Thursday, 14 June 2012

My (bi)sexual history

The current ripple of irritation caused by Julie Bindel saying that bisexual women might actually not exist or that if they do they have no politics* brings up a question of nomenclature which I rarely bother with but persists: what am I exactly?

For several years I've dodged the question. If required to define myself (say, for the purposes of a dating site) I say that I am bisexual. There are few labels less specific: bisexual can mean a whole way of being or a sexual activity depending on who you talk to. Maybe this is why I settle for it. The truth is that I hate labels but do not consider myself political enough to call myself queer. Anyway, queer is a label too and mostly a negative one at that. It seems to define itself mostly by what it is not. I know people who I think are basically heterosexual but call themselves queer (yes, this is a form of bisexual one-upmanship and I still do it). There is no easy answer.

My own experience is that sexuality is fluid and that preferences can change. An over-reliance on labels encourages people to conform to expectations about how they should act rather than what they might feel like doing at any given time. It's sexuality as a collection of tickboxes rather than an expression of something that's personal and possibly unique. If you identify as lesbian but like topping men, or call yourself gay but sometimes fuck women - well, why not? What's the problem? Some people will disagree but I do not think that being gay is like being a vegetarian. You are not letting the side down if you eat the odd sausage.

I think it's entirely ok to only ever feel attracted to the opposite sex and it's entirely ok to only ever feel attracted to one's own sex. For some people it is like this. As long as they are being true to themselves, and not just acting a certain way because they think they should, I could not care less whether the root of their feelings is societal or genetic. It doesn't matter.

My own experience is that at over the years I have experienced varying degrees of interest, sexual attraction and/or romantic attachment to men and women. At times I have lived a life that to an outsider would seem to be only about women: at others I've been a cock-hungry adventurer. I think I've just enjoyed trying things out and going with whatever felt good and seemed the most attractive at the time. To this day my sexuality is evolving.

Right now the love of my life is a man (not exactly your typical heterosexual male but definitely a cis-gendered man) and my sexual preoccupations are more to do with men. Equally, I am very open to the idea of female lovers and feel some dissatisfaction that I don't currently know any hot women to have designs on. It has been a while. Perhaps I need to change that. (Oh no - yet another thing to add to the to do list.)

My bisexual history started when I was twelve or thirteen. One day my religious studies teacher told our class that homosexuals were people who were only attracted to one sex and heterosexuals were attracted to both sexes. She said that most of us were heterosexual so it was normal and natural to be attracted to both sexes. Maybe I had not been listening properly. Then again, she could have been totally ignorant and got her Greek wrong. This is equally likely.

'Absolutely - of course!' I thought. It was a lightbulb moment. I thought about the way blood rushed to my adolescent crotch during physical games with both boys and girls. Although I definitely fancied boys, I also had a crush on my friend's sister. My sexual fantasies at that time were pansexual and frankly surreal. I knew that I liked and had somehow always liked both.

However, it took me a very long time to get with girls. In my women's studies group in the early 90s, an older classmate kindly explained that there were several types of lesbian. I had not been aware of this. Apparently there were masculine man-copiers who were really no better than men; feminists who chose lesbianism and that was ok because they were doing the right thing; and true lesbians. I don't know where bisexuals fitted in this hierarchy: they were not mentioned. 'Oh,' I said, and nodded. In that women's studies group a great many things were said that now seem naive, crude or just plain dated and I never heard this kind of idiocy repeated in my circles of friends afterward.

So I was in my twenties before I took the plunge in an encounter that was too engineered and drunken to be anything but massively disappointing. And in retrospect  what a total head fuck for the other (rather older) woman when I told her immediately afterward that she had been my 'first'. Oh, cringe, harlot... The sad thing was that Deb really wasn't the right person. I picked her because she was there and I was just absolutely fucking desperate to have sex with a woman. All my friends were straight. There was no online dating in those days. You either knew people or you didn't and I was very shy.

Deb got really drunk and phoned me up a week later telling me things to test my commitment. She said that she was a true lesbian. She was too tight to be penetrated herself but she liked to fuck girls with strap-ons (I'm not sure I had even heard the word before). She asked me if I wanted to be her girl and get fucked with a strap-on. Did she put me off? Yes, she totally scared me, phoning up drunk and ranting on like that! I wondered whether I had indeed made it all up.

Then Mel came along with crazy-colour hair, piercings and a dirty-angelic beauty never equalled since. I remember being in her squalid flat, kissing in her never-cleaned bath. As she went down on me the sight of Mel's mouth on my cunt made me explode with fierce excitement and passion. I was so into Mel. Unfortunately she had just met the man who she now has two kids with. It was still a fantastic experience and resolved any uncertainty I had had of the authenticity of my desire.

I used to find it hard to balance my tastes: I seemed to know people who were either straight or gay and it was as though I had to make a choice. Maybe I was just hopeless at seducing people (Virgil would say not much has changed in that respect). For a long time I was very female focused. I think it was an identity I took on. This involved a certain amount of editing out but I was happy for a long time. I came out to my family and people at work. I had a girlfriend. Beth started cutting my hair and it gradually got shorter, and shorter, until it was a crop. Most of my friends were gay, or queer, or lesbian. I always said I was bisexual if asked but most people didn't bother to ask. Bisexuals often get claimed by one side or the other.

Then something changed. Beth and I split up, which is a whole other story and not one of my proudest moments. After a few months of feeling miserable my libido woke up. Realising that I had not had sex with a man for about five years, I developed a strong craving for them. By that time, reader, there was the internet, and that's a whole other story again, some of which is related here in this blog.

*As an aside, I think the idea that one should express one's sexual politics by choosing never to sleep with men is horrible because it's misandrist.

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