DEAR DR. NERDLOVE: I’m a bisexual woman and I’ve been encountering something in my dating life that I’d like to just have someone confirm is a thing, if that’s at all possible. I don’t have a whole lot of dating experience, but I’ve been noticing a pattern where I get involved with a cis, hetero dude and as soon as they figure out I’m bi they want to talk to me about all the women they find attractive. Doesn’t seem like a big deal since we’re both into women, so I never have a problem with it…except all of a sudden I’ve got this dude I’m super into that suddenly only wants to talk about how hot other women are and seems actually repulsed by any attempts I make to be physically intimate with them. I mean, it’s like one day they’re super into me and the next they’re disgusted I have any interest in them outside listening to them go into a lot of detail about how they want to have sex with… just about any woman who’s not me.
I’ve spent years trying to figure out what I’ve done wrong or how I’m not woman enough for these people I love to love me back but… I think I finally figured it out. I think that these dudes are so used to only be able to have these conversations with their bros that they’re first ecstatic that they can have those conversations with me, and then because they can have those conversations with me they start to see me as their bro. Is that it? Have I been bro-zoned? That’s really the only thing that makes sense to me when it’s like one day he’s super into me and the next he’s physically repulsed. What cishet man wants to f--k his bro, right?
I’m really struggling with this because I’m a super accommodating person and I don’t want to trap anyone or be the thought police or anything but… do I just have to be really strict about things I don’t believe in to have dudes not do this to me?
Honestly, the worst part of this isn’t that it happens — it’s that it keeps happening and every dude keeps insisting he wants to be with me while rejecting me and telling me how much he wants to be with anyone else. Like… just tell me you’re done? To this day no one’s ever broken up with me. I’ve either told them I’m done, or they’ve been done and have made me so miserable that I had to like… break up with myself for them so that I’d be heartbroken and they can still say mean things about me.
I really just wish someone would be honest and just tell me they aren’t interested anymore. It’s always going to sting a little, but it’s way better than making a fool out of myself trying to fix something that honestly isn’t about me.
Anyway. Is this actually a thing? Or is there actually something I have to fix about me?
DEAR BROZONE LAYER: I don’t think the issue is that you’re being Bro-zoned, BZL. I think the issue is that you’re dealing with s--tty straight dudes who are making your sexuality about them.
This is incredibly common for a lot of bi and pansexual women who date straight guys; they run into men who hear that they’re attracted to women as well as men, and the idea of seeing her with another girl becomes the only thing they can think about. The problem is that for her, her sexuality is just one thing about her; for him, her sexuality is not only the dominant thing about her, it’s the most important thing about her in as much as it relates to what he wants, whether that’s a MFF threesome, to watch two women have sex or (even better) both. Her sexuality just ends up being a tool for his pleasure. The fact that it comes with a whole-ass person who’s more than just who they are attracted to is almost beside the point.
And it doesn’t help that there’s a lot of bulls--t stereotypes around bi and pan people that make straight folks forget that queer people come in as much variety as straight people. Not every pansexual person — guys, gals and nonbinary pals — wants to ogle hot folks and go on and on about who they’d like to bang. Not every bi or pan person, women in particular, needs to be non-monogamous, nor is every bi or pan person interested in f--king somebody for the benefit of their partner. Some bi or pan folks may very well be exhibitionists or dig threesomes… but not all of them, and it’s not something that comes inherent with being bisexual.
Now while there’re guys who like the idea of being able to bond with their girlfriends or wives over other hot women, I strongly suspect the reason why you keep having guys who want to talk about banging hot chicks with you isn’t because they’re bonding over shared attraction, they’re trying to feel out whether you’re up for putting on a show for them. I am willing to bet you the price of a beer that, were you to engage with them about how hot this woman was or that woman is, the next thing out of their mouth would be an attempt to get you to hook up with her. I am further willing to bet that said hook-up would be contingent either on him getting to watch or — even better — getting to join in. Because, as I said: a lot of unevolved straight guys hear “bisexual” and think “well, what does this mean for my penis?” To them, your sexuality isn’t a facet of who you are as a person, it’s a prop for their enjoyment, whether directly or indirectly.
Now I want to be clear: this isn’t your fault. This isn’t something you’re doing wrong that’s triggering this behavior. Unfortunately, haters are gonna hate and assholes are gonna ass. There isn’t a magical way of phrasing things or carrying yourself that’s gonna stop an a--hole from assing all over the place. It’s not a matter of your not saying the exact right words or behaving in this particular way that makes the difference between whether someone’s going to be an asshole about your sexuality.
What you can do, however, is work on choosing guys who don’t have a 90s frat-boy idea of sexuality. Now this can be difficult; a lot of folks know how to talk the talk and do a great job of playing Crouching Nice Guy, Hidden Douchecanoe. But men who’ve had more exposure to LGBTQ people of all stripes are less likely to think that your sexuality is a performance for them. So too are guys who understand that sexuality isn’t a performance for them. They may not necessarily understand what bisexuality means for you, but the guys who’re willing to listen and learn do exist. There may be demographic issues that makes finding them more challenging — especially if you’re in a small town or an area without much of an LGBTQ community — but I promise you that they’re out there.
Now, one of the things I suggest is establishing boundaries, especially surrounding talking about other women. It’s totally within your rights to say “Hey, I’m not really comfortable with talking about this with you” when they bring it up, especially if you’re looking for a monogamous commitment. You’re also well within your rights to say that you’re not interested in talking about your hooking up with another woman or threesomes or any other sex acts you aren’t interested in. This isn’t a test, nor is it thought-policing; if that’s not something you like to talk about with guys you date, then all you’re drawing a line in the sand and saying “I don’t want you to cross this line, thank you.”
How they respond will tell you everything you need to know about them. Do they push back against your telling them? Do they get sad and pouty because they were really hoping that they could mutually get all hornt about other women? Do they bring it up again, even after you said “hey, can we not?” Then that’s your sign that this guy is probably not right for you.
On the other hand, if they accept your boundary and show that, while they may be ignorant or unaware, they’re willing to learn? That’s a guy worth knowing. They have some rough edges or trip over themselves out of ignorance, but a willingness to learn and grow is a valuable thing to find in a partner.
Is it possible that these dudes you’re dating just see you as one of the guys and lose attraction because of that? Sure, it’s possible. Just like its possible that going on and on about how they’d love to stick it in her and her and her over there is their back-asswards, passive-aggressive way of trying to get you to end the relationship so that they get to be the ‘good guy’.
But I suspect it’s more that when you say “bisexual” they hear “opportunity!” and never get past the possibility of someone performing for their dicks.
This isn’t something you need to fix in yourself; you just need a better class of straight guy to date.
Please send your questions to Dr. NerdLove at his website (www.doctornerdlove.com/contact); or to his email, firstname.lastname@example.org