It’s A Sin? Frank Ocean & Prejudice Against Male Bisexuality

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 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.

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