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    Tuesday, January 10, 2006

    Bi? Asexual? Gay? Who cares?

    Brian Alexander purports to take us "inside the debate over sexual orientation". That's right: there's a debate. We're going in.

    Sexploration received some reader mail asking what it meant to be bisexual and asexual. “Does this make me bisexual?” one asked of an experience he had. “Is there such a thing as asexual? Could I be asexual?” asked another who had seemingly lost all interest in sex.

    The thing is, nobody knows for sure just what it means to be bisexual or asexual.

    “There is no definitive definition [of asexuality] yet,” psychologist Tony Bogaert of Brock University of St. Catherines in Canada told me, noting that there isn’t even a firm definition of sexual orientation, period.

    But the letters, and others like them, display the strange habit we have inherited from medicine, social science and George Gallup of labeling ourselves. ...

    ... last summer, another research project by Gerulf Rieger, a doctoral student at Northwestern University in Chicago, studied the reactions of people, including self-described bisexual men, to erotic movies. Seems the bisexual men did not react equally to the films. They said they did, but their penises told another story. Most bisexual men had a stronger response to gay porn than to heterosexual porn. “It remains to be shown that male bisexuality exists,” concluded the study.

    J. Michael Bailey, a research psychologist at Northwestern, and the author of the book "The Man Who Would Be Queen: The Science of Gender Bending and Transexualism," put it bluntly by quoting an old saying among homosexuals: “You’re either gay, straight or lying.” ...

    So why mass behind little Maginot Lines, stamp our feet, shake our fists and say, “I’m bi, bi, bi!” or “I’m straight, straight straight!”? That makes it so much easier for those who see any variation from their own preferences to demonize others as alien.

    If you say you’re an asexual, are perfectly happy being an asexual, why do you care what a psychologist thinks or I think or Pat Robertson thinks? If you’re bi, if you are ethical and tell potential partners (whose business it really is) you are bi, if you are happy being bi, why worry about what “bi” means?

    Besides, I just don’t care if the barbershop has a big rainbow flag out front. I want to know if they can cut hair.


    How nice for you, Mr. Alexander. I assume then that you are not asking for a haircut that is against heterosexual gendered norms. My haircut's actually pretty damn straight for a short cut on a girl, but I don't want a pixie cut! Seeing a rainbow out front makes me think maybe they won't go, "But a little pixie cut would look so CUTE on you! It'd be so ADORABLE!"

    Anyway, I am so sick of mainstream people getting mad at all the labels, "Why do you have to label yourself? I don't care what the hell you are? Why do you?" Because I'm me, idiot. And also, unlike labeling yourself "straight," labeling yourself "a" or "bi" or "queer" or "trans" or "genderqueer" or even "gay" is a bit challenging and also keeps people from bugging you into infinity. If you're "a," you probably get sick of saying, "Oh actually, no, I didn't get laid last weekend. And I didn't want to." "Why? Because I just didn't." If you say, "I'm asexual," people will ask questions about that at first maybe, but soon they will adjust and stop acting like you feel exactly the way they do all the time.

    For example, when people realized that "gays" were a significant demographic, products came out to appeal to them, including television stations where self-identified gay folks could watch shows about same-sex couples and such. If you're asexual, you might like there to be more movies where the usually obligatory sex scenes were kept to a minimum. (I don't know, I'm not asexual, I'm just guessing.) Even if you aren't discriminated against directly by our government and other such institutions, you can assert yourself as a consumer market to be fought for. And that's your right.

    I agree with the author in that I wish we didn't have to go around declaring ourselves these things, as I think it limits our sexual identities in some ways. However, while heterosexualized norms are as ridiculously prevalent as they are now (with only "gays" even stepping a baby toe in the door), people need to identify, if only to surprise those who embrace these norms (often unconsciously) to think more expansively.

    And, here's a thought: if you're a typical hetero (or think you are because you live in a society with severely limited sexual options), shut the hell up about how inconvenient it is to have to hear about other people's sexual orientations. Soon enough, you'll be voicing yours loud and clear and hopefully my kids won't have to breathe a word of their bedroom (and extra-bedroom) activities.

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