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 public: down under with Rose:  
So will the real men please stand up?  

  Playing it Straight
By Rose Cooper

(Appeared in Australian Women's Forum Magazine, April 1998)
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Conduct a survey of both sexes as to what the most popular heterosexual bloke's fantasy might be and there'll be no hesitation - it's The Two-Chick Thing. It's become universally acknowledged that most straight guys want to: root two chicks/be seduced by two chicks/watch two chicks getting mighty friendly/referee an all-chick jelly-wrestling tournament...yada yada yada. It’s no secret that everyone seems to be fairly convinced that men have a thing for lesbians - well latent lesos anyway (a lady should prefer a man when it counts...hey boys?) This peculiar subject has become so mundane it has even sashayed its way onto prime time TV. When Mad About You main characters Jamie and Paul Buchman were trying desperately to conceive, one episode touched on the method they employed to rectify the incumbent libido drainage: Jamie started relating a story to Paul about a night her (female) college roommate gave her a massage. Before she'd even gotten down to all the saucy embellishments, he feverishly whisked her off to the bedroom. It's a given - we know what game they were playing at and we know why it worked.

Earlier Paul Reiser had (through his character) voiced his opinion on this quirky male preoccupation more eloquently than anyone has before or since. When asked by Jamie why lesbian fantasies turned men on so much, he replied simply: "Well, it looks really good, and hey - who can blame them?"

Who indeed? For judging by the erotica printed in this and other women's magazines every month this opinion is not just highly regarded from his point of view - it's fast climbing the charts on her hit parade as well. At least 25% of all Wet Spot letters received here at AWF are from ordinary hetero women revealing their girl/girl encounters or fantasies.

Even to the most casual observer, it appears that the subject of latent lesbian leanings is more than just on the table, it's the topic de jour. Blame it on those heady days of free-love and feminism in the 60s which first really highlighted the prospect of women's more 'fluid' sexuality. Soon after, we were stopped dead in our tracks glaring at the oncoming headlights when Nancy Friday released a couple of steamy tell-all women's fantasy books - My Secret Garden and Women on Top. Erotic consciousness now fully raised, womankind started sending up flares with Madonna's raunchy Sex book and the public confessions and androgynous antics of a few other Hollywood actresses. All this heralded a new dawn - an entirely different breed of women had emerged who defiantly reject gender stereotypes and sexual labels.

As this pert parade marches on towards 2000, this grey area of female sexuality is not merely becoming increasingly acceptable in some quarters - bisexual experimentation is being openly encouraged...ahem, especially by hubbies and boyfriends. It seemed that once the term 'lipstick lesbian' was coined - the last bastion of stereotypical dykedom crumbled - even the most uptight, straight chickies lost their last excuse not to try this kinky new party trick. There seems to be less and less women out there these days who are prepared stand up and swear on a stack of Bibles that they are and will always remain 100% straight. The pressure's on.

So what gives? While this groundswell of pro-lesbian-experimentation propaganda smugly infiltrates the media (see "Out of the Box") the reverse side of the coin remains conspicuously concealed. And nobody's asking questions either, well...until now anyway. Ooh! Ooh! Teacher, pick me! I've a couple of doozies: 1. Do chicks also daydream about three-way soirees with part-time pansies the same way our boyfriends picture us in a tryst with our best bosom buddy? And 2. What about “straight guys”, do they ever get off on the occasional naughty notions of allowing the delivery boy access via the back door?

Enter Ruth Ostrow, newspaper columnist and sexpert. Her startling book, Burning Urges, delved in the deepest dirtiest imaginings of her readers (we’re talking average Aussies of both sexes) and according to the true-life accounts, the answer to both my questions was a resounding and completely surprising yes, yes, oh, god…YES! Well bugger me! If this is indeed the case, why aren’t we hearing more about it? Why is it that the two chick thing seems to be a far less jagged pill to swallow than its male counterpart? Case in point: compare straight men’s erotica to straight women’s erotica – latent leso literature is de rigueur in ladies’ mags. Conversely, pick up any girlie magazine and you’ll encounter erotic images and stories encompassing every thing a man and one or more women can do together with a relaxed moral attitude, a little imagination and perhaps a salad vegetable or two. But as for homo-erotica – what kind of sick perverted psychos do you take us for? Australian Penthouse editor, Phil Abraham, says that in his 14 years on the mag, he’s never had any kind of request for gay erotica, and can recall only one “Forum” letter that recounted a surprise oral encounter between two guys in a group sex session – the details were edited out for publication of course.

So that’s the drum – straight men’s magazines are for dinki di blokes. According to the Australian publishing industry at least, hetero dudes don’t daydream about anything but pussy. American publications have a broader kink-scope, but even so, Abraham went so far as to suggest that Ruth Ostrow’s figures looked a little rubbery. Ostrow isn’t surprised. “I knew I’d get this reaction so I had my data authenticated. There’s no way of calculating what percentage of the stories featured men’s gay fantasies but I had to discard a couple of volume’s worth of material on group sex alone and this genre seemed to be the most popular forum for gay themes to pop up. Australian girlie magazines construct their readers as a specific niche audience, the testosterone-driven straight male. “But this isn’t to say that these girlie magazines are a true reflection of what mainstream men really think about – the sheer volume of stories I received from average guys who secretly lusted after other guys was astounding. Burning Urges is divided into many themes: Bondage, Voyeurism, Homo-erotica, Group Sex, etc, and throughout there was this recurring theme of men exploring their latent homosexuality either as the predominant theme or as a peripheral part of the fantasy.

“And we’re talking everyday Aussie blokes, the guys who read the Sunday papers, not the fringe dwellers of avant garde society for whom sexual ambiguity is a status symbol. The guys who contributed to my book spring from the heartland: mostly happy family men who read the sports pages and kick a footy around with the kids on the weekends. And I can't say I was surprised either...men have been telling their sexual secrets to me for years."

So will the real men please stand up? No doubt about it - an appalling percentage of straight Aussie blokes are totally anal about open displays of any kind of affection between males. It's many centuries of reinforced homophobia; fathers once assumed that they'd turn their sons queer if they even gave them the slightest hug...sadly some still do. There's no arguing; big boofy Aussie blokes just don't go in for open displays of affection and they certainly don't need it from other blokes...well - unless their team scores, then it's actually mandatory to hug one's fellow man. (I don't get it, what is the deal with all that congratulatory bum-patting? You don't see straight chicks doin' that sort of shit).

It stands to reason our collective psyche is better equipped to accept the phenomenon of latent lesbianism more readily; women are almost always affectionate with each other, even in public and the naked female form has been used for decades to sell everything from underwear to motor cars. Other chicks’ naughty bits have been shoved in our faces for what seems like forever. It's only in the last few years that the naked male form has been equally exploited (and not before time!).

Male homosexuality was always illegal in the old days, but in Victorian times female homosexuality wasn't against the law at all - the Queen herself just presumed it couldn't possibly exist. Another theory as to why feminine bonding is more acceptable is because penile penetration can't take place between women, so they're not really having sex - they're just, you know...mucking about. But two guys? Puh-lease! That means two dicks - therefore it's too sexual, too depraved. Therein lies the true paradox. How can Ostrow convince us of her facts when our collective sensibilities are in complete denial?

I've Never Fucked a Poofter but...

Sorry to have to pop a few more balloons, but clinical studies also tend to back up Ostrow's research. According to the consulting clinical psychologist at the Australian Centre for Sexual Health, Norman Rees, there's a couple of home truths that rat the most militant hetero guys out: 1. Straight male cross-dressers far outweigh females and 2. Straight men have the capacity to dabble in anonymous and emotionless homosexual encounters - and then totally sweep them under the carpet. In other words..."Duh, so I had my dick in his mouth - that doesn't prove anything!"

Because of this inherent male ability to completely separate sex from emotion (or reality), they can also seemingly extract themselves from specific sexual acts they've actually committed. One can conclude from this that if sly sex acts can be overlooked, then mere stray thoughts would be far more easily banished to the brain's bottom draw. Oh...there's straight guys out there thinking about other blokes baby, just not many can bring themselves to talk openly about it! I'm not saying all men want to give each other their willies, just that there's more thinking along those lines than would ever admit it - even under extreme torture. Come on guys, we're only talking fantasies here, stop being such a bunch of girls.

Just when I started feeling emotionally superior to my tackle-bearing counterparts, another startling statistic knocked me right off my perch: homophobia isn't exactly a male-heavy domain. Rees also reported that men are far more likely to accept the previous dykish dabblings of their wives and girlfriends than women will accept their partner's prior homo-history. Be this as it may, anecdotal evidence and clinical studies suggest a goodly proportion of women do get off on male-oriented gay porn and also by fantasising about their men with gay abandon - but hey, according to both Ostrow's and Friday's revealing reads there's nary a naughty notion left that doesn't cross some horny chicks dirty little minds at some point in their lives. Taboos-schmaboos...um, does the expression "yo Rinny!" conjure up any disturbing mental images for you folks? The only difference between men's and women's fantasies is that we're just more likely to spill our guts.

There's little doubt that all-male reviews have peaked in popularity in recent years but even the most liberated women are still a long way from queuing up to witness male jelly-wrestling or simulated gay sex shows. Which just goes to show - while a lot of us are fairly depraved diva's deep down - unlike blokes, we're still nowhere near demanding an entire industry should cash in on our fetishes, penchants and peccadillos. That's still a man's domain, for now at least.

Future Shock?

While new-age men become more sensitive, openly affectionate and in touch with their emotions and modern girls become more sexually aggressive, assertive and independent one would hope that if the ball keeps rolling, the future should bring tolerance of complete sexual freedom between consenting adults. Sensitive new-age guys of the 90s should, by definition, become the dominant force in years to come.

Not bloody likely, according to Rees: "There's a psychological phenomenon referred to as Pattern Maintenance - this society's need to maintain the status quo. There will always be some sort of discrimination and bigotry against gays, either religion-based, or with the battle against AIDS we've inherited a brand-new excuse for a redneck backlash towards male homosexuality. It may seem like there's more tolerance of gays in the mainstream, but that's just because the gay community forced itself under our noses - regardless of public acceptance".

The saddest truth here is the incidence of youth suicide among males can still be directly linked to sexual identity crises in a high percentage of cases. In this seemingly enlightened and totally horny age the natural desire to imagine ourselves getting physically close to someone with matching dangly-bits is probably always likely to be the touchy subject that ruins dinner parties, drives friends apart and destroys families.

Happily, Ostrow holds a different view of the future. "I'm totally excited and optimistic. What was so awesome to me when I was compiling my book, was the way that Middle Australia really wanted to come out and express itself. And what is also very important to note is that a lot of men not only have fantasies about other men, the women that men fantasise about aren't very often the stereotypical Pamela Anderson-Lee lookalikes we're constantly being forced to recognise as the ultimate embodiment of sexual attractiveness. Men fantasise about short women, tall women, fat women, skinny women, old women, young women - all women. I really think the tide is turning and our acceptance of ourselves in all our varying shades will be what's really going to characterise the future".

Hmm, so straight men aren't as two-dimensional as the girlie magazines and the fascist fashion industry would have us believe. Surely the future's gotta be bright.

There you have it; the curly ones answered...or are they? No doubt this article will give rise to all kinds of further mass-debate - I'll give the last word to Vern L Bullogh, who stated in his book The Science of the Bedroom: "There is still much that is not known about human sexuality, whether of males, females, heterosexuals or homosexuals. Furthermore, the feminist and gay perspectives, though they have offered us new insights do not offer us the final and ultimate truth, something that is never possible in science anyway."

So, whatever floats your sexual fantasy boat, you still probably fall into the very broad net of what is considered 'normal'. There's basic psychological and physiological reasons behind every strange thought that crawls uninvited into our heads, heating up our loins. I just hope that the mere possession of this liberating knowledge doesn't take too much of the fun out of it!

*Burning Urges, edited by Ruth Ostrow is available from Pan Macmillan Australia.

Out of the Box

The "Outing Of Ellen" episode of Ms Degeneres' popular sitcom is yet to hit Aussie screens, but you'd have to have been living under a rock not to have heard last year's announcement by Ellen's lead character, Ellen Morgan, which was made through an airport loud-speaker no less: "I'm gay!"

Prior to this, no lead TV character had been openly recognised as gay. Sure, there's always been plenty of gay support characters, but no-one has ever been 'out' there in the lead. So naturally, the first brave soul had to be a chick. Be it on TV or in real life, it's fairly impossible to argue that chicks have always found it easier to come out - either as gay, bi or 'sexually ambiguous'. And it's that ambiguously that's becoming the fad of the 90s. I don't think we've ever seen even the remotest suggestion of any 'sexually ambiguous' men on prime time TV...well, not since Andrew Denton went to radio anyway. But when it comes to female sexual experimentation and men's fascination with it - you can count on TV to rub our noses in it:


Sure, Roseanne's ex-boss and current business partner, Leon, is openly gay, but Sandra Bernhard's character Nancy trumped this by being a very fickle bi-sexual. And when they were looking for a sure-fire ratings winner, it was a Lesbian Kiss that made it to air. In this much-publicised episode, Mariel Hemmingway guest-starred as a flirtatious dyke who planted a wet one on Roseanne's unsuspecting moosh. When Rosie confessed later to Dan his response was predictable - not even jealous, his eyes glazed over and he asked: "So...what was she wearing?"


While George was separated from NBC producer Susan (in the series before they became engaged and she later carked it) he spotted her in a video store holding hands with another woman. He suddenly found her very irresistible and wanted her back but later he became insecure when it emerged that Susan became a lesbian immediately after breaking up with him...what did he do? One of the funniest scenes in Seinfeld history was the last one in this episode when an old girlfriend of George's (to whom George owed money) saw George and Susan in the coffee shop. The women openly appraised each other sexually - much to George's dismay - oh god, did he do it to her too?

It was also George in another early episode, that felt compelled to visit his mother in hospital, purely because while he was there, every day at the same time he could perve on the silhouette of the female patient in the next bed who was receiving a sponge bath from a female nurse.  

The only hint of a male gay character in Seinfeld was when there was a case of mistaken identity, with the classic "We're not gay...not that there's anything wrong with that" episode. Although they did stretch some boundaries in another episode when Jerry started feeling irrational about the fact that Elaine was spending time with his newly acquired buddy who was a famous baseballer. He actually had a non-sexual crush on the guy.

And George's homophobia was exploited in the episode when Elaine asked him if he thought the guy she liked at the gym was good looking - telling him that "just because a guy thinks another guy is attractive doesn't mean that he's gay" George replied - "May as well be".

LA Law

The popular legal series also featured a controversial girl/girl kissing scene between 'partners' - one bi, one straight (this actually preceded the Roseanne smooch). In reality it was barely a chaste peck, but we still tuned in in droves.

Melrose Place

Well, well, well, Doug Savant's character Matt Fielding actually went the big boy/boy pash - but so it wouldn't turn too many stomachs the act was performed behind a curtain. Whooh, landmark stuff!

Home Improvement

Jill and nextdoor neighbour Wilson had a date to see a play - hubby Tim was not interested in joining them. When Wilson came to collect Jill he asked: "Are you ready to catch a few thespians in action?" This had Tim's ears pricking right up: "There's thespians in this play? Maybe it wouldn't be so bad after all." A broad double-entendre but blatant as far as the audience was concerned.

The Box/Number 96

It was our very own Aussie sex'n'sin sagas of the 70s that were the true ground-breakers. Gay character Don Finlayson was probably the first leading gay character in TV history not to be portrayed in screaming limp-wristed faggot stereotype. However, his bi-buddy; the flamboyant Dudley Butterfield was about as subtle as Dame Edna in a morgue. Meanwhile it was The Box's Vicki Stafford, played by Home and Away's Judy Nunn who can lay claim to the first true leso liplock - and we aint talking no peck either. Her ball-breaking but sexily feminine portrayal of a power hungry bi-sexual set a standard that no one's really been game enough to come near since.

and that's just to name a few...
On a Queer Day

Ok, we've examined straights under the microscope, what about our bent friends - the horse's hoofs and the skirt lifters - do they ever fantasise about doing a little straight shootin'?

Ouch, touchy subject! Getting info on this was like trying to impeach Bill. Heterophobia is rampant out there too. My sources in the lesbian camp coyly admitted that it was highly likely dykes occasionally fantasised about dicks, but leso erotica wouldn't touch 'em with the proverbial pole. It sure amuses the hell out of them that straight male porn is lousy with lesbians. They can't really figure that one out.

Meanwhile, in the er...camp camp. The standard party line was "It's possible that poofs have straight fantasies, but we certainly wouldn't bother catering for it". Homosexuality tends to bring with it an entire political agenda meaning that it's more than a sexual preference - it's an entire lifestyle and rigid belief system. To admit to contemplating jumping the fence, even just cerebrally would be tantamount to high treason.

But that's a broad generalisation and the 90s have been about breaking the moulds - as a result an old expression has adopted an entirely new twist. People who don't want to identify themselves as gay, straight, bi or indifferent are now choosing to label themselves "Queer". Queers can be transvestites, trans-sexuals and fetishists as well as all of the above. The general idea being to produce more tolerance of everyone, by everyone. This must come as a big relief to the bi-sexuals, who have been accused in the past of lacking enough commitment to either side of the argument, therefore often being shunned by both camps.

At this rate, eventually there’ll be more people in the Gay Mardi Gras, than watching it.

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