Not all bisexuals are curious

There are innumerable bits of pop cultural flotsam that I would happily expunge from our collective lexicon.

If I never hear “think[ing] outside the box” again, it will be too soon.  “Incentivize” sets my teeth on edge.  It’s a good bet that any word or phrase that found life as an advertising gimmick or “SNL” catchphrase is one I’d happily delete.

Onto our vernacular ash heap I would gladly toss “bi-curious.”

Let me be clear here.  I am not, and have never been, bisexual or “bi-curious” or “fluid” or whatever else it’s being called these days.  I am and always have been totally, 100% gay.  *casually gestures toward ‘Perfect Six!’ certificate from the Kinsey Institute*  Gay as a treeful of hummingbirds, to borrow the Better Half’s phrase.  On a personal level, I don’t really grok bisexuality any more than plain old heterosexuality.  So it ain’t me that I’m talking about.

In fact, for a great while I was part of what I perceive to be a majority of gay guys who had low-level disdain for guys who would identify as bi.  I basically thought they were gay guys who were kidding themselves.  I now regret having held this attitude, which was as prejudiced by my own experience as any homophobia directed against people like me by heterosexuals.  Where do I get off telling someone else that they don’t have legitimate sexual attraction to both genders, even if I can’t quite wrap my own head around it?  Hell, there are even studies that supposedly confirm a bisexual orientation, and who am I to argue with Science?

In a nutshell, I was wrong.

Thus it was with irritation that I read this headline and subheader over at Slate:

The World’s Oldest Pornography

It’s at least 3,000 years old, and it’s bi-curious.

Let’s just skip over the question-begging in the headline about whether all depictions of human sexuality (apparently ritual, in this case) count as porn, and look at the irritating “bi-curious” descriptor.

The article is all about some ancient petroglyphs, which depict several sexual acts between men, women and men of somewhat ambiguous sexuality.  There seems to be a shamanic nature to what is shown.  Not being an archeologist or anthropologist, I have little to say about the cultural significance of any of it.  I will, however, note that nowhere in the article is there any evidence of curiosity on the part of the participants.  Using “bi-curious” as a descriptor is juvenile and silly.

If I were bisexual, I suspect I would find it deeply irritating to have it regularly implied that my sexuality was tentative or exploratory.  I’m not Dan Savage, so I don’t really have much desire to launch into a lengthy disquisition on the subject.  I’ve no doubt that there are plenty of guys who are genuinely curious or more bisexual than they’d like to admit or what have you, and so “bi-curious” might do as well as anything else as a way of describing themselves.

But for men and women who self-describe as confidently bisexual, we who are not should give them the same respect as we (hopefully) give the unalloyed straights and gays.  They know who they are, and don’t need us undermining their statements about themselves with our own thinly-veiled skepticism.  Let’s talk about it like grown-ups, and leave the Craigslist-speak where it belongs.

Russell Saunders

Russell Saunders is the ridiculously flimsy pseudonym of a pediatrician in New England. He has a husband, three sons, daughter, cat and dog, though not in that order. He enjoys reading, running and cooking. He can be contacted at blindeddoc using his Gmail account. Twitter types can follow him @russellsaunder1.


  1. I actually saw that piece, and it was pretty stupid. I don’t think they were intending to denigrate bisexuals, so much as to be “funny” (“bi-curious” is often deployed with waggling eyebrows much like the “Stripes” joke – “Are either of you homosexuals?” “No, but we are willing to learn.”)

    (As an aside, I am curious about what you make of so-called “gay panic” humor, very common in film and TV? That is, humor where a straight person either fears they will be mistaken for gay, or perhaps fears they will be influenced to be/fears they might be/become gay. I have seen some people really express distaste for this, but it doesn’t really bother me; I can see the exact reverse situation playing out – a gay person fearing being mistaken for straight seems just as valid a situation to mine for comedic discomfort and awkwardness.)

    But yeah, the article makes no sense; the closest analogues in modern American society for petroglyphs displaying both male and female characteristics or appearances would be “transgender” or “transvestite” or something; not “bi-curious” or even “bisexual”.

    Basically, the article fails as both humor, and science.

    But hey, it got us both to READ it, which I guess was the main goal.

    • As an aside, I am curious about what you make of so-called “gay panic” humor, very common in film and TV?

      I find it ridiculously puerile. I roll my eyes and accept it as a cultural vestige in older entertainments. (I think the “not that there’s anything wrong with that” Seinfeld episode was one of the very few examples of it being actually funny.) In anything of recent vintage, it both bores and annoys me.

      • I agree it is often boring, because it’s really overused. But I don’t see it going away, because it seems to be more generally an sub-type of “comedy of mistaken identity” and “comedy of social discomfort/doing something one doesn’t want to do”, which are old, old, old forms.

        Do you know of any examples of the reverse (gay person has to pretend to be straight, or is mistaken as such; hilarity ensues)? It seems like they should be out there, but I can’t think of one.

        Seinfeld’s “Not that there’s anything wrong with that” took the joke sort of a different direction; gay panic certainly underlies it, but what I’ll call the “pc panic” (Larry David’s specialty) overlays it; worse than being thought gay for Jerry & George, is being thought homophobic, for fearing being mistaken for gay.

        • There was a later episode with a similar idea behind it. Elaine was dating a guy who looked kind of black (but wasn’t). He thought Elaine was Latina (she isn’t.) So both thought they were in an interracial relationship, but never discussed it enough to clarify things, because “I don’t think we’re supposed to be talking about this.”

          • I didn’t watch a ton of Seinfeld when it was originally airing (I didn’t watch a lot of TV at all during that period, I usually wasn’t home when it was on) and I am kind of glad about that, because I still occasionally catch a previously-unseen one in passing on syndication.

            It holds up well, IMO.

          • Their tongue-in-cheek claim that Seinfeld was a “show about nothing” never really had any truth to it. In fact it was a comedy of manners, from beginning to end. The underlying gag was always that they were so concerned about what was the proper social convention that they never managed to just act decently, so that despite their desperate and puzzled attempts, they actually were always ill-mannered. A comedy of ill-manners, if you will.

            The final episode directly played this up, but unfortunately not with much cleverness or style.

          • Some of the funniest “Curbs” are not when Larry does the WRONG thing (he is always happy to flout a social convention when he doesn’t see its point) but when he attempts to do the RIGHT thing (which then invariably goes, or is seen as, very very wrong).

          • RE: last episode of Seinfeld. Yes, it was awful. And they’d already made that point perfectly in the Bizarro Jerry episode. Recap: Elaine meets “backwards” versions of Jerry, George, and Kramer, who have a lot of the same mannerisms while being genuinely good, unselfish, productive people. She’s thrilled to have such great new friends, and everything’s fine until she thoughtlessly reveals the real, shallow, self-centered Elaine, leading them to tell her, more in sorrow than in anger, that they can’t be close with anyone so awful.

          • Your right, Mike. I’d forgotten that episode. Same point, but much more clever and not so awfully heavy-handed as the final episode.

            The real question, though, is which is worse, the final episode of Seinfeld or the final episode of M*A*S*H?

          • I liked the final episode of MASH quite a lot. (Of course, the Hawkeye/Alda “war is bad” preachy thing has always seemed to me over the top, and there was a little of that in the final episode.)

          • “A little”? You just may be a master of understatement, Mr. Cornielle.

          • I liked the subplot about Charles and the Chinese musicians (maybe I just like the Clarinet Quintet.)

          • Well, the whole “chickens ride buses” thing was a little too much, but like Mike, I liked the subplot with Charles and the musicians. I also like the last scene where everyone talks about what they’re going to do after the war.

        • “Seinfeld’s “Not that there’s anything wrong with that” took the joke sort of a different direction; gay panic certainly underlies it but what I’ll call the “pc panic” (Larry David’s specialty) overlays it”

          I think that’s right. It wasn’t so much that Jerry (the character) had it in for gay people as that he didn’t want prospective girlfriends to think he was out of the running. George’s homophobia is a running joke in the series, but more as a commentary on his character (the insecure, venal, selfish person) than as a statement about gayness.

          (I’ve probably watched too many episodes of Seinfeld. I used to have a coworker who had seen at least as many as I had, and we used to trade off quotations the way some fundamentalist Christians cite Bible verses. It was our true calling, and it made the workday go by more quickly.)

        • “Do you know of any examples of the reverse (gay person has to pretend to be straight, or is mistaken as such; hilarity ensues)? It seems like they should be out there, but I can’t think of one.”

          Back in the early 80’s, “La Cage Aux Folles.” A flamboyantly gay character has to make an entrance into a room a pass as straight with a very powerful and very intolerant straight character. The gay man has been given lessons in how to walk “like John Wayne” and how to dress and how to submerge his usual (and quite flaming) mannerisms. His entrance and his tightly controlled and yet not very successful walk across the room was deliciously well done.

          I haven’t seen the film since it was released, so I don’t know how the joke holds up to more modern scrutiny, but it was screamingly hilarious at the time (at least to the packed house in West Hollywood). And, while this scene was very funny, it wasn’t really at the expense of the gay character. He was quite sympathetic and loving and we were all rooting for him — but straight just didn’t come naturally. I happened to be sitting next to Ed Asner at the time and he nearly fell out of his chair laughing.

          • The movie still holds up well, both the original and the American remake (the latter primarily because of the brilliant acting of Nathan Lane and the of-course-solid performance of Gene Hackman; Robin Williams turned in one of his best performances, and even Calista Flockhart couldn’t ruin the movie, although she didn’t actually add any value).

        • worse than being thought gay for Jerry & George, is being thought homophobic, for fearing being mistaken for gay.

          You may have gathered that I’m not a big fan of the term “PC”, because to me it’s a disparaging term for sensitivity and politeness. Here’s a perfect example: isn’t being a bigot worse than being gay? Like, obviously so much worse that it’s not even a discussion?

          • Well, sure. But they DO fear being thought gay, since it will cost them dates; and they fear being seen as bigots, because well, that is a bad thing to be (and, may cost them dates). So they trip over themselves trying to discuss their issues without falling into either trap.

            I know that “PC” has been beat into the ground, sometimes by people with unsavory agendas; but in comedy I think it’s a useful shorthand, for the way that sensitivity and politeness can paradoxically either GENERATE humor, they way it does here; or kill humor, when too much pearl-clutching becomes the norm.

            I don’t want all humor to appeal to Millicent, IOW.

          • I’d say that they don’t want to be thought gay, for the good and sufficient reasons that

            1. They’re not.
            2. It could cost them dates.
            3. It could encourage unwanted advances from men.

            But given the bigotry that used to be universal and is by no means gone, denying that you’re gay sounds like you’re defending yourself rather than just stating a fact. hence the weak-tea “Not that there’s anything wrong with that”, because

            1. They don’t want to sound homophobic, but
            2, They don’t want to make a principled stand against homophobia either.
            3. They just want to whole thing to go away.

            Which, to me, is what makes it funny. Like James said, they want to say the right thing, so long as it too isn’t much trouble. They’re certainly not capable of paraphrasing Tolkien:

            If I am to understand that you are enquiring whether I am of Jewish origin, I can only reply that I regret that I appear to have no ancestors of that gifted people.

  2. I agree with the central message of your post, but I had always assumed (in the rare times I had thought about it at all) that “bi-curious” wasn’t so much meant as a description of the “true” nature of bisexuality as it was a way of affirming to people that even if they identify as straight, they might have avenues for exploring their same sex attractions.

    I guess I say this because most of the times that I’ve seen the term, it has usually been as part of on-campus LGBTQ campaigns to create welcoming social spaces.

    Having issued this mild disagreement with part of what you wrote (if it is a disagreement…perhaps you’re not necessarily saying anything different), I should say I’m not particularly invested in whether people continue to use the term “bi-curious.”

    (For the record, I used to believe in a “spectrum” that posited that most of us were to some extent bi, but that most of us were oriented predominantly toward one end of the gay/straight spectrum, so that for practical purposes, we might be gay or straight, but had some element of opposite (or same) sex attraction regardless). I used to think that was a very avant garde, revolutionary, almost subversive and certainly sophisticated theory….until I found out that almost everyone I explained the idea to seemed to have already come up with it, encountered it, or agreed with it. Now, however, I tend to see things in more discrete categories and try to, as you suggest we should, simply accept people’s self-identifications.)

    • I have a number of friends who, if one should ask them to describe their sexuality, would sum it up with the following word: Heteroflexible.

  3. I agree with Pierre.

    I always heard “Bi-curious” as being a slightly flirty way for people who largely identify as heterosexual to say that they might be interested in a little exploration of homosexual sex. But not too much and certainly not a serious romantic relationship.

    However like most pop-culture terms it is wildly over used. And in my mind, it is almost exclusively associated with the frat boy scene and women saying it and lightly making out with other women for the pleasure of bro-dudes. I don’t think I’ve ever heard a guy sincerely describe himself as bi-curious.

    There is one sexual fantasy I had that would could be described as bi-curious. There is one male-female couple I know and I used to fantasize about being lovers with both of them. This included going up to one of my college reunions and shocking the hell out of everyone. This is the only time I ever had a fantasy like this about a couple or another man. Hopefully they will never find out, that could be awkward.

    Anyway the Slate headline is wrong. According to A History of the World in 100 Objects, there is something called the “Ain Sakhri Lovers Figurine” in the British Museum. It shows a man a woman having sex and is from 9000 BC. 9000 BC is a lot older than 3000 years old. Of course, it was found near Bethlehem.

    • “There is one sexual fantasy I had that would could be described as bi-curious.”

      Since we’re sharing (***TMI alert!***):

      I was a late bloomer when it came to having girlfriends, and for a while I thought I might be gay. The reasoning wasn’t so much that I was attracted to men (I wasn’t and even now I don’t understand on anything other an abstract level why anyone, a gay man or straight woman, would find men in general attractive). Rather, I thought that since I hadn’t had a girlfriend, then maybe I was really gay without knowing it. (The real reason probably had more to do with the pheonomenon Kyle discussed in his post on “Sin and Safe Religion”…I had drunk enough of the “no sex before marriage” kool-ade to keep most women at a distance.)

      I went on a few “dates” with a guy I met. We didn’t call them dates and he never actually told me he was gay, but somehow I knew he was. But when he tried to kiss me, I got so panicky and felt so uneasy, I called it off.

      I apologize if this is over-sharing or TMI. But the moral of the story is, despite my adventure, I wouldn’t really identify myself as “curious,” even though in a way I was.

      • I was a bit of a late-bloomer when it came to dating as well and it was not because of the “no sex before marriage” bit. I was just pretty dorky.

        That being said, as I have said before I grew up in a socially liberal/secular environment. My mom had my older brother teach me how to put on a condom at 16. My health classes in high school (suburban, public) acknowledged that people have sex for recreational pleasure and there was nothing immoral or unethical about this. There was a display case of various types of birth control devices and we made safe-sex posters. The closest we got to an abistenance argument was “If you want to be 100 percent sure, don’t have sex”. It took about a second.

        My rabbi never mentioned sex or sin in any of his sermons.

        The whole world of “wait until marriage” is just baffling to me. There is no other way to say it but I feel like an alien anthropologist when looking at evangelical Christianity.

        There was an article in the New Yorker several years ago called “Red Sex, Blue Sex” or something like that. The article mentioned that American Jewish young people were the least likely to find sex sinful but the most likely to wait a bit. The reasoning for the waiting was that an unexpected/accidental pregnancy could ruin valuable educational/economic opportunities. This was rather telling to me and seems right for my cohort.

        • I have had a similar conversation with a certain best friend, who happens to be Jewish. She expressed a similar kind of baffled surprise when I told her how very much of the religious messaging of my adolescence was centered on “FOR THE (LITERAL) LOVE OF GOD, DON’T HAVE SEX!!! DON’THAVESEXDON’THAVESEXDON’THAVESEX!!!! SINFUL SINFUL BAD BAD BAD SATAN SEX BAD NONONONONO!” For like, years and years and years. It was the primary message I heard during my teenage years.

          • Again, alien anthropologist.

            Maybe this is because Judaism does not believe in original sin but there seems to be so many more things to concentrate on than sex.

            Disclaimer: Like most American Jews, I grew up Reform. This is the most liberal and modernized variant variant of Judaism and many to most participants go to synagogue a handful of times a year. Maybe the Haredi focus on sex like the Evangelicals but I doubt it.

          • I know too little about Jewish traditions, but I’d be surprised if at least some of them didn’t have adopt some notion of original sin. It seems that the Old Testament* is peppered with examples of people falling short of their promises and whatnot, which to me might lead to some notion of “original” sin. (But then again it might not.)

            *I apologize for using a Christian-centric term, but I get confused/am too ignorant about the Jewish terms for what Christians call the O.T.

          • Pierre,
            No, original sin is not Jewish. Simply no. And at any event, choice comes first. Even amalek, and his get (the traditional gadflies) have a choice.

          • Judaism has no one word corresponding to sin. There is a word for general evil roth and it does tend to point to a general condition in man. Parsha Noah:

            u’ira yahweh ki rabe roth e’adm b’artz machshabah u’kl itzr lb’u raq ro kl ‘e’ium
            == And God saw much evil in the humans upon the earth, that their devising of evil occupied them all the day long.

            God was ready to start over with Noah. That’s not exactly giving the rest of humanity a choice. He didn’t have exhibit patience with the Children of Israel either.

            Well, the concept of God evolves over time. So did sin within Judaism.

          • Among Jews, the tradition is that Sodom was destroyed for injustice, particularly mistreatment of visitors. In Christianity, well “sodomy” is called that for a reason. Judaism does have a concept of sin, it’s just not all about sex.

            So, there was this guy named Goldstein, who led a blameless life. In fact, when he died and went to Heaven, the recording angel was a bit perturbed.

            “Goldstein, all these mitzvahs and not a single averah? What’s wrong with you?”

            “Is that unusual?”

            “Unusual? It’s unprecedented! If I let you in now, it’ll throw everything out of whack! Look, I’m sending you back for earth for 24 hours. You find a sin and commit it, and then you can come back.”

            So Goldstein finds himself transported back to a strange city. He goes to a bar to considers his options. He could start a fight, but no, innocent people could get hurt. He could steal the tips off the counter … so embarrassing if he got caught. He hears a shy “Hello.” He turns to look, and while she’s not that young and not that attractive, this is his chance. He smiles and says “Hello” back, one thing leads to another, and pretty soon the two of them are sinning with great enthusiasm. In fact, she asks him to stay over, and they sin a few more times.

            His 24 hours are almost up, and he’s preparing to leave (thoughtful as always, he doesn’t want to disappear in front of her.) He wishes her a fond farewell, as she says something that makes his blood freeze in his veins. “Oh, Goldstein. That was such a mitzvah!”

          • Mike,

            Ha! I like that joke. It is such a Jewish joke on so many levels.

          • Well, avera isn’t of necessity a sin. It’s abstracted into some sort of line-crossing. From there, we have to work out what sort of transgression it is, and that comes down to intent, which also leads to the sort of punishment, if any, is to be meted out.

            There’s your chet, a failing of some sort, a person prone to anger, say. A moment-of-weakness sort of sin, not necessarily intentional.

            Up the ladder of sin, there’s ‘avon, which kinda goes two ways. Either it’s punishment or depravity. But it’s ugly, there’s often violence of some sort involved.

            Then there’s pasha, a sort of breach of contract with God. Rebellion and treachery. Volitional and very serious.

            But there’s an interesting combination, at Exodus 34:7, where we see these various forms all lumped together, iniquity, transgression and sin

          • If I recall correctly, it’s from Leo Rosten’s The Joys of Yiddish, which is a dictionary of Yiddish that explains words with jokes instead of dry definitions. I bet you can pick up an inexpensive used copy online.

          • New Dealer,

            Thanks for the links. I haven’t read them yet, but I will.

            Perhaps because my upbringing was in the Christian tradition and much of my thinking seems to have stuck there even as I became an agnostic/apathatic, I have a hard time not believing that the notion of “sin” and “original sin” might somehow be, not universal, but at least a minor strain in most faith traditions.

            I should be clear that my concept of sin is, at least now, very different from the “thou shalt not’s” of fire and brimstone sermons. My idea of it is more like a sickness, something that we choose but that harms us spiritually and distances us from *true* happiness. My own notion is much more like the pop-Buddhist notion that people are too tied up in their ego and therefore need escape the insistence on this “thing” (the ego).

            I’m probably committing a lot of mistakes here. First, I know too little about Buddhism and am probably misrepresenting it. Second, I assign a very precise meaning to what is otherwise a loaded term (“original sin”), but don’t explain what meaning I’m assigning to it (kind of like the way some libertarians use “liberty” when they mean “economic liberty” or some specific notion of the word). Third, I’m probably also assuming, on at least some level, that a universality in the notion of healthy spirituality that might not exist.

          • Pierre,

            Maybe but I am using Original Sin in a very specific way. Meaning that mankind is born wicked and evil because Adam and Eve ate fruit from the Tree of Knowledge in the Garden of Eden.

            Judaism does not believe people are born wicked.

          • New Dealer,

            After having read two of the links (the third didn’t work, but I think it was the website and not the link that was acting funny), I see where you’re coming from now.

        • Imam shocked, shocked that many of us for whom a significant part of our social life is typing messages at people we’ve never met are dorks?

      • ven now I don’t understand on anything other an abstract level why anyone, a gay man or straight woman, would find men in general attractive

        Heh, I totally get that.

        But then I also don’t understand on anything other than an abstract level why anyone would find spinach pizza enticing. There’s a certain level of happiness, or perhaps contentment is a better word, that comes with being able to comfortably accept such differences. My sister isn’t content to just laugh at my taste for milk-and-pepsi, or even to mock me just for kicks, but feels compelled to make a mini-scene each time about how disgusting milk-and-pepsi is. My sister is not a happy person. Likewise, most people who can’t just accept that others’ sexual/emotional-attachment preferences differ seem to bring real unhappiness on themselves when they fret about it.

          • You’re a sick man. But my wife would gladly share the pizza with you. I’ll stick to the lobster like God intended. (What, the scriptures say no shellfish? But what about my bacon wrapped shrimp? What, no bacon, either? But spinach pizza is ok? What a cruel cruel God.)

          • Well, let’s not go nuts here. I like spinach pizza quite a bit, and would gladly split one with your lovely wife.

            But would I choose it over the lobster I just cooked, not long after fetching it from the dock I walked to behind my house? Good God, man. I’m not that crazy.

          • Good God, man. I’m not that crazy.

            And yet you’ve invited me for a visit. The evidence suggests otherwise.

          • I worked one summer in Yellowstone, and one of the dishes always available for dinner for us was breaded, frozen shrimp. I ate it, lots of it, because I like shrimp and a lot of the other options just weren’t that great. Then we took a weekend trip to Seattle, and ate at a wonderful sea food restaurant right down on the waterfront that had fresh shrimp, oysters, salmon, and everything else.

            So here I am in Michigan looking at the fish in my grocery’s freezer, and thinking about Maine lobster right off the boat. And all I can remember is the difference between the breaded, frozen shrimp and the fresh-caught seafood. And I’m already slavering, even though it’s a year or more away.

          • I had the most ridiculously good seafood in both Amsterdam, and Lisbon (Lisbon was the best I have ever had, actually). Weirdly, I don’t think I had seafood in Seattle (but I was only there a day or two).

          • I know I’m going to sound like a horrible, horrible snob in saying this, but at this point I pretty much never order seafood unless I’m on one of the coasts. And ordering lobster anywhere? Forget it.

            Our Favorite Summer Meal is lobsters, corn on the cob and some kind of salad/homemade cole slaw. Preferably eaten on the side porch, waving at people as they walk by, accompanied by good cocktails and chilled white wine.

          • PC,

            Yes, it is. You can try it at Ginos.

            If you want to be “that” person.

          • All right-thinking people in this world of sin and error love spinach pizza. The deep dish spinach pizza at Giordano’s in Chicago is peerless, beyond compare.

            As for seafood, Rouse’s has wonderful stuff. I can never get by the seafood counter without buying oysters. A few days ago, I walked into Rouse’s, past a huge cooler heaped full of just-cooked crawfish. English lacks words sufficient to describe how wonderful it is to live in this seafood paradise.

        • Wait…what? “Milk-and-pepsi” is a thing, or is this hypothetical?

          Pepsi is a semi-abomination on its own, but to sully MILK with it may be a perversion too far even for me, Hanley.

          • Glyph,

            It was a thing on Laverne and Shirley. It sounded too awful to be true, so of course I had to try it. Turns out, it’s pretty good. As Mike says below, it’s really just a variant of a float (and, yes, milk and root beer is good, too; better even), not that I can ever get my sister to admit to that.

            But I figure if you can profitably mix milk with liqueur and vodka (a light White, right?), why not with other things as well?

            But if I’m to be pilloried, so be it, as long as it is indeed public and not private (I want you all to feel some constraint in how you abuse me in my defenseless position).

          • I’ve never tried the beer milkshake from Cannery Row. Anyone?

        • I like to think of myself as a live-and-let-live kind of guy, so if I saw someone drinking milk-and-pepsi, I’d excuse myself and go somewhere quiet to vomit. (And yes, I’m well aware that after a few minutes a root beer float turns into more or less the same thing. Facts are flimsy things.)

        • As long as people don’t put pineapple on pizza what they do is non of my concern.

          But for the love of all that is beautiful and tasty in the world, pineapple does not belong on pizza.

          You also have to admit that men look pretty silly when they have sex.

          • You also have to admit that men look pretty silly when they have sex.

            I wouldn’t know; I’ve always avoided looking. (0 on the Kinsey test, go figger.)

          • No No No. Pizza is the only place that pineapple goes. What’s wrong with you people???

          • Murali,

            No self respecting Italian and/or New Yorker would ever put pineapple on pizza.

            And everyone knows that the best pizza in the world is found in Italy and/or New York.

            Yes, I will be a New York pizza snob until I die.

          • JH,

            We will get you one of those rooms with mirrors on the ceiling


          • Ryan,

            Some of the best pizza I ever had was in Naples with really fresh Mozzarella. But generally it is New York all the way.

          • The fact that an ingredient is non-native doesn’t mean it can’t be incorporated masterfully into a regional cuisine. Unless you’d like to tell India they can’t really cook with chilies or Ireland they’re not really making potatoes right.

            The most delicious tomatoes I’ve ever tasted were in Greece.

          • “Gina, that’s not our kind of thing. It’s not Italian. It’s not even European!”

            “Giuseppe, I don’t know how to say this, but I think I’m tomato-curious.”

          • It’s not a hard and fast rule. It is, however, a law of the universe that American pizza is better than Italian pizza.

          • “No self respecting Italian and/or New Yorker would ever put pineapple on pizza.”

            I’m not Italian or a New Yorker, and I certainly don’t respect myself, but I *won’t* put pineapple on pizza.

  4. I don’t have any problem with the term bi-curious, but I do think you’re right about that headline – it’s plain obnoxious.

    And about the general tendency of people to assume that bisexuality in general is tentative. Aside from my own experience, I have friends, M and S, who’ve been together in a same sex relationship for more than 20 years – STILL, on a regular basis, people try to explain to them that either they aren’t really into women (! despite their existing relationship) or they aren’t really into men. They’re a lot more used to it than I am, so they mostly just snort. I still get mad. (I try not to get too mad, because, honestly, I catch myself wondering how the heck all y’all 6’s and 0’s can just not notice large swathes of desirable people due to what to me are relatively minor factors – so some sort of “wait, what?” seems to go along with my sexuality too. Better than feeling bad about it, I suppose.)

    • I dunno, Maribou. I can appreciate the beauty of women as a purely aesthetic matter, but no spark of the right kind in the slightest little bit, ever in my life, for any kind of sexual relationship.

      • Oh, yeah, I get that this is a neurological quirk of my brain, not an actual question needing an answer. I guess that was kind of my point? I *catch* myself wondering, and I think, “Duh, because that’s how it works for them,” and then I move on.

        • … but that means if people don’t quite get to the “Duh, because that’s how it works for her,” without being coercive about getting me to agree with them, I try to shrug it off as not overcoming their brain wiring rather than feeling personally aggrieved. Operative word, TRY.

          Is that any clearer? I really have not had enough sleep to be engaging in conversation today. *tsks at self*

  5. This is where I start to get all confused when it comes to sexuality and sexual orientation.

    I identify as straight. I have never doubted this about myself. I have had romantic feelings for a number of females and never, ever towards men. I have many very close male friendships, but never even considered any of them as any more than that.

    However, at times, I am intrigued by or curious about physical relations with another man.

    So… what does that mean?

    There seems to be a common understanding that men who enjoy receiving anal sex or stimulation are gay and that gay men enjoy receiving anal sex or stimulation. But I know gay men who have no such interest. And I know straight men who do.

    So what does it even mean to be gay? Is it about physical pleasure? Or emotional connection? I tend to think the latter, but I don’t know if I’m just being obtuse.

    • Kazzy,
      You’re not being obtuse, and I’m glad you were able to ask the question. It’s quite common, and maybe used to be even more common, for straight men to be curious about the bodies and sexualities of other men, and to sometimes go so far as to explore with a friend in their teens/twenties before settling down into a hetero lifestyle of one kind or another. I had a straight boyfriend in college who did this with me to a small extent (just kissing), but who had gone further with a straight friend as a teen.

      And here’s where some of the difficulty lies, I think. My friend became aware that I was having deep-down feelings for him that he wasn’t going to be able to reciprocate, so he called it off. It was tough for me to deal with, but I think it would’ve been even tougher had we gone further. Add to that the fact that he didn’t want girls to think he was off the market, and it made him uncomfortable.

      With advent of increased openness of gay people and their relationships, it became harder for straight guys to experiment safely. Add to that how confusing it can be for some of us to realize we’re not hetero, and how we sometimes react with overactive gaydar, and the environment is pretty toxic for guys who want to experiment but not have it mean anything more. I’ve also wondered whether the anger that comes from small pockets of the gay community about NOT wanting same-sex marriage to be accepted is that it further cuts off a previously abundant resource.

      By the way, I identified as bi until I had been with Jason long enough to know that wasn’t going to change, so now I guess I just self-identify as “Jason’s husband.”

      I still think Eliza Dushku is hot enough to leave Jason for, though (in case she’s reading this).

      • Heh. I met a guy who pretty sincerely identified as bi later in life (at least mid-30’s). At the time, he was in a serious, monogamous relationship with a woman. A number of people assumed this meant he was no longer bi, which I found curious. We actually had some really fascinating talks on this very topic. Because we met at a conference where everyone was a stranger, it made it easier to discuss these topics.

        I’m still left a little confuse. I’ve seen/read about guys who enjoy “pegging”, which is to be anally penetrated by a woman via a dildo. Are these man any more or less straight than me? Are they bisexual? Bicurious? It doesn’t seem like a phase at all; it is simply what they enjoy physically.

        • Dan Savage says a guy who exclusively prefers doing WHATEVER with a girl, no matter what that activity is, or how he and she are dressed at the time, is straight.

          So that’s one definition.

          • Glyph,

            That seems fair. But, still, I wonder about the man who is exclusive to woman in his romantic/emotional attachments, but enjoys sexual activities with both men and women.

          • Should clarify – by “whatever” I meant sexual activities (IIRC it was in response to a “I like to be pegged, does that mean am I kinda gay?” question).

            “enjoys sexual activities with both men and women” would seem to be the literal definition of “bisexual”, no?

          • Glyph,

            That is what I’m wondering about. I wouldn’t object to that definition of bisexuality, but it would mean we might need to change how we think about sexuality and sexual orientation. If I were this hypothetical guy and I said, “I like to receive anal sex, from a man or a woman, but I will only ever be a romantic relationship with women,” how many people would just concluded I am a closeted homosexual man?

            More broadly, I wonder about whether sexual orientation is decided by physical sensation, romantic/emotional attraction, or some nebulous combination of the two.

            And I am certainly not pretending to have the answer. I’m really just asking the question.

        • I don’t personally think that liking (or not liking) anal penetration has anything to do with orientation. Without getting too graphic, I think it’s got more to do with a combination of anatomy and disposition. There’s a fun scene about pegging in the Canadian film “YPF.”

          Here’s the way I guess I break things down generally. Sexuality is made up of sensation plus attraction. Marriage (or other long-term relationships) is about being with someone you really like being with, not just in bed, but someone with whom you’ve bonded and share common goals with. Orientation affects attraction (but not sensation) but also who you tend to be able to bond with.

          • That tends to be how I think about it. Society is far less forgiving, though. And I think it can cause real problems for real people. There are things I might be curious about trying with Zazzy that would make her question me in ways I don’t think she should. Not that she has any issues with homosexuality. But she would (rightfully) be bothered by thinking her husband was gay, which she might think if she is socially-conditioned to believe that anal stimulation is the exclusive domain of gay men.

            Thanks for weighing in.

          • Find that movie YPF (I got it through Netflix), watch it with her, and see what she says about the straight married couple’s adventure with a strap-on. They are just one of three interwoven stories in the film, so they’re not the main focus. Despite the fact that it’s hard to imagine this not being a porn movie, it’s totally not a porn movie. There’s some nudity, but no more than a rated-R movie. The whole movie does a great job of using comedy to explore Western expectations about sex.

        • I’m with Dan Savage. A girl pegging a guy is straight sex. Lots of straight guys like it.

          • I’m a little confused by the idea that there’s anything intrinsically gay about anal pleasure for men. There gay men who don’t like it and straight men who do. The anus is a potential erogenous zone for humans in general. Men have prostate glands, which can be stimulated through anal play, which add an extra dimension for potential pleasure. For a lot of guys, being touched there–with fingers, toys, or whatever, just feels good.

            A strap-on is kind of a special case because you use it as if your female partner had a penis. You can read that as role playing gay sex, but you don’t have to.

            Sometimes a strap-on is just a strap on. It’s a tool for your partner to touch you in a way that her anatomy doesn’t allow. It’s just another sex toy, not a sexual organ. Enjoying the process doesn’t necessarily mean that you wish you wish she had different anatomy, or that you’re any less attracted to her body without the toy.

            A lesbian who likes her partner to penetrate her with a strap-on is no less gay for it. Lesbians who play with strap-ons aren’t necessarily thinking about penises. Indeed, since they’re lesbians, chances are they’re not. Straight men who like to play with strap-ons probably aren’t thinking about penises either, other than their own.

            And even if they are, it doesn’t necessarily mean they’re “really” gay or bi. Lots of people have fantasies that they wouldn’t want to act on in real life. That’s why we have categories like “bi curious.” The fact that you’ve fantasized about a certain kind of sex doesn’t necessarily mean that you’d enjoy it in real life. Even if you enjoy it, you may not want to make it a regular part of your life, or a big part of your identity. It’s up to you. Sexual orientation isn’t a test being graded by some outside observer.

            If you feel straight and happily married, don’t worry about whether your fantasies are cryptic clues that you’re “really” anything else.

          • Thanks, Lindsay.

            I should add that I’m not so much worried about any particular fantasies undermining my own sense of self. More so that, if shared publicly, others mind think of me/my sexuality differently because of a conflation between physical enjoyment and sexual/romantic attraction. They wouldn’t think less of me, necessarily, just differently.

            It’s funny to think of all the weird hangups we have… I know a lot of women who don’t enjoy performing oral sex on men. They’re never considered any less straight than their oral-sex-loving counterparts. And I know men who enjoy giving anal sex. But no one confuses them with gay “tops”. But if a guy (like a friend of mine) likes manual stimulation of his anus, people toss about gay jokes (though my friend is otherwise seen no differently by our crew, especially since he’s always been known to be sexually adventurous).

    • Well, I guess that definition would have to vary from particular gay man to particular gay man. In my estimation, the vast majority of gay men find themselves romantically/sexually aligned with other men, however they prefer to have sex, and would describe themselves as gay because of that. However, since I would rather set my eyebrows on fire than discuss the specifics of gay sex in a forum where certain members of my immediate family might come across it, suffice it to say different things float different boats.

      • Thanks, Russell. And if my line of questioning/commenting is crossing any lines for you, just give a heads up.

        • Oh, heck. We’re all grown-ups here, and I’m not really particularly worried about it. If I was going to be squeamish, it would have been wise for me to have avoided the topic altogether. People can say what they want, so long as something something respectful dialogue and all that. I may just bow out of contributing much of my own perspective to certain conversations, is all.

        • No joke, man. My elderly British spinster librarian of a superego would bash the living daylights out of my id with a psychic umbrella until it sheepishly knuckled under and deleted anything she considered prurient.

          • Hah, just read this after my last comment. The perils of catching up on a great thread late in the game…

    • I think self-identification is a very important piece of this puzzle to. Trying to “objectively” define what is or isn’t gay, or straight, or bisexual, or whatever, is a big part of the social assumption set that (IMO) is one of the major historical roots of discrimination.

      *stops before she starts giving her ill-founded but sincerely meant rant about dichotomization as the downfall of human brains*

      • I should say – it’s the trying to draw a boundary line that I think ends up causing us problems. Probability clouds seem to do just fine?

        • I’ve been pondering the above, trying to figure out what the hell I meant, and I think the short version would be, “the only absolute in sexual orientation is self-identification.”

          Which doesn’t quite square, because there’s no POINT in identifying except in social contexts…

  6. I once heard it said that a better way to describe the sexuality continuum was to put “straight” on one side, “gay” on the other, and “not that picky as long as it feels good” in the middle.

    And dead center of that is John Barrowman, who no matter which point on the spectrum you’re coming from has more charm than any human has any right to have.

  7. I once heard a manager ask “Can we actionize this agenda item?” I believe he was attempting to determine whether anyone could articulate the item under discussion in terms of a directive to make someone else responsible for getting something done about it. I didn’t hear the next few minutes of the meeting, though, since that word hit my brain with enough force to cause a concussion.

    • “Actionize”?!??! I… what… maybe? Or it could mean…?

      aweiru7q3vo97o896350465pq93846ftcol8 ui8o5o875tki1212@@#%%$^awco b784r6 coq27qqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqq <---- Russell suffers grand mal seizure attempting to parse "actionize"

      • It’s horrible, but not impenetrable. (No pun on pegging intended.)

        “Actionize : (v. t.) to convert a possibility or intention into an action”.

        • You do also have to understand the management-speak definition of “action,” which is either a noun: “something I can tell someone else to do,” or a verb: “tell someone else to do something.” It is NOT “the fact or process of doing something, typically to achieve an aim.”

          Then you get the intended definition:
          “Actionize : (v. t.) to convert a vague responsibility I am expected to exercise into a concrete job I can have someone else do for me”

          • did they have to actionize it until it became impactful?

            i have an uneasy relationship with an otherwise decent vendor because their sales presentations use impactful about a dozen times.

            and when did “verbiage” become an ok word to use to describe body copy in an ad or whatever?

      • Russell, I am very sorry to have to tell you that the standard terminology in the social sciences for defining a concept in such a way that it can be observed and measured is to “operationalize” it.

        Please do not have a calenture. I’m still counting on that fresh lobster.

  8. Thanks for hitting on another cri de ceour of mine. I’d love to ban marketing major and HR English.

          • All our four-letter words and most of our blasphemies are of Saxon/German origin.

            Having lived in France for a while as a boy, it’s my opinion the French language is wasted on the French people.

          • If you’d rather eat cow every night than beef, that’s certainly your right.
            (English is a mutt-tongue anyhow, and it rolls in any smelly thing it can find).

          • Not so. You’d be eating fleshmete (mete is human food, fodder is animal food ) from a meatcow.

          • Our blasphemies and potty words are of Saxon, not French origin, as I said. Merde will never substitute for shit.

          • The classic explication here is Poul Anderson’s pure Anglo-Saxon work on atomic theory, called Uncleftish Beholding:

            For most of its being, mankind did not know what things are made
            of, but could only guess. With the growth of worldken, we began
            to learn, and today we have a beholding of stuff and work that
            watching bears out, both in the workstead and in daily life.
            The underlying kinds of stuff are the *firststuffs*, which link
            together in sundry ways to give rise to the rest. Formerly we
            knew of ninety-two firststuffs, from waterstuff, the lightest and
            barest, to ymirstuff, the heaviest. Now we have made more, such
            as aegirstuff and helstuff.

          • “Our blasphemies and potty words are of Saxon, not French origin, as I said.”

            those are curses. blasphemies are whatever french black metal bands are saying about jesus this week.

          • “Damn” is of Romantic origin. As is “piss”, which I don’t know if you’re counting. You’re mostly right, though.

            I thought “tit” was a corruption of “teat” making it Romantic. But, in fact, I was wrong on both counts. First, “tit” comes from Old English, and further, even the Old French word that gives us teat is Germanic, not Romantic, in origin (and is presumably etymologically related to the Old English word).

            Slurs seem more likely to come from Latin, though.

          • And James Nicoll is appropriate as well:

            The problem with defending the purity of the English language is that English is about as pure as a cribhouse whore. We don’t just borrow words; on occasion, English has pursued other languages down alleyways to beat them unconscious and rifle their pockets for new vocabulary.

  9. Not at all related to “bi-curious”, but one of the words I’d like expunged is “boundarylessness”

  10. I apologize if someone already suggested this (it’s a long thread and I may have missed something), but as a pure matter of logic, the construction “bi-curious” seems… well, curious to me. If you exclusively have romantic/sexual interactions with a member of the opposite sex but are interested in what it would be like to do so with a member of the same sex, aren’t you gay-curious?

    To whatever extent I’m curious about what sex with women is like, I’m only curious about what it might be like to have sex with the women I have not yet had sex with. My curiosity about sex with men, such as it is, is different not just in degree but also in kind.

      • No worries, dude, there’s no chance your wife will read this or realize that you mused about women other than her you haven’t had sex with yet… on Valentine’s Day of all days available upon which to muse upon that subject.

        Zero chance.

    • If a woman knows she enjoys sex with men, and thinks she might enjoy sex with women, she’s probably curious about whether she’s bisexual. I say “probably” because people wonder about all kinds of things when they ponder their sexual orientation. For some people, any same-sex desire, no matter how idle or fleeting, is enough to make them wonder if they’re “really” gay, no matter how strong their attraction to the opposite sex. For others, no amount of same-sex banging will shake their self-identification as heterosexuals. Sexual self-identification isn’t always evidence-based.

      Still, women who describe themselves as “bi-curious” in personal ads are usually implying that they are secure in their attraction to men, but also open to experimenting with women. Indeed, “bi-curious” is often shorthand for “woman looking for a threesome with her boyfriend and another woman.”

  11. Russel, why don’t you like incentivise? Its a good term to describe what you aim to do with a particular behaviour by introducing a policy. If we got rid of it what would we do???? More importantly, I use it all the time. Do I set your teeth on edge every time I do so??

    • Talking about incentives are fine.

      Incentivise sounds like a term created by the marketing department.

    • Well, first of all, I’ve never actually noticed your using the term. Clearly it hasn’t bothered me, likely because I’m perfectly happy to overlook things from people I like that drive me around the bend when anyone else does them.

      Why don’t I like “incentivize”? Because it is clunky and sounds as jerry-rigged as it is. Because there are a handful of other perfectly nice words that communicate the same concept much more mellifluously. Because it sounds like it was ripped out of a particularly ghastly PowerPoint presentation in a dimly-lit conference room somewhere. Because I have an aversion to poor innocent nouns getting a mongrel suffix slapped on them and made into “new” words.

  12. Oh this would make a great Tuesday question: Words you would like to banish from the English language…

  13. There’s no shortage of condescending, silly, and misleading talk about bisexuality in our society.

    But I feel like “bi-curious” isn’t a term for bi-identified folks. The folks who get labelled “bi-curious” are usually straight-identified women who think they might enjoy sex with another woman. “Curious” seems like a perfectly accurate and respectful descriptor for people in this position.

    If you know you’re bi, you’re not “bi-curious,” you’re just bi.

    • Not that I’ve been keeping my eyes peeled for infractions of this kind, but the sense I get is that “bi-curious” has been chucked about as a kind of sophomoric, supposedly witty way of discussing bisexuality as a whole.

      • Hmmm. I always heard it the way Lindsay mentions; not as a denigration of bisexual persons, but as a way of saying that a given supposedly “straight” person may not be quite so straight as they think, or normally present themselves.

      • Calling a bi-identified person “bi curious” is definitely a putdown. It’s a putdown because it implies that the person isn’t really bi.

        “Bi curious” isn’t an inherently pejorative or bi-phobic term when it’s applied to people who are questioning/exploring their sexuality.

    • I remember a few years ago when Michael Bailey had a study saying that bisexuality, and especially male bisexuality, doesn’t exist. Now that was annoying. At least “bi-curious” admits the possibility that bisexual arousal is possible (Bailey argued there was no evidence for bisexual arousal).

      • It amuses me that there are two “enlightened” views of sexuality that are at complete loggerheads:

        1. Everybody’s bisexual, and it’s just a question of where you fit on the scale. 0s and 6s are just in denial.
        2. Gay people are born 100% gay and that never changes. Period.

        • I see nothing wrong with bisexuality.

          You’ve doubled your dating pool – rather smart!

  14. Late to the comment pool; what was up (down actually?) with the site earlier?

    Anyway, I think a better word for bi-curious would be trisexual. As in I’ll try anything sexual if it feels good.

  15. Sexuality and desire are so complex, I wonder at turns if our usual prefixes to -sexuality are inadequate. Sorta like that horrible old joke about the difference between a slut and a bitch: a slut sleeps with anyone, a bitch sleeps with anyone but you.

    Everyone has sexual preferences but it goes farther. We all know someone who got divorced and a year later was involved with a duplicate of that same person, phenotype in action. I warned my kids, coming up, be careful who you get involved with sexually: we attempt to return to what first gave us pleasure.

    I remember being strongly attracted to one woman and sidled up to her. She started talking to her friends and I was instantly repulsed by the sound of her voice. I like women and they seem to like me. But I also know what I don’t like, a surprisingly long list, now that I contemplate what don’t like. Okay, here’s an odd one: I don’t desire women younger than my own daughters: it’s deeply squicky. But I’m considerably old than the woman who loves me. Just so long as she’s not younger than my oldest daughter, then it’s all good.

    As for bi-curious, I understand why people firmly set in their preferences would roll their eyes up at the phrase. Nobody wants to be reduced to a stereotype yet our early sexual identities are somewhat plastic. We find out, soon enough, painfully bumping our way into adulthood, what we really want in life, mostly by learning not to repeat previous mistakes. We become more sexually sophisticated, paring down our own options, our bullshit detectors growing ever more sensitive. We expand into more options, too: stereotypical ideas of superficial beauty and desirability give way to our own definitions of compatibility.

    It’s individual people we love, or so we tell ourselves. But who we desire and why, that’s a bigger question than sorting people out by the genders of the pairings.

  16. I didn’t have time to read all the comments; so forgive me if this point was made. The key to understanding bisexuality is the Kinsey Scale. It’s a sliding scale; it’s a diverse continuum. If you are fully attracted to the opposite sex or the same sex and just a little attracted to the other sex, it might make more sense to define and understand yourself as “straight” or “gay.” It’s like race and a variety of other things that exist on a continuum. Does one drop really make you “black”? Or “white”? There are a lot of one drop bisexuals who don’t understand or call themselves bisexuals, and perhaps for good reason.

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