Heteroflexibility & Masculinity in San Francisco
Last night my friend Seth and I went to the Rockit Room on 5th Avenue and Clement in the Inner Richmond in San Francisco. Seth and I have been (informally) singing the divas for years. But he has recently begun voice lessons, and asked me to join him as he felt out the Rockit Room’s open mic night. We walked into a look from the bartender that said “you’re really early and decided we should waste some time outside. We walked to the Bank of America for some cash. “That scruffy guy was cute. I agreed. “But he’s probably straight, straight, straight, Seth said. I reflexively answered, “Girl, it’s San Francisco. He’s at least heteroflexible.
What is Heteroflexibility?
Heteroflexibility indicates a preference for heterosexual romantic/sexual interaction with an openness to same-sex interaction, often limited to erotic play time. Last time I checked the term was a bit controversial. Some of my fellow sexuality scholars find the term outright offensive, believing it tries to make invisible acts of bisexuality, sexual fluidity or queerness. “Heteroflexible is not typically an identity that people adopt. Similar to terms like MSM (men having sex with men), it is a term introduced by outsiders “ public health experts and scholars – to describe and theorize on sexual behavior. People who might be identified as “heteroflexible may be reticent or disinterested in adopting a queer or gay identity, but are acting on desires for people with genitals like their own.
Men Who Are Heteroflexible
I know a handful of men who exclusively date women and yet meet guys online for jack-off sessions or occasionally go to a gay bathhouse for a quick, no reciprocation blowjob. One of my friends says “it’s just easier with guys. He’s busy with two hectic, stressful jobs and doesn’t have the time, looks or money he says it takes to woo a lady – for either serious dating or some quick sexual satisfaction. Another man I know sleeps with cisgender men and cisgender and transgender women. He told me that he finds that he only becomes interested in serious relationships with women, but that he deeply desires men sexually as well.
I recently interviewed Omar (not his real name), a straight-identified guy in San Francisco who requested that he remain anonymous. He was in the midst of looking for a “local guy to masturbate with. He had never done it before, but thought the idea was “kinda hot. Here’s some highlights from our chat:
Virgie: Do you have a preference for a guy who is gay or straight or does it matter?
Omar: eh, not much preference
Virgie: What are you looking for?
Omar: Watch porn w/ and maybe mutual stroking
Virgie: What’s your motivation for getting together with a guy? I guess what I’m asking is whether it is a convenience thing or a desire thing?
Omar: I feel like it started off w/ convenience, but maybe it’s becoming more preference now.
Strange isn’t it?
Virgie: Not really. I know a number of guys who are pretty much heteroflexible.
Omar: I do have a concern that maybe you could address.
Omar: so it was a while since I had had sex, but was JO’ing (jacking off) regularly and even searching for a mutual (male) partner to do it with. Then recently I had sex with a girl I wasn’t really connecting with in the first place, and during I lost my erection and couldn’t get it back.
Virgie: Men lose erections and also men aren’t machines. Human connection is important to men too, not just women.
Our conversation quickly went onto sex Q&A about penis desensitization and porn, which happens often when I identify myself as a sex educator. I’m still amazed how many people believe the myth that men are perpetually and unconditionally sexually available at the drop of a hat with any willing partner. Lots of myths about masculinity and men are just that: dirty little lies.
There are two elements that I find most interesting about heteroflexibility. First, I’m interested in the “no recip clause that seems to be inherent to the heteroflexible model. Obviously not all men who are heteroflexible expect sex that provides no reciprocation for their partner. If you scour the M4M (men for men) section of Craig’s List, you will find scores of ads from “straight guys who want “no recip blow jobs. Conversely, there are gay-identified men offering sexual favors with no expectations of reciprocation, apparently catering to and seeking these men.
In speaking with a friend who is femme and gay-identified about his sexual desire for straight guys he explains that he “just loves them and doesn’t mind that they often do not offer reciprocation. Meanwhile, another friend who is gay has a true aversion to men who are what he calls “ambiguous about their sexuality and does not have any interest in sexual or romantic interaction with “straight guys who play with men.
One thing to remember is that “no recip doesn’t mean “no pleasure. If that’s the agreed-upon sexual interaction that’s going to happen it would indicate that there is something deeply arousing about it either physically or mentally or both for the non-receiver. I’ve certainly given head and not gotten head in return, and that can create a very hot power dynamic or provide the sheer delight of having an erect penis in my mouth.
Conversely, there is something about the “no recip rule that makes my nerd brain twitch. Certainly having no desire to provide reciprocation indicates something about their beliefs about their partner or the acts they’re engaging in. As a fat girl, I can’t help but relate. Because I was taught that my body was undesirable, I felt lucky whenever I was given the opportunity to please a man, and for a very long time did not expect my pleasure to be of interest to my partner. There are men who fuck fat girls and are the benefactors of our oral skills, but don’t eat our pussies or worry about foreplay much. It makes me wonder whether they are discomforted by their attraction to fat bodies, and if they deal with that discomfort by creating distance. Or whether they have been taught that fat women aren’t wholly people who deserve full sexual engagement.
Poking Holes in Masculinity
The second element that interests me about heteroflexibility is the way that it creates fissures in the masculinity construct. Men (and women) have been engaging in same-sex sexual behavior for as long as fingers, tongues, and genitals have existed. And “straight guys have been fucking gay as well as other straight guys since before there were notions of gayness and straightness that were meant to be somehow measurable or mutually exclusive. Modern notions of masculinity in the United States entail a presumed heterosexuality that is rather unforgiving. So men who have been taught that women are the only acceptable or viable sexual object choice may think and do all kinds of things to metabolize the desires that veer off that narrow path.
Perhaps his way of dealing with the dissonance (his desire vs. his identity) is to refuse to engage meaningfully with his partner or to call his desire “strange or a product of “convenience. This isn’t to say that we don’t all have preferences “ nurtured or natural (depending on the school of thought to which you subscribe) “ and that sometimes it is curiosity, desire or scarcity that fuels our sexual behavior.
Regardless of the motivation, heteroflexibility concerns and fascinates people, even though nearly every person alive has had a thought or acted on a desire that is seemingly incongruous with our sexual identity or orientation. To me, the dazzling panoply of sexual possibility is exciting and delicious. I, for one, can say that heteroflexibility has provided me with more than a few orgasms and plenty of food for thought.