The Lure of Dating an Ex-Lesbian

So-called hasbians are going for straight guys just like you!

Felicity @ Storm

Photograph from Rankin/Trunk Archive
Certain female archetypes capture men's sexual imagination because they represent that elusive thing men can't have. Among them: the porn star (for obvious reasons), the nun (for obvious, more disturbing reasons), and the lesbian. For Dudus Americanus, this last image tends to conjure up the predictable girl-on-girl fantasies that have consumed him since he first stumbled upon Dad's secret stash of Oui magazines. But what about the guys who manage to break through? Is landing a woman who once found gratification in her own sex really a cause for celebration—or something more like trepidation?
Paul Mattingly, a 34-year-old actor, was doing "Klingon work" at Star Trek: The Experience in the Las Vegas Hilton when he met Anne, the pretty young manager of the attraction's gift shops. He chatted her up at a party (out of costume) and found out she'd dated a few other guys at the Experience, which didn't bother him. But after he and Anne became serious, he learned she'd been romantically involved with a woman for years.
[Read More on Flirting with Disaster]
"There was a minute there where I had a little Ben Affleck Chasing Amy moment," says Mattingly. "It was this feeling of 'Clearly, this person has out-experienced me—is that going to come back and bite me in the butt?'" Five years later, it has not; in fact, the two have been married since 2007. And while Anne admits she will probably always be attracted to women, he isn't worried. After all, the Mattinglys now have celebrity analogues. After three years as one half of the most famous lesbian couple ever, Anne Heche ran off with Ellen DeGeneres' very vagina-less cameraman Coley Laffoon. When she split with him, she didn't seek comfort in the arms of someone of her own gender—but instead shacked up with Men in Trees stud James Tupper. Even Ani DiFranco, folk guitarist, feminist icon, and prominent bisexual, just hitched up with a man for the second time last January—in freaking Hawaii. And Lindsay Lohan—well, these days it's safe to say Firecrotch will take whatever she can get.
There are no reliable statistics by which to gauge how many refugees there are from the isle of Lesbos. Nor could there be: Bisexual women, for instance, don't have to "switch teams" to enter into relationships with men, even if they've lived with other women for decades. But if the hasbian (and for simplicity's sake, we'll include bisexuals who've shifted from women to men) really is having a coming-out moment, it might be because the lesbian had her big coming-out moment in the nineties—the decade that saw Cindy Crawford shaving k.d. lang on the cover of Vanity Fair, the birth of Lilith Fair, and the mainstream popularity of lesbian-friendly folksingers like DiFranco, the Indigo Girls, and Dar Williams, not to mention a slew of literal "coming-out moments" set off by Ellen's "Yep, I'm gay" in 1997. Today, The L Word has come and gone, Katy Perry has qualified her confession about kissing a girl with "I hope my boyfriend don't mind it," and the tabloids are far more preoccupied with LiLo's dropout antics than with her sexuality—just as we are more compelled by Rachel Maddow's intelligence than by her orientation. It's safe to say the novelty has faded. A woman who began her sexual exploration in the lesbian-leaning nineties would be in her thirties now. Is it unreasonable to suggest her biological clock could also affect her sexual proclivities?
"It's impossible for women reaching their child-rearing years not to be aware of that at some level, and to have that influence who they're with," says Dr. Lisa M. Diamond, an associate professor of psychology and gender studies at the University of Utah and the author of Sexual Fluidity: Understanding Women's Love and Desire. "I've seen bisexual women who say they could go either way, but as they get older, that structures how they want to be and who they want as a partner. The standard first question, Mattingly says, is "Aren't you afraid she'll go back to dating women?" "Continued change is really the norm," says Diamond. "We have this notion that as people get older, things stabilize. Not so. Meredith Baxter just came out at 62."
Benji Friehling, 26, a restaurateur in upstate New York, had another concern when he started dating his fiancee, who had been in a 12-year relationship with a woman and identified fully as lesbian: Could he possibly navigate the female anatomy as skillfully as a woman? Those concerns weren't limited to the usual matters of clitoral mastery and G-spot triangulation. "I worried that perhaps I was a bit inadequate," says Friehling, "that my penis wasn't as big as her dildo." This sort of fear raises a question about that whole adolescent obsession with girl-on-girl action. Though these guys may be in a better position than the rest of us to act on it, none, including Friehling, has any interest in actually following through—not because they're worried their wives and girlfriends will revert, but because they fear that they themselves won't be able to handle it. And that might be the greatest irony of dating a hasbian: In the end, we're the ones who lack the balls to explore our sexual margins.
"Of course I think about it. What man wouldn't?" Mattingly says. "But my wife's argument is that I wouldn't be able to emotionally survive it because I'm the one hung up on the 'sex is love' thing. She knows enough to know that it'd probably end in tears—and I'd be the one who's crying. She's the one who wears the pants." Anne Heche's rugged-looking new beau, Tupper? He enjoys bird-watching. After high school, he lived on a coffee farm in East Africa where he studied Swahili, and he has since appeared in several Off Broadway plays—not the resume of a dude who opens MGD with his molars and whacks off to Coochie Hoochies 2. It is hardly a stretch, then, to suggest that the reason modern men are more ably attracting hasbians is that modern men are, quite simply, offering these women something close to what they had before. Just look at Tom Cole, a pastoral-care director at International House of Prayer in Kansas City. Without a healthy exploration of his feminine side, he probably wouldn't have met his wife, Donna—who like Tom identifies as a "former homosexual." Before the two met years ago at church meetings for born-again Christians, Donna was in a lesbian rugby league. "They didn't even wear pads or anything," Cole recalls. "She had a tattoo and she drove a motorcycle." Since then, Cole notes, Donna has "softened up," and he's learned that the right woman can get him "extremely aroused." But a few aspects of their former selves never changed. "She doesn't love to cook, that's for sure," says Cole. "But I do, so it works out really well."
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