Going with the flow: Sexual fluidity, bisexuals, lesbians and “hasbians” in pop culture

 
 

Last year, Details magazine penned an article on “The Lure of Dating an Ex-Lesbian.” An excerpt:

Just look at Tom Cole, a pastoral-care director at International House of Prayer in Kansas City. Without a healthy exploration of his feminine side, he probably wouldn’t have met his wife, Donna-who like Tom identifies as a “former homosexual.” Before the two met years ago at church meetings for born-again Christians, Donna was in a lesbian rugby league. “They didn’t even wear pads or anything,” Cole recalls. “She had a tattoo and she drove a motorcycle.” Since then, Cole notes, Donna has “softened up,” and he’s learned that the right woman can get him “extremely aroused.” But a few aspects of their former selves never changed. “She doesn’t love to cook, that’s for sure,” says Cole. “But I do, so it works out really well.”

AfterEllen.com wasn’t the only site to take issue with this men’s magazine article. Jezebel also commented on the piece:

This anecdote isn’t especially revealing on its own, but it does speak to a performance view of sex that’s all too common in both men’s magazines and lady mags The idea that sex is all about skill, and that what’s important is being better (or at least bigger) than a woman’s previous partners is annoying because it makes female sexual pleasure about male ego. But it’s also bad for men, who might have less performance anxiety if their magazines emphasized that sex is about two (or more!) people and the way their desires, tastes, kinks, and idiosyncrasies fit together — not whether one person is “good at it.”

When it comes down to the sexual satisfaction issue, of course lesbians are going to be offended. Women leave other women because they long for the male sex organ? Then I would have to agree that this person was never really a lesbian in the first place. If you prefer sex with men over sex with women in general, it is likely you are not a “lesbian.”

The very basic definition for a lesbian, as if we need a reminder, is “A woman whose sexual orientation is to women.” In contrast, bisexual is “Of, relating to, or having a sexual orientation to persons of either sex.”

Now obviously we have created our own much broader definitions for these ideas in our heads and in our lives, but for the sake of being able to understand the discussion on what makes someone sexually fluid vs. bisexual, I think it is much easier to use the basic labels in terms of following the argument.

Bisexuality has received a bad rap because of stereotypes that are often perpetuated by the same media in which we long to see ourselves reflected. In the realm of pop culture, bisexual female characters are more likely to end up with or prefer men (see: 90210, FastLane, Soul Food, Mistresses, Rescue Me, Nip/Tuck, etc.).

And when female characters actually identify as lesbians, many eventually still pursue relationships with men. That tired storyline is perceived as a proverbial slap in the face. In general, the lesbian community doesn’t tend to support women (fictional or otherwise) who identify themselves as lesbians — “a woman whose sexual orientation is to women” — and then don’t follow the very basic definition that comes with it.

Christian and Liz (Julian McMahon and Roma Maffia) on Nip/Tuck

This could be why a growing number of women are not interested in defining themselves as lesbian or bisexual. Committing to a sexuality today is like committing to a favorite color for the rest of your life: What if you love red now but find you prefer green later in life? There are many discoveries one makes about one’s self after having varied life experiences.

I don’t mean to say that sexuality is fleeting — for many, it could be (and is) set in stone. Instead, I’m suggesting that it is very possible for women and men alike to have fluctuating romantic and sexual interests and perhaps, for those individuals, it’s best not to attempt to identify with one of just a few labels we’ve been given to choose from over the last century.

“It’s interesting how many [lesbians] have said to me ‘Oh man, when I was first coming out when I was 20, I would have been skeptical about bisexual women. But as I’ve gotten older in this community, you realize how unpredictable life can be and how fluid sexuality is.’ You see it in the women around you and you see it in yourself and what you find attractive when your 22 changes when you’re 38,” Diamond said. “That’s something the community needs to get a grip in. The more time you spend in the community, you realize how diverse and complicated our community is. We need to embrace that diversity, and embrace everyone in it.”

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