Girl On Girl: Why We Never Talk About Male Sexual Fluidity
When Apple released iOS 6 in 2012, they added 👭 and 👬 to the emoji keyboard in an effort to be more inclusive. This was pretty awesome because heteronormativity sucks and I was relieved that I now had the ability to express my relationship status via emoji. It was nice to be invited to the party (finally), even if I am still waiting for the taco emoji. If you search Instagram for 👭, you’ll find almost 46,000 posts. If you search for 👬, you ‘ll only find 9,882 posts. That’s a pretty huge disparity. 👭 is used all the time to describe female relationships, romantic or not. 👬 is seldom repurposed for any platonic purposes. Two girls holding hands is fine, but two boys and it’s gay. The way we use emojis can be likened to society’s dialogue on sexual fluidity. Or, as a friend recently put it, “Girls can hook up with each other and it’s fine, but you suck one dick – ONE DICK – and you’re gay”.
The general consensus in our society is that women that predominantly have relationships with men could occasionally hook up with other women, but heterosexual men stay on the straight side of the Kinsey Scale. We see this all the time – the experimental college phase, the countless celebrity women admitting to their sexual fluidity (or get outed by their mom). But, Tom Hardy admitted to dabbling and immediately had to recant. There are no bisexual male characters in the mainstream media. We just don’t assume that men really go there. It’s not that it’s negative, people just assume it doesn’t happen. Men don’t talk about it the way that women do. But, while we may not see it or hear about it, it’s still happening.
In a study done by Dr. Lisa Diamond, 9% of heterosexual men said that they had had sexual contact with the same sex in the last year while only 2% of heterosexual women had dabbled in the last year. Ask any gay dude about the straight men that have propositioned them and they will probably have some stories. Straight men just can’t publically cop to their fluidity. Men aren’t encouraged to express their feelings in the same way that women are. Male friendship isn’t even celebrated in the same way. We had to invent the term “bromance” to justify and describe a closer-than-normal male friendship. We don’t have to do that with women.
The only time that we really talk about predominantly straight males having sex with other males, it’s in the context of prison. It’s really sad that the only time we can consider male sexual fluidity is in a terrible place where this is no other option. It’s even worse when rape is insinuated. It’s been the butt of decades of jokes and yet,condoms still aren’t offered in US prisons (save for California and Vermont) because, god forbid we encourage that behavior by making it safer for everybody. In the same breath, “Orange is the New Black” depicts female prison as some kind of lesbian heaven. After the first season, I strongly considered robbing a bank because meeting women in jail looked way more fun than going to the Abbey in West Hollywood.
On the other hand, it also showcases the weight that we attach to different sexual acts. When a dude hooks up with another dude, it’s real. When a woman hooks up with another woman, it’s often discounted as “experimenting” or it “doesn’t count”. Think about all the guys who are fine if their girlfriend hooks up with another girl, but flip out if it’s another dude. We see this even more when we look at the way we talk about sex. When we think about gay male sex, we immediately jump to anal sex and seldom talk about other parts of it like oral sex and mutual masturbation. When people talk about lesbian sex, people talk about scissoring. Scissoring is a caricature of lesbian sex. It’s as if society has such a hard time taking lesbian sex seriously that the only way they can is to associate it with an absurd image of an act that no one actually does.
Society is obsessed with female sexual fluidity. I think that’s great. I love female sexual fluidity, too. But, I can’t help but feel like the differences in how we treat male and female sexual fluidity come, not out of acceptance, but from the idea that female sexual fluidity is non-threatening. It’s the idea that there’s no longevity there. I recently hooked up with someone who is predominantly straight and the reaction amongst some of my social circle is that it was a casual hook-up, without an actual emotional connection. It was treated like a normal part of female friendship, like it was just the most convenient option at the time and that we’d just go back to being friends. This attitude comes from that idea that lesbian sex isn’t “real sex”. If it were a male and a female, people might assume we’d start dating. If it were two males, people would make their own assumptions about how long we’ve been lying about our sexuality.
We should be opening the conversations about male sexual fluidity. Males and females are not as different as society thinks when it comes to sexuality. When we can destigmatize the concept of male sexual fluidity, maybe it will stop manifesting in weird ways like fraternity hazing and UFC fighting. At the same time, I’m hoping that by embracing sexual fluidity for everybody, we’ll get to a point where we can take it seriously for everybody. Relationships between anybody should be treated legitimate, regardless of gender or sexuality.
Morgan Cohn is a recent LA transplant to NY, splitting her time between working in digital publishing, writing, and discovering what seasons are. Follow her on Twitter!