I was 20 years old, fresh out of a break-up, and new to New York with a vague sense of identity. It was only two years prior that I had come out of the closet as bisexual, and to my surprise, it wasn’t much of a shock to anyone else at all. Fascinated with the idea of moving to a city that did not belong to me, I figured the experience alone would be pivotal in my self-discovery. I was eager to begin shaping out the rest of my earthly existence as someone who had just begun scratching at the surface. It didn’t take long before I would cross paths with a man who I’ve once described as the Marlon Brando of SoHo, but with an unbefitting cocaine addiction. That was the first red flag. Although, truthfully, I wasn’t interested in falling back into the ropes of dating another man, like everything else, it happened before I could make it stop. He was older than I was and possessed the charming ability to get me into bars with just a wink of an eye. I liked that, even if it did cost my innocence.
It was a Friday night, and we attended our frequent weekend outing—a Twin Peaks-themed speakeasy on the Lower East Side. We had spent the evening tossing our necks back with drinks in hand, arms laced around one other, and the exchanging of sweat with strangers on a congested dance floor. It wasn’t unusual for the both of us to get lost amongst the surge of a crowd, running into familiar faces, but I remember foolishly wondering what was taking so long when he had caught the eyes of a girl he used to sleep with. After an extensive encounter and a farewell with a kiss on each cheek, he reported back to me with that permanent smirk across his face and an enthusiastic proposition at stake. A proposal, it’s worth noting, that I am no stranger to. Under the glow of an iridescent mirror ball, I watched his mouth slowly shape out the word, 'threesome'.
He said this in a way that was void of any question mark — because it was no longer a question, perhaps it never was, but a statement —as if it were a privilege to serve as such a prop in his lifelong fantasy. I had felt myself shrinking. I wanted to tuck my head into my chest, roll the weight of my body underneath my feet, and slither away until I reached the door of my Brooklyn apartment. And yet, there I was, dizzied with a belly full of champagne and completely naive to the fact that the rose-coloured glasses I had been parading around for months were soon to come off. It was the antithesis of the direction I had assumed we were going in, yet at the same time, it came as no surprise.
There have always been passing assumptions when it came to my sexuality and the men who liked to pretend they understand. I want to trust that my bisexuality has merit, yet I’m often encountered with obvious fetishisation accompanied with the odd belief that I’d let them watch as if I owe it to them. It’s impossible to acknowledge this eroticisation of bisexual women without acknowledging the male gaze. Under the male gaze, it’s hot. Under the male gaze, it’s just a phase. Under the male gaze, there is no threat. While there is pornography and the media to blame, what lays at its roots of this issue is internalised homophobia — that the presence of two women romantically involved with one another isn’t as valuable as a heterosexual relationship. Two women sharing a mutual attraction can only be seen as a sexual bond for entertainment before being met with skepticism. This suspicion alone plays a deeper role in the erasure of something so sacred to those who spent years of their life validating it in secret.
Bi-erasure ends when there’s no room left to interrogate its legitimacy. Women who love other women do not exist for the pleasure of male consumption. Bisexual women are not your fantasy and nor do they owe you anything. And I say that in a way that is void of any question mark — because it is no longer a question, but a statement.
This piece was originally published in March 2021.
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