Many self-identified straight women have sex with or hook up with women all the time and people excuse it as a phase or girlie fun, but when straight men do it, it's a whole other story. New York Magazine spoke with Jane Ward, an associate professor of women's studies at the University of California, Riverside, about why the double standard exists.
Ward, who recently published a book called Not Gay: Sex Between Straight White Men, has many theories about this and many of them boil down to misogyny and tired old stereotypes about men's sexuality being vastly different from women's sexuality. She says we can accept when a woman says she identifies as straight but she sleeps with women because she finds them sexy, but when we hear straight men say they had sex with a man, we assume there had to be some seriously extenuating circumstances in place (like he was in prison or he was in the military) – even though most of the time, those circumstances aren't actually in place at all and it was more a matter of choice. Ward also talks about how many guys will sleep with other men to prove how straight they are, like they're so straight that they can have sex with men and it will be this weird, gross thing they can say they were man enough to do. "There's no sense of oh my God, I'm doing this gay thing," Ward says. "Instead, they're thinking, I'm doing this gross thing. I'm doing this hilarious thing. It's sort of like making out with a fish or something. It's just not perceived as sex."
In her book, she mentions seeing Craigslist ads written by straight men who said they just wanted a straight "jack off bud" and very specifically mentioned in the same ad that they don't like gay men, thereby rejecting gay culture and gay people in favour of a homosexual tryst that is somehow steeped in traditional masculinity. And Ward says she focused on straight white men for the most part, since they are culturally seen as the norm when it comes to sexuality, and notes that men of colour aren't given the same kind of "oh well, he had to have sex with another man, there must be a good reason" exemptions that straight white men are.
In the interview, Ward says that she doesn't intend to tell people who identify as straight but have gay sex that they are homosexual or bisexual, but she does note that it appears homosexual tendencies seem to be such a normal part of everyone's inclinations that it should be more acceptable as normal across all genders. If that were to happen, it could only be to the benefit of both the straight and LGBT communities, all of whom could really use fewer labels and more acceptance.
You can read the full interview here.