James W. Hicks, M.D.

Posts Tagged ‘versatile’

Bisexual Arabic Literature

In Cultures, Media on February 2, 2011 at 7:23 pm

With Cairo in the news recently, I was reminded of an Egyptian novel that deals with bisexuality. The Yacoubian Building, by Alaa Al Aswany, was a best seller in the Arab world when it was published a few years ago, and it was subsequently made into a popular movie. One of the main characters is Abd Rabbuh, a young police officer who is married but also having an affair with an older, gay man, Hatim Rasheed. Rabbuh has features of several sexual types, though his role is most obviously macho and versatile. The characters are portrayed sympathetically, though the plot requires a perhaps stereotypical tragic ending.

For another great novel featuring bisexual characters in Egypt, pick up Norman Mailer’s colorful epic, Ancient Evenings, set mostly in the 13th Century B.C. The narrator (Menenhetet) has sex with both men and women, as does his pharaoh, Ramses the Great. Menenhetet is portrayed as macho, while Ramses seems to be supersexual. The novel is fascinating for the way in which Mailer immerses the reader in an alien culture, in which sexuality, bodily functions, and religion are completely unmoored from contemporary associations and assumptions.

And back to Arabic, consider reading the erotic wine songs of Abu Nuwas, a revered 8th Century poet who wrote in Baghdad during the early Abbasid period. The classic poet is famous for his sexual relations with men (when he was a boy) and boys (when he was a man), but he also married a woman and loved a slave girl during his youth. He wrote passionate songs about both young men and women.


In Sexual Types on August 7, 2010 at 7:06 pm

Versatile is a term used by male sex workers to indicate their willingness to be either a top or a bottom, but I use it here more generally as the third sexual type.

Versatile refers to both men and women who, in exchange for some benefit, are able and willing to have sex with those to whom they are not otherwise sexually attracted, male or female. The exchange could include money or less tangible compensations such as security, shelter, travel, immigration, or legal status. The derived benefits might also include excitement through exhibitionism or participation in a shared fetish. The required versatile acts range from performing in front of a camera to showing affection and providing conjugal sex during the course of a relationship. Within this category, otherwise straight male sex workers and pornographic actors are referred to as “gay-for-pay” if they engage in homosexual acts.

If you are versatile, you probably consider compensated sex to be a performance rather than an expression of desire or affection. You may improve your act, in part, by fantasizing about the gender you find attractive rather than the person (or audience) you are with. Or you may find the sexual admiration, desire, or affection of others to be sufficiently arousing, even from someone who is not otherwise your preferred type. You may also find some mechanical pleasure in the sexual act and train yourself to become aroused in situations that previously would not have interested you. You may take pride in your ability to perform your job well. Your sexual tastes may evolve and expand, and you may even come to think of yourself as heteroflexible, supersexual, or bisexual.

Many have assumed Anna Nicole Smith was versatile, because she was a model for Playboy who went on to marry a wealthy octogenarian more than sixty years her senior.

The poet and punk artist Jim Carroll hustled gay men to support his drug habit when he was a teenager.

Leaving Tangier by Tahar Ben Jelloun paints an empathetic portrait of the versatile type in telling the story of an otherwise straight Moroccan man who forms a sexual relationship with a gay Spaniard in order to escape his home country. Several other bisexual types are also deftly illustrated in the short novel.


In Cultures, Media on July 23, 2010 at 1:14 pm

In 2005-2006, the HBO miniseries Rome amazingly recreated the politics and personalities of the Roman republic on the verge of becoming an empire under Julius Ceasar. The acting, sets, music, and story are fabulous.

Among it’s other virtues, Rome portrays several different types of bisexuality in an accurate historical context.

Early in the first season, Octavian is taken to a brothel by the soldier Titus Pullo, where he is offered a range of men and women to choose from. It is taken for granted that men are ambisexual and might want to have sex with both genders.

Octavian’s sister, who has previously loved and been married to a man, is successfully seduced by her mother Atia’s arch-enemy Servilia, an older woman who had previously been in love with Julius Ceasar. (Yes, it’s a bit of a soap opera, but so much more.) Atia’s daughter is flexamorous. Servilia’s feelings are unclear.

Servilia also employs a 14 year old psychopath as an assassin who is supposed to poison Atia. This versatile young man becomes a servant by offering himself as a sexual bottom to the senior slave of Atia’s household, but he also flirts boldly with Servilia. For him it is all about the money.

In one episode, Lucius Vorenus’ fellow mobsters anally rape another man, reflecting the sexual violence that can be condoned within a macho sexual culture. Marc Anthony also rapes a passing woman and expects continuous sex from his slaves. He’s never shown having sex with a man (unless you count the orgies in Cleopatra’s court, where he shows off his new tattoos), but he is presumably supersexual.

Vorenus’ tavern manager in the second season, who becomes Titus Pullo’s girlfriend, is portrayed as atypically (for the time) manly and sexually aggressive, suggesting she might have metamorphic traits.

Julius Ceasar is involved only with women in the series, but the real Julius Ceasar was known in his time to have had a homosexual relationship when he was a young man. In fact, he was assumed to have been the bottom, which could have destroyed his reputation if he were not so strongly respected by his men as a soldier. He might have been flexamorous or ambisexual.