According to the results of a Love@Lycos survey of 125,000 single people, more than 60% of men wouldn’t mind if it was revealed their partner had once had a relationship with someone of the same sex. Aside from the question’s obvious exclusion of respondents currently in same-sex relationships, the article discussing the result actually manages to misrepresent things even further by reporting that such men have no problems with their partner actually having sex with another woman. Meanwhile, the further 31% who would find it “a bit odd” but would nonetheless dismiss it as “a long time ago,” would be willing to overlook a lesbian interlude if they “still felt desired.” After this little bit of spicing up, the article admits that “one might wonder how much they would forgive and forget if they were to find out they couldn’t join in the fun.” The guys still get “credit where it’s due” though because the female respondents were apparently far less comfortable, with just 23% saying they wouldn’t have a problem if there was a portion of man-love included in their boyfriend’s romantic history. (Okay, so I’m spicing it up a bit myself now but that’s not quite the same as making answers about the past look as if they relate to the present.)
Having said that, I do think this article is probably right in its suggestion that a wish to “join in the fun” might be behind some of the male respondents’ apparent liberalism about lesbian relationships. Indeed, it’s a point that I think David Robson missed in his It’s the Tawdry Factor that gets Men Interested piece in the Express last year when he said:
That’s another difference between the sexes. Men are more broad-minded. In women’s fantasies male gayness is a minus; in men’s fantasies, women’s gayness is a plus.
Robson seems to have failed to take into account just how socially acceptable is is for heterosexual males to take the “Phwooargh! Lesbians!” approach. Meanwhile, women are not culturally trained to eroticise male homosexuality. More to the point, those of us who do enjoy the sight of blokes happily romping together are certainly not encouraged to assume that the men in question are actually just doing it so they can arouse or include us. Also, society frames male sexuality as active and this forces people to take non-standard male preferences seriously. Meanwhile, female sexuality ends up being viewed as altogether much more mutable, trivial and transient (i.e less threatening to the status quo). This means a lesbian past is all too easily put down to either:
a) a passing teenage phase involving innocent hair brushing, French kissing and titty fondling that was immediately rendered insignificant once an introduction to cock had been been made
b) that raunchy time in a girl’s life when she’ll do anything to make herself more attractive to men (including get it on with her mates when she knows there are lads watching).
I’m not saying that any man who expresses a liking for the sight of two women bonking is a raging sexist, as there are many factors potentially at play when looking at any one individual’s particular turn-ons and, just like every woman, every man is different. I just think it’s hard for women to convince people that a gay past doesn’t pale into insignificance once a heterosexual relationship comes along whereas, for men, a gay past is seen as much more of a Big Deal. After all, we live in a culture that positively encourages men to see “lesbianism” as something that has been designed for their visual pleasure (or at least it does if the “birds” involved are deemed fit according to increasingly narrow lad-mag standards). This context niftily bypasses any notion that a woman with a lesbian past could be led to choose a female over a male. It denies the possibility that the other woman could be as much of a threat to a monogamous heterosexual relationship as the other man.
The Lycos survey result doesn’t stem from narrow-minded women and free-love embracing men. It just shows us that heterosexist assumptions about what sex is (i.e traditional coitus) and what makes it happen (i.e cock) are still leading society not to take lesbianism seriously.
Photo by Pσrcelαΐηgΐrl°, shared under a Creative Commons Licence.