Perhaps no other word in the area of human behavior is used with suchimprecision. First let’s talk about what bisexuality does not 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 (he wanted to get fucked), he became an object of ridicule. This kind of sexual arrangement is generally considered pederasty (sex with adolescents) and should not be confused with the sort of bisexuality we want to discuss.
Similarly, we’re 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 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 unconsciously forced to 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 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. 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 may be 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, cheerful, and confiding, a true partner in the 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 the 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. And bisexuals are more often accused of being “promiscuous” than straight or gay men (see Promiscuity).
Gay life constitutes a genuine society complete with its own slang, humor, mating rituals, and gathering places—even, in larger cities, its own economy. Such readymade institutions do not exist for bisexuals. They must carefully pick and choose 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 (female) date. Bisexuality can provide a resting place for assessing one’s feelings and values, as well as the reactions of one’s friends and family. But if the pose is maintained too long, it can become an act of bad faith, of self-deception, and the source of pain.
What if a man who has been happily homosexual for years finds himself attracted to a woman? Should you have an affair with her? If there’s a real sexual attraction, why not? 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 emotionally attached, 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 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 Married Men; Sex with Straight Men). If you find the man 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 new bisexual male in bed, you’ll probably be surprised by