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AIDS Spectre for Women: The Bisexual Man (New York Times 1987)
mini me + poo
lovingboth
Google's news archive is mostly a way to search articles that people want you to pay to read :(

But by using 'search similar' you can sometimes find the free cached copy...

3rd April 1987

AIDS SPECTER FOR WOMEN: THE BISEXUAL MAN

Some Think They Can Tell
Truth After 16 Years
7 to 10 Million Men
Several Categories of Behavior
Reluctance to Reveal the Past
A Few Are Changing Their Ways



By JON NORDHEIMER, SPECIAL TO THE NEW YORK TIMES

Seven years ago a Miami office worker had an affair with a bisexual man. She recalls that his confusion about sexual orientation was one of the things that made her feel tender toward him.

Now she wonders if she should get a blood test for the AIDS virus.

Women today increasingly find their thoughts turning to past and present lovers, asking themselves if anyone with whom they were intimate might have a bisexual history. Unlike the Miami office worker, many will be unable to say for certain.

It is a new anxiety, some of it unfounded, slipping into the lives of women as they measure the degree of risk they face from the deadly acquired immune deficiency syndrome.

While bisexuals who are exposed during sexual relations with other men are one bridge on which the AIDS virus can cross from the high-risk homosexual population to infect heterosexual women, the greatest threat comes from intravenous drug users. Only about 4 percent of diagnosed AIDS cases are thought to have been transmitted through heterosexual intercourse, and fewer than one in 10 of those appear to involve bisexual men, according to a New York study.

But numbers offer little consolation to the individual woman who fears that one miscalculation could be fatal, especially a middle-class woman who thinks the chance of contact with a drug addict using contaminated needles is remote. For this kind of woman, experts say, the figure of the male bisexual, cloaked in myth and his own secretiveness, has become the bogyman of the late 1980's, casting a chill on past sexual encounters and prospective ones.

She might also be distressed to learn that bisexuals are often secretive and complex men who, experts say, probably would not acknowledge homosexual activity even if questioned about it. Indeed, some cannot even admit such behavior to themselves.

"Homosexuals have been out of the closet a long time but bisexuals have not," said Dr. Theresa Crenshaw, president of the 5,000-member American Association of Sex Educators, Counselors and Therapists. "Straight women are going to discover some very unpleasant news about some men they have known."

It is a particularly acute worry for women in such areas as New York, Miami and San Francisco, which have high numbers of AIDS cases. In New York, for example, it is estimated that as many as 500,000 people, mostly men, may already be infected with the AIDS virus but as yet free from symptoms of the disease. This contrasts with the 33,000 confirmed AIDS cases in the nation, still overwhelmingly confined to homosexual men and drug abusers.

Some Think They Can Tell

Some experts feel the threat is exaggerated and doubt that male bisexuals will be a vector of widespread infection among women.

Those relatively few bisexuals willing to discuss their private lives now fear they "will become scapegoated as carriers of the plague," according to David Lourea, executive director of Bisexual Counseling Services of San Francisco, a support group. "The danger is in telling women to avoid bisexual men and give them the impression they are safe with straight guys who may be just as risky now because they are secret IV drug users."

Still, the fear about bisexuals persists, and women are left to their own resources to ferret out a man's sexual history.

"If the guy won't tell me I could only guess," said the Miami office worker. Her solution: no sex with any man until she is confident of her safety. But "even then the guy could be a good liar," she noted.

Some women believe they can recognize bisexual men. "I don't care how much they want to cover it up, their little effeminate ways tip you off," said another Miami woman, Isis Gradaille. This view is disputed, however, and many bisexuals may seem very masculine to women they attract.

Truth After 16 Years

One therapist tells the story of a New Jersey accountant, 16 years married, who for years sought out men in public toilets and truck stops without a clue to his wife and daughter.

When his wife discovered the truth five years ago, the therapist recounted, her reaction was: "You're not a man!" Despite a deep sense of humiliation, however, she continued to have sexual relations with him, tolerating the nights he came home late.

But there was something ultimately more devastating than humiliation: Fear of AIDS took hold, and two years ago, according to the therapist, she ordered her husband out.

Experts believe that many women married to such men are indeed at great risk of AIDS because of repeated contact with someone who may have many sexual partners in a high-risk population. But there is less agreement on the extent of the AIDS danger that bisexuals pose to women in general.

The uncertainty stems in part from the difficulty in defining bisexuals and their patterns of behavior. Dr. Alfred C. Kinsey, the researcher whose 1948 survey "Sexual Behavior in the Human Male" is still the best broad-based examination of the subject, admitted confusion on 'delimiting' bisexuality.

7 to 10 Million Men

"There are not many bisexual men who can function effectively with a wide number of female partners," said Richard A. Isay, a clinical associate professor of psychiatry at Cornell Medical Center in Manhattan. "Most bisexuals are just married men who are gay."

But some other behaviorists and clinicians challenge that contention. "There are many men out there who are very active with both men and women," asserted Dr. Fritz Klein, a California authority on bisexuality.

As for numbers, Dr. Bruce Voeller, president of the Mariposa Foundation, a sexuality research and educational group in Los Angeles, said those men who fall within the range of active bisexuality are more numerous than most people would expect.

While no reliable national survey exists to update the 40-year old Kinsey data, Dr. Voeller estimated that 7 million to 10 million men today, out of the 96.5 million over the age of 12, could be described as bisexual for some extended period in their lives, about twice the number thought to be exclusively homosexual.

"The numbers on bisexuals have always been a problem," conceded Dr. June Reinisch, director of the Kinsey Institute, part of Indiana University at Bloomington, Ind. "But basically we don't believe that the years of sexual liberation and openness in American society have changed them much. You can't train or influence people on which gender to fall in love with. That's set from early on in life."

Several Categories of Behavior

Contemporary researchers suggest that most bisexuals fit into five categories of behavior.

The largest group are married men, like the New Jersey accountant, who lead clandestine homosexual lives and rarely if ever have sexual relations with women other than their wives.

A second group includes openly bisexual men who are promiscuous only in their homosexual orientation and interact with women in a sporadic, serial manner, returning to the company of men when a relationship with a woman ends.

There are those men unsettled by identity confusion who, in the words of one expert, "jump here and there and back again."

Researchers think a fourth group, young men who experiment with homosexuality in college or some other environment where it is tolerated or easy to hide, is shrinking as AIDS fears rise.

Dr. Laud Humphreys, a Los Angeles psychotherapist who wrote "Tearoom Trade," an examination of homosexual and bisexual behavior, describes the fifth category as "ambisexuals," a small but "dangerous" group of men who have very frequent sexual contact with both men and women.

"Basically they don't care if a partner is a man or a woman as long as that person is good-looking and sexually active," Dr. Humphreys said. "I consider this group the most dangerous in the cross-infection of AIDS because these men are likely to be drug-abusers as well, overlapping their high-risk behavior." He includes male prostitutes in this category, though they often express loathing for their clients and may be heterosexual by preference.

Reluctance to Reveal the Past

Stuart, a San Francisco writer, closely fits Dr. Humphreys's description of ambisexual. "As a teen-ager I considered myself a latent homosexual because I fantasized about men and women as long as I can remember," he said in a telephone interview. "When my first wife and I back in the 1970's decided to have an open marriage, we formed a menage a trois with one of her professors in Philadelphia.

"I was scared my first homosexual experience would turn me off to women but that hasn't happened. I still feel a sexual need for them, although at the moment I live with a man."

One point on which all experts agreed, in a series of interviews, was that most bisexuals would be extremely reluctant to reveal their sexual history to someone with whom they did not hold a long and trusting relationship.

"If anything, AIDS will drive bisexual men deeper into the closet," said Pepper Schwartz, an associate professor of sociology at the University of Washington who co-wrote "American Couples," a study of heterosexual and homosexual relationships. These men realize that "even women who consider themselves very liberal will not have sex with a bisexual since she will consider him a greater risk for infection."

Married men who for years have frequented homosexual hangouts may still regard themselves as heterosexual and, if asked by a woman, would vehemently deny high-risk behavior, according to several therapists.

"This is a group most likely to spread AIDS by denying this history to a woman," said James Mahon, a psychologist who co-founded the Center for Identity Development in Upper Montclair, N.J., a counseling service for homosexuals and bisexuals.

"The need they feel to protect their sense of self is so strong," he said, "plus they feel they have so much to lose if their behavior is found out, that they don't even recognize their behavior as homosexual in character, as strange as that may sound. This is carried to a point where they may not practice safe sex because that would be an admission that it is high-risk, homosexual behavior."

Dr. Jane Pitt, a faculty member at Babies Hospital of the Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center in New York, said she had heard of cases in which infants born with AIDS gave the first clue that the mother had been infected through a bisexual husband. "The illness of the baby alerted everyone and gave the death knell to the whole family in the most outrageous way," the physician said.

Therapists report that a few years ago there was a surge in bisexuals seeking professional help to "convert" their sexual orientation to heterosexuality, a highly controversial therapeutic goal that is considered without merit if the patient's basic makeup, consciously or subconsciously, is homosexual. But the trend dropped off by 1986. "Most were driven by the fear of AIDS," said Dr. Crenshaw of San Diego. "Now they see heterosexuals are not free from risk."

A Few Are Changing Their Ways

Still, it is apparent that some bisexual and homosexual men are seeking alternatives.

"Gay and bisexual men are settling down with women and marrying them in greater numbers than ever before," said Dr. David McWhirter, a San Diego psychiatrist who is a co-author of "The Male Couple," a study of monogamous homosexuals.

Michael Shernoff, a therapist working with homosexual men in Manhattan, said he has detected the same trend. "It appears to be happening with gay men who have been very comfortable with a gay identity for a long time but gradually discover a strong attraction for women," he said.

Dr. Voeller of the Mariposa Foundation reported similar observations. "It's a recent phenomenon of the gay movement," he said. "I see it even among some leaders of the gay movement who are secretive about their relations with women because they believe they will be censured by gays."

He said it was unknown, however, whether such secretiveness extended to obscuring a homosexual background, or whether the men submitted to blood tests to assure that they were free of the AIDS virus and unlikely to pass it on to the women they were taking up with.

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Feck. Let's hope a lot has changed in 19 years.

It appears to be "let's bash the bis" week - judging by your post and Grant's recent offerings ... :-(((
Why can't they draw the obvious conclusion that it's time straight folks started being honest about their relationships and telling each other who they fuck?

This one is about nineteen years old :) so it's not exactly stopped. :(


They don't want to deal with rejection; particularly the attitude of some straight women to bi men. In the other direction it's not generally a problem - don't you love double standards?

Personally I think if more men were honest about fancying each other this could be solved, but it's a chicken and egg problem.

That anyone has unprotected sex with anyone else at all makes my mind spin.
Scary world!

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