It's A Sin? Frank Ocean & Prejudice Against Male Bisexuality
, 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
Frank Ocean's statement about his sexuality is, in a music world that increasingly communicates by 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 an openness and honesty about the thorny issue of their sexuality. Those simple words, typed into notepad and posted on Tumblr, are surely the 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 Black Sky Thinking is about (though there's an interesting debate over on ILX here). What 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 is this afternoon full of "Frank Ocean is gay" posts. But did Ocean actually write that? No. He merely said that his first real love with a man, and that that love was a very intense thing compared to what he'd experienced in the past.
It seems to me that 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 wants to place a definition and polarising assessment of 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) it seems to me that 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, 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 marketing tool? Men's magazines are rife with the nudge-nudge-wink-wink thoughts on male female female threesomes.
Male bisexuality, (about which I know a lot, thank you very much) is subjected to no end of prejudice, and one of our last taboos. Indeed, a follower of the Quietus on Twitter highlighted the main one just an hour or so ago. In response to our tweets about Frank Ocean "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 prejudice about bisexual males is they're rapacious horndogs, so driven by lust that they can't help but drive to 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, ergo if one seeks, he shall certainly find. Perhaps it's insecurity, that base male instinct that finds other males a threat as ‘poacher' of the partner, directed onto 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 their own sexual desire being reflected back at them.
Sadly another common source of prejudice against bisexual men is the gay community. I've never been comfortable with any Lesbian, Gay & Bisexual 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. This assumption that the bi male is simply a closet case is an unfair a desire to polarise and define as the prejudice from the straight world of the bisexual as slut.
Even bisexuality itself is a problematic phrase, 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, after all, 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 that there's no reason why they should have to. As for Frank Ocean, let's hope that 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.