Monday, January 4, 2010


By Mister Curie

One clue to my-sexuality not being strictly heterosexuality was alluded to by Madam Curie in a post that has now disappeared by her request, but will probably reappear at some point in time. I had been reading a blog post about human sexuality which cited a scientific article stating that while women could be bisexual, men were primarily either heterosexual or homosexual and that they largely lacked the capacity to be bisexual. Interestingly, I followed links in the comments on my wife's Jan 1 blog post to a very similar article, titled Straight, Gay or Lying? Bisexuality Revisited.

From the article:
In the new study, a team of psychologists directly measured genital arousal patterns in response to images of men and women. . . .Using a sensor to monitor sexual arousal, the researchers found what they expected: gay men showed arousal to images of men and little arousal to images of women, and heterosexual men showed arousal to women but not to men. . . .The psychologists found that men who identified themselves as bisexual were in fact exclusively aroused by either one sex or the other, usually by other men. . . .about three-quarters of the group had arousal patterns identical to those of gay men; the rest were indistinguishable from heterosexuals.
The titled summed up the studies findings, "You're either gay, straight or lying". I knew that I had experienced some attraction for the male body, but I had always explained it away somehow. Now, science seemed to be telling me that if I experienced arousal in response to the male body, I could no longer be grouped with the heterosexuals (as a scientist myself, I tend to listen to science). The implications of the study really bothered me (I was still TBM at the time) and I thought about it a lot and looked into other studies, most with similar findings. Eventually I let it go by focusing on my Celestial marriage, knowing that I found it fully satisfying, and self-righteously congratulating myself that despite any feelings I had, I could be exhalted in the Celestial Kingdom because I hadn't acted on those feelings, and now I could see that acting on homosexuality really was a "choice." Paradoxically, at the same time I refused to believe I was homosexual (hey, we all know TBMs aren't always logical) so it didn't matter anyways.

Since the disaffection, I've had to readdress my understanding and stance on these issues. I wonder if I am bisexual, despite what science is currently seeming to stay. While visiting another blog earlier today, I came across the joking response to professed bisexuality of "Bi now, gay later." (Obviously referencing "Buy now, pay later"). So what is bisexuality and does it really exist?

From Wikipedia:
Bisexuality is sexual behavior or an orientation involving physical or emotional attraction to both males and females. . . .Despite misconceptions, bisexuality does not require that a person be attracted equally to both sexes. In fact, people who have a distinct but not exclusive preference for one sex over the other may still identify themselves as bisexual.
Of course, a lot of this could just be labels and their inevitable breakdown in the messiness of life. As I learned in medical school and as Wikipedia notes later:
Sexual attraction and/or behavior may not necessarily be consistent with identity. Some individuals may identify themselves as homosexual or bisexual without having had any sexual experience. Others have had homosexual experiences but do not consider themselves to be gay, lesbian, or bisexual.
So, am I just lying when I consider myself bisexual? Or is "bisexual" inevitably as flawed a label as any that we try to use when understanding life? I can't deny my attraction for the male body, but certainly nearly 6 years of sexual attraction for my wife and a fantastic sex life where I have never had to resort to male imagery in order to perform (and the fact that I never thought of myself as homosexual) would argue for some level of bisexuality. However, my only response to the poster on another blog who said "Bi now, gay later" was "could be, could be . . ."


  1. Well, I think you are strongly downplaying your attraction to the male anatomy, but that's ok :-)

  2. when I read the gay, straight, or lying article, the only real impression I got was that science must be lightyears away from truly understanding sexuality and how to measure it for either gender. I did NOT get the impression: "Oh, I guess that means all male bisexuals donlt really exist..."

    It is one of my pet peeves about science. Since science is not perfect...good science is EXPECTED to upend previous science...I think people often get in with science fads.

  3. I can still read the deleted post on my Reader. I quite enjoyed it and I hope you'll repost it in the future. This is a pet topic of mine, as evidenced by my post-in-itself comment on your "coming out" post. So consider yourself warned. :)

    I'm not a man, so I can't really say how it works. I find those studies interesting, certainly. I've not met many self-identified bisexual men. Actually, I can't think of any. I have quite a few queer male friends, all of whom are staunchly gay. Every bisexual I've known has been female. So there's some worthless anecdotal information for you.

    I agree with Andrew that gender science is really in its infancy and we can't accept any study as a bottom line. Your individual experience is really all you have in this, whatever the studies say. I have long felt that sexuality is more fluid for women because they're culturally permitted and encouraged to experience a broader range of emotions and relationships than men. Perhaps this indoctrination explains why sexuality is so rigidly defined for men, one way or the other.

    Are you experiencing fear that you may be fully homosexual and possibly might, as some point in the future, feel that your hetero- marriage is unfilling? I've had this fear myself, especially on the few occasions when I've been attracted to a specific woman. At those times, I wonder if I'm suppressing or denying my basic self by maintaining a relationship that might not be properly oriented for me.

    But then I consider my actual relationship with this person - yes, a man, but undoubtedly my best friend, and if it must break down to sex, it's never been less than wonderful, and same as you, I've never needed to pretend I was with a woman.

    It's so hard to explain this to strictly-gendered people - how I can self-identify as queer while living with an unequivocally masculine man. It's just about the relationship. Not the anatomy. Not the identity. I imagine it must be the same for you, since you speak so highly of your marriage and your partner.

    Of course, this is from the point of view of someone who is not male. All of my points might be moot if the studies are correct and bisexuality cannot exist for men. But I do believe that bisexuality is a flawed label, yes - primarily because, as I said before, I don't believe that there are only three sexualities or two sexes or two genders.

  4. Chandelle, I took my post down because I am experiences such an extreme range of emotions right now that I don't feel I can blog with any degree of trust in myself. (I hope that makes sense). One moment I am thrilled that I understand my husband, and the next I am terrified of the unknown territory we are treading in. Its a hard balance. I'm taking a break until I can regain some mental and emotional composure.

    I utterly empathize with everything you wrote in your comment. I am almost exclusively attracted to women, except for my husband. Its not his anatomy that attracts me, either, so much as his personality, our emotional connection, our "one-ness". I would not trade sexual attraction for a woman for the wonderful connection and attachment I have with my husband. Our sex life is great! Although I can't explain how that can be so, from a logistical perspective. I am turned off in general by male anatomical parts, but I absolutely love him and his anatomy. And I am attracted to him. Its wild. And crazy. And life.

    The problem is, when I mentally try to compare that with what Mister Curie is experiencing, I can't. Because he, afterall, is a man. So, is it possible for him to have this same response? I have to assume yes, since we are both so physically and emotionally attracted to one another. But I don't understand it. Hence my occasional irrational fear.

  5. MC, I know *exactly* what you mean in your description of your relationship with MrC.

    When I was "coming out," I was constantly assessing my partner's sexuality at the same time, trying to figure out if he had hidden/suppressed inclinations as well. It seems that he's 100% accepting of a range of sexuality and also 100% heterosexual. He can appreciate the aesthetics of a male body, but not feel attracted to one.

    So I have no idea what it's like for men. But it seems to be working for the two of you. You are both *extremely* lucky to be able to figure this out in such a compassionate, accepting marriage where you know that the bottom line - your relationship - is safe.

    (I am very happy to see that you are discussing this on the blog, too, because heretofore I've felt quite alone in my own thoughts and experiences. I understand the need for self-restraint during such a confusing period, but I'm glad to see some pieces of your thought process.)

  6. I have some complicated thoughts on this, but rather than write them out here (as I started to), I'm making them into a post on my own blog. Suffice it to say (here), that while useful, I think labels are also restrictive. The best approach is probably to use a label when it fits you (one), but to assiduously avoid trying to fit yourself to a label.

  7. I actually personally know quite a few bisexual men... but again, I don't like this idea of 2 or 3 categories. I DO NOT understand people who want to promote this idea. People are all over the spectrum. While I'm not bisexual by any means, I do have a mancrush on Ewan McGregor in Moulin Rouge. That doesn't make me bisexual, but it doesn't seem I'm 100% heterosexual either... I guess I'm just sick of these strict categories, especially when there are only 2.

  8. Adam- I actually agree with you 100% - I also hate hate hate hate hate labels (as Andrew S will tell you). I'm cool with Mr. C's not labeling himself. On the other hand, I "get" the utility of labels when one is trying to figure something like this out. Its almost like each person has to learn for themselves that people don't fit neat little boxes. They have to confront the label, and then determine whether it fits.

    I'm also with Evolving Lesbian, in that its disastrous when you try to force a label on yourself, or change yourself to fit a label. Um, I tried to do that for 10 years with trying to be what I understood as a "TBM".

    To thine own self, be true.

  9. Andrew S - I agree that a true understanding of human sexuality is beyond the current scope of science, but it is working towards it.

    I think there is a problem with the labels as well. Labels mean different things to different people, so it makes perfect sense that you cannot scientifically prove human societal labels.

  10. Well, just so you all know, the problem is that sexuality in Western culture is defined in terms of sexual object choice: homo/hetero/bi. This happened between 1860-1930 by sexologists and all those "scientists" who thought they could fix those who don't "choose" the opposite sex. Then, the queer community took these terms and made them speak for themselves.

    But, yes, these terms aren't particularly universal. For example, I identity as a gay male, but I love lesbian sexuality. It makes me giddy in a rather proto-sexual way. Ahhh, to watch a woman undress another woman wantonly...*sigh* Does that mean I'm a lesbosexual?

    Oh so many lesbians watch gay male porn, and not because they're "bisexual," but because well, (1) it's queer and (2) there isn't much good lesbian porn out there. I do agree with the study, though, that women are more open to gender fluidity, but I'm not sure how of this is culture and how much is "biological." And frankly, I'm not sure how much of it has to do with this thing called "gender."

    I agree with EvolvingLesbian on her blog when she says that heterosexuality gets nuanced, but everything else is thought about in terms of sex. Straight guys should be able to talk about the beauty of other guys and it not be a "sex" thing, they should even be able to fantasize about another guy's body, and it not strictly be a "sex thing. Luckily, I know some older straight men who are more fluid about these things (they're not white, which culturally, I think makes a huge difference).

  11. MC's (plural):

    ALL married couples eventually wake up one day and discover that the people they thought they married are not the people they actually married.

    You are all right. Do not be afraid. You might even say you were made for each other. (of course, one can appreciate the roller coaster MORE once the ride is over.) :D


  12. Actually, even though things have changed a lot for us recently, Madam Curie is still the person I thought I married. It's kind've crazy, but she is still the same person . . .

  13. I actually agree with EvolvingLesbian's comment: "The best approach is to use a label when it fits you, but to assiduously avoid trying to fit yourself to a label."

    If you are TBM, it is because that is a descriptive that describe you, not because that is some aspirational set of packages that you agree with. So, adopting one label or the other should NEVER effect some change in you on its are still you.

  14. I am turned off in general by male anatomical parts, but I absolutely love him and his anatomy.

    You seem concerned by this, but I don't think it's actually unusual in heterosexual-identifying women. I have no idea of what the statistical breakdown of the general population would be, but IME women who really like penises in general are less common than women who really like their partner's penis but are indifferent to or even a little disgusted by penises in general.

  15. Andrew S- If you are TBM, it is because that is a descriptive that describe you, not because that is some aspirational set of packages that you agree with. So, adopting one label or the other should NEVER effect some change in you on its are still you.

    Thanks for a statement that I spent the last 12 hours puzzling over... ;-)

    I realize that this comment gets to the heart of the topic of "authenticity" that you discuss frequently on your blog. But I'm not sure that it's universally true.

    Lots of people "aspire" to be True-believing [insert religion here], and take the label on as they implement changes in their lives that, while not "authentically" them, help them to accomplish some goal (in the case of TBM, to achieve the Celestial Kingdom). A less emotionally charged example might be the student who cuts off her dreadlocks to take on the label of "good pre-med" in her med school interviews (true story). I don't think if you have certain goals in mind that there is anything wrong with adhering to the implied behavior of a label, so long as they don't cause more harm than potential good. Life is all about changing ourselves for the better.

  16. MC,

    If you aspire to be, say, a TBM, then the label you take on is not TBM. it is "TBM aspirant." You can authentically aspire to change yourself, even if such an action is painful to your current self. When I talk about authenticity, I don't mean, "never change." I don't mean, "Be content with what you're doing now." I think that there are soooo many ways to improve that you can even be authentic about THAT (e.g., I *could* be an engineer...or I *could* be a doctor. I *could* be a plumber. There are infinite options -- many which haven't even been thought of. My "job" should be to find one that I would enjoy aspiring to be...which would allow me to deal with short term suffering.)

    I think the issue with your examples is that we can recognize acutely when the requirements of getting from A to B are unfair or unjust. For example, the medical school aspirant knows what she has to do to seem like a "good student." But she can be acutely aware of the fact that judging by such appearances seems shallow and unfair to her. She must weigh whether the risk of fighting against it (and potentially losing the chance to achieve the ultimate goal) is less than or greater than the pain of bearing through it to achieve the aspiration.