"You Can't Have Male Friends"
Navigating Through Male Insecurity as a Bisexual Woman
All my (albeit, very brief) adult life, I have been very unashamed of my sexuality. Sure, I don’t go shouting from the rooftops, “HEY, I like penises AND vaginas!” to anyone who will listen, but if I am ever faced with a question regarding my sexuality, I will always answer open and honestly that, yes, I am often attracted to people with genders that match my own or otherwise.
I’m quite lucky that I haven’t received any overwhelming negativity towards my sexual orientation. No name-calling, slurs or insistence that I’m "just going through a phase." Apart from the occasional, “Okay, but which do you prefer, men or women?" the communities I’ve been a part of have generally been quite accepting.
Occasionally though, when I’m dating someone, I’ll experience a double standard that I imagine is quite often faced by those who "like both." Whenever I am dating someone male-identifying, either casually or long-term, there is always an air of unease when it comes to me making new guy friends. I’ll be talking, as naturally as ever, about something funny Jason said or about Mark’s new hobby, and I’ll get a questioning look on my partner’s face.
“You seem to talk about X a lot these days,” they carefully posit, “Is there anything I should be worried about?”
I always laugh it off with, “What, I can’t have any male friends?” and change the subject, because it’s not something worth going into any more detail about. But, because I’m a type six – an over-thinker, naturally anxious – the topic renters my mind: Why can’t I have male friends?
I have always been a girl’s girl, with the majority of my close friendships being with hilarious, talented and wickedly smart women. I never understood the people who said, “I don’t like being friends with girls because it’s all drama,” as, in my experience, boys can be just as dramatic and bitchy as girls. Sometimes, more so! But I digress.
Being in the position as I am, as a lady who loves ladies and gentlemen and all those in between, I often wonder: why are my male partners never intimidated by my female friendships? Why are they never threatened when I hangout with Jen a lot, or when I’m on the phone to Amy every other night? Why is it that just because they are women, they’re somehow safe, even when my sexuality means that I can very much fall for a woman, too?
But no, apparently it doesn’t work like that. When a male friend steps into my life, my male partners instinctively need to "protect their territory." I'm faced with endless variations of the same phrase: "Oh no, I trust you. It's them I don't trust." Things like this make me believe that maybe I’ve experienced more prejudice as a bisexual woman then I’ve been lead to believe.
The discrimination is there, it’s just hidden.
And we all know why my male partners feel this way. MISOGYNY! PATRIARCHY! HETERONORMATIVITY! BI ERASURE! I hear you cry. And you wouldn’t be wrong. Not many of them know it, but straight men have been conditioned from birth to feel threatened when someone is encroaching on their space, trying to "steal their girl." Only, they have been taught to exclusively feel threatened by other men. Because no woman would dare try and take what "belongs" to him. In fact, women don’t come into play at all, because couples are just a boy/girl thing, right?
I don’t think all men consciously think like this, I honestly don’t. My current partner and I have been discussing this more and more recently, his privilege and his heteronormative ways. You can’t help being a product of your environment: if you were raised a certain way and taught certain values, they will absolutely shape who you are and how you think as a human being.
However, as a fully realised adult, who has the power to undo certain behavioural patterns and dangerous thinking, you also have the power to not be a dick.
It’s a tough road sometimes, for us bi folk, but we just have to keep on going. You can’t help the way someone has been brought up to think, but damn, can you challenge their behaviours and make them think twice.