There is a subset of straight men you might not be aware of. They like to jerk off next to a buddy, but without touching him. This is called “buddy bating.” There are also straight men, sometimes the same straight men, who enjoy watching a man or two men penetrate another woman, and become aroused by the woman but also the men’s thrusting and grunting and muscular bodies. It’s not that they want to fuck the guy. It’s just that they think it’s hot. They don’t identify as gay, perhaps not even bisexual; they may prefer terms like “heteroflexible” or “straightish” interchangeably.
“Straightish is just used to describe heterosexual sex that is homoerotic, or dudes engaging in the same sexual experience together, but with a woman,” Trey Lyon tells MEL. Lyon is a 32-year-old sex-positive, self-described bi/fluid man who runs the porn Tumblr Fuck Yeah! Friendly Fire, billed as the “definitive source for kinky straightish porn.”
It’s unclear how many men identify as straightish; Lyon says he mostly uses the term to describe the porn he features, and prefers to identify himself as bisexual. Six years into running the site, he has nearly 200,000 followers, a large swath of whom are men curious about exploring a straightish identity.
FYFF (the term friendly fire means men who ejaculate on each other in these adjacent sex acts) mostly features porn involving two men and one woman in engagements that sprinkle heterosexual porn with homoerotic overtones — that is, a lot of two-dicks, one–vagina action. Maybe it’s just a woman blowing two dudes intermittently, or a closeup of double penetration — two dicks occupying both of a woman’s holes at the same time.
On Lyon’s Twitter account and blog, as well as in his podcast and interviews, he enthusiastically promotes this subculture of misunderstood, often shamed men. They identify as mostly straight and are often partnered with women, but like masturbating with other men (often while watching straight porn together), having sex with women while physically very close to another man, and/or watching men in porn in general.
Lyon’s mission is about more than curating titillating straightish porn, though. “It’s not only about getting off and jerking off to porn, but also me showcasing a version of sexuality that is heterosexual, but also very heteroflexible,” he says. “It’s me saying it’s okay for you to be engaged in these types of scenarios around women and men, and not feel your sexuality has to be threatened.”
It’s clear his followers and others on social media view straightish behaviors like buddy bating as modern and radical:
But it doesn’t appear to be a mainstream perception. Many people still believe that bisexual people don’t really exist—and that bisexual men, particularly those who would beat off in each other’s presence, are probably just in denial that they’re gay.
“They think bisexuality is really just one stop from Gayville,” Lyon says.
Case in point: On Urban Dictionary, “straightish” is defined as closeted, more or less:
Someone that is straight as far as the normal beholder, but has sex with the same gender behind closed doors on a regular basis. One can seem (and be therefore deemed) straightish, or it may have been proven.
The example sentences underscore the implied closeted meaning further:
“His outfit is perfect! Is he gay?”
“I mean… he’s straightish.”
“I’d love to suck him.”
Note that both example sentences refer to “he” and not a “she.” Women are still given the latitude to make out with another woman at a party to titillate partygoers and still leave that party with a heterosexual identity in tact, or claim an unquestioned bisexuality, too.
Not so for men.
“Guys are told that if you’re sexually fluid you’re automatically gay,” Lyon says. “That mentality shamed me into believing I was gay when I’m not. People told me I wasn’t bisexual, and it wasn’t a real thing. Before I knew myself, I bought into that.”
Lyon says it’s not just men doing this shaming. Often times, it’s the girlfriends or wives of “straightish” men giving bisexual or straightish men the side-eye. “These guys tell me that it’s their women oftentimes that present as homophobic,” Lyons says. “They want to bring another guy to a threesome, and it’s the woman with the insecurity, being like Oh my god, are you gay?”
But they aren’t gay—not there’s anything wrong with that, either.
In a recent Savage Love column, Dan Savage answers a question from a 29-year-old woman whose boyfriend, Adam, recently told her that he and his college roommate Steve used to masturbate together. She doesn’t think either of them is gay, but she admittedly doesn’t “know what to make of this.”
“Maybe they’re heteroflexible?” she speculates, wondering if it’s “common” for straight guys to masturbate together. Complicating matters is the fact that Steve still hangs around the couple, who otherwise have “fantastic, no-complaints” sex.
Savage turns to Lyon to take the wheel. “Buddy-bating among straight guys is more common than people may think,” Lyon tells Savage. To answer why straight men experiment in this way when they’re definitely not gay, Lyon cites Jane Ward’s 2015 book Not Gay: Sex Between Straight White Men. Lyon — quoting Ward — says that “sexual interaction between straight white men allows them to leverage whiteness and masculinity to authenticate their heterosexuality in the context of men.”
Lyon goes on to say such acts are bonding in a “masculine, albeit sexual way with another guy, while also still only being responsible for getting themselves off.” It strengthens their friendships, he says, adding that there’s nothing to be ashamed of, especially when, in the case of the letter from the woman to Savage, Adam is being totally open with his fiancée about it.
Savage, for his part, calls bullshit on Ward’s book’s entire conceit. While acknowledging that, yes, a straight guy can have a gay or bi experience and still be straight, Savage points out the buddy-bating boner in the room here:
Straightness is so valued (and apparently so vulnerable) that some people can look at guys who put dicks in their mouths at regular intervals and construct book-length rationalizations that allow these guys to avoid identifying or being labeled as bi, gay, or queer. (And if sucking dick allows straight men to “authenticate their heterosexuality,” wouldn’t there be gay men out there eating pussy to “authenticate” their homosexuality?)
It’s a valid point. After all, if it were truly okay for straight dudes to fantasize about men and enjoy masturbating with them, why not just call it “gayish?” Doesn’t “straightish” imply a discomfort with gayness, an attempt to distance oneself from homosexuality?
Lyon said he doesn’t disagree with Savage’s response, but he makes two points about the heteroflexibility he and other men enjoy. Yes, it’s harder for men to identify as bi or even straightish, because of the idea that it must mean they’re gay.
“There are a lot of dudes [who message me] who are worried about their sexuality, who think something is wrong with them because of this notion of a rigid sex paradigm we’ve created in our society,” Lyon says. “So that everyone’s sexuality is palatable to the masses, there are strict little boxes you have to be confined in. I just say no, that’s bullcrap.”
Second, Lyon says, straightish men who find his website express relief that a place exists for people who share their predilections. They’re curious about jerking off with another man, and wonder how they might go about it. They make a clear distinction between simply masturbating beside a man or watching porn with men fully shown (as opposed to POV porn), versus actually engaging in gay sex.
He says he’s enjoyed buddy bating with friends for years, for instance, and that while men who might be gay can also use that interaction as a way of exploring that orientation, that when those men are gay or bisexual, things escalate pretty quickly.
“We’re not guys who necessarily want to penetrate or be penetrated by another guy,” he says.
“I have buddies I’ve jerked off with a decade and we’ve never engaged in that way; I have buddies who after a few times of doing it will open up and want to explore more. A guy who wants to explore gay sex will do it however he wants to do it, like next to a guy on a couch, jerking off. That guy had an orientation all along that was bisexual. But I’m talking about a guy who understand this is just a part of his sexuality, a bonus to what he does with his wife or girlfriend, and he has no interest than that.”
He calls it supplementing their heterosexuality. “Plenty of my followers have no interest in sex with a man, but they like the bonding of jerking off next to a buddy,” he says.
In a podcast with clinical psychologist David Ley, who has written about the myth of sex addiction as well as a recent guide to ethical porn for men, they discuss what’s behind all this. Over the years, Lyon has fielded his fair share of questions from men who write to him because they’re concerned about being bisexual, or confused about why they find this type of straightish pornography stimulating when they “shouldn’t.”
Ley says, simply, that sexuality is a complex thing. “Our sexuality is developed and designed by evolution to compete with other men’s sperm. The shape of the penis works like a suction pump to remove semen in a woman’s vagina from another man. When a man is responding to the presence of the other man, he ejaculates harder, he gets erect again sooner and his ejaculate contains more sperm.”
“What’s interesting is that now,” Ley continues, “the pornography you’re talking about, it takes that competition and turns it into excitement and arousal.” At the core of this attraction for men, Ley tells Lyon, is that it’s also a taboo. That means, he says, it can “become sexy and arousing, because we want to be naughty.”
And thanks to a few key shifts in modern thinking — the ubiquity of porn, and the shifting definition of sexual orientation to include more than just gay or straight—we now have “lots of people out there who can get aroused by things that aren’t consistent with their identity,” Ley says.
Ley recommends that, rather than worry about the labels, that these men start from a place of investigation and curiosity, asking themselves, “What does it mean if I get turned on by these things?”
It doesn’t necessarily mean anything. Part of the issue here in embracing bisexuality is that it’s long been considered less than a “real” sexual orientation even within the gay community. Bisexual writer Beth Sherouse wrote earlier this year at Think Progress that it’s perplexing that bisexual people still feel unrepresented in the LGBTQ community when half of that community identifies as such. Sherouse said she still fields comments about the fact that bisexual people simply have less to complain about, since they can “choose to pass as straight.” As a result, it’s as if bisexual people, she writes, “are everywhere and nowhere.”
Lyon points out to Ley that there’s still this perception that being bisexual means you want to have relationships with both sexes, when for many people it may just be a sexual attraction, and not a romantic one. “Sex is about far more than who you share your genitals with,” Ley says. “It’s also who you spend time with, who you love.”
But things are changing, potentially to a point where being straightish won’t leave so many men confused, or their girlfriends troubled. “Bisexuality is where a lot of the work is being done right now,” says Ley, who uses the term colonizing the middle to describe the plethora of terms for the different shades of bisexuality. “There’s fluidity, pansexuality, genderfluid, or gender queer,” he says. “There’s mostly straight. Heteroflexible. Now, people get to try to understand their sexuality, as opposed to fit their sexuality into the box of how they’re told it’s supposed to work.”
Lyon regularly checks in with his followers to see how the site is helping them address their issues and desires. One follower told him that before finding FYFF, he used to get off on “solo cum vids,” and that after experiencing his first buddy bating session recently, thanks to the encouragement he found from Lyon, he found it “incredible, and since then, he and his friend have never been closer.”
He told Lyon it’s simply because men never get to be vulnerable in this way. It’s the taboo that makes it exciting, but by exploring it, the taboo is diminishing.
Lyon also routinely counsels men on how to explore their curiosity about this straightish act, directing them to a masturbation enthusiasts’ site called Bate World where they explore, among other things, buddy bating and why it’s still stigmatized. (“All guys like to masturbate,” Lyon told me. “But these guys really really like to masturbate.”)
Other men tell him that finding his site has “saved their relationship.” They’re able to use it to have discussions about their sexuality with wives that allow them to grow and expand the relationship, that otherwise would’ve ended in divorce.
Lyon also works as a sex coach, and he feels that the work he’s doing is critical to shifting understanding of how fluid sexuality really is. It’s not exactly sex missionary work—he’s not trying to win over guys to his way of thinking. He just wants to diminish the stigma, which he believes is critical to healing homophobia. After all, a guy who’s comfortable with a straightish point of view isn’t likely to be offended or outraged if a guy hits on him at a bar.
“Yeah, it’s about guys jerking off,” he says of his work. “But it’s also about helping guys have the freedom to love themselves and their sexuality wholly. To engage in ways that feel sexually good to them. That’s the work I’m passionate about doing.”