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‘What even is a masculine voice?’: Why bisexual men face more pressure to be ‘man enough’ than gay or straight men

A recent study that bi men sound more masculine than both gay and straight men shouldn't be laughed off, writes Lewis Oakley in an op-ed

By Lewis Oakley

The writer Lewis Oakley sitting down in a suit
"I was always very cautious of displaying any feminine traits whilst on a date," writes Lewis (Images by Spencer Cooper)

A recent study into masculine voices drew many rolled eyes. A report by the Journal of Sex Research found that bisexual men tend to be perceived as more masculine-sounding than both gay and straight men. 

This of course raised some sceptical questions. Like, why does it matter? What even is a masculine voice? What should a bisexual man sound like?

As always, bisexual issues are either laughed off or ignored. Underneath the scepticism of this study is a real story of bisexual men who have to compete with straight men to find a mate and have to navigate an often toxically-masculine environment to do it. 

The dating lives of bisexual men are often a stark contrast to that of gay men. Gay men, typically, only date other gay or bi men. The culture is different, as are attitudes around masculinity. Being perceived as a feminine man is not the end of the world when you’re a gay man looking for a partner. But if you’re a bi man interested in a straight woman, it’s a different story. 

(Images by Spencer Cooper)

I’ve experienced this first-hand. Back when I was single, I was always very cautious of displaying any feminine traits whilst on a date. I worried that bisexuality plus femininity would equal ‘date-over’ because she’d conclude that I was a gay guy struggling to come to terms with it. 

It is of course important to point out here that I’m not suggesting all bisexual men are ‘putting on’ a more masculine voice. But I am saying that the pressure to compete with straight men for women’s attention is certainly a consideration that puts pressure on a lot of bisexual men. 

But why do bi men worry that straight women will see them as feminine? 

The answer comes down to cold hard stats. Various pieces of research over the year have confirmed what many bi men suspect to be true, that many women don’t want to date them. YouGov found that just 28% of women say they would be comfortable with the idea of a bisexual partner. Another study found that 44% of Australians wouldn’t date someone who is bisexual. It’s not even just about the label bisexuality, according to a poll by Glamour: 63% of women said they wouldn’t date a man who’s had sex with another man. Finally, a study published in the Journal of Bisexuality concluded that straight women perceive bi men as being less romantically and sexually attractive than straight men. As a result, straight women were less likely to date or have sex with a bi guy. Bi men were also perceived as being significantly more feminine than straight men. 

Bisexual men see this in their everyday lives. Many bisexuals over the years have shared that the moment they put ‘bisexual’ in their dating profile, their interest from women usually goes down to zero. 

It’s important to state here that I’m not blaming women. They are free to date who they want. But it is important to highlight the impact on bisexual men, knowing that their bisexuality is unattractive and feeling they better hide any femininity if they hope to have any chance at all. To me, this issue is one of the big factors keeping bisexual men in the closet. One survey found that young bisexual men are the least likely to have come out, another study (that is slightly outdated now) suggested that just 12% of bisexual men are out of the closet, compared to 77% of gay men. More recently Stonewall found that just 36% of bi people are out to all their friends compared to 74% of gay and lesbian people. (Though it didn’t provide the gender breakdown). 

(Images by Spencer Cooper)

Some bisexual men are finding the experience of dating straight women so toxic that they are no longer willing to try. Mark Cusack recently made headlines with a piece detailing why he is refusing to date straight women and how he will now only consider dating queer women. It would be a tragedy if this became a trend, as straight women and bisexual men can make great couples. I should know, I’m in such a relationship. There are so many wonderful women out there that are open to dating bi guys but because so many aren’t it does but pressure on bisexual men. 

What’s also interesting is that when women who are dating bi men are surveyed, they are usually very happy. Deakin School of Health and Social Development found that women in relationships with bisexual men say that their partners are better lovers and fathers than straight men. Some women even said they would never be able to go back to dating straight men at all, as they felt straight men were the ones with more emotional and misogynistic baggage. Bi men were found to be less likely to value unequal and traditional gender roles. They were far more respectful. They were keen fathers and wanted to set up equitable gender relationships in the home.

The pressure on bisexual men to feel that they are competing with straight men and see themselves as ‘not man enough’ is rather unique in our LGBTQ+ community. It doesn’t receive enough attention. And that’s why I feel it’s important that studies like the one about masculine voices shouldn’t be laughed off. These unique pressures need to be explored and as a community, we need to look for solutions. Hopefully, times are changing and more women won’t see bisexuality as a negative trait in the future. As the study from Deakin shows, dating bisexual men should be considered a desirable thing. As more people cotton on, bisexual men can stop worrying about needing to present more masculine and get back to focusing on all the unique aspects they can bring to a relationship to make it a success.