The Frank Ocean Effect and Some “Bisexual” Guys I've Known
I never quite understood the stigma against bisexual men. (There is one, especially among gay men.)
Granted, labeling oneself a “bisexual” is something many men do to ease into full-on homosexuality; it is also a way for men to hold on to a shred of "acceptable" sexuality as they pursue their less mainstream interests (believe me, I've been there). But the idea that one person could be attracted to multiple genders is not inconceivable. People discuss much more far-out sexual proclivities all of the time. I hate being told by clueless straight bigots what’s going on inside of me; I’d hate getting it from gays even more.
I believe men when they tell me they’re bisexual—or, as happens more often, when they claim to be attracted to men and women, but don’t want to be saddled with a label. I believe the four guys profiled below.Within the past year, all four have slept with (and wanted to sleep with) both men and women. They all say they intend to continue doing so. All of them have hooked up with more men than woman (mostly because of matters of ease and availability), and none feels particularly tied to a monolithic culture, the way a gay guy might (in popular culture bisexuality tends to exist as a nuance or subplot, unlike scene-stealing homosexuality). None of these guys is particularly fond of the term “bisexual.” Call it the Frank Ocean effect.
I parlayed the sexual intimacy I shared with these four guys—all of whom identify more or less as bisexual, all at various points in their development as adults—into an interview scenario. In general, they were less naturally introspective about their sexuality than your average gay guy. Whatever culture results from being a male who sleeps with men and women, it largely happens internally for these guys. But even when they had trouble pointing to an absolute truth, or when their words were inconsistent and contradictory, they were candid, and I appreciated it.
All of the names have been changed and a few details have been obscured to ensure the anonymity of the subjects of this piece. Allen, 19
When Allen and I were putting our clothes back on, I asked him how he identified sexually. "I’m sleeping with guys and girls for now, but I'll probably just end up doing guys because that's how these things usually work," he said with such tranquility he might as well have yawned it all out. I told him that he was awfully sure of himself for a period that was supposed to be fraught with uncertainty. He shrugged.
Allen is beefy and athletic, with a body somewhere between a football and baseball player. He's laid back, with a stoned personality (though he's not into weed), and is fixated on notions of masculinity and femininity. "There are gay guys and there are faggots,” he told me once.
We were walking in public together recently, and a guy with a stereotypically gay voice was emoting loudly just over our shoulders. "I hate that," he told me. I sighed, exasperated at this puppy that needs training. I reprimanded him, telling him to mind his own business. If he gives effeminate guys a hard time, I told him, he’s no better than a straight homophobe. He shut up. A few weeks later, he texted me about it: "When you tell me things I really do listen I promise. I never thought kids couldn't be flamey and all that idk I know they're still our people and I always would have their backs but I never thought of it like that." He's learning, I think.
In light of this, Allen’s ease with sex is surprising. He's totally versatile and will top or bottom depending on the guy—his age or younger, he likes to top; for guys older than him, he prefers to bottom. "It’s just the whole power thing I guess… I think of it more as a given right type of thing: You’re older so I should bottom." When he isn't holding on to teenage shitheadedness, Allen can be very polite.
When we first met, he wasn't entirely open. When he refused to kiss me on the mouth, I joked that he was acting like a whore in Pretty Woman. "What's that?" he asked. He is, after all