ARE SOME LESBIANS ATTRACTED TO MEN?
BY KALI MUNRO, M.Ed., Psychotherapist, 2001
Originally published in Siren, Feb/March 2001
Do you think that it is possible to be lesbian and sexually attracted to men? What about lesbians who have sexual fantasies that include men? Or lesbians who have relationships only with women and occasionally have sex with a man? If you have any of these feelings or experiences, you are not alone, and they don’t have to diminish your lesbian identity.
On the other hand, if the thought of one or all of these upset or anger you, you are not alone, either. As lesbians, we can be sensitive about these issues, and with good reason.
UNDERSTANDING WHY SOME LESBIANS ARE UNCOMFORTABLE WITH THE TOPIC
It’s not hard to understand why some lesbians might not trust lesbians or bisexual women who include men in their sex lives. In a world where we are told that lesbian relationships are a fad, a phase, less significant than straight relationships, don’t last, are unhappy, unstable, and lacking because there is no male involvement, and that all we need is a “good fuck,” it can be hard to feel open to lesbians or bisexual women who want, or do have sex with men.
We want the world to recognize lesbian relationships and to understand that we are perfectly content and sexually fulfilled with women. It is within this context that it can be hard for some lesbians to hear that other lesbians’ sexual fulfillment includes fantasies and sex with men. It sounds too familiar to what homophobes say about us, and so we distance ourselves from them and refuse to listen.
But are we getting anywhere by not listening to each other? I don’t think so. Sometimes, our community can feel pretty polarized and divided.
BISEXUALITY MAY NOT BE THE ANSWER
Many people think that there are two narrowly defined sexual orientations for women – lesbian and straight – and that women fall neatly into one or the other category for the rest of their lives (or at least once they’ve come out). Deviations from these categories upset a lot of people, including both those who support and those opposed to lesbian sexuality. In response, a third category is introduced: bisexuality.
There is a tendency to view bisexuality as fitting anyone who doesn’t neatly fit into the other two; kind of like a “dumping ground” rather than a viable alternative in its own right. But even this third category hasn’t resolved the issue because it would mean, for example, grouping women who form all of their emotional and sexual relationships with women and occasionally have sex with men into the same category as women who form all of their emotional and sexual relationships with men and occasionally have sex with women.
SEXUALITY AS A CONTINUUM
Maybe it’s more helpful to view sexuality as being a continuum of different sexual desires and behaviours, and that it’s possible to move a little, or a lot, on the continuum. Perhaps there is even a continuum of desire and another continuum of behaviour, which explains why we fantasize about all kinds of things that we are not interested in acting on. This would explain why lesbians who occasionally sleep with men identify as lesbian. Most of the time they are at the far end of the continuum where they have relationships exclusively with women. A small minority of the time they move on the continuum and enjoy a night of sex with a man.
OUR SEXUALITY ISN’T SIMPLE
Many lesbians (and others, too) would prefer the simplicity of saying a lesbian is one thing and one thing only, but it just doesn’t reflect the sexual desires and behaviour of all lesbians, and we don’t resolve anything by saying that lesbians who sleep with men aren’t “real” lesbians. The question is whether or not we can listen to lesbians without judgement, and be open to understanding their feelings without having to categorize them.
A MORE DIVERSE COMMUNITY
In the end, the fact that there are lesbians who sometimes have sex with men, and bisexual women, doesn’t diminish or take anything away from the many lesbians who have no sexual desire for men; nor does it decrease the importance of countering heterosexist and homophobic myths. We can only gain by acknowledging and respecting the sexual diversity of our community; in doing that, we gain a richer and more varied community.