Nearly 20 years ago, I lived for several months with my friend’s drug dealer. He was 13 years older than me. I didn’t want to date him in the first place, but back then I had a hard time saying no, and he was very persuasive.
Besides, he paid me kindnesses, things that would seem trivial now, but at the time were like miracles. He bought me makeup at the drugstore when I left mine at home. Took me out to a Chinese restaurant for lunch. And held my hand in broad daylight.
I’d spent the year being passed around the theater department. The resident “am I actually bi or just curious?” test for young actresses. Sometimes the answer was yes, but even then, they didn’t stay, making a beeline for another experience. A new girlfriend. I was like the Human Resources rep you spend your first week on the job with, doing paperwork, chatting about benefits. The one you never speak to again once you’ve settled into your actual job duties.
So the fact that Kurt wanted to be seen with me in public was huge. Even if I wasn’t so sure about him.
And as I stood in his bathroom and painted my face with CoverGirl liquid foundation, I felt like I was going to war against my doubts. Maybe this wasn’t what I had chosen, but it was better than nothing, right?
I could do this.
My Bisexuality Was a Third, Unwanted Partner
Like a lot of experiences from that time in my life, the relationship with Kurt didn’t end well. For a variety of reasons. The sex was great, the kinkiest I’d ever had at that point in my life, but he was emotionally volatile. I never knew what version of him I was going to get. And some of them were really fucking scary.
It certainly didn’t help that my bisexuality cast a shadow over us. It had become almost a third member of our dysfunctional relationship. I was finding this to be a common theme. Potential partners never had a neutral response to my being bisexual. Bicurious women viewed me as a prime opportunity to test their fantasies. Lesbians regarded me with suspicion, leery that I’d leave them for a man eventually (can’t say that I blame them, plenty of women left me for men).
And the men who dated me typically had one of two possible reactions:
- They were threatened by my sexuality and worried that I’d leave them for a woman. — OR —
- They thought it was hot that I was bisexual and aggressively campaigned for threesomes.
Occasionally I’d date a man who did both, and that was inevitably an interesting rollercoaster.
But like most men I dated, Kurt fell squarely into the second bucket.
“I saw you looking at her,” he would say, literally in the middle of sex.
He’d name an attractive female friend of ours. “I know you want her,” he’d say. “I bet you’re thinking about her right now, as I’m fucking you.”
Well, now that you mentioned her, I’d think. I could have said this, but instead I moaned, clutching him closer, suddenly wanting the sex to be over.
“You’re such a dirty girl,” he’d say.
After sex was over, I’d take the opportunity to explain that it made me uncomfortable, but Kurt would laugh. Dismiss the concern. Find any way to change the subject.
Later, he’d continue to plant seeds, make more suggestions. And I’d grow more and more conflicted.
Because the truth was that I’d had some threesomes and even group sex, and yes, I’d liked it. But being liked for just one thing didn’t feel great. Reduced to a superficial accessory ripped from porn. Powerless, exploited — and not in a fun way. The lazy kind of objectification that’s yawn inducing and boner wilting. And as time wore on, I began to feel less and less like Kurt wanted me for me — and was more enchanted with my potential as a harem girl.
And the next man I’d go on to date would be similar. I began to feel like my bisexuality was the pretty girl everyone wanted, and I was her ugly friend. The come-with that you pawn off on your buddy so you can get it on with the babe.
A Different World for Bisexual Women
The world has changed a lot since then. Sometimes I think back on those crazy years and wonder how things would go these days. If things would be a little different.
Back then, a lot of us were fumbling in the dark. I grew up in a small conservative town in the Maine woods. I was 9 the first time I ever made out with a girl (14, with a boy). But I didn’t know I was bisexual until I was 18, when a college friend who hailed from Akron introduced me to the term. She’d been watching me flip flop my sexual orientation week to week. It was funny at first, but after a point, you need to put an end to it.
“Page, you’re clearly bisexual.”
It was a long night.
These days it’s a lot different. Straight girls make out in bars to pick up men. Female friends confide in me, “I wish I were bisexual, it’d make life so much easier.”
When I date a much younger man, he’s confused why I’m not more open about my attraction to other women, like a lot of other polyamorous bi women he knows. His other girlfriend makes a habit of pointing out women that she finds attractive while they’re out in public. He shows me porn of women and asks me what I think. He doesn’t ask me about my preferences in men. I answer him truthfully but feel uncomfortable the entire time.
He asks me what’s wrong, but I have a hard time finding the words. What does come out is angry and incoherent. Keeps looping back on itself.
But somewhere in the torrent that’s coming out of my mouth, a message materializes:
The world has fetishized my scars, the things that almost killed me, and now everyone expects me to be lighthearted. Carefree.
And I just can’t.
Because the world may have changed, but that doesn’t mean I have.