If You Believe in Bisexuals, Clap Your Hands: My Letter to Dan Savage

DansavageSo a couple of months ago, Dan Savage of the sex advice column Savage Love wrote this column about bisexuals. While it did get my dander up, it was certainly a sight better than some of what he’s written about bisexuality in the past. In his own words: “I no longer believe that most bisexuals wind up in [heterosexual relationships] because you’re all liars and cheats, or that you’re all dying to access societal perks reserved for heterosexuals, or that you’re all cowards and it’s hard out here for a homo.”

Gee, thanks, Dan.

No, instead he now says, “I think most bisexuals wind up in heterosexual relationships because most bisexuals are mostly hetero.”

Once again — thanks. Heaps.

I wrote the following letter in response — fairly reasoned, I thought — but he hasn’t printed it yet, and I’m assuming at this point that he won’t. (Which is fine — he must get hundreds of letters, most shorter than this one and actually asking for advice.) But I thought I made some important points, and I hate writing good stuff that never makes it out into the world (I’ve never kept a journal with anything like the regularity of this blog), and I thought y’all would be interested to see it.

***

Bi2Dear Mr. Savage:

I’m not going to yell at you or call you names. So please hear me out.

In your recent column, you asserted that “very few bisexual women wind up ‘sharing their lives’ with other women,” and that “most (bisexuals) can only fall in love with an opposite-sex partner.” I’m wondering: What data are you using to come to that conclusion?

I ask because your assertion is radically different from my own observations. In my own extended circle of friends, acquaintances, colleagues and family, the significant majority of bisexuals — both women and men — are in serious relationships with women. (BTW, that includes both me and my partner.)

There are certainly exceptions, and admittedly my extended circle is not a scientifically selected statistical sampling. But your claim is so drastically different from my own experience that I have to at least question it. Do you have data to back it up, or are you simply basing it on your own unscientifically-selected circle of people you know?

Bi4I also ask for another reason. I find it very troubling when people tell other people what their sexual orientation “really” is, based on their own definitions. And I find this especially troubling when it comes from a widely read and influential sex advisor. So many different factors go into deciding which sexual-identity label fits you best — does sex count as much as romantic love? does desire count as much as behavior? does sexual and romantic history count as much as present status? does present status count as much as potential future involvements? etc. etc. etc. — and thus the definitions vary enormously depending on who you’re talking to.

And because the definitions are both so variable and so heavily loaded, I think we need to let people define themselves, based on their own definitions. Saying that most bisexuals are really straight (or even “mostly straight”) isn’t very helpful, and it’s on the insulting side — as if we don’t know enough about our own sexuality to know what to call it. I appreciate how much you’ve changed your position on this subject over the years, but when you tell bisexuals “You think you’re bisexual, but actually you’re pretty much straight,” it really is just as annoying as all those annoying goddamn bisexuals who run around saying that “everyone is basically bisexual.”

Sincerely,
Greta Christina

P.S. I have seen at least one paper backing up my assertion that both women and men are more likely to get involved with women, at least under certain circumstances — but I’m not sure how much I trust it. Anyway, one paper is just one paper. If you’re curious and want to look it up, it’s by Andrew Francis, and there’s a pdf at http://home.uchicago.edu/~afrancis/research.html .

***

Bi1So anyway. Thoughts? Observations? What are the bisexually-identified people in your life — including you, if you’re one of them — doing sexually? Romantically? Are they/you mostly in hetero relationships, as Dan Savage asserts? Mostly in relationships with women, as has been my observation? Mostly sexual with one but romantic with the other? All over the map? Something completely different?

And if you do see a pattern — do you have a theory about why that pattern is? I have one about my “bis tend to end up with women” observation, but it kind of boils down to “men are pigs,” which I don’t actually believe. (Actually, I have a bi friend who was going to make T-shirts saying “Bisexuality: Men are stupid, women are crazy,” which, while still an obvious oversimplification, does, I think, hit closer to home.) But I’m very aware of the fact that my circle of close friends does not constitute a stastically accurate sampling — so I want to expand the sampling to my circle of people who read my blog. Much more accurate…

And yes, I was once one of those annoying bisexuals who insisted that everyone was basically bisexual. Mea culpa.

Why I Like “Harry Potter” Better than “Lord of the Rings”

Harrypotter1LordoftheringsI’m not arguing that “Harry Potter” is actually — in some objective sense — better than “Lord of the Rings.” (If it even makes sense to say “in some objective sense” when you’re talking about art.) I get that “Lord of the Rings” is probably Great Art, and I’m not sure that “Harry Potter” is. (Talk to me in a hundred years, when we see if kids are still reading it.)

What I’m saying is that I enjoy “Harry Potter” immeasurably more than “Lord of the Rings.” With “Harry Potter,” I eagerly look forward to each new installment in the series. I re-read the books frequently and with pleasure; I have an extensive memory of the story, and can discuss its finer points at length; and I have an elaborate and probably unhealthy fantasy life centering around the Potterverse.

“Lord of the Rings,” on the other hand, I slogged through twenty years ago out of a sense of duty. I found it tedious and unengaging, and skimmed through long sections of it; I’ve never had the slightest desire to re-read it even once; I have only the vaguest memory of the general outline of the plot (ring, Mordor, lots of battles, yada yada yada); and I couldn’t tell you the names of more than four or five characters — and that only because those names get tossed around so much in conversation. (Yes, my friends are nerds.) “Lord of the Rings” is like Wagner or Bob Dylan to me — I recognize and acknowledge its greatness, without actually liking or enjoying it.

And I think this is a defensible position.

So I’m going to defend it.

Here’s what I think “Harry Potter” has that “Lord of the Rings” doesn’t.

Snape1. Moral complexity. I may be being unfair here — like I said, I have only the vaguest memory of “Lord of the Rings” — but the characters in LOTR seemed to line up into clearly distinguished Good Guy/Bad Guy camps. Who then proceed to fight each other. For three long books. With the exception of Frodo — and are we ever really in doubt that he’ll do the right thing? — the battle of good against evil is always external. Evil is Out There, and you kill it with an axe or something.

“Harry Potter,” on the other hand, has genuine moral complexity. The battle against evil is often internal, and the right thing to do isn’t always clear. Good people do bad things, and not always for good reasons, and sometimes with serious consequences. Bad people turn out to have surprisingly decent and sympathetic sides to them. And perhaps more importantly, there’s a continuum of good and bad. There are people who are jerks but aren’t actually evil — and in some cases who have strong and important good tendencies, or who are at least understandable and somewhat sympathetic. And there are people who are likable but weak and selfish, and who screw up a lot. Forget comparing it to other juvenile literature — there’s more moral complexity and shades of gray in “Harry Potter” than there is in most adult fiction.

Corneliusfudge2. Political relevance. There are times when “Harry Potter” reads like Chomsky for kids. In “Harry Potter,” people in government ignore real threats that they don’t want to deal with; magnify fake threats to make it look like they’re taking action; use fear-mongering to solidify their power; make alliances of convenience with people they know are evil; serve their rich friends instead of the people they’re governing; manipulate and even censor the press; and use the education of children as an opportunity for propaganda. The book is like a civics lesson at the most left-wing junior high you can imagine.

“Lord of the Rings,” on the other hand… well, I suppose it’s not fair to critique the books for creating an entirely fresh and imaginary world. That’s one of its strengths, after all. But I didn’t feel that LOTR shed any light at all on my life and the world I live in. This is just a personal preference, but I strongly prefer fiction — including fantasy/sci-fi — that has some relevance and connection to me and my world. Sure, I like escapism, I like being taken out of my life… but I like being taken out of my life for the purpose of stepping back and getting perspective on it. I didn’t get that from “Lord of the Rings”… and I get it in trumps from “Harry Potter.”

Hermione3. Female characters. There’s been some debate about whether the Harry Potter books are sexist. And I’ll grant that the female characters in “Harry Potter” — and their place in the story — have some problematic aspects.

But here’s the thing about female characters in “Harry Potter”:

It has some.

More than a couple, even.

And those female characters aren’t just sidelines or afterthoughts. They’re central to the plot, they’re in positions of strength and authority, and they take an active role in making things happen. There are times when “Harry Potter” is a bit of a testosterone-fest… but compared to “Lord of the Rings,” it’s freakin’ Adrienne Rich.

Anyway. That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it. What do you think? Arguments, agreements, questions, outraged objections, and other comments are cheerfully encouraged.

Dream diary, 6/12/06: Death ballooons

Balloons2I dreamed that I woke up in bed with Ingrid, and there were all these balloons on the pillow next to Ingrid’s head. (The long balloon-animal kind, not the round kind.) The balloons were in a strange configuration: they were very menacing, and seemed to be spelling out some sort of magical runes. I was quite upset, and struggled for a while to figure out what the runes were saying. Then I suddenly realized they were in the form of a magical spell that was threatening Ingrid and might kill her.

This was a genuine night terror (although not as bad as ones I’ve had in the past). I woke in a wordless panic, and frantically shook Ingrid awake to get her away from the death balloons — but I wasn’t able to speak and tell her what was wrong. I didn’t realize it was a dream until Ingrid said, “Greta, are you dreaming?” and even then I stayed upset for some time. It wasn’t until I woke up again several hours later that morning that I was able to see the humor in having a full-blown, “waking in the night unable to scream” night terror about evil balloon animals trying to kill my girlfriend.

A Sex Writer’s Defense of Visual Porn

MyeroticxfilesWords or pictures? When it comes to erotica, what turns you on? And why? For me, it’s almost always about the pictures — something I feel a little odd about, what with being a porn writer and all.

The Good Vibrations magazine has just started running a photo gallery — and they’ve published my piece, A Sex Writer’s Defense of Visual Porn, as part of their opening festivities. If you’re interested in the “dirty pictures versus dirty books” question — or if you’re curious about why a dedicated sex writer turns to photos and videos when it’s time to get off — come check it out. Here’s a taste:

“It’s about feeling like I’m really there. The pictures don’t just make it easier for me to imagine the scene — they make it easier for me to project myself into it. Having a picture thrust into my brain makes me feel like I’m there; like I’m one of the people in the scene, or a new person wedging myself into the goings-on, or even an invisible voyeur watching it all up close. And that’s true whether the pictures are photos of real dirty people doing real dirty things, or drawings of dirty people doing made-up dirty things that an artist thought up.”

SpankTo read the rest, come visit the Good Vibrations Magazine. There’s tons of great writing in addition to mine — and now they have dirty pictures, for drooling perverts like me!

Screaming Annies and Found Porn: Recent Smut and Sex Toy Reviews

Jasmine_1Silkensleeves_1Whitelightning_1Dirtyfound2_1Vulvamassage_1
It’s been a couple of months since I updated you on my Adult Friend Finder reviews. Since then, I’ve written about teasing vibrators, women’s art-bondage videos, women’s regular smut videos, found porn, and vulva education.

A quick note of explanation: I’ve been writing an every-other-week column for the Adult Friend Finder magazine for a little over a year, reviewing porn and sex toys and stuff. I’m having a lot of fun with the gig, and doing some interesting, entertaining writing for them.

Anyway, here’s an index of reviews I’ve written for them in the last couple of months. (You can see a complete index on my Website if you like.) FYI, you don’t have to be an AFF member to click these links (although you do have to join if you want to surf around and visit the rest of the magazine). Enjoy!

The Scent of Jasmine:
Jasmine Vibrator (June 2, 2006)
“I masturbate almost every day, and if I turned it into a sensual adoration of my inner sex goddess every time I whacked off, I’d never get to work on time.”

Silken Sleeves (May 28, 2006)
“The video is wordless as well, thank God. Most porn videos would be vastly improved by shutting the actors up. With duct tape, if necessary.”

White Lightning Strikes:
White Lightning (May 14, 2006)
“This isn’t one of those pornos where the women moan and thrash a little and then get on with the important business of getting the men off. The women in this video come.

But Now I’m Found:
Dirty Found Magazine, issue #2 (Apr. 21, 2006)
“Plenty of the pics in this magazine weren’t chosen just to illustrate the sexual Zeitgeist. They were chosen to make you stick your hand in your pants.”

Pat the Bunny:
The Best of Vulva Massage (Apr. 7, 2006)
“Annie Sprinkle’s ‘megagasm’ may sound too New Age-y for words… but when you watch her scream for five minutes straight with a Hitachi Magic Wand shoved against her clit and two hot young dykes fingering her pussy like jackhammers, you stop worrying about these finer points.”

Enjoy the reviews, and drop me a line here to let me know what you think!

But Maybe They Didn’t Mean “Ha-Ha” Funny: Bravo’s 100 Funniest Movies of All Time

Marxbrothers_1Bravo TV has just aired another of those “Top Whatever List” shows that are so ubiquitous these days. In this case, it’s the “100 Funniest Movies of All Time.” And it’s had me foaming at the mouth for a week. (The list is at the end of this post, if you want to foam for yourself.)

Holygrail_1It’s not the prevalence of yahoo frat-boy sex/fart/pratfall movies on the list that’s irritating me. It’s not the obvious preference for relentless gag-a-minute flicks over smart, snappy dialogue. It’s not the fact that they included “The Birdcage” while somehow managing to overlook “La Cage aux Folles.” It’s not even the fact that they put both “Ace Ventura, Pet Detective” and “Arthur” in their Top Ten — yes, the Top Ten — while “Monty Python and the Holy Grail” clocked in at #40, and “Spinal Tap” earned a pathetic #64. Tastes differ, I get that. And I’ve certainly found the humor in more than one gag-a-minute yahoo comedy.

What’s irritating me about this list is the fact that not one single film on it was made before the 1960s.

Not one.

And damn few before the 1970s.

In other words, Bravo TV compiled a list of the hundred funniest comedies of all time, and didn’t include:

General_1The Marx Brothers
Buster Keaton
Harold Lloyd
Charlie Chaplin
Billy Wilder
etc.
etc.
etc.

Ingrid has been very amused by how irritated this has made me, and by how much time and energy I’ve spent nursing my irritation. (By blogging about it, just for example.) I’m not completely certain why it’s bugging me so much myself. After all, Top Whatever lists always provoke arguments. (Maybe that’s the difference between the good Top Whatever lists and the dumb ones — the good ones provoke smart, interesting arguments, while the dumb ones provoke nothing but the spewing of bile.)

But it’s not just that the list is irritating, or even that it’s dumb and irritating. It’s that it’s such a Perfect Symbol Of Everything That’s Wrong With Our Society. Well, maybe not a perfect symbol — global warming and secret prisons and the imperial Presidency and the increasing popularity of eating contests are probably better symbols — but a good one, anyway.

SomelikteithotIt’s the willful ignorance of it that really bugs me. I find it hard to imagine that the people at Bravo have really never heard of “Some Like It Hot” or “A Night at the Opera.” It’s much more likely that they considered them, and decided instead to pander to the 18-34 demographic. They didn’t want their audience to skew old, so they stuck their fingers in their ears and went “La la la la la” and pretended that no funny movies were made before the 18-34 year olds were born (thus insulting both the over-34 crowd for being irrelevant and the 18-34 crowd for being ignorant).

And as a result, they went on record with the assertion that “Dumb and Dumber” deserves a place in the pantheon of cinematic comedy, but “City Lights” doesn’t.

Blech.

Okay. Rant over. I’ll try to turn my outrage back to global warming and stuff now. Oh, yeah, here’s the list. Tell me what about it irks you the most!

100. Anchorman
99. The Birdcage
98. School of Rock
97. Happy Gilmore
96. Four Weddings and a Funeral
95. Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle
94. Waiting for Guffman
93. The Aristocrats
92. Father of the Bride
91. Revenge of the Nerds
90. Clueless
89. Slapshot
88. Team America
87. The Kentucky Fried Movie
86. Zoolander
85. Dirty Rotten Scoundrels
84. Silver Streak
83. Sister Act
82. Tootsie
81. Half Baked
80. Lost in America
79. Three Amigos
78. Bananas
77. Flirting with Disaster
76. Ghostbusters
75. Dumb and Dumber
74. Trading Places
73. City Slickers
72. Moonstruck
71. Roxanne
70. The Nutty Professor (Eddie Murphy)
69. The Blues Brothers
68. Broadcast News
67. Kingpin
66. Dazed and Confused
65. Office Space
64. This is Spinal Tap
63. Manhattan
62. The Pink Panther
61. Election
60. When Harry Met Sally
59. Police Academy Series
58. Private Benjamin
57. Swingers
56. Young Frankenstein
55. Bull Durham
54. Ferris Bueller’s Day Off
53. Dr. Strangelove
52. Meet the Parents
51. National Lampoon’s Vacation
50. The Princess Bride
49. American Pie
48. American Graffiti
47. 9 to 5
46. The Incredibles
45. Raising Arizona
44. Sixteen Candles
43. What About Bob?
42. Harold and Maude
41. Austin Powers
40. Monty Python and the Holy Grail
39. Mrs. Doubtfire
38. Best In Show
37. Dodgeball
36. Good Morning Vietnam
35. Beetlejuice
34. Rushmore
33. Clerks
32. Groundhog Day
31. The Big Lebowski
30. The 40 Year Old Virgin
29. Legally Blonde
28. Annie Hall
27. A Fish Called Wanda
26. Wayne’s World
25. Meet the Fockers
24. Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure
23. Big
22. Beverly Hills Cop
21. Shampoo
20. The Jerk
19. Wedding Crashers
18. Stripes
17. M*A*S*H
16. Old School
15. Fast Times At Ridgemont High
14. Napoleon Dynamite
13. Naked Gun Series
12. The Producers
11. Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure
10. Arthur
9. Ace Ventura: Pet Detective
8. Blazing Saddles
7. The Wedding Singer
6. Airplane
5. South Park: Bigger, Longer, Uncut
4. There’s Something About Mary
3. Shrek
2. Caddyshack
1. Animal House