Dan Savage really does seem hung up on this idea that women have the capacity to be attracted to the person, regardless of gender. He got an angry letter from a lesbian teen whose parents showed her Savage saying this to tell her she's not meaningfully "out" as anything, because she could just as easily go for a dude.
Says our teen lesbian:
Newsflash, Dan: I've never been into dudes. Like, ever. Always known it, from back when I prayed to God when playing spin the bottle it would land on my girl friends and not one of the guys. So some girls might like to swap and change, but others don't.Yup. And guess how many more girls growing up have passionate, not necessarily romantic as in flowers-and-chocolates crushes on boys, and only boys, and could describe this in ways that would strike a gay man as entirely familiar? What this girl is describing is real. But it also extends to her heterosexual sisters.
Is Savage convinced? Not quite:
But the fact is, however, that female sexuality is more fluid than male sexuality. That isn't to erase anyone's lesbianism, and it doesn't prove that there are not lesbian women out there who are solids, not fluids, who were "born this way" and always will be this way. There most certainly are.
Andrew Sullivan has also weighed in (via here, via PG), in reference to the now-notorious Nixon quote about her lesbianism being a "choice":
My own view is that female sexuality is inherently [emphasis mine] more fluid than male sexuality, and that lesbians and bisexual women, because they are less fixated on crude physical signals for arousal, have more of a choice than men, gay or straight, in their choice of loved ones. I think this is about the difference between lesbian identity and gay male identity.Presumably Simon Doonan will be the next to offer an opinion, one that will make what Sullivan and Savage had to say seem positively tame.
Anyway. My hunch is that male sexuality is more fluid than commonly thought, but not infinitely so, that female sexuality is far less than Savage, Sullivan, and popular culture would assume, and that most of us humans really are only substantially attracted to those of one gender.
It's easy enough to explain how we came to the notion of female easygoingness in this area, without resorting to "inherent" flexibility. For one thing, homophobia is stronger against gay men than against lesbians. This makes it it possible for more gay and bisexual women to be open about their desires. It also means that women who are not attracted to other women are sometimes willing to engage in female-female intimacy, for the sake of college experimentation, or - sorry - to please a man. Oh, so the other thing: men - straight, bi, gay - are viewed as having the right to demand partners to whom they're sexually attracted, whereas women are not. If a woman can't demand a hot guy, perhaps she can't demand a guy, period.
Both of these tell us much about pragmatic discrepancy discussed in this somewhat racier (text, but NSFW) Savage Love post about straight couples on the prowl. Savage always presents this scenario as though more straight couples with this hobby unanimously 'prefer' picking up a woman to picking up a man. When it would seem that with straight couples, the man would prefer a woman, the woman a man. Some combination of male uneasiness with male homosexuality and female socialization to be agreeable makes one version of this infinitely more plausible.
And it's not just uneasiness coming from men - a man isn't going to fear that a woman being OK with (or even enthusiastic about) the one scenario is a lesbian, while a woman will totally assume that, if her dude so much as grudgingly agrees to the corresponding scenario, he's about to flee to Chelsea and do crazy things like buy new socks when the old ones fall apart. It's as good as inconceivable that dude would go along with the extra-dude out of the very heterosexual desire to please a woman, because women are presumed to be passive in straight relationships. Anything that occurs, occurs because the man wants it to, so if this occurs, next stop is the proverbial sock store.