men, masculinities and gender politics

Authors

Diverse desires

Stubbornly, with determination, I resisted. I knew and experienced emotional and sexual desire from an early age as complex, broad-ranging and variable. It was and is still not a simple attraction to one sex or another. It was and is not fixed to one pattern of attraction, lust or pleasure.

I grew up in Sydney in the 1960s and 1970s. The dominant message about sexuality from Australian society at large, from friends, from media, from the small-minded and cramped existence of conformity, was to be straight. Heterosexuality: boy with girl, girl with boy, dates, sex and coupledom.

I was lucky: my parents had broader views. I came from a family where social dissent and difference were the norm. My parents not only spoke and thought about the great social issues of the period but also acted and lived these out. These roots gave me the confidence and the courage to be different from the carefully constructed heterosexual norm.

And the options? The alternative role models? Well you could be gay. Boy with boy, more boys, couples, triples - the limits were those of the imagination. Revel in lust. Take pleasure when and where it suited. Commit yourself to sexual and emotional relationships with those of your own sex. Throw off the straight jackets of the heterosexual world and take control of your homosexual identity. Choose. Be gay. Identify with this "new" thrust of masculine culture.

The script is remarkably the same, the pressures strangely familiar. Be black or white. Choose. Fit neatly into one box and stay in it. Fix yourself to gender and sex. Do not change.

But I like men and women: emotionally, physically, sexually, wholly. Not all the time, and not in the same way. Differently. Variably. Sometimes together, sometimes apart. Sometimes more one than the other. I celebrate sexuality in multiple difference, variations, possibilities and moments. This does not mean I'm a tart, and nor does it mean that I fear commitment. It means that I recognise and act on complex emotions and desires.

In essence I experience desire across gender and sexual practice.I eroticise and am sexually aroused sometimes by men and sometimes by women. I engage in and desire sexual activity with men and women. There are periods where one sex appeals more than another. There are precious moments of genderless desire with a partner or during quiet periods of masturbation when a kaleidoscope of colour, mood, shape and sensation washes over the sexual experience.

Emotionally I experience more longing and connectedness with men. The intensity of emotion is reflected in a sense of stronger bonding and identification than with women. Intellectually I am attracted to people regardless of gender. There are times of no desire when asexuality suits me fine.

My sexual desire is lust and longing. It is love and emotion. It is pleasure and fantasy. Fulfilment comes as a roving pleasure of the body engaging physicality with emotion and intellect.

This tree of desire is firmly anchored in earthy roots and can be climbed to lofty heights. My male body responds to the range of physical acts many men are familiar with - the touch of skin, embrace of pressure, muscle tension, nice things done to dick and balls and perhaps a whiff of pain. Emotionally and intellectually a sense of connectedness with my partner during sex heightens the experience and can indeed be the experience. Who does what and how, their gender, the emotional presence, even a spiritual consciousness - how am I engaged? In the end I don't know how the connections of pleasure are made: they just are.

Liking men and woman sexually is a transgression of Australian social norms, both those of straight as well as gay and lesbian cultures. Like many bisexuals I have run into the usual absurdities of others bent on defining and boxing people into sexual identities. When it comes to bisexuality the views of others tend to fit into one of three models of sexuality. For want of better names I'll call each in turn the Conflict, Flexible and Who gives a stuff models.

Adherents to the Conflict model wet themselves silly over the supposed inability of bisexuals to adopt a single, fixed sexual orientation. Here, the proponents demand, we are either gay or straight. If you think you are a bit of both then you are in conflict with your real self and won't admit to being really gay anyway.

Flexible modellers broadly acknowledge sexuality as a many-faceted thing that is not fixed in time, gender or experience. Such sensitive, broadminded souls are quite content to live and let live and happily see sexuality as a spectrum of experience and attraction.

Who gives a stuffers basically bonk anything that moves. Practitioners think any discussion on sexuality is a waste of time and gets in the way of living.

In my apolitical moments I drift into Who gives a stuff mode. Just let me be! I can pretend labels don't count. I can fantasise that the world is a free and easy place in which to do your own thing. But I know the world isn't like that. There is intolerance. There is bi- and homophobia. There are bigots and bashers and bastards. Those who transgress are persecuted, and bisexuality is hidden in a twilight world. Bisexuality is not freely discussed or allowed to freely exist in the mainstream world.

But frigid attitudes towards sexual diversity have thawed. Popular culture has flirted with diverse desires in recent years in film, music and theatre. Inspired by this, but wary too that gains can become losses, I can continue to dream, to hope and to fight. In my ideal future world I would want us all, whatever label we use - bisexual, lesbian, gay, straight or none at all, not to trap ourselves within definitions and build walls of intolerance.

Let us all strive to move identity beyond sexuality.

First published in the magazine XY: men, sex, politics, 4(1), Autumn 1994. XY, PO Box 26, AINSLIE, ACT, 2602, AUSTRALIA. Reprinted with permission. © Copyright 1995