Erogenous Zones: An inventory of aches
August 30th, 2023
Fan Wu on the curious asymmetry of bicuriosity.
Summer starts off with a sickeningly sweet promise, and if you’re lucky, ends with a scorchingly sweet burn. This is a week all about those last days of a season defined by heat: sweaty yearnings, summer songs, ubiquitous slang, and every kind of feeling that could, if you think about it, qualify as heart burn. Here, Fan Wu writes about desires that inspire a new commitment to next year's season.
If I call them above-the-waist gays affectionately, the label is oft suffused with a quiet plea: why can’t they be all-the-way gays like me? They are the angels of my lust, awash in homo affection with their bodies blurred into enigmatic areas of do and do not touch. There’s a glint in their eye that tells you that gay touch is, for them, a transgression—not just of social codes, but of their own tendencies for desire to go along the straight and narrow.
When we finally meet body-to-body they're exquisitely stoned, or six drinks down at the end of the night, or ablaze off some reckless summer chem cocktail, or sober as the logics of science. Sometimes we cook up a high together, and my own motives in those moments feel less ulterior than nakedly exterior, my trembling hands giving away the full extent of my wish-fulfillment fantasies.
So that I’m not simply speaking of them as a general type—and to give these sweet relationships their proper singularity—let me offer an aching inventory:
- Though my sexual interest in V was unflagging, his for me lasted a few hookups before he drifted back to straightness. We meet at a gay rave and he asks me to rip off his shirt, which is the first sign of my downfall. He called me his partner-in-crime and told me our friendship would last forever. I should’ve taken the cues and disposed of the hope I had, but sheer lopsided animal magnetism kept the hope going.
- R and I jammed our torsos against each other, but he whipped out het porn when our penises were pulled out, asked me what do you like? play your favorite on your phone and we jerked off side-by-side until completion. When I told him years later how that hurt me, how I took it personally as an insecure twenty-something, he replied I can’t really get hard with guys, there’s always a little too much softness for sex to happen.
- D, a nervous werewolf of a boy, told me there's nothing better in the world than kissing, and kept his jeans on when we slept together, so we made out for hours till exhaustion. Our first kiss came upon us after we watched FernGully and smoked DMT. So it goes.
- P was my high school best friend and perhaps the prototype for all the rest. We talked Nirvana and Nietzsche and never touched until we were in our twenties. I had a dream recently that P and I shared a perfect kiss, slow, with all parts of the mouth in each other’s right places. He then rescinded the kiss, telling me in harsh tones that he was using me to get to the women in my life so that he could sleep with them. The most disturbing part of my bicurious proclivity is all the triangulations that happen, and all the desire lines get tangled up, and your world gets filled up by the crushes of the people you crush on. It gets tricky to discern real embodied jealousy from the jealousy you’re supposed to feel: ought it not to feel bad to see my lover desire another right in front of me?
My own contradictory projections are thickly involved in my attraction to this type. A bicurious lover is exciting; I partake in the thrill of novelty with them. With my own boyish lack of impulse control, my own drive for immediate excitement, I could never sustain intimacy to the point of risking boredom. So it saves me the trouble of the possibility of lasting past the passion, cause you know the bicurious fuse is bound to soon run out; I run constantly hot as they oscillate between hot and cold.
A bicurious lover is fresh: they haven’t yet formed expectations around what this “kind” of homo sex ought to feel like, so any act is groundbreaking. The term “bicurious” is oddly specific for an identity category; it names an asymmetry wherein one side of the bi divide is full sexuality, and the other side is bawdy curiosity. Eventually this asymmetry overtakes the situation and we part ways; hopefully, with enough time elapsed, my frustration gives way to a tenderness that sustains through a long friendship.
With this tangled summer drawing to a close, I decided I was going to wean myself off these bicurious boys. Not because I don’t love them; I’ll love them forever…at least as part of my desire’s symptomatology. But I have to give room for other energies to emerge out of the writhing ambivalences of my desire. Next summer is a season to be surrounded by gays, pervs, queers, pans, true-blue bisexuals. The labels don’t matter. No more will desire precede actual relation, no more will desire predetermine a type, no more will desire fall into the ruts of its historical patterns. I declare next summer flux girl summer: in which we improvise through attunement with the singular lovability of only the one who’s there in front of you.