Saturday, January 20, 2007

I've been mulling this post over for a while, what I wanted to say, how to say it. I'm still not sure it's going to make any sense to anyone else, but what the hell, it's worth a shot.

I'm trying to find a way to describe where I fit on the spectrum of sexual orientation, and of gender identity, and it's not easy. On the surface, to anyone who doesn't know me very well, I look like a very normal person these days. Looks can be deceiving.

Let's start with orientation. I'm bisexual. I've known that since before I knew what the word meant. I'm not right in the middle of the Kinsey scale though, not exactly. When I was in my teens (and younger) I leaned more towards women, and now I seem to lean more towards men. I'm not quite sure why exactly, and I suspect it may be partly because right now I know very few women who could potentially interest me in a sexual way. For some odd reason I seem to find myself surrounded by women who are very vanilla, very conventional, and that doesn't really work for me on a sexual level. Even the ones I find physically attractive I suspect I would find very boring in bed.

So that brings us to the men. The older I get the more I seem to be drawn to men on a very visceral level (keep that word visceral in mind, it will be coming up again later). The interesting thing is that the men I find most attractive aren't really particularly "masculine" in a lot of ways.

This is nothing new, of course - I was a teenage goth, so it's not as if androgynous pretty boys are anything new. It is interesting, though - why do I have pretty much no sexual interest in the type of men mainstream Western culture says I'm supposed to find sexy? Athletes with big bulging muscles leave me cold. Overtly macho behaviour turns me off (it turns me off when it's women doing it too, but more about that later). What most people describe as "ruggedly handsome" I perceive as hideously ugly. In fact, it took me until my early twenties to realise that "rugged" wasn't a code word for "Chow Chow the Dog Faced Boy", to realise that other people meant it as a compliment.

I like men who are beautiful. Delicate pretty features, big sparkly eyes, soft skin...basically the men that I love look very much like the evo-psych model of what men are supposed to find attractive in women. Except that, without exception, they all also have something savage about them, something raw and visceral. If they don't then I don't find them sexy, no matter how pretty they are. I think it's a contrast thing.

I like men who are like me. I like men who are adept at operating in polite society, who have perfect manners and strong social skills and a sense of style - but who underneath it all are completely in touch with their dark side. I like them because they are my own reflection. I've never bought the idea that opposites attract. My opposite would be someone ultra-conventional, someone who believed that the traditional way to do things is usually the right one, someone who thinks that the way things are now is just fine. Either that or it would be someone soft and New Age-ey, a lover of Deepak Chopra and angel iconography. I have met both kinds of people, and I don't like them. These people and I do not attract, we repel.

So, beautiful men. Pretty boys. Bishonen. That's what works for me. I married one, after all. It occurs to me that many of the men I find sexy would be assumed to be gay by most people. A former boyfriend of mine always was, although in fact he was bi.

And there's another thing. These pretty boys I love? I also love to see them playing with each other. It amuses me that people always assume that if within a couple one person is bi it must be the women, and if they bring in a third party that will also be another woman. That hasn't been the case for me. I used to encourage my ex to hit on guys in clubs just so I could watch him kiss them. Sometimes we used to sneak off into dark corners and both kiss them together. Sometimes we used to do the same thing in public, locked in a tangle of sweat and heat and lust, revelling in the fact that all eyes were on us. Sometimes we used to take them home with us. Sometimes I used to watch my darling boy fuck those other boys. He never let them fuck him, though, because the only person allowed to fuck him was me.

There's the other part. I used to be very much into BSDM. I seem to have drifted away from the scene over the years, mostly because I got bored. I'm not much for rituals, really - generally I live my life in a pretty random way, and after a while I felt like a hamster on a wheel doing the same things over and over again.

That's not the only reason, though, although I didn't realise it at the time. The deeper reason is that I didn't feel like there was a place for me there. What do you call a person who's dominant, who's rough and aggressive and loves skinny boys at least in part because she can throw them around in bed, but who isn't attracted to submissives? Who is in fact rather turned off by people who are submissive in day to day life, but who has a personality that for some reason seems to attract men who want to be dominated?

What I seem to want most is things that feel visceral. Visceral sex, visceral music. Those seem to be the parts of my life where I feel free to let this part of my personality out to play. I'm constantly drawn towards and fascinated with other people who seem to work the same way.

So we're back to the beginning again. I like men who are like me. Soft and pretty and civilised on the surface and all sharp teeth and claws underneath. I like women who are like me, too, although there seem to be less of them out there. Not surprising, since the main aim of patriarchy seems to be to make damn sure that women's teeth and claws are permanently removed.

What do you call someone like me? I'm kind of drawn to the term genderfuck. That sounds right to me, somehow. I look very gender-congruent on the surface, but my personality is anything but. I like men who can often be mistaken for women, at least facially. I don't like butch women, though, which is odd, at least not in a sexual way.

So, once again, where do I fit into the big confusing mess that is gender theory, or queer theory?

That's not a rhetorical question by the way, I really am asking. Because all the recent talk about trans people and differing schools of feminist thought has got me thinking. I've been thinking for years, really, and I still don't know how to define myself. I'd be curious to hear what other people think. Maybe someone more steeped in queer theory than me has a better vocabulary. Maybe there are even other people like me out there.

Side note - the song I'm listening to is AWESOME, and fits my mood perfectly. Hell, it fits my personality perfectly. Download it here.

Dir En Grey - Hydra
password = hydra


byrdeye said...

Well, it makes sense that a bisexual woman would find more bishy guys attractive.

Whenever you find a girl into bishy guys...inevitably she is bisexual and has had at least 1 relationship with a female before.

As for the origin of this sexual preference, I haven't quite figured it out yet. How much of it is Nature vs nurture...and if either one, what the cause is?

FoolishOwl said...

It seems like you know your own tastes pretty well; the only use for a "label" would be its utility as an abbreviation for finding others like you. Labels are, by nature, simplistic and potentially misleading.

I've thought that an irony of the human mind is that we have an innate ability to handle very complicated computations, and yet much of the success of our species is based on the learned ability to grossly oversimplify matters and inefficiently do simple calculations. The mathematical computations involved in a child's throwing a ball with moderate accuracy are far more sophisticated than the simple mathematics the same child learns in a classroom.

It's something like that in social analysis. Thus, we like labels for simple calculation. We run into trouble when we expect the labels and the simple calculations to be entirely adequate, or realistic. The world is analog, not digital, but *learning* to think consciously in analog is very difficult.

As for individual sexual proclivities: I've been a big fan of Firefly and Serenity, and I've been amused that when I talk to other fans, who are sexually attracted to men, they usually make a point of explaining which of the male characters they find attractive or unattractive, and their choices are made very emphatically.

One friend, for instance, liked Mal best, followed by Wash, and thought Jayne was disgusting. (I've seen photos of her past boyfriends, and they do seem to range from Mal-like to Wash-like.) I was watching Firefly with my roommate, who is a gay man, one night when he was drinking, and he was wavering between Jayne and Mal, until the episode when Mal was forced to take off his clothes at gunpoint, after which it was all about Jayne. He made a point of saying that he thought he was supposed to find Simon attractive, but he was just too coldly perfect. Another woman told me she didn't find any of the characters attractive, but she made a point of saying that Mal had weird eyes, and that Simon was too pretty. Finally, one friend of mine was all about Simon. (She's goth -- maybe there's a connection.)

On my own tastes, it seems most like there are a couple of archetypes I'm attracted to, but any rule I've tried to come up with, there was someone who didn't fit that I lost sleep thinking about. I do notice that, over time, my tastes seem to shift depending upon who I'm around. It's as if it takes a while to get the logic of a body shape and a style, and then I start to appreciate it.

Cassandra Says said...

Foolish Owl - I actually suspect that men's preferences may be more malleable than women's. On the other hand, the reason women are so emphatic in stating ours may be because we're so used to it being assumed that our preferences are irrelevant. In any case I know that all the women I'm close to are VERY clear about what they do and do not find appealing.

belledame222 said...

i think men are more socialized to -not- be fluid, but that doesn't mean they aren't.

personally i just generally use "queer" as an umbrella term, and figure anyone who wants to know more, well, rather than me trying to parse out my identity in an abstract way, let'

Cassandra Says said...

I actually suspect that men are more flexible than people usually assume, they just get a stronger dose of the "don't be gay!" brainwashing IMO. Also, since people tend to not take women's sexuality seriously it's a lot easier to dismiss women's "experimentation" as not meaning very much.

belledame222 said...


also, while men do have their own compulsory heterosexuality narrative going on, i think the way society is set up (homosocial, male-dominated) makes it more likely that a gay man could go his entire life without having a relationship with a woman than the equivalent for a lesbian.

i could, of course, be wrong about that, the prevalence. just mulling.

Palmer said...

I know this is late in the game but I only found your site today...

I wanted to ask - do you really find it necessary to put yourself at a static point on a scale? I mean, can't you wake up on Monday and be 3 and then, as the week progresses, find yourself a 6 on Friday?

I am a male and I agree that there messages from society (a very nebulous concept) which are tantamount to "don't be gay". I can only offer anecdotal evidence here but I'll give it anyway. It's not been my experience that these messages have much, if anything, to do with sexual orientation or what I find sexually arousing. But I think they do help steer actions and reactions. E.g - to not stand up against homophobia, to not rock the boat. Men probably are more flexible than is commonly assumed but I don't think society really brainwashes men to go from being flexible to non-flexible. More like it keeps men from being flexible by knowing that, if found out, you'll be ridiculed.