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It's A Sin? Frank Ocean & Prejudice Against Male Bisexuality
Luke Turner , July 4th, 2012 08:11

As Frank Ocean writes a beautiful statement about his first love, Luke Turner argues that the reaction to it suggests a society and culture that still finds it difficult to comprehend male bisexuality

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Frank Ocean's statement about his sexuality is, in a music world that increasingly communicates through blaring statements and marketing braggadocio, a beautiful, poetic and elegant thing. It's a rare thing indeed when one so young and so in the public eye is able to express themselves with such openness and honesty about the thorny issue of their sexuality.

Those simple words, typed into Notepad and posted on Tumblr, are surely a stone that will send powerful, important ripples out across the worlds of hip hop and R&B. Hopefully Ocean's Odd Future pal Tyler The Creator might be given pause for thought on some of the disgustingly homophobic lyrics he insists on spitting into the world. But that isn't what this piece is about. W

hat was interesting and slightly depressing about the response to Ocean's nuanced, poetic words was how simplistic they were. “Frank Ocean comes out and becomes the first famous gay rapper in history,” announced Holy Moly. Twitter was full of “Frank Ocean is gay” posts. But did Ocean actually write that? No. He merely said his first real love was a man, and that that love was a very intense thing compared to what he'd experienced in the past. It seems to me this reaction to Ocean's statement is symptomatic of our lack of sensitivity and understanding when it comes to human sexuality.

The media and general discourse want to place a definition and polarising assessment on sexuality that for many of us simply isn't part of our reality. Despite the gradual eroding of homophobia in British culture (and there's still a lot more distance left to cover on that front, despite what we're told), bisexuality is still very much a taboo, for women as well as men. As a male, it is perhaps not for me to comment (and again, this is worthy of another opinion piece in its own right), but female bisexuality seems to have been, in recent years, corrupted by the male gaze, and seen as a form of titillation. How many nightclub galleries feature images of awkwardly liplocked girls, yet never men? How often is female bisexuality used as a marketing tool? Men's magazines are rife with nudge-nudge-wink-wink thoughts of male/female/female threesomes.

Male bisexuality (about which I know a lot, thank you very much) is subjected to no end of prejudice, as one of our last taboos. Indeed, a follower of the Quietus on Twitter highlighted the main prejudice just an hour or so ago. In response to a tweet about Frank Ocean we posted that read, “Also, why is everyone saying 'Frank Ocean is gay'? That reads more bisexual. Sexuality is NOT polarised for many,” they replied, “Nope, he'll just fuck anyone.” Asked if they were really being that reductive, the tweeter wrote, “Pausing to look up the word 'reductive' – um – yes?”

The assumption about bisexual males is that they're rapacious horndogs, so driven by lust they can't help but dive face first into any sexual organ they can find. It's hard to know how to respond to that particular attack. Perhaps it's envy of the fact that gay sex is always a lot more accessible than straight, so that if one seeks, he shall certainly find. Perhaps it's insecurity, that base male instinct that finds other males a threat, a “poacher“ of the partner, directed on to the self… The bisexual male might not only fancy your bird, but your mate, or you too. Secondly, it is, of course, allied to homophobia, the male terror of your own sexual desire being reflected back at you.

Sadly, another common source of prejudice against bisexual men is the gay community. I've never been comfortable with any LGB societies and organisations thanks to the frequent hint of suspicion one encounters from gay men that you're just a gay man who has not yet been brave enough to come out. The assumption that the bi male is simply a closet case comes from as unfair a desire to polarise and define as the prejudice from the straight world that the bisexual is a slut.

“Bisexuality” itself is a problematic word, implying as it does a third state of being when in fact many (or even perhaps most) of us exist on a sliding scale of sexual preference along which we spend our lives navigating with the ebb and flow of desire and happenstance. Yes, navigating relationships as a bisexual male is a difficult thing to do, but not more so than for a straight man or woman, a gay man or lesbian.

Society needs to learn not to fear those who are attracted to their fellow men and fellow women. It's time for the ending of these boundaries as we move to a new state of tolerance for all modes of sexuality. Let's remember that notions of hetero, homo and bisexuality are, in the grand scheme of things and human history, relatively modern inventions. There are undoubtedly more bisexual male musicians and artists out there. Perhaps if they were to be more open about their sexuality it might assist in eroding some of these prejudices, though most of me thinks there's no reason why they should have to. As for Frank Ocean, let's hope this beautiful man, with his beautiful music and beautiful mind, is given the space, time and acceptance in which to live, love and thrive. He deserves it.

......This article is also available in Point Close All Quotes: A Quietus Music Anthology. Buy it now in the Amazon Kindle store.

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eve massacre
Jul 4, 2012 12:28pm

Re: "There are undoubtedly more bisexual male musicians and artists out there. Perhaps if they were to be more open about their sexuality it might assist in eroding some of these prejudices. "

Some are, for example Jamie 'Xiu Xiu' Stewart in this highly recommendable read on the topic:

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Joseph Burnett
Jul 4, 2012 12:44pm

Great piece of writing, Luke. As you know, I'm currently with a man but also lived with a woman for the best part of 4 years. I consider myself "mostly gay", because the term "bisexual" can be so negatively-connoted. I've lost count of the number of times I've been called "greedy" or "just undecided". No, I'm perfectly happy in being able to find both men and women beautiful, sexy, sexually attractive, and to be able to feel love for both genders.

Best of luck to Frank Ocean. He's very brave.

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jeff barrett
Jul 4, 2012 1:31pm

very well put Luke, good attitude

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Lucia Lanigan
Jul 4, 2012 1:47pm

Spot on. Isn't it weird that we have whole evenings devoted to
Ziggy Stardust on telly, but people still knee-jerk away on Twitter about bisexuality .

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Jul 4, 2012 2:00pm

Nicely done. Lovely bit of prose that.

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Jul 4, 2012 2:20pm

Wish I were gay.

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Jul 4, 2012 3:15pm

For a while now, this admittedly niche music site has become one of the best sources around for thoughtful discussion of what it means to be happy, honourable, loving, good; tackling the same questions as a great deal of the music it covers. Thanks for not shying away from the big ideas, guys.

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John Blonde
Jul 4, 2012 3:26pm

You've eloquently hit on something here: The word "bisexual" is the true culprit in the non-acceptance of the behavior it describes. Maybe there's a slight negative connotation to it because, for most people, any bisexual encounters occur during their teenage years and it's almost as if these experiences are relegated to drunken adolescent one-offs that are never seriously discussed or swept under the rug once a persons "true" sexuality emerges.

How can Frank Ocean remain in a group with Tyler?

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Luke Turner
Jul 4, 2012 3:55pm

Thank you, everyone, for your very kind words. Appreciated!

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Z.R. Guevara
Jul 4, 2012 4:05pm

Thankyou very much for this piece, Luke.

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Jul 4, 2012 4:08pm

I definitely agree with your argument that more musician should open up about their sexuality. There is a very interesting video of Christopher Owens from Girls discussing his sexuality at
The whole interview is worth a watch or if you want the soundbites skip to 5.50

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Jul 4, 2012 4:13pm

Great article, out here in the shires sexuality is still a big thing, people pretend to not care, but alas, ignorance is still rife, I've always thought of myself just as a sexual being, not bisexual, sounds too clinical. I'm glad you touched on the prejudice in the gay community against "bisexuality" I remember it coming as a bit of a shock to me being rounded on by people I thought would understand, but I've come to realise unfortunately prejudice knows no boundaries.

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Jul 4, 2012 5:00pm

"many (or even perhaps most) of us, exist on a sliding scale of sexual preference along which we spend our lives navigating with the ebb and flow of desire and happenstance"

Beautifully said! I honestly believe that for many people, its not about being gay or straight or bisexual - its about falling in love with a person and who that person is as a person, totally apart from that person being male or female. Its just frustrating how people have categorise others as one thing or the other.

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Jul 4, 2012 5:08pm

Luke Turner; i'm a fan.

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Jul 4, 2012 5:13pm

I love bi guys.. They are my favorite guys to blow

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Jul 4, 2012 5:59pm

Good article, could see it coming a mile off, though (the announcement and the press ho-humming and the critical thinking-out-loudery). To be honest I'm totally bored by the whole 'gay' issue in rap music; it's just so tiresome. Bang on in this article, though.

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Jul 4, 2012 6:43pm

I guess it wouldn't be worth noting that this happened a week or so before his album comes out, now would it?

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Jul 4, 2012 6:57pm

In reply to anony:

As healthy as a dose of cynicism can be, it seems the note he penned was done in December 2011. I'm guessing he felt the need to release it to the public now because his new album is attracting the wrong kind of 'attention' from fans and critics, who are picking up on the suggestive/overt references in the lyrics. Can you blame him for wanting to try and keep the publicity positive, rather than the same-old, prejudiced negative reception?

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Jul 4, 2012 7:30pm

I'm all for honesty and being free. My only issue as no one seems to mention is that his love interest is clearly in a relationship - with a woman - and it seems that he's trying to keep his relationship with Ocean a secret. Where's the honesty in that? No matter what a person's sexual orientation, cheating and keeping secrets is just not ok. I think a lot of women (and people in general) have issues with not knowing the truth. It would be nice if we could get to a point in society where men did not feel the need to do this.

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Jul 4, 2012 9:16pm

In reply to Em:

I'll 2nd your comment. This site is chock full of interesting and well thought out articles. I often glean interesting tidbits and knowledge from many of the commenters as well.

Mr. Turner, a fine article. I wonder tho, do you think some of the backlash (toward the bi-sexual) from the gay community comes from a rather simple term, choice? Seems to me, in an effort to combat the christian right, the gay community has gone to great lengths to take 'choice' out of the equation in terms of their sexuality. "i was born this way, with these desires, i didn't choose them". I wonder if the nature of bi-sexuality chips away at that narrative. Something along the lines of "it's tough enough to get them (the right) to acknowledge there's gay and straight, now you're tossing another hat into the ring for consideration."

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Jul 4, 2012 9:32pm

And yet I think assuming he is comfortable with the label 'bisexual' is as wrong as labeling him 'gay'. We just don't know which 'word' he identifies with the most, can't we leave it at that until he decides to clarify it?

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John Doran
Jul 4, 2012 10:47pm

In reply to anony:

If I'm not mistaken, these were notes that were intended to be on the album itself... he just released them a week earlier because of all the wild speculation flying round on the net. Plus, the use of this to gain publicity doesn't affect the truth or beauty of the statement.

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Like, you know?
Jul 5, 2012 12:31pm

Props to Frank on his honesty. I think the lyrics in We All Try from Nostalgia U.L.T.R.A hinted at this, 'I believe that marriage isn't between a man and woman but between love and love'. He's far too talented and human to be affiliated with the Odd Future dickheads.

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Jul 5, 2012 4:48pm

Ugh. That stuff about the gay community thinking that if you're bi you're basically just a coward - so on the nose and fucking ridiculous as, in reality, wouldn't it just be easier to say you're one or the other? And isn't that just the same kind of bigotry they've withstood from the straight community?

"How could you possibly be attracted to both? I don't understand therefore I reject". ARGH!!!!

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Jul 5, 2012 8:51pm

In reply to John Blonde:

I'd be willing to bet, Tyler Knew all along or has know for a while... but you and the author missed that I think.

"Hopefully Ocean's Odd Future pal Tyler The Creator might be given pause for thought on some of the disgustingly homophobic lyrics he insists on spitting into the world."

I'm glad Frank O's relationship with Tyler will confuse, anger or sadden. I'll wait for Tyler and Frank to clarify but I don't really care if they ever do. I'll need more from a person besides use of language in a song to declare that person a racist or homophobe or to get on any moral high horse because that slope is too damn slippery.

Age 11 I destroyed that second GNR album for the lyric "Niggers and Police stay out of my way" I was right to destroy that album... but not for the reason I did at the time.

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Jul 6, 2012 5:11am

Bi women also encounter the whole you-must-be-a-half-closeted-lesbian thing. As if we just haven't met the right woman yet, or maybe just haven't given any of this stuff much thought. Very weird ideas to me. I think a big part of the problem people have with bisexuality is that we're pretty much invisible, culturally, unless we raise our hands and say "hello, I'm bi." A man kissing his boyfriend on a street corner appears gay to much of the world, or hetero if it's his girlfriend instead. This is something that's always been a dilemma for me. I'm not eager to be counted among the heteros, especially not in any sort of presumptive way, but nor am I eager to tell people I hardly know I sleep with women too. Particularly not if they haven't asked! And since I'm not famous in any way I hardly ever get asked. Maybe we need to form something like a trade union, I don't know what the answer is.

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Jul 6, 2012 1:42pm

In reply to John Doran:

it's really beautiful, like Yeats or sumfink.

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John Blonde
Jul 6, 2012 9:05pm

In reply to Rasheed:

I think you're confusing somebody using language in an artful way and somebdy who's simply using it because it's provocative. Axl Rose singing "immigrants and fagg*ts, they make no sense to me" is a straightforward declaration of hate and, in the same way, no matter how much anybody tries to dress Tyler's lyrics in the shimmery gauze of creative expression, they are bluntly repulsive.

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Tim from Radio Clash
Jul 16, 2012 12:11pm

The post Frank made was about a first relationship with a bloke, no mention of women. He simply didn't say, but no 'well I fuck women too' was telling. But oh no, he's bi. Nearly all the major news outlets said bisexual when that story broke. That's why, dear article writer, bi is seen as somehow slippery or amorphous or indeed false state by the gay community - either seems to be gay hiding under half a veil of respectability, or a state of change (every gay man I know has met a bicurious/bi man who transitions into purely gay later on). Yes there are truly bi people out there, but they seem quite rare certainly compared to one-sex identified (straight or homo). Certainly at an early age I'd be wary identifying someone like Frank - late teens or early 20s gay or bi or whatever although obviously headlines need a shorthand. It's a fluid time for sexuality.

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Tim from Radio Clash
Jul 16, 2012 12:32pm

In reply to Apop:

It's more complicated than that. To some closeted or later realising hetero married blokes rather than saying I'm gay, bisexual is quite often the first call, not sure why, maybe it's less scary for them, something like I'm half gay or they still want the companionship of their wives? Quite a few of these bicurious types are in denial, some are indeed bisexual but the eyerolls come in or indeed the emotional damage of all parties later, and they quite often transition into being gay...this is why, partly for self preservation gay men (can't talk for women, maybe this is similar for them?) tend to view it cynically which much be hard for bisexuals who know exactly who they are. Also there is the complication of politics and visibility - when you're gay lesbian or trans you can't easily 'pass' for straight if being open, whereas the suspicion, right or wrong is that the bisexual community will go back to passing if the going goes bad. The guys who fuck around on their wives on the dl and then go back to her aren't helping the bi community either and cause more resentment.

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Your Conscience
Jul 17, 2012 7:20pm

In reply to John Blonde:

And you are bluntly imperceptive. so just walk away. it's not for you. stay confused.

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Jul 17, 2012 8:23pm

In reply to John Blonde:

I get you, but that's my point, it's highly subjective... Repulsive lyrics are rarely, I believe, an indicator of the moral fiber of the person who wrote them.

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Jul 18, 2012 8:01am

I feel that society is too unaccepting of such people (gay,bi,lesbian) and that people should just try and get to know the person that they are judging before they judge them and if you still do not like them then that is your choice . However , judgement should not be made by color of skin ,religion,and/or sexual preference ,but by the way a person acts and treats I am still young and straight but I don't know yet if I will end up being bisexual or not ... It's all about finding a way to discover ones self rather than live up to the expectations placed upon us by society.... I applaud those who are strongwilled enough to come out and say "yes i am gay,lesbian,bisexual and I don't care what you or anyone else thinks or has to say about it."
Thus is a wonderful article explaining how people come across judgemental , and it really does enlighten you ...

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Jul 22, 2012 12:56pm

In reply to :

I think ..."he's a very naughty boy" that's what I think

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Aug 1, 2012 7:10pm

Are you guys (the quietus) going to actually review the album?

I agree that Ocean's openness and vulnerability is something to be applauded, but surely the music, and not the context, should be the most important thing here?

I'm not trying to critique, I think the album is the best thing released this year, in scope and songwriting, BUT;

I'd just like to get an opinion from the site (being a daily reader and what not).

Peace 'nd Fuckin


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look at this
Nov 28, 2012 1:45pm

I think you're confusing somebody using language in an artful way and somebdy who's simply using it because it's provocative.

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