all the men fell into the normal range of what is socially considered “masculine.” Their public identification was heterosexual, while a few—privately to me—called themselves bisexual.

There is that difference between male and female experiences and options again. Some of the women were able to be open about their feelings but none of the men had told anyone.

We like to label people and their sexual behavior. I think we feel more comfortable when we label ourselves. Labels give us automatic status in groups who accept the same label. But when we don’t fit into one of the two big categories (gay/lesbian or straight) lots of people feel uncomfortable.

In the gay community there is a general belief that bisexuals are really gay but just haven’t owned it yet. The lesbian community seems more comfortable with a variety of sexual choices.

I remember a conversation between two men in the process of getting to know each other better. One was clearly gay, very out and outgoing as he chatted up his new friend. When the other man said that he was bisexual the gay man said, “Eeewww, you like women?” The conversation ended on that note.

The same thing likely would have happened if he’d come out as a bisexual to a new female friend. “Eeewww, you like men?” End of the conversation. End of relationship.

The good news is that the polyamory community seems to be much less interested in labels for sexual preference. The men in a poly male-female-male triad may enjoy their ménage à trois in all possible positions. Or they may keep it totally heterosexual. From the poly perspective, it’s all good.

I believe that everyone has some of everything in their sexuality. People are unpredictable and love (or lust) can happen at anytime. But, these two studies show us that we’re still looking to limit and label sexuality.

Hopefully, articles like these two in a prominent men’s online magazine will help open the conversation up so we can all get on with living and loving as we please. With more young men calling themselves “mostly straight” than gay or bisexual it’s a conversation that’s just beginning.

Let me know what you think…

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