Angelica Alzona/GMG

It’s 2018, in the year of our lord and savior Robyn Rihanna Fenty, and people are still 7-year-olds when it comes to sexual fluidity.

A while back, while we were dining over fine cuisine at the Waffle House, a friend of mine asked if I had ever considered the fact that my ex-boyfriend was … I stopped her right there, because I knew exactly what she was going to say, and I confirmed her sentiment. She then became incredulous as to how I could be so nonchalant about the fact that my ex-boyfriend probably slept with other men.

I simply responded that if a woman has had sex with more than 10 men, there’s a good chance at least one of them has had sex with another man. She immediately countered that that couldn’t be true because she knew the sex lives of all the men with whom she’d had sex.

All of ’em? … C’mon, son, you’ve been screwing-and-doing for about 15 years now; there’s no way you can know all of their sexual histories. … This was the response in my head, which was verbalized with:

“You didn’t know Ronnie was married, though!”

Now, this wasn’t to shame my friend, but to say that we really don’t know all the sexual histories of our partners. If a man can hide a wife, he can hide a boyfriend (or husband). If a man can hide something that doesn’t want to be hidden, he will surely hide something that may want to remain behind locked doors.

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Sexuality and masculinity are invariably intertwined in our culture, and we put so much emphasis on how manly a man needs to be. When a man has sex with another man, his masculinity becomes tarnished. Women—to a certain extent—are allowed freedom from this double standard.

Women are allowed to retain their femininity no matter how many people of the same sex they have sex with. We equate manliness with exclusive heterosexuality, when that simply isn’t true. Men who are “manly” can have sex with men, whether they form genuine relationships or simply engage in acts of pleasure.

Sexual fluidity is a real thing, and men have sex with other men all the time.

As black women, we contribute to the tired trope that a man who has sex with other men is somehow sullied and his masculinity ruined, and we will throw the whole man of our dreams away because he had sex with another man and has been honest about it.

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Women will put up with no jobs, multiple ugly kids, multiple baby mamas, multiple other women—shit, wives even; but let him be bisexual, or sexually fluid, and it’s a complete wrap. Shit, there are women right now reading this, with Bryn-Alan-esque family photos as their profile pictures, turning their noses up, while their husbands are in the inbox of some girl who looks just like me ... or some guy’s.

We often want people to be honest with us but then respond negatively to the truths they dare share. You can’t be mad at people for telling you the truth and then be mad at people for lying to you. You have to choose—no pun intended.

As women, we attach so much of our self-worth to what men are attracted to. Just because a man likes men doesn’t make him gay. According to Alfred Kinsey, the famous sexologist (cool job title, by the way), sexuality exists on a spectrum and most people fall somewhere in between.

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People, especially black people, have a “one-drop rule” approach to men and sexual fluidity.

If a man has sex with one man and 100 women, we will still erroneously view him as gay and not bisexual, or sexually fluid, or even just a heterosexual man who experimented with a man and came to the conclusion that he didn’t like men. Women, on the other hand can have a whole bachelor’s, master’s and doctorate phase of having had sex with women and then turn around and reclaim their heterosexuality.

There are also so many misconceptions about women who date men who have had sex with men. They think these women somehow have low self-esteem or don’t care about themselves. Choosing to date someone who is comfortable enough to reveal their truths to you, and being an adult about it, sounds like textbook self-esteem to me!

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Well, what about diseases? What about them? Women who are in relationships with men who claim to be strictly heterosexual get diseases every day. If we are so worried about catching something, why don’t we get tested more often? Why don’t we insist on condom usage?

Honestly, the staggering number of sexually transmitted infections contracted by black women can be attributed to vaginal intercourse with men, the same men who say they don’t have sex with other men. Research shows, though, that men who contract HIV from vaginal sex only account for a mere 4.87 percent of new HIV cases. There’s a good chance that a man who claims to be heterosexual and contracts the virus is not getting it from a woman.

The black community needs to acknowledge the fact that bisexual men aren’t on the down low, they aren’t living in secrets and lies; they are out and embracing their truth, and that is something to be honored, not shamed.

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Inversely, there are men who have sex with other men, all the time, and will tell you that they are straight, and honestly, there is no way you will ever know. Often, there is so much shame attached, that *cough* down-low *cough* men won’t even admit it to themselves that they are having sex with other men, therefore forgoing proper avenues of protecting themselves and their partners.

We have become so wrapped up in protecting toxic masculinity that we forget to protect ourselves.

Will I be perusing gay bars, looking for Mr. Right? At the end of the day, I am comfortable with a man being comfortable with himself, and whether he be straight, bi or sexually fluid, those things have nothing to do with me.

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If he likes me, he likes me, and it would be foolish to think that I would be completely aware of every sexual tryst that my partner has had. I would simply hope that they protected themselves because at the end of the day, the only difference between me knowingly dating a man who has had sex with another man and not knowingly doing so is that I would actually know for sure.