Grace, 21, a writer and animator living in Massachusetts, is telling me about one of her fondest sexual memories with her boyfriend: the day her strap-on broke. “The strap busted in the middle of us having sex while I was trying to tighten it,” she says. “So, we paused and watched an episode of Bob’s Burgers while he sewed it back together with a needle and thread.”
She credits her boyfriend’s bisexuality as part of the reason he’s so good, giving and game in the bedroom. “We use toys, take turns being penetrated and I know I can talk to him about anything sex-related without him feeling like his entire manhood is hanging off the edge of a cliff,” she tells me. “Outside of sex, our relationship is much more equal and open as well.”
Grace is part of an enthusiastic contingent of women who find bisexuality to be a major turn-on in men — or non-monosexuality more generally, an umbrella term that includes pansexuality and reflects the idea that gender isn’t a binary. Women who are attracted to bisexual men consistently cite three main reasons for their appeal: 1) sexual open-mindedness; 2) lowered adherence to traditional (or “toxic”) masculinity and a more relaxed attitude to gender roles in general; and 3) a sense of queer solidarity — most of the women I spoke to about their attraction to bi men were themselves bisexual.
“I dated straight men earlier in my life, one very seriously, and our differences around sex became one of the main reasons we broke up,” Grace explains. She adds that her straight ex-boyfriend would get defensive when she tried to communicate with him about sex. “I once told him I hadn’t had an orgasm, and he yelled, ‘I’m not superman!’ I tried to get him to try new things, like vibrators, cock rings or other toys, but he got offended and wouldn’t engage with the conversation.” Now that she has a boyfriend who identifies as queer, she’s finding that he’s more self-aware, open-minded and communicative than the straight men she’s dated. “He knows himself and his needs a lot more,” she says.
Melissa, a 26-year-old social worker living in Italy, says the sex she’s had with bisexual men is much more satisfying than with their straight counterparts. “The bi men I’ve been with took longer, making sure I was comfortable, being careful and attentive, and asking about consent more than just once,” she tells me. “They tended to have a different approach to kinks and weren’t scared to appear passive or vulnerable. Things like prostate play, for example, can be a huge taboo for straight men.” Other women cited openness to MMF threesomes, pegging, watching gay porn together and having more trusting and nuanced dom/sub relationships as perks of dating bisexual men.
It’s not just about spicing things up in the bedroom, though. For Amy, a 26-year-old school administrator in Egypt, bisexual men are attractive because of their tendency to hold more enlightened social attitudes, a sentiment dozens of women echoed to me. “I would hope that bisexual men have become more aware of, and rejected, the power structures that oppress other marginalized groups, and that they realize the negative impact that toxic masculinity has on them, other people and their relationships,” she explains. Other women tell me they found bisexual men to be more sensitive, empathetic, curious, accommodating, open and emotionally supportive than straight men — the fact that they’re also good sports in the bedroom is just a cherry on top, they say.
Bisexuality is reported less frequently in men than women: 5.5 percent of women versus 2 percent of men in a survey of 10,000 Americans said they were bisexual — perhaps unsurprisingly, given our differing cultural attitudes to non-monosexuality in men and women. Women’s bisexuality tends to be viewed as unserious and non-threatening: squeamish family members write it off as “a phase” and loutish men view it as a titillating performance mainly for their benefit. All of which is to say that bisexual women are assumed, deep down, to be straight. Bisexual men, on the other hand, are assumed, deep down, to be gay; using bisexuality as a way station to coming out as homosexual.
“People outside the academic, queer echo chamber largely think of sexual orientation as a binary and not a spectrum,” explains Liam, 27, a game designer from Dallas who is bi. “These people think that if you’re a man interested in men then you’re gay and in denial about your sexuality, using your bisexual identity as a stepping stone. It’s frustrating, because you’re not treated as an authority on your own experience.”
Abigail, 25, a writer from New Zealand, tells me that her straight ex-boyfriend internalized this binary logic so thoroughly that, after she confessed to cheating on him, he visibly relaxed when she revealed that the other man was bisexual. “He scoffed, like he was no longer a threat,” she says. “It was so instinctual to him that queerness in men meant less sexual capital. He had no idea how much that bisexual man got me off by describing sexual acts with other men.”
Bisexual men also report experiencing fetishization from dating partners, who sometimes express prurient curiosity about their sex lives. Lars, an 18-year-old who spoke to us earlier this year about what it’s like to date online as a bisexual man, said that bi guys are often “perceived to be slutty” and face constant questions about their sexuality, including interrogations about where they sit on the Kinsey Scale and their sexual histories. This can quickly become tiresome. As Zachary Zane, an LGBTQ activist who writes about his experience as an out bi man, puts it, “They don’t wanna date me, but they want to know about me, which is annoying.”
Despite differing cultural attitudes toward non-monosexual men and women, the two groups have many shared experiences, which may explain why so many bisexual women told me they preferred the solidarity of dating bi men. Both groups are commonly told that they’re “being greedy” and “need to pick a side” — usually, but not always by straight people. Both are stigmatized as confused, unstable and promiscuous. Both are more likely to experience anxiety, depression and suicidal thoughts than straight and gay people, a phenomenon attributed to the “double discrimination” that comes with being not quite welcome in either the straight or gay communities. Similarly, straight, lesbian and gay individuals are generally less willinging to be in a relationship with bi people, leading to a kind of paradox: Bisexuality is viewed as a hedonistic, choice-fuelled, all-you-can-eat sexuality, but bisexual people are left feeling like they’re not really wanted by anyone.
For bisexual men, this feeling may be especially acute. Last year, self-professed feminist and SlutWalk organizer Amber Rose, who has gone on record as being bisexual herself, said that she wouldn’t date a bisexual man. “When it comes to me and who I lay down with, I’m just not comfortable with it,” she told her co-host on the podcast, Loveline with Amber Rose. In Season One of HBO’s Insecure, the unlucky-in-love character Molly stops dating an almost comically handsome and decent man when he reveals a previous sexual experience with another guy. In Season Two of The Crown, Antony Armstrong-Jones, the photographer who married Princess Margaret, is described as having “unnatural” bisexual relationships, rendering him a “very complicated man.” A Glamour survey of 1,000 women, almost half of whom said they’d been attracted to other women, found that 63 percent of them wouldn’t date a man who’d had sex with another man. To hear many women tell it, bisexual men are tarnished goods.
Matt, 26, who works for a county government agency in Cleveland, tells me that his bisexuality has elicited homophobia and rejection from most of the women he’s dated. “I’ve only had maybe three women find it attractive, and most of the time, they lose interest in me or just ghost me after I tell them,” he says. “One woman called me a f*ggot, and I had to beg her not to out me as ‘gay.’ That’s basically when I stopped telling my partners I was bi, unless I got very comfortable with them.” Sean, 30, has a similar experience. “Straight girls love to act like a man’s bisexuality is a turn-on or wouldn’t be an issue for them, but ultimately it really, REALLY is a problem,” he says. He tells me about a failed relationship with a straight woman who, among other things, said his one-off inability to get an erection “confirmed all her fears” that he wasn’t actually attracted to women.
In light of the discrimination, general misunderstanding and occasional revulsion that surrounds their sexuality, bisexual men may be encouraged to hear that there’s a solid community of women who express wholehearted — almost fangirlish — adoration for them. Or as Ces, 30, puts it: “Bi men tend to be better looking, better dressers and have better taste in music. They have the edge on straight dudes when it comes to being less wussy about their own masculinity, and they’re more willing to sit on my face, which is a thing I’m really into.”