|Yes, there were scratch marks on my back like if I slept with a Leopard and visible to my partner. She marked what she thought was now her territory. A gay man turned straight. I told her I was as gay now as I was the day before.|
With more people identifying as sexually fluid in the U.S., more young people are opening up about their own sexually fluid experiences.
A 2015 report by YouGov revealed that one in two people don't consider themselves 100 percent heterosexual, and a more recent report by trend forecasting agency, the J. Walter Thompson Innovation Group revealed that less than half of Americans between the ages of 13 and 20 identify as totally heterosexual.
People may often engage in sexual activity outside the lines of one specific sexual orientation. That's sexual fluidity.
Dr. Jane Ward, a professor of gender and sexuality studies at University of California, Riverside, spoke to ATTN: in the fall about her book "Not Gay: Sex Between Straight White Men," which explains why heterosexual men might have sex with each other even though they identify as straight. Ward said at the time that straight men do this because "touching other people's bodies is fun" and "people are curious," and she provided similar insight in a recent interview with ATTN: about why gay men have sex with straight women, an interaction that has sparked a curious debate on social media and in society at large.
A notable example of this is in "Girls" during the first episode of season two. Viewers watched Elijah, a gay man, briefly have sex with female character Marnie, the best friend of his ex-girlfriend Hannah, after an emotionally taxing party. They are unable to have sex for very long, however, and the episode generated a lot of discussion on various blogs and entertainment outlets. In 2015, Salon writer Jenny Kutner called the scene one of the most cringe-worthy sex scenes on the show. Rolling Stone called it a particularly bizarre scene as well.
Some gay men may have sex with women because, like straight men who sleep together, they are curious, Ward told ATTN:.
"The answer is that gay men, like all of us, are sometimes curious about having sexual experiences that fall outside of their usual repertoire," Ward told ATTN: via email.
"I know gay men who have had sex with very feminine women they thought were especially beautiful, and I have known gay men who have had sex with butch lesbians whose masculinity and dominance they found exciting," Ward said. "I know many gay men who identify as gay, but also identify as queer, and who would tell you that under the right circumstances they are generally open to sex with queer women."
There is also something to be said about variety. Last year, when journalist Shawn Binder interviewed several gay men who sleep with women for a Broadly piece, one interviewee named Lucas said that gay sex can feel boring after a while.
"You can only take so many dicks before guys get boring," Lucas told Broadly. "Females are a nice departure from the norm."
How homophobia impacts heterosexual sex for gay men.
Ward added that the larger impact of homophobia in our society might hinder gay men from having sex with women so as not to encourage supporters of gay conversion therapy, which research has shown to be ineffective and harmful, according to 12 studies compiled by Columbia University.
"Because of homophobia, gay men have spent decades struggling to have their queerness decriminalized and positively acknowledged, so it makes sense to me that many gay men have taken a hard line about their homosexuality by depicting it as completely rigid and exclusive. This has been an important strategy for resisting homophobic efforts to convert gay men to heterosexuality. If homophobes can be convinced that desire for women is an absolute impossibility for gay men, then violent efforts to 'repair' gay men start to appear futile. But I think the reality of human sexuality is more complicated than this."
While Ward noted that no one should ever be subjected to conversion, she said that this "doesn’t mean that it’s impossible for queer people to sometimes desire opposite sex encounters."
"Human sexuality is more fluid than that—for everyone," Ward said. "What matters is that regardless of how observers might understand queer people’s sexual practices, that we respect how they themselves understand the meaning of those practices."
There is indeed a stigma against gay men who sleep with women, as there is a greater taboo against people who have sexual experiences outside of their sexual orientation.
As noted before, bisexuals in particular are highly stigmatized for being able to “choose" a side.
"Unfortunately the culture’s investment in fixed sexual identity categories means that anyone who has a sexual encounter that doesn’t 'match' their sexual orientation is treated with suspicion, and the authenticity of their self-identification is called into question," she said.
Ward added that such policing is common in gay communities, and that having sex with a woman is especially stigmatized because of sexism against women in the gay community:
"This kind of policing of sex is especially strong in gay male communities, in part as a matter of self protection as I already described but also because of gay male misogyny. There is a tremendous amount of sexism in gay male subculture, so to have sex with a woman can be stigmatized not just as a heterosexual act, but can also elicit gay men’s misogynistic disgust at the very thought of the female body."