More men would fool around with what Cleveland in Michael Chabon’s The Mysteries of Pittsburgh called their sexual chemistry sets if we promised them that giving blowjobs doesn’t make them gay. My youngest students admit to going on dates with their girlfriends, best friends, and their best friend’s boyfriend. For men and women in their thirties, it’s not even a question.
As tolerant as they’ve become, though, the tolerance is a radius, not a circumference; it encompasses the world, not themselves. Doctoral student Tony Silva’s journal article “Bud-Sex” posits that white rural straight-identifying men “normalized and authenticated” their sex with other dudes “as straight and normatively masculine.” In rural Idaho, according to the article, scores of Ennis Del Mars partake in sodomy without the self-loathing:
While relationships with regulars were free of romance and deep emotional ties, they were not necessarily devoid of feeling; participants enjoyed regulars for multiple reasons: convenience, comfort, sexual compatibility, or even friendship. Pat described a typical meetup with his regular: “We talk for an hour or so, over coffee … then we’ll go get a blowjob and then, part our ways.” Similarly, Richard noted, “Sex is a very small part of our relationship. It’s more friends, we discuss politics … all sorts of shit.” Likewise, with several of his regulars Billy noted, “I go on road trips, drink beer, go down to the city [to] look at chicks, go out and eat, shoot pool, I got one friend I hike with. It normally leads to sex, but we go out and do activities other than we meet and suck.” While Kevin noted that his regular relationship “has no emotional connection at all,” it also has a friendship-like quality, as evidenced by occasional visits and sleepovers despite almost 100 miles of distance
As Jessie Singal correctly notes, road trips and drinking beer and shooting pool suggest more than mere casual sex; far from segmenting their sexual selves, these men have absorbed them, figured out how to give the quotidian some electrical shocks when necessary — like gay men. That’s the rub. Although these rural men may have wives and girlfriends whom they love and raise happily family with, they find fulfillment in extending the boundaries of homosocial activity.
We have a term for this. Reading George Chauncey’s bloody essential Gay New York: Gender, Urban Culture, and the Making of the Gay Male some years ago, I wondered whether the gradual acceptance of a clinical term for what men and men and women and women do in bed or in car seats didn’t frighten these people: If I do a, I must be b. Given the trends towards the reclamation of opprobrious language noted by Christina Cauterucci in a fine recent piece about women with same sex leanings recoiling from the word “lesbian,” we should try harder as queers to proselytize for what I called in a piece last year “indispensable frivolity.”
Bisexuality is a rebuke to order, the same way the women whom Cauterucci cites use “queer” as “a statement of political worldview rather than sexual orientation.”
In a land where Senators Mike Lee and Ted Cruz and Vice President-Elect Mike Pence exist, rubbing their faces in the frivolity gets’em more enraged. Meanwhile if at first you don’t succeed:
“The prospects for protecting religious freedom are brighter now than they have been in a long time,” the Texas Republican told BuzzFeed News. “We are having ongoing conversations with our colleagues both in Congress and leaders in the new administration about a multitude of ways we can honor the commitment made to the voters in this last election.”
The First Amendment Defense Act would ban the federal government from punishing individuals and corporations — for example, denying them a tax exemption or a grant — if they act on a “religious belief or moral conviction” that marriage is between one man and one woman. It also protects those who think “that sexual relations are properly reserved to such a marriage.”
So here we are, on the battlefield again.