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BISEXUALITY

Perhaps no word in the area of human behavior is used with such imprecision. First let's talk about what bisexuality doesn't mean.

In the classical culture of ancient Greece and Rome, many adult men were bisexual in that they were married to women and had adolescent boys as lovers. This arrangement was probably responsible for some of the great epic and lyric poetry of Hellenic times. There was always an age difference between the males, and the older man had to play the "active" and "masculine" role in intercourse. If he wanted to play the "passive" or "feminine" role (that is, if he wanted to be fucked), he became an object of ridicule. This kind of sexual arrangement is pederasty (sex with adolescents) and should not be confused with the sort of bisexuality we want to discuss. Similarly, we are not talking about sex between men who are normally heterosexual but because of sexual deprivation (in prison, say) turn to one another. Nor would we call a man bisexual who has had sex exclusively with men although he is capable of great emotional intimacy with women.

We do not subscribe to Freud's theory of bisexuality, that everyone is bisexual at birth but at a certain point is forced to unconsciously choose either heterosexuality or homosexuality. Freud, like many of his age and culture, believed that the only correct choice was heterosexuality.

Nor are we talking about the so-called bisexuality of closeted gay men. Many exclusively homosexual men pose as bisexuals, though they have sex only with other men. Their "bisexuality" is a convenient if dishonest passport into heterosexual respectability; it's often assumed for business or social reasons.

What, then, is a bisexual? A bisexual is someone who has sexual relationships with both sexes. A bisexual can have affairs with men and women simultaneously, while other bisexuals have long homosexual affairs that may last for years; the bisexual will then enter into an equivalent long-term heterosexual relationship. Obviously these arrangements are fraught with complications.

One great advantage to bisexuality is that it enables someone to play very different emotional and sexual roles. With a woman, the bisexual might be fatherly and assertive, and with another man, childlike and passive. With a woman he might be open and cheerful and confiding, a true partner in a complex relationship, and with a man he might be impersonal, anonymous, and passionately animal. Or he might be tender and supportive with a younger man and rather rough and competitive with an older woman. Homosexuality might be reserved for lasting relationships and heterosexuality for occasional thrills, or vice versa.

The possibilities are various, and not all of them entail a clear separation between sexual and psychic response. Some bisexual men have arrived at a blend of the traits usually considered "masculine" and "feminine." They react to members of either sex in much the same way.

There are some problems in this polymorphous paradise. Truly bisexual men and women belong to one of the most persecuted groups in society. Both gays and straights find them confusing, and their very existence threatens widely held preconceptions. Many heterosexuals secretly believe that if a homosexual could know the joys of straight life he would be an instant convert. Conversely, many gay men consider their own lives so clearly superior to the "dullness" of heterosexuality that they ascribe bisexuality to hypocrisy or cowardice.

Gay life constitutes a genuine society complete with its own slang, humor, mating rituals, and gathering places even, in larger cities, it's own economy. Such ready-made institutions do not exist for bisexuals. They must carefully pick and choose among their straight and gay friends to shape a life tolerant of their catholic tastes.

For some men, bisexuality is simply a transitional stage between heterosexuality and homosexuality. The joke goes like this: A bisexual is a guy who is cuter than his date. Bisexuality can provide a resting place for assessing one's own inner feelings and values, and the reactions of one's friends and family. But if the pose is maintained too long it can become an act of bad faith, or self-deception, and a source of pain.

What if a man who had been happily homosexual for years finds himself attracted to a woman? Should he have an affair with her? If there is a real sexual attraction, why not? If you go to bed with her just a few times and make no promises. Should you tell her about your homosexuality? Most men won't, but then most men seldom talk about their past with women they have just met. But should you continue the affair, and if she begins to become involved, you should tell her. She may back out; she may try to "cure" you, in which case set her gently but firmly in place. If you're lucky, she may simply take you at face value and enjoy your relationship moment by moment.

What if you enter an affair with a man who has been heterosexual till now? From time to time straight men, especially if they are sophisticated and live in big cities, do develop a crush on a man they know to be gay (see Straight Men). If you find him attractive, there is no reason not to go ahead . But if you know his wife or steady woman friend, you may find yourself entering a romantic triangle not very different from an all-straight or all-gay one. Be prepared to lose both his friendship and hers.

Once you have your newly bisexual male in bed, you'll probably be surprised by how gentle he is. Many women train their male lovers to be tender and romantic, and the result can be something of a shock to a gay man entertaining fantasies about a tough, brutal straight guy. He may want you to fuck him or he may want to suck you off. He may not be good at either (after all, he's had no experience), but his secret reason for trying homosexuality may be to experiment in precisely these new areas. He might also be frosty with guilt the next time you meet. Don't worry that you're "corrupting" him; he is going into this sexual encounter with his eyes wide open. But don't expect a lasting relationship, no matter how much fun he is in bed. The main rule in dealing with straight men is: Be discreet. They worry more about their reputations than a Spanish virgin.....

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