Why I’m Not Bisexual (Even Though My OKCupid Profile Says So)

photo by dominics pics

Saul of-Hearts thinks his definition of bisexuality doesn’t really match up with anyone else’s. And that’s more than ok.

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A few months ago, my roommates and I had just gotten back from an “Anything But Clothes” party, at which I’d worn a backpack with holes cut in it in place of pants.

We had a guest staying with us, a muscular 20-something with a thick French accent, whom my gay roommate may or may not have been hitting on. We were sitting around the kitchen table around 3 or 4 AM, talking about love and sex, as we often do, when our guest mentioned casually that he was bisexual.

Oh, cool, I thought. I kind of get that. Maybe we have a similar perspective on things.

But before long he was telling us about a series of older men he’d dated, making plans with my roommate to check out a Pride pool party, and comparing the pros and cons of hookup apps like Grindr, Jack’d, and Scruff.

And I thought to myself: That’s not what I meant when I set up my OKCupid profile. His idea of “bisexual” is completely different from mine.

♦◊♦

The problem with the word “bisexual” is that it casts such a broad umbrella. For some people, it means being attracted to both genders equally. For others, it means being attracted to masculinity in both sexes: manly men and butch females. Or the reverse: feminine qualities in both sexes.

I don’t relate to any of those definitions. I’m attracted to women romantically, and men as friends. Some of those women as lovers, some men as, well, friends with benefits. I’ve had a variety of sexual experiences that don’t fit neatly into any one category, but I wouldn’t say that it makes me an “equal opportunist”.

♦◊♦

My OKCupid profile says “bisexual,” because there aren’t any better options on the list. It’s either that, or straight, or gay. To me, “straight” conjures up so many notions of heteronormativity—traditional relationship models and gender roles—that I prefer not to use it. I want any woman I interact with to know up front that I’m not interested in a traditional monogamous relationship.

But it doesn’t mean that I’m looking to date men.

When I’m on OKCupid, trying to set up dinner or drinks with a woman, it’s jarring to receive a message from a man in my inbox. Most likely, I’m going to delete it.

I don’t want to try and recreate the romance I feel in a heterosexual relationship with a person of the same gender.

For me, building up a friendship with a man—platonic or otherwise—has nothing to do with the way I date women. It’s not an either/or thing for me.

♦◊♦

That’s not to say there’s anything wrong with that perspective, or that I don’t think it exists. I’m pleased when Morrissey says he’s “humansexual,” or some famous actress insists that she’s “attracted to people”. Anything to shake the status quo.

But, ultimately, that’s not me.

I wouldn’t be just as happy to find a man in my bed as a woman. I’m not going to settle down with a guy if I don’t meet the right girl. It’s true that I need intimacy with both genders to feel fulfilled, but I’m talking about very different kinds of intimacy.

♦◊♦

I’ve logged on to a few of those hook-up apps.

Can I suck your dick? they ask. Are you a top or a bottom?

No, and neither. The kind of connection that I’m looking for with another guy seems so out of touch with what they want that it’s almost not worth bothering.

I don’t want to scroll through a bunch of hairy, headless torsos to get anonymous head from a closeted married man. I don’t want to be hit on by creepy old guys offering “generous” compensation if I join them for drinks or spend the night at their place. 90% of the options available to me on apps like these would be worse than just staying home and masturbating.

I can see why so many women hate online dating.

♦◊♦

What, then, do I want?

I want to have male friends in my life who are comfortable with physical affection, whether or not sexual attraction is a part of it. I want to be open to the level of intimacy that’s appropriate for each friendship, whether that leads to a “relationship” or not. And I want to be able to explore variations on heterosexuality through artistic video projects and scenes.

You can call me bisexual if you want. Numbers matter, and I’d rather lump myself in with the non-conformists than with the old-school traditionalists.

But being open to a threesome with another guy doesn’t mean that I’m attracted to men and women equally. Being willing to explore gender roles doesn’t mean that genders don’t exist, or that those roles are always interchangeable. And being open to intimacy with a guy doesn’t mean I’m open to love. Platonic love, sure, but not the kind of love you get married over.

♦◊♦

This past summer, I went to a cuddle party thrown by Sex-Positive LA.

The host, an attractive female in her mid-30s, apologized for the lack of gender balance: there were around three guys for every two girls. She came around to our group, where two other men and myself were sitting awkwardly around the female friend I’d brought to the party. A more homophobic group might have taken this as an opportunity to head home. But she sat down beside us, and, leveraging her own charm and attraction, asked us:

“Can you be open to physical contact in this setting?”

We shrugged. It wasn’t what we had come for, but it wasn’t aversive to us. There was no crisis of orientation, no questioning of gender roles. When sexuality is couched in the language of a sex-positive, pansexual perspective, it’s a lot harder to be disoriented by same-sex contact.

We’re just worshipping the Goddess, right? Not each other. But we can be open to intimacy if it leads toward that larger goal.

♦◊♦

And ultimately, maybe, that’s what I want. Not to be turned on by other men, but to be turned on with them. To acknowledge that my ability to have sex with and build relationships with women doesn’t exist in a vacuum.

That other men exist, and will always be around, and that it’s only reasonable to take their wants and desires as seriously as I take my own.

You can’t remove the specter of the other man from the bedroom.

♦◊♦

At another event, a OneTaste meetup, we went around the room sharing things that we’d always wanted to, or wished we’d asked for, during sex.

I confessed that I wanted to have more sex outdoors. Just me and a woman, like wild cats, deep inside the forest.

The man across from me nodded. “I can see that,” he said, and he met my eyes. “I can see you doing that.

I looked away. “Thanks,” I said.

He didn’t want to be there, nor would I have wanted him to be. But his words were enough to validate it. They were enough to make it real.

Photo: Dominic’s pics / flickr

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About Saul Of-Hearts

Saul Of-Hearts blogs about work, travel, and community living at www.saulofhearts.com He also writes for Slate, Brazen Careerist, and Burn After Reading Magazine. He’s actively involved in the Share Economy, and lives in a intentional community of writers and artists in LA.

Comments

  1. Years ago I stopped describing myself as bisexual for similar reasons. Yes, I appreciate the same sex, to the point where I have made out with several close girl friends and even gone farther with one or two. Yes, I am attracted to *some* women. However, I don’t want to date a girl. I have never been romantically attracted to a woman. I like men. Almost exclusively. Just…..every now and then I’m attracted to someone of the same sex.

    It’s easier for women I think, because a lot of us understand that it’s fun to kiss, to hug, to make out–without *needing* to go further. Hugging on and flirting with a bisexual woman isn’t difficult for me–what *is* difficult is explaining this to my lesbian friends. A lot of them are of the belief that there is no between–you are straight or you are gay. If I sometimes fool around with a female friend when we’re both single–I’m playing games to these friends–even if said friend is also *mostly straight* and no one is hurt.

  2. I read this, and I am left asking ‘why?’

    You’re attracted to both men and women – you’re bisexual. Your reasons, choices and definitions are neither here nor there. My world of heterosexuality is full of nuances as well. It doesn’t change the meaning of the word heterosexual though, as your nuances and subtleties don’t change the meaning of the term bisexual.

    The need to redefine and explain your stance, whilst somewhat interesting, is more to do with ego – if I may be so bold. Somehow, you’re now like a bisexual, but not one us ‘common folk’ could grasp. You’re now somehow special – not necessarily better, but removed a little to the left of the norm. You’re a bi-hipster. ;)

    • Saul Of-Hearts says:

      Thanks for the feedback, Manvan. Didn’t mean to sound egotistical or elitist. Simply trying to show that there’s no single way to approach bisexuality, and that I don’t relate to the way that it’s presented in the media or in bisexual advocacy groups. I think the WAY that one is attracted to both genders matters as much as the fact of whether or not one is, and I think we need more people talking about sexual diversity under whichever umbrella they happen to fall. Honestly (if OKCupid had the option), I’d go with “heteroflexible” or “pansexual”.

      • And to be fair, there’s a couple of layers to the conversation that are lost on me – as a white, forty-something heterosexual male, I’ve never been in a position where I’ve had to explain my sexuality to anyone. Check yo privilege, Manvan.

        • labels SUCK, Manvan as A white ( for all intents and purposes) mid forties, hetero male, i have had to explain my sexuality, but then again i run in an “odd crowd”, i run in a circle of geek freak and wierdo in the best of ways, artists, musicians, poets with the odd scientist thrown in, and as a rule my friends aren’t straight. a good few of us are straight ISH, or MOSTLY straight as good men has called it, me i’m one of those people who are hindered by sexuality and restricted to one choice of gender, even when i was romantically in love with a guy , it just didn’t work for me. here’s the problem though, the more we try to define things as A or B, the more we end up needing C, and then we have to ask is it CA or CB or CC, we;; it';s between CA and CB so I guess CAA but not quite, you follow me? Labels are great to keep you from opening dog food instead of the soup you wanted, and boxes really do make moving and storing files a lot easier, but people don’t fit in boxes, nor does gender nor does sexuality.. Too many shades of gray, too many places to fit modifiers, so the reality is we need to leave the world of binary gender or sexuality behind and find a more sophisticated way of expressing what we are looking for in a mate… you talking would probably work well, but talking about sex and sexuality is something we here in the us are afraid of….. thanks for the article

          • I must agree with Manvan. By definition, as you are attracted to both genders, you are bisexual. People go on and on about the evils of labels and so many people say they don’t define themselves by labels, but that does not mean a label does not apply to you. Sexuality is more fluid than people treat it, I agree with that but labels still apply. A person who is attracted to the opposite sex predominately but still has a strong attraction to the same sex, a person who is attracted to both genders equally and a person who attracted to the same sex predominately but still has a strong attraction to the opposite sex are all vary degrees of Bisexuality. There is a scale of sexuality where someone can be homosexual with some heterosexual desires, someone can be heterosexual with some homosexual desires and bisexuals are on a scale that can be in the middle or on either side to some degree. People need to accept that there is diversity within labels and stop inventing unnecessary labels. “No Label” has become the new label that people are sticking on themselves, which is pointless and slightly egotistical to consider yourself somehow above others. Gay, Straight, Bisexual and Asexual are the sexuality’s that exist, and there is diversity within those labels. A red apple and a green apple are both still just apples, and people need to stop thinking of a label as being evil and singular, they don’t define us, they simply identify us by something. Someone with brown hair, is a person with brown hair. That is a label, however, there are many shades of brown.

            • Saul Of-Hearts says:

              Hah! I think it’s hilarious that my attempt to explore the nuances of sexuality simply results in more people trying to slap labels on me. :) If “bisexuality” as a term contains at least three distinct sexualities (attraction to individuals, regardless of gender; attraction to masculine qualities only, in either gender; attraction to feminine only, in either gender), then I think it’s a pretty useless label. There are technical labels, and there are cultural ones. An outsider can make a list of these qualities and label me any way he wants. But culturally, I think the bisexual movement is out-of-touch with the way that my generation approaches sexuality — and contributes to many men feeling they can’t be open about specific experiences because it will lead to broad assumptions about their orientation. I think a person can be absolutely heterosexual (i.e, his approach to love and sex is more in line with the “straight” view than the “bisexual” one) and still be open to same-sex experiences.

            • Well Kinsey devised the scale of sexuality to define the various forms of heterosexual, homosexual and bisexual.By definition, Sexual Orientation is who you are attracted to sexually. You can’t be an absolute heterosexual if you have a sexual attraction to men, you can be predominately hetro but you are still some bit homosexual. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kinsey_scale As you can see from the scale, people still fall into the above labels no matter how you describe yourself. You can identify as heterosexual and still have homosexual experiences and feelings, but you are no longer absolutely heterosexual. You can argue that in this generation people should be moving past such things, but that does not mean a label does not apply to you. I mean you describe it as a “bisexual movement” as if attraction was a choice and some sort of political or social issue rather than just a minor facet of who you are. I just believe, personally, that people making such an issue of labels are those who still struggle to accept their sexuality to some extent. I mean your article made me feel like you had issues with open bisexual’s and perhaps that;s part of the reason you don’t want to be identified as such. I mean you say in your article “But before long he was telling us about a series of older men he’d dated, making plans with my roommate to check out a Pride pool party, and comparing the pros and cons of hookup apps like Grindr, Jack’d, and Scruff.

              And I thought to myself: That’s not what I meant when I set up my OKCupid profile. His idea of “bisexual” is completely different from mine.” To me this was you making a very strange judgement call that I struggle to understand. How is him dating older men, going to a pride party or being into Grindr, his idea of “bisexual”. I mean I am a gay man in a long term relationship, have never used such apps or met up with anyone for anonymous sex. A gay man who does something different such as use those apps and anonymous sex isn’t a different gay man from me, his idea of being gay isn’t different from mine, being gay is just who I am attracted to, just my sexual orientation and everything else is just how one approaches your love and sex life. Sexual Orientation and how one goes after sex are not the same thing.

            • And one last thing, yes I write way to much, you said “If “bisexuality” as a term contains at least three distinct sexualities (attraction to individuals, regardless of gender; attraction to masculine qualities only, in either gender; attraction to feminine only, in either gender), then I think it’s a pretty useless label. ” How is the label useless? Human is a label, male is a label, female is a label, alive is a label and yet all of those labels contain diversity. We label things to identify them, you can hate labels but there is always going to be a label for everyone. People want to be unique, want to be different, want to feel “special” but there are over six billion people on this planet and there are people just like every other person. We need to accept that we aren’t as unique as we think we are and move past the need to be different and just live your life without worrying about everyone’s else. You don’t want to identify yourself as having a label, which is incidentally a label “no-label”, but just accept that society has labels for you and everyone else.

            • Saul Of-Hearts says:

              Hey Steve,
              Here are my thoughts:
              1) Kinsey created his scale just when sex research was beginning, and within the social and cultural context of his time. It’s a good starting point, but mostly irrelevant for any modern-day discussion of sexual orientation.
              2) You’re making a lot of assumptions here. I don’t have any issues with open bisexual people — most of the people I associate with are very “open” about their orientations, and I support whichever label someone uses to identify themselves. But we live in a time when people still make broad judgements about bisexuality. And if the only representation that people hear from are bisexuals like the friend that I mentioned in the article, then that makes it more difficult for people like me to find the relationships that we’re looking for. People can, and will, make assumptions that if I am also bisexual, I must also be into the same things that other bisexuals are, and this article was my attempt to illuminate some of the grey areas.
              3) As for “making such an issue of labels are those who still struggle to accept their sexuality” … EVERYONE I know — gay, straight, or otherwise — is struggling to accept some aspect of their sexuality. Whether you’re gay and monogamous, straight and kinky, or bi and polyamorous, EVERYONE is trying to figure out what works for them in an incredibly sex-phobic society. You see it as “struggling” — I see it as “exploring”. I don’t assume there’s ever a a point at which anyone ever has it all figured out.
              4) Finally, it’s comments like these that, I think, contribute to many bi-leaning men not being open about their sexuality. If the labels that you think are necessary were leading to more openness and honesty, then maybe you’d be right. But clearly they aren’t — clearly many men would rather hide it from their friends and/or girlfriends than have to justify it in the court of public opinion. I don’t think cross-examining someone’s self-identity does any good.

              Saul

            • Saul Of-Hearts says:

              As for what’s the use of labels if not to identify people — well, what’s the reasoning behind identifying them in the first place? In my opinion, it’s to facilitate understanding and interaction. It’s to help people find the kinds of people they want to meet. In my case, the label bisexual does NOT often help me find the kind of people that I want to date or be intimate with. I find that “straight”-identified, polyamorous people are more on my wavelength. People who believe that all humans are “a little bisexual” and therefore don’t feel a need to identify as bisexual above and beyond that. Whatever Kinsey would label me is, frankly, irrelevant.

  3. Have you heard to the labels that denote the romantic spectrum? It sounds to me that you are bisexual (or pansexual, whichever you prefer), and heteroromantic.

    • Absurdist says:

      Here’s the thing, though:

      As a gay man, it’s annoying when OkCupid matches me with someone who’s thrown into the Big Bin of Bisexuality by virtue of not having better options to choose from. OkCupid (referencing the title of the article) does not allow people to distinguish differences between what they want from a man versus what they want from a woman, so I end up wasting time (which is where more specific labels would help a lot) reading a profile for a guy who is really closer to “heteroflexible” in that he is not opposed to the notion of casual sex with a guy (and not just any available guy) but is ultimately, as you put it (somewhat inelegantly) “hetororomantic.” It’s not Saul’s fault that OkCupid wants to do things as expeditiously as their software can manage with their fairly crude matching algorithm, but if OkCupid wants to be taken seriously, ineffective matching within the (admittedly vague) parameters of sexual preference is most decidedly not the way to go about it.

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