Thursday, June 16, 2005

Gender and sex: "bi with boyfriend"

Wow, this is a first with two new postings in one day!

But things have really cooked since I posted the "Odd Wife" poll below. The outpouring of comments to this poll and the question I asked about why it seems more acceptable for a woman to check "been intimate with a member of the same gender" than for a man by you readers made me ask a question about this over on the Erotica Readers & Writers Association discussion list server about "bi with boyfriend." It's the name lesbians have given to the current fad for women who proclaim their attraction to other women, while pairing up primarily with a husband/male lover/boyfriend (Angelina Jolie is one of the more famous examples mentioned).

This is, in fact, Cassie's situation in the novel prior to her encounter with Sydney, a Yalie "co-ed" (a more precious term I can't think of just now). She's married yet tempted, and its a temptation P. her husband encourages (as you'll see in a posting due out soon).

My question immediately precipitated a lively discussion about sexual orientation, labels and social mores, both personally and in the writing of several writers of erotica who hang out there. The opinions varied enormously, but with several constants when it comes to erotic writing (for example, if you're creating a short story for Lesbian Vampires from Mars magazine, you might not want to submit something that's primarily heterosexual in orientation.

Seems like the question of same gender intimacy is people who don't otherwise identify as gay is a topic that prompts reactions. Again, I've never had so many comments to a posting on this site before. And please continue everyone, I'm so glad for the honest and heartfelt thoughts. The most provocative comment so far was from O. the writer of Eros & Logos (and the possessor of one of the most sensuous avatars I've seen). She wrote:

"Personally, I find the 'bi' label not applicable to most; it sort of implies a true 50/50 division of one's sexual attention, and that is rarely the case in my experience and that of my lovers and friends.

"I prefer the terms 'hetero-flexible' and 'homo-flexible'.

"As in, I'm primarily hetero, but I'm flexible, and so on."

This label "flexible" is very interesting and amusing. Cassie is shunned by some of the lesbians at Yale because she's flexible, and won't commit to "one orientation or the other." It's another rejection from the hidebound world of academe that initially pains her, while ultimately driving her further towards breaking with conformity and finding her own way. Thanks, O., for this nifty term!

The discussion so far also raises a somewhat crude question about mechanics. Cassie at one point quotes Dorothy Thompson (see "the World of Beyond You & Me" on the right side of this site), who compared her Sapphic episodes to "making love with an impotent man." Thompson was an important journalist who's now largely forgotten who had affairs with both men and women.

Does the equipment make a difference in how the "flexible" ones respond to same gender intimacy?

I ask this because many evoke the beauty of female/female erotica, as though one were tasting an exotic flavor of ice cream, not the emotional component. Does that make same gender intimacy just another "fetish" of our porn-drenched world, where we want to experience all the possibilities of sex? Is it all about experiencing something, or is there another component? The "bi with boyfriend" trendiness seems to reinforce the disconnected, purely sensual aspects of same gender intimacy. Or am I missing something?

Your comments are most welcome.