In this lively interview with bisexual mega influencer and Men’s Health columnist Zachary Zane, he discusses Boyslut, his new book that chronicles his sexual journey, as well as how to live a more shame-free, sex-positive life.
Wild & Sublime Podcast Transcript
S4E9 | Zachary Zane is a BOYSLUT!
Zachary Zane: [Intro] There’s this idea that bisexuality is a fad. And I think that’s very frustrating just because we’ve worked so hard to be like this is a stable identity. So much of the issues that we have with it is people thinking we are unstable and that we are going to change and this idea of it being a fad really plays into that, that like nothing is a fad remains forever. So that means everyone who’s identifying as bisexual will no longer identify as such down the road. So it’s just another way of erasing us. It’s another way of invalidating our identity. It’s another way of kind of saying that this isn’t real the way that you think it is.
Karen Yates: Welcome to Wild & Sublime a sexy spin on infotainment, no matter your preferences, orientation, or relationship style. Based on the popular live Chicago show I chat about sex and relationships with citizens from the world of sex positivity. You’ll hear meaningful conversations, dialogues that go deeper, and information that can help you become more free in your sexual expression. I’m sex educator and intimacy coach Karen Yates. On today’s episode, I speak with sex columnist and bisexual mega influencer Zachary Zane about his new memoir, Boyslut. Keep listening. [music under] Just a few simple sentences can change your intimate life. Want to know what they are? Download my free guide, “Say it better in bed: three practical ways to improve intimate communication” to get easy tools to put into action immediately. Go to Karen-Yates.com to get yours.
[to listeners] Hey folks, wow, today we have a very lively conversation and one I think you’ll enjoy. I am super excited to have on Zachary Zane, who writes the sex and relationship column “Sexplain It” for Men’s Health magazine. Zane also writes the “Navigating non monogamy column” for Cosmo. He is the founder and editor in chief of Boyslut zine which publishes real sex stories from kinksters worldwide. His work on sexuality and relationships has been published in the New York Times, Rolling Stone, the Washington Post, GQ, Out, and many others. He is the co author of the book “Best. Sex. Ever.” And today we’ll be talking about his latest book that comes out on Tuesday May 9, Boyslut: a memoir and manifesto. We also talk about being bisexual in a bi hating world, becoming more visible, plus his thoughts on safer sex ,STIs, and Grindr, the male hookup app. Enjoy.
[to Zane] Zachary Zane, welcome.
Zachary Zane: Hi, thank you so much for having me on here.
Karen Yates: I’m very excited to have you on. And before we begin, it’s interesting because bisexual erasure is going to be part of our conversation, I always like to ask guests about the lands, they’re on their tribal lands, because that’s part of the erasing that we do in culture. So what tribal lands are you on right now?
Zachary Zane: Sure. So I’m on the Canarsee of the Lenape tribe.
Karen Yates: Great. And I am on the Council of three fires, lands, the Potawatomi the Ojibwe and the adawa tribes. So Zach, I would love to begin with you reading an excerpt from your book Boyslut. And prior to this isI asked Zach to read something from the very juicy glossary that is in the beginning of the book. And what will you be reading, Zach?
Zachary Zane: Sure, I’m gonna read the definition of “boyslut.”
Karen Yates: Awesome.
Zachary Zane: And I felt like compelled to write this considering what does that mean? Right? It’s the name of the book. And I feel like there’s a lot of confusion. So here’s what I wrote. [reading] “Boyslut. You might not be thrilled by the title of this book, or by the fact that I call myself and readers boysluts. After all, the word slut is highly gendered and seldom been hurled at me as an insult, intended to harm belittle or control my behavior. Men are often praised for having sex with a lot of women. They’re called a player or regular Don Juan, whereas women are deemed simply sluts. This pervasive double standard is not new, and men have always benefited from it. I know I have. Unfairly women who are called sluts are often deemed either mentally unwell, “she’s got real daddy issues,” or undeserving of love. “I’d never marry a slut.” So why do I feel it’s my right to reclaim a word that hasn’t typically been used to hurt or control me? First, I choose to identify as a boyslut because it exposes the double standard of promiscuity associated with men and women, and in doing so, hopefully works to dismantle it. Second, as someone who also proudly identifies as a queer faggot, I know the power of reclamation. I hope to help remove some of the stigma and shame that accompanies being a boyslut. So what exactly is a boyslutt? I define it as a person of any gender or sexual orientation who approaches sex without a lick of judgment or shame. Being a boyslut is not about having a high body count. It’s about having the sex you want with whomever you want, however you want without shame. Identifying as a boyslut is to give a gigantic middle finger to society, letting everyone on this planet know that you will not be controlled or behave a certain way, just because that’s what’s considered normal, ethical ot right.
Karen Yates: Awesome. Awesome. Thank you. So the subtitle of your book is “a memoir and manifesto.” So I would love for you to talk right now about why were you called to write this book as a partial memoir, but also a manifesto.
Zachary Zane: Yeah. So unlike kind of a more traditional memoir, I really am sharing my advice rather explicitly. I come from this being a sex and advice columnist, that’s I’ve been doing Men’s Health for many years. And so I really want to be part of a larger movement, part of the sex positivity movement, Kink positivity movement, gender equality movement, bisexual visibility movement, all of these things. So I’m really kind of, again, I’m just not just sharing my story, I’m really sharing my perspective and thoughts on how to create this future. And that’s why it’s not just a memoir, but a memoir and a manifesto.
Karen Yates: Yeah, you know, you get so much into shame in the book, which I love. Because, you know, part of this podcast is about dismantling shame. And I feel that your transparency, because you’re very transparent, helps so much in the undoing of the shame. And you talk at length about shame, how it’s sort of woven into everything. And can you talk a little bit more about it?
Zachary Zane: I really wanted to make it clear that we all experience shame in some capacity. I think right now often we focus on like larger traumatic moments that may happen to us. So whether it is you are a little gay boy from the South who gets kicked out of his family for being gay and as homeless so like, of course, this person has shame. They have experienced such traumatic events in their lives. And the way I kind of approached this is that’s not my story. And still, sexual shame is so pervasive and so insidious, that even though I had a sex positive family I grew up in, even though I had gay uncles on both sides of my family, my dad’s brother, and my mom’s brothers, like, I still had so much sexual shame just from existing in the world. And you soak up this shame and these messages from, you know, media, society, your friends, culture teachers. So there’s really no way to become an adult without, without having sexual shame. And that’s what I was trying to make clear by really explaining that it doesn’t necessarily mean you have this one big moment that defined you, it could be that it could just mean a lot of these small little things really start to impact you in a way that you might not even realize.
Karen Yates: Yeah, you know, you talk about having sex with 2000 people and I know that’s such a banner thing: “Zachary Zane, bisexual mega influencer had sex with 2000 people!!” right? I mean, that’s just like pow, right?
Zachary Zane: It really is, like I say it out loud. And it sounds so ridiculous. And I know like, as I was, like, pitching the book, like that was definitely part of the sales pitch in there, because it is more scandalous or ridiculous or shocking, whatever you want to call it.
Karen Yates: So you talk about about these things. And you’re very quick to say, Hey, I’m not saying everyone needs to have sex with 2000 people. There’s this aspect of the book, which, for me, it’s a manifesto, but it’s also kind of a handbook. It’s kind of a How To which I really, really loved. Because you make this point fairly early on, I think, when you’re starting to get into your adult life, having a lot of sex, where you’re like, you talk about how you learn about sex by having sex, you know that this is an experience, you’re walking through life, you’re having sex, and with every encounter you have, you’re learning something. And it’s not just about sexual skills, it’s about, it’s about life, you’re learning about yourself. And that’s really for me, that almost feels like the spine of the book of like, I’m walking along with you and your experience. But you’re also sort of telling me, Hey, this is best practices –don’t do what I do. You know, that’s a very long intro to me asking you, when you wrote the book–and I know every time a person writes a book there’s a very specific audience, right? You’re not just writing to the whole damn world–who were you writing to when you wrote this book?
Zachary Zane: It’s so funny, because when you pitch a book, you don’t want it to be super niche. So the whole thing is like this book is for absolutely everyone. And I do think everyone in a way can learn from this. I feel like we all experience sexual shame in some capacity, regardless of your age, sexual orientation, gender, anything. That said, I think it would be particularly beneficial for people who are struggling with aspects of their sexuality. By that I mean potentially questioning their sexuality whether they are gay, bisexual , pansexual, queer, anything else. Also people who are struggling with kind of relationship orientation we often talk about sexual orientation but I also discuss polyamory and other ethical, non monogamous structures in this book. And if you realize that maybe monogamy is not right for you, but don’t know exactly where to go from here. I think there’s a lot that can be helpful with that. And then especially for people who are struggling to embrace their kinks as well. So I think like particularly the people who will benefit the most from this are queer, bisexual, pansexual, gay, trans non binary people, the larger LGBTQ community, ethically non monogamous people, and then also kinksters I think are kind of the main people I’m really speaking to here and especially people who might not have fully embraced these aspects of their identity yet.
Karen Yates: Yeah, I love you when you really get into your your secret fetish.
Zachary Zane: Oh my god, it’s like, I’m terrified of my mother reading this book, like, oh, God, it’s gonna be… I cannot wait till the Thanksgiving after this. It’s gonna be hellish. And I might have to fake being sick just to avoid the awkwardness that will undoubtedly ensue.
Karen Yates: Maybe maybe we’ll get into the secret fetish. I was like, [laughing] WHAT IS IT??
Zachary Zane: I really do frame it well.
Karen Yates: You do, you really do.
Zachary Zane: I really do a combination, because I really like…or we can get into that later. Or we can get to it now.
Karen Yates: Yeah, let’s just get to it now. What the fuck.
Zachary Zane: So I feel like a part of it was I was definitely vacillating as to whether or not to share this kink of mine because, and I’ve talked about this in the book, where it’s like, I’m entitled to privacy, I do not have to absolutely share everything about myself. And I think there’s a big difference between me sharing a desire that I have with my partner or someone who I want to be a sexual partner. And then me sharing it with absolutely everyone in the entire world. And every employer, you know, could read this book, every person I date, everyone in my family. And so it is a different level of transparency, what I’m doing by writing a book as opposed to sharing it with your partner. But I think a lot of the reason why I decided to tell it in the end or share this kink at the end is because I felt shameful. That’s what it was. And I’m telling people to live without shame, and to embrace their kinks. And how can I tell other people to do that without leading by example, without sharing what it is that I that I enjoy sexually that I know other people will call disgusting or perverted or gross or sick or mentally ill, all of that, I really had to lead by example. And that’s when at the end I’m like, No, I think it’s really important for me to actually share my sexual desires and what turns me on.
Karen Yates: Do you want to go there right now?
Zachary Zane: We can. I still get excited and nervous about this.
Karen Yates: All right. We don’t, we don’t–even though it’s like been printed in a book, a very handsomely designed book, I may say.
Zachary Zane: Thank you, the hard copies just came in. It glimmers it shimmers, we can leave in a surprise. So that way people go out and buy the book. Well, we can leave it there.
Karen Yates: Yes, we can. We can leave it there unless I become impish near the end of the interview.
Zachary Zane: And that is fine as well.
Karen Yates: Since a large chunk of the book is about being bisexual, I feel like it’s important to really start talking about that and then moving on from there. So Robin Ochs gives a definition of bisexual, which is a bit of a mouthful, as you say, and then you give your own definition. And I’d like to sort of start there.
Zachary Zane: So let me make sure I’m quoting everything correctly here. And Robyn Ochs. I believe that’s how you say her last name [“oakes”] , her her definition is great. It is phenomenal. But it is like a paragraph long that has so many nuances. And just like for if I’m trying to define this in a casual conversation, you just can’t have that memorized to do it. It’s a very academic thing, the way that I kind of simplified it is “a person attracted to multiple or all genders.”
Karen Yates: Hmm. And then you’re very quick to bring in the difference between bisexuality and pansexuality, which I think is really important because the word “pansexual” is getting bandied about so much right now. And I want to hear your definition of pansexuality.
Zachary Zane: So it’s seemingly has changed for as, as long as I’ve been, you know, alive or using this word. So initially, what it seemed to be, was there was a confusion that being bisexual perpetuated a gender binary, that the “BI” meant men and woman potentially cis men and cis woman and because of that, it is not inclusive of trans people, and not inclusive of non binary people. First off, that’s just ridiculous. If you’re claiming it’s transphobic that means you’re not considering trans woman, women and trans men men. So you’re actually the one making that distinction. You’re the one being transphobic if you want to make the claim that it’s non binary phobic. It was clear that bisexuality was with regards to sex and not gender initially to biological sex and we do have male and female. Of course we have intersex and that way might not have been inclusive. However, I think the people who are coming up with the word bisexual, we’re clearly not like we’re not trying to include into intersex people, we’re not trying to exclude non binary people, of course, it was meant to be inclusive. But as we switched more to using gender, there’s been some confusion about whether or not bisexuality is inclusive. So then pansexuality seem to come out of this confusion. So pansexual meant all or pan means all — the idea that people are attracted to all genders. And then bisexual people got a little bit frustrated. Because we were like, wait a minute, most of us are attracted to all genders, you’re making this distinction, making it seem like we’re not attracted to non binary people, or we’re perpetuating a gender binary. And that’s not true. So we’re actually kind of pissed off by that because you’re creating a label that is describing our sexuality and in doing so kind of reducing us to something that we’re not. So then what I’ve seen now, which actually, I think makes more sense and like creates a more, I guess, valid distinction between the two identity labels, is bisexuality means you’re attracted to people because of their gender. And then pansexuality means you’re attracted to people regardless of their gender. So in that way, I’m someone who’s actually very attracted to masculinity, very attracted to femininity, really attracted to androgyny, I’m attracted to –if you’re looking at it like from a biological sex. I love dick. I love pussy. I love tits, I love chests, I love male features, I love female features, I’m attracted to all of it. And that’s why I’m bisexual. As opposed to a pansexual person might not like care if a person is more masculine or feminine. That’s not what they’re attracted to. They’re just more attracted to other aspects of the person, they might not care about a person’s genitals per se. So that distinction makes a little bit more sense to me, because it actually shows that like, okay, there is a difference in what you’re looking for in a person. The only qualm with this is that some people identify as both bisexual and pansexual. And that kind of puts… that kind of doesn’t make sense, right? Because they’re opposites and definitions here. So as I was writing this book, and that’s partly why I wrote this glossary. I was trying to define bisexuality and pansexuality. And really tried to be inclusive of people’s various attractions. And I kept on like, running into these walls. But why am I use this definition of bisexuality versus pansexuality? And I was like, well, that actually doesn’t make sense logically, if I’m saying this, like this. And that’s what led me to write the glossary, because I realized that we actually don’t have great definitions of pansexuality. And bisexuality, and gender is so nuanced, and attractions are so multifaceted that’s really difficult to capture in just a couple of sentences.
Karen Yates: That was great, because it really cements it–for me, at least. And one of the things I really enjoyed about your book is that you’re very open in general, in the book, obviously, but when it comes to definitions, or cultural standards, or whatever, you’re very quick to just say what you think. Maybe that’s part of being a columnist, but in this milieu of cancel culture, it was very refreshing for you just be like, I don’t buy this or Yes, yes, absolutely. No! And to just have someone say, “This is what I think,” because I get very cagey sometimes.
Zachary Zane: Oh, I’ve had panic attacks, like actual panic attacks, since the book has been published being like, I’m getting canceled. I messed up, I messed up this one word in this one sentence. It’s gonna be taken out of context. But I do think there’s also power in writing a longer book. So like, if you want to take something out of context, it’s like, I actually have 5000 words in this chapter to explain what I’m doing. As opposed to when I write an essay online, it’s like, you have 500 words to get to the point and you’re not allowed to have nuance. So I was able to kind of write a little bit more freely, because I had so many more words that allowed me to really get into the nitty gritty of it. But there’s still certain things that I look at where like, I could have worded this better and if someone wants to, but like, people–and this is what I’m learning…I have a lot of successful writer friends, which is very cool because when I have anxiety, I call them up and they’ve experienced the same anxiety–and it’s people are going to take what they’re gonna take out of context, no matter what, you know what I mean? Like no matter how perfect you are in your language, like people are going to get from it what they want to get from it. I still like an early review of the book from someone who really thought this book was really like only for polyamorous and kinky people. And if you’re not poly or kinky, it really did not speak to him. And like he was almost– in the way that he framed it–made it seem like I was putting polyamory and kinkiness on a pedestal and belittling those who are vanilla and monogamous. And I’m like, fuck that is that is so not true! And I make it so clear in my polyamory chapter. I’m like, “I want you to have the relationship style that you think is best and to find someone else who also shares in that relationship style. That can be monogamy that can be polyamory that can be a million of different things. I just want you to be considerate about what it is that you want and to voice that.” And like, actually, as opposed to other polyamorous people, I know I’m not shitting on monogamy in a way that a LOT of them really do. And really, that’s not me, I really want you to be happy with whatever you think is best for you. So reading that was frustrating, like the point is, this is a Choose Your Own Journey. I want you to have the sex life you want to have: I want you to own it. I do focus more on polyamory because there are a gadjillion resources for monogamy and very few for polyamory. I focus more on kink because there are fewer resources on that. I’m speaking to the more marginalized groups in these communities. But I’m absolutely not taking away if you’re monogamous and vanilla, so that reading that was kind of a good reminder. I’m like, You know what, people are gonna get what they get from this. And there’s not much more I can do.
Karen Yates: As I read it, I felt very included, you know, included for the things that I do. And then also not feeling excluded from the things that, you know, the various behaviors I don’t do. So personal endorsement.
Zachary Zane: Thank you.
Karen Yates: It’s very interesting to me, you’re absolutely right. People will pull things out of context, nor will they have compassion. We live in a very compassionless culture right now.
Zachary Zane: And I think that kind of goes to… I talk about this in terms of when I receive questions about my bisexuality, when people have asked very frustrating questions when they learned that I’m bi, very invasive questions, very mean questions, often trying to disprove that I’m bisexual, like monosexuals. By that I mean, gay and straight. People sometimes take like a perverse glee in trying to prove that me–a proud bisexual person–is not bisexual. So they asked me various questions to try to like, stump me and be like, Oh, well, you actually haven’t had sex with a woman in three years. That means you’re secretly… you’re just gay!! And I’m like, What are you doing right here?! But one thing I make a note of as I’ve received a lot of these questions that might be inflammatory or offensive, or just invasive, is where’s this person coming from? Are you coming from a place of just ignorance and genuinely want to know potentially because you might be bisexual? And if you don’t know, then yes, I’d be much more inclined to have this conversation with you. I think intent…Obviously, well intended people can absolutely still cause harm. You know what I mean? Like the damage is done. But at least in this context, if they are well intended, I’m more inclined to give them my time and to respond kindly.
Karen Yates: Yeah, you spend some time in the book talking about the 10 or so common, common salvos that people shoot at you when you say you’re bisexual, and you give some really great responses. And what for you are the most irritating questions you get about being bisexual– in 2023!! I just have to say that. [laughs]
Zachary Zane: You know, given what I do, and the fact that I’ve been a bisexual, a bi-con, as they say, for many years, I feel like I’m receiving less flack and doubt than I used to. I’ve also noticed that when you come out as bi when you are younger, people are much more likely to dismiss you than if you come out when you were older. And I think there’s this idea that you’re like, “confused” and “on a journey and not there yet,” when you’re 22 versus when you’re like, “Oh, I’ve been this for eight years,” people are much less likely to question or doubt versus “Oh, I’ve been this for six months. I’m 22.” So I think just the fact that I’m a little bit older, been doing this for a while I received less flack. I think my least favorite one or one of my least favorite ones is when’s the last time you had sex with a woman? Because that obviously assumes that I am gay. Right? So that’s the assumption there. It’s also frustrating in that the logic is wrong. Like, even if I’ve never had sex with a woman, that doesn’t mean I’m any less bisexual, right? No one questions an 18 year old when he calls himself straight, and you’re like, Well, you might be gay, because you’ve never had sex with a man. It’s like, No, you can know your sexual orientation and your attractions even if you haven’t done something. It also assumes that like, monogamous people are not bisexual. You know, if you’re monogamous with your partner, and like, when’s the last time you had sex with a woman or man, it’s like, well, no one in the last 20 years, because I’ve been married doesn’t make me any less bisexual. And it’s also just like the invasiveness where I just want to be like, when’s the last time you had sex with your husband? Like, what if I just asked you that after the first thing I said to you, you’d be like, Whoa, that’s a really inappropriate question to ask. And, like, again, I’m open to talk about sex all the time. But I’m like, do not ask something of a stranger that you just met that you would not like the masking to you, you know, in some capacity. The other two and they’re kind of related is I feel like bisexuality is very hip right now. Or isn’t everyone your age bisexual now? And there’s this idea that bisexuality is a fad. And I think that’s very frustrating just because we’ve worked so hard to be like, this is a stable identity. So much of the issues that we have with it is people thinking we are unstable and that we are going to change. And this idea of it being a fad really plays into that that like nothing is a fad remains forever. So that means everyone who is identifying as bisexual will no longer identify as such down the road. So it’s just another way of erasing us. It’s another way of invalidating our identity. It’s another way of kind of saying that this isn’t real the way that you think it is. It’s just something that’s happened in vogue. So I think that’s another one that frustrates me a little bit. A lot about.
Karen Yates: One of the things that you talk about that I absolutely love is you talking about visibility and how you find it sort of an irritating word. And you talk talk about around bisexuality, because say you can be married for 30 years having one committed sexual partner of one gender and not have sex with anyone else, and you can still be bisexual. So that that also becomes a type of you know, non visibility. So you talk about the answer is audibility. And can you talk a little bit about that? Because I think it’s really a great point that you make.
Zachary Zane: Yeah, I think for bisexuality, it’s very tough to be visibly bisexual the way that I think it’s like a part of that just has to do with relationships, right? It’s a couple you’re in a relationship with one person of one gender and you assume okay, if I someone like me is dating a man, I must be gay. If someone’s like me dating a woman, I must be straight. And so unless if you’re in a polyamorous throuple, which sounds amazing to me, but probably not to most bisexual people, like it’s very difficult to be like, Look, I’m bisexual unless you have a man and a woman on your arm. And we don’t kind of have cultural–I don’t wanna say –like touchstones the same way where it’s just like, they’re very clear, like gay things that you can wear or do and you think, oh, this person is gay, like not to stereotype, but they’re wearing a rainbow flag or the you know, a tank top and the cut off booty shorts and has their nails painted. And it’s this twink like, you’re like, okay, like, That guy’s gay. And that is visibility. But it’s like, we don’t really have that for bi people. So like, what we need to do because we can’t be visibly bisexual the same way that other marginalized communities can be is actually saying we are bisexual. We have to like announce those words. Otherwise people are just not going to know. So I call that bisexual audibility.
Karen Yates: One of the things I was thinking about as I was preparing for the interview is, so let’s say a person has been in the closet about their bisexuality. And I certainly know a lot of cis men who are in the closet about their bisexuality. And let’s say you’re married to a cis woman, and you’ve been in this marriage for, you know, I don’t know, 10 years or something, and you’ve been committed, but you have these recurring, almost incessant fantasies, but you know, you’re not most likely gay. How do you begin bringing it up to your wife? Or how do you begin bringing it up to a committed partner, say if you’re in a gay relationship, it can be unsettling, not just for you, but it can be unsettling for the partner because as has been pointed out, there is an assumption that bisexual people are inherently non monogamous is not necessarily the case. Putting your advice columnist’s hat on, what would you say to that person?
[to audience] We’ll return to the conversation in a moment. I’m sure by now you want to get your hands on a copy of Boyslut? Can I suggest bookshop.org, which features all the books mentioned on our podcast. When you purchase a book there you help independent booksellers and Wild & Sublime. And if you want to support Wild &, Sublime in another way, become a monthly member on the Patreon membership platform for as little as $5 a month. Find these links in our show notes.
We now return to the second half of my interview with Zachary Zane. We discuss how to come out as bisexual, the wild world of Grindr and male hookup apps, and so much more. Enjoy.
[to Zane] And let’s say you’re married to a cis woman, and you’ve been in this marriage for you know, I don’t know, 10 years or something, and you’ve been committed, but you have these recurring, almost incessant fantasies, but you know, you’re not most likely gay. How do you begin bringing it up to your wife? Or how do you begin bringing it up to a committed partner, say if you’re in a gay relationship.
Zachary Zane: I think when you’re expressing it to them and coming out to them, the way to do it is to make a clear if this is true, that you actually want nothing to change in your relationship. So I think the fear is, “I’m coming out as bi and because of that, what’s changing our relationship?” Do you now want an open relationship? Do you want to sleep with men, and if you do, that’s a different conversation to have. But if you’re actually monogamous and you’re just sharing this because you want to share an important part of your identity, because this is the person that you love, and you want them to know all of you and to be accepted and loved and embraced for all of you, make it clear that that’s why you’re sharing this information. You’re not sharing this because you want to break up because you want to start sleeping with men. You’re doing it because you love this person, you trust this person, and you want this person to know all of you. If you’re sharing this and part of the reason is because you want to open your relationship, that is okay, but the answer might be that you two end up breaking up. I think that is inevitability if this person–and that might be less to do with you being bisexual and more to do with the fact that you want an open relationship–if this person always thought they’re gonna be monogamous. You’ve been married for 10 years and that is their relationship orientation. And part of your bisexuality coming out as bisexual, embracing it, is “I actually really need to be with men and date men. And I really hope to do this with my wife by my side.” She doesn’t have to agree. That doesn’t mean she’s bi-phobic. It doesn’t mean you did anything wrong, it doesn’t mean she did anything wrong. It’s just an unfortunate reality that sometimes things change in the relationship and you grow apart. And that’s what’s happening. Yeah, it’s tough. You know, often I get a lot of letters, especially because I write for Men’s Health. And so I get these older men who are bisexual who don’t feel comfortable going to Out magazine or the Advocate or pride.com. But they have been reading Men’s Health and all of a sudden, there’s some bi content on the site, and they read it. And they are actually the ones who need this help the most. And a lot of the time, it has turned out very positive. I’ve gotten feedback, like “I came up to my wife. Our relationship has never been better. It’s never been healthier.” And then I get times where the wife might have been slightly homophobic or Bi-phobic and didn’t want to do this, or they didn’t want to open the relationship and it ends. And again, like, we often think of like, okay, a marriage ends, like that’s the worst possible thing that happened. That failed. And I always try to reframe that as being like, Well, you had 10, amazing years; you realized there was this other aspects of you identity. You’re onto a new journey and a new part of your life. It doesn’t mean a relationship failed, it just meant that you guys grew apart. But I do want to acknowledge that there is a severe risk that things might end. I’m not gonna pretend otherwise, whether it’s due to bi-phobia, whether it’s due to different relationship styles, whether it’s due to something else, like these are serious risks. But if you want to live your life authentically and happily and have a meaningful relationship with someone who knows all of you, then it’s a risk that you unfortunately have to take.
Karen Yates: Yeah, because there is such a freedom in being transparent as I’m sure–well, I’m not going to assume a damn thing. But you probably experienced as you wrote about your secret fetish.
Zachary Zane: [laughs] We’re coming back to it! There’s always a way back. Always a way back! I love it. I LOVE IT.
Karen Yates: But you’re, you know, as you just expressed earlier, you’re still a little tingly about it.
Zachary Zane: Oh no–I’ll definitely say it. And I think the more I say it, the more comfortable it is. Also, it was comfortable writing, again, you’re writing into a page, you’re not actually talking to a person who can respond. So there’s some safety in that. And now as there’s…People are not going to be as kind as you. I’m gonna be on a book tour and people are going to ask and I’m like, Well, I gotta fuckin answer. And so I will. I’m like, I’m nervous. But I’m excited. You know what I mean? Like, it’s, it’s, it’s fun. And I think I’m probably going to end up having so many DMs with people who have my fetish that like, again, this is just one long Craigslist ad. That’s what this entire book is.
Karen Yates: Oh my God, that’s for sure, for sure. It’s unbelievable. It’s unbelievable. I mean, I even come under the heading of bi fetishist and I’m like, I hope you give me absolution–
Zachary Zane: Yes!
Karen Yates: –because a friend said to me, you know, just because you want to have mmf three ways all the time doesn’t mean that you should just be dating bisexual men. And I’m like, really?
Zachary Zane: It’s always… like fetishization, I think is an interesting thing that I talked about in the book, where it’s like, if you find someone who likes being fetishized for that aspect of their identity, that’s the sweet spot. Whether it is someone who let’s say, like, has a huge tits, and like you only seen them and they’re like, I love it. When you wash up my huge tits, talk about my huge tits, titty fuck my huge tits. Come on my huge tits. I fucking love you talking about it. So even though you are in a way, reducing this person to one aspect of their body in the sexual context, you found someone who was like, Yeah, I love it. When you do this, this turns me on. So like, even fetishization, which can obviously be bad, and people can be reduced to one aspect of their identity, sexuality, body, whatever it is, and you have to see someone as a whole–or as a whole person! Sorry– I don’t see someone as a hole, I believe that would be fetishizing. But like, if you can find someone who’s in to it and likes being worshipped for that aspect of their sexuality, whether it’s a body part, their race, their gender, their whatever it is, that’s what you’re looking for. And I think that’s a lot of the messaging I try to find the book with the chapter on kinkster sexuality, is finding your match. There is someone who always likes what you’re into, who wants what you’re into, no matter how niche or bizarre or intense you think your kink is, and I think I give the math and like .01% people in the world have it, that’s like 800,000 people who have it, you know what I mean? Like, like, right, there are plenty of people who have your thing, and it’s just finding them and if you find someone who’s not a good match, don’t shame them. Don’t shame yourself. Move on to find someone who is a good match.
Karen Yates: You’re bringing up something that will dovetail nicely into the next portion of our interview. The digital culture has helped people and harmed people. And it’s helped people because it’s brought people together. So let’s say you have a secret fetish. You can find other people with the same secret fetish. And I want to talk now, though, about Grindr. and serious hookup apps with more of a gay focus because I think, I think say as if a cis man, you know, or a trans man moving into more of, you know, gay culture, there’s some things that like– What I love about this book. It’s like you’re very handholding. You’re like, “here, let me tell you all about shit that you probably don’t know, ok?”
Zachary Zane: Yeah
Karen Yates: “so your head doesn’t explode.”
Zachary Zane: That I really wish I knew. Yeah, cuz your head…. Yes! So I know where you’re going with this, but continue.
Karen Yates: But I mean, Grindr is a thing. It’s like a fucking thing that you gotta like, wrap your mind around. And I love that you like put it in a book format so people can like sit there in the comfort and the quiet and just be like, “what is Grindr daddy?”
Zachary Zane: And then of course, daddy is who they met on Grindr. So it’s all right. It’s… it’s…So when I think about it, it’s just fucking wild. Like, how universal and pervasive this thing is among you know, gay and bisexual men. And how it’s, like, I think of like when I had recently come out, so I am, I came out like 2014 to my parents, but that means I was hooking up with guys on Grindr a little bit beforehand. So I’m like, 22, 23, I had a straight friend who actually was the one who convinced me to get on Grindr, which is pretty funny, because he knew about it. And he was like, “Zach like, you just fuck, like you’re bi!! You can fuck guys all the time. Like, it’s so hard for me to fuck one woman. I have to go on a date and you can just have a fucking hookup! And you’re in and out. Like, it’s so easy!” and I’m like, it just seems like a lot. It’s intense, there’s just a bunch of like, naked dudes sending you photos and addresses and kinky disgusting things. But he was like, “Zach, take advantage of the fact that you’re bisexual. This is something that you can do.” I remember he said, like, “go fuck these dudes for me.” And I’m like, my editor. I remember his note being like, “that sounds kind of gay,” which I thought was pretty funny and I’m joking, but so I did it. And it’s–
Wait, we need to stop just one second. I want you to explain for folks that really don’t understand. I mean, even though it’s a hookup app, explain the phenom of Grindr. Just explain in a very brief way. What you’re really talking about here.
So yes, so what it is, is like Grindr. It’s a geolocation-based app. So it actually lets you know how far someone is from you in terms of feet. And there’s like variations of it. Now Sniffies is is the one that I use, which I prefer. And not only does it show you where they are in terms of 500 feet away, it actually shows you on a map where they are. So you can see not that they’re 500 feet away, they’re 500 feet away on the corner of x and y. And the way Grindr typically works is you say like, Hey, ‘sup? ‘Sup? What are you into, you say, if you’re a top or bottom, you might say your stats. So like how hung you are, how big your ass, you show photos of your dick, you show photos of your asshole. And then you send someone a location, and this guy comes over or you go over there, and they’re in and out of your apartments within 15 minutes, like the number of times that I’ve said no more than 50 words to someone, and they’ve come to my apartment door. 10 minutes later, and my roommate would be like, I use this analogy, like he’s stirring his wok. Like while this guy comes in, he goes like, “Hey, dude, welcome.” And the guy like embarrassingly kind of goes to my room shuts the door, we fuck. In and out within 15 minutes, sometimes even less than 10 minutes, we both come, BAM, leaves. This guy leaves and my roommate is literally still stirring the same wok. Because it’s only been 10 minutes. He’s like “hope you had fun, dude! Bye!” and the guy’s like, What the fuck, but like, it just really is so easy to have sex in a way that I think straight people might not even like comprehend, just like how wildly easy it is. And really, like, of course, I might have a better time on it than other people just because I’m more traditionally handsome. But like, even if you’re not the best looking dude in the world, people are not on there trying to find the hottest guy. Some guys are. Some people are on there just to get their rocks off, just to get fucked. Just to suck a dick, a lot of people don’t really care about looks the same way because they’re in and out of there within 10 minutes. They just want to suck a deck and live their life and they move on to the next one. So it has made sex so easily accessible in a way that, at least for me growing up, you know, all I wanted was to have sex the way that everyone wanted to and I thought of as being such the scarce commodity and then I’m like, oh my god, I could have sex five times today with five different men without leaving my apartment. And so it was just kind of wild. But then at the heart of it is also you’re inviting strangers into your home. These are just random people you’ve never met. They could be theoretically serial killers, or they could just be weird and the sex sometimes is so bad and sometimes it’s so good and people have the most bizarre things and you don’t want to be rude and kick someone out or someone doesn’t look like their photos or someone’s 30 years older or whatever. It is like you never know what you’re gonna get. It’s a mixed bag. And I think that’s kind of part of the fun of it. So it’s just like, oh, this is… who the fuck knows how this experience is gonna happen. And even now after having had, you know, 1500 Grindr experiences, probably in my life, my heart still beats a little bit faster and it’s that that’s part of the fun.
Karen Yates: Sure. And, and yet, you also I don’t know if you posited it, but I think somewhere else it was it was called the unhappiest app.
Zachary Zane: Yeah, I mean, I really shit on it. A lot of the book, which I didn’t do in that interaction, but like it is. Really when I say Grindr I just mean like all the hookup gay, bi male hookup apps. I really was exposed to how like, you know, fat phobic, racist, HIV phobic, transphobic, femme phobic, like any time you can be phobic or in some capacity we are and how mean we are to other people on the app. And just for like no fucking reason. We’re just like, if you don’t want to have sex with someone doesn’t mean– Hey, sorry, you’re cute but not interested? Like, would it kill you to say that or you could literally not respond instead of being like, “you’re ugly.” “Oh, I don’t fuck black dudes.” “Oh, I never let asian guys top me.” “Oh my god, you’re so fat, go lose weight.” Like it’s just like, so mean and nasty. A part of me has sympathy for these guys, because I’m like people who respond like that are not healthy, happy people. Like these are damaged people. And as you know, the cliche is like hurt people hurt people. And that is what’s happening. But like, Jesus fuck, like you guys treating people like trash and treating each other like trash in the LGBTQ community like trash. I just want to shake these guys and be like, Who hurt you? Like, please stop, please get into fucking therapy!
Karen Yates: Part of it is just the divide of digital culture. It keeps us so far apart from each other. And we kind of go into this space where it’s like, you’re just this vaporous collection of zeros and ones. You’re not really a flesh and blood human. I can I can be a complete asshole. But I really appreciate you sort of talking about some of these pitfalls in all types of sexual dating communities. It’s super important.
Zachary Zane: Yeah, I have a whole chapter and it was almost, I remember us pitching it. And my editor was looking at it. He was like this chapter. Not not the grinder chapter. I have a chapter on rejection specifically. It’s early on, but like, why are we so bad at handling rejection? And why are we so bad at giving rejection? I mean, this is like a romantic sexual context. And as someone who really, really struggled with rejecting others, like it would, I couldn’t do it. And that’s partly why I ghosted. I felt like such an asshole telling someone to their face. And I thought it was like the kinder thing by just kind of letting it peter out. And just kind of being like curt and waiting two days to respond. And eventually they get the hints and move on, as opposed to being like, had a really fun time, but didn’t connect the way I’d really hoped to. So I think there’s gonna be a one-time thing or something like that. And, yeah, I just thought it was so important to have that chapter and to discuss elements of rejection, because God, like rejection makes us feel terrible. And it’s also we know that pain from rejection, which also makes it difficult for us to reject other people. And then when I sometimes do reject other people very kindly, I get this onslaught of anger. And I’m like, Well, fuck! like, I did the right thing here. I want to be rewarded for doing the right thing and said, You’re saying I’m an asshole who used you and treated you like shit? I’m like, What did you want me to ghost like, you know what I mean, and realizing that like, I’m not responsible for their emotions, they’re allowed to be upset, they’re entitled to their anger. And, you know, at the end of the day, they’re probably happier that I didn’t drag this out for another six months, and even though they’re very angry right now, a month from now, two weeks from now, two hours from now, they could be better. Do I encourage those people to maybe not flip their lid and try to respond to being rejected gracefully if the person who rejected you did reject you in a kind manner, I do want to encourage that. But this is something I still work on in therapy being really really upfront about my intentions and then if I’m no longer interested, kindly letting them down even though I know that they might not respond to it.
Karen Yates: Well, as you’re talking I’m starting to think about what we were talking about the very beginning about cancel culture that like no matter what you do, right, you’ve best of intentions, people are going to, say, take a sentence completely out of context and it reminds me as I’m listening to you that like ultimately it’s not personal.
Zachary Zane: It really is and the thing about rejection I’ve been in this situation where like I like used to be like neurotic about it, where I would write everything down memorize a script, spend like three hours memorizing a script, because I was so anxious of saying the wrong thing. And then you mince two words, like out of like, even though it’s like this is a perfectly drafted like rejection thing. I’ve literally prepared this like a monologue like I’m going to an audition here, and I messed up “could” as opposed to “should” or I didn’t say “I felt” , it’s like “I believed” and all of the sudden like the whole thing. I’m like, Oh, we’re just going to focus on….? Ah fuck! and you just can’t win, there’s no way to send a rejection text that’s not going to make them feel or like text, in person, whatever it is, I mean text if like you’ve been on one date or two dates, I don’t think you need to have a sit down conversation with them, you’d be like, Hey, I had a lot of fun, or whatever, you know what I mean? Obviously, be kind and do what you can but like, don’t be completely obsessive, because you can’t control their behavior, just through a few words, even if you said a kinder, but obviously do your best.
Karen Yates: One of the things that you talked about pretty frankly, in the book, and I was really glad for it is prEP, Truvada, and having condomless sex. I would like to open up the conversation now as it was in your book, because I think it’s important for people, especially people who don’t know a lot about gay culture to really understand what’s going on around PrEP, and having sex with a condom, not having sex with a condom, safer sex, etc, etc. And so if you don’t mind explaining it a little bit.
Zachary Zane: So like, you know, I live in New York, and I’d say I’m on Grindr, Sniffies all the time. And essentially, no one uses condoms, like fucking ever. And when I say this, people are very shocked. So pretty much everyone who’s on these apps are on PrEP, which means we are not going to get HIV. And that means yes, we are putting ourselves at risk for chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis, these other things, but we’re okay with that. Essentially, it’s a risk that we are taking, obviously, with the consent of our partners. For us to be able to have unprotected sex, it’s worth it. For us to get gonorrhea, let’s say once a year, once every two years you go when you get a shot, you tell your partners, it’s really not the end of the world, I believe that we should be allowed to make the sexual risks that we would like to take, obviously, with the consent of our partner. And I clarified in this book, I’m not talking about a straight dude, who’s trying to convince a girl that he stated like, oh, I can’t wear condoms, because I can’t come with them. They don’t feel good. Like no, that is manipulation. Like that is extremely fucked up. That is coercion. I’m not talking about those guys who are like trying to use shitty justifications for not wearing condom and manipulating women and guilting woman that is absolutely not who I’m talking about. Those guys fucking suck, they should not be allowed to do that. I’m talking about people who are okay with the risks that they are taking. But I think a lot of this conversation has to come down to you have to know the risks that you are taking, you have to have this informed consent. So you have to be very honest about your STI statuses, you have to be honest about the last time you were tested. And the people that you have had sex with. People can consent to have unprotected sex with you if they know that your behavior is something that they feel comfortable taking on that risk. And I also talked about the fact that we kind of deemed physical like certain risks are deemed like not acceptable in larger pop culture versus some are. So for example, you can get gonorrhea and chlamydia in your throat from oral sex and plenty of people have yet hardly anyone, anyone wears a condom for oral sex yet it’s easily transmittable, but that that is deemed by society an okay risk that we feel comfortable taking. And then I also compare this to like, emotional risks that we take every single time that we have sex that should be considered, you know, we potentially could, you know, get our heart broken, you feel rejected, vulnerable. These are all risks that we take, you know what I mean? So why is having like unprotected sex? Again, I believe we should have the sexual autonomy to make these choices with the consent of our partners, and as long as everyone is honest about it, and aware of the risks that they are taking.
Karen Yates: Yeah, and you’re very open with your medical providers, even though they push back against it.
Zachary Zane: Yeah.
Karen Yates: Which is interesting to me, because, correct me if I’m wrong, you were going to like gay clinics, right? You were going to New York City clinic, right where it’s like that the heart of…
Zachary Zane: I think we’ve just been so ingrained that condoms, condoms, condoms, condoms, condoms are everything. And like, again, condoms don’t protect against syphilis, they don’t protect against herpes, they don’t protect against skin to skin contact, we don’t wear condoms for oral sex, condoms break, like, there’s always a certain level of risk. And I just want people to feel comfortable, and sharing the risk that they’re going to take. And if someone has a different level of risk, you don’t need to shame them. It’s information that you have, and then you can make a decision. But right now, because we shame various levels of risk, people end up lying, people end up not getting tested, because they’re afraid of getting an STI, they don’t share their statuses. And we’re actually creating a culture that creates more STIs by the way that we keep shaming, STIs and shaming high level of risks, versus if we allowed people to take these risks, and instead did not shame them and we’re communicative about it. I really think we’d see significantly lower rates of STIs ironically.
Karen Yates: I think you’re absolutely right, because this comes back to this transparency thing and that, you know, the more transparent we are I think in let letting the light in the air in then the less we have to hide, the less internal pressure gets created, the less, the less we have to shield. And so I think you bring up a really great point here. Because you know, so many people don’t even know how to have the freaking conversation about sexual health when you’re meeting up with a new partner.
Zachary Zane: I can tell something personal now. But my partner, kind of our rule is I get tested every six weeks no matter what, just because of the shit that I do, right, obviously. And so our rule now is, like, after I get tested, we have unprotected sex for about two weeks, and then I end up going to whatever it is a party that I have unprotected sex, I let her know. And then we have protected sex for the next month, until I get tested, everything comes back. And then we get to raw dog until our heart’s content for two weeks or however long until we move on to this. And it just shows the level of trust, she trusts me that I’m not lying to her about having unprotected sex. She knows that when I’m getting tested. But it allows us to have unprotected sex in a way where she feels very comfortable and safe. And I don’t feel like it’s inhibiting my behavior of what I want to do with other men because I still get to with other men, however, just not for two weeks, and I really focus on her for those two weeks. So like, again, we’re creating our own journey here. You know what I mean? And everyone’s happy and healthy and loves the arrangement that we have.
Karen Yates: And I love that you just give a very personal example because that’s super clear.
Zachary Zane: Yeah.
Karen Yates: So the last question I want to ask you, because we’re coming to the end of our time is, Do you ever go through phases where you don’t have sex, and you think, god dammit, I’m a sex columnist, I need to be having sex. Do you ever get guilty at times when you’re not having sex?
Zachary Zane: No, I definitely do not feel guilty when I’m not having sex. I just usually want to have sex. I really am looking forward to the point where my like testosterone levels do go down or my libido does. It’s like I’m writing at my fucking desk and I write also nonfiction erotica, I have this digital zine, which is like raunchy as fuck. Yeah. It’s different. It’s different than the book for
Karen Yates: The book is, the book is actually sanitized as much as someone might not think it is.
Zachary Zane: Yeah, compared. Compared after the first draft of the book. I was like, this book isn’t sexy for a book about sex and for how sexy my persona is, like, I think I need to add more like sex in here because it’s a lot about like personal growth and like cultural takes on sex and society, or the intersection of sex and tech or what I learned from the sexual experience. Like, I need some like raunch, I need to get it but I’m sitting my desk writing up these sex stories that have happened to me, and then I got hard at my desk. So then what I do is I have someone from Sniffies come over and blow me while I’m writing up the story. So I–
Karen Yates: Do you mean literally while your fingers are moving on the keyboard…?
Zachary Zane: Yeah absolutely, underneath my desk.
Karen Yates: It doesn’t like stop the cadence like you’re good?
Zachary Zane: It’s always a fun game. I mean, that’s what it is. We’re like, his goal is to try to get me to, like, be so distracted. And my goal is like, No, I’m gonna keep writing. It’s a fun little fucking thing that we do. Yeah. I mean, people asked, like, do you have sex for the stories? Do you have sex for work? And I’m like, I have sex because I’m a slut. Like, there is a difference. And then because I’m a slut, I became a boyslut and I wrote this book and I became a sex expert, and a sex columnist and all this stuff. I do it because I genuinely love it. And I have so much fun doing it. And it’s fun to write about it and I think I think my mom said “do what you love and the money will come.” I don’t know if this is what she had in mind. But I took her advice literally. And the money did come and I also came, so everyone… so everyone wins but…
Karen Yates: Remember Mother’s always right.
Zachary Zane: Your mother’s always right! [they laugh]
Karen Yates: Well, on that note. Zachary Zane, thank you so much. Your book BOYSLUT will be dropping on May 9….
Zachary Zane: Everywhere books are sold, every bookstore, Amazon, bookshop is the other one. But yeah, try to of course, get it from your local bookstore if you can, and I’m doing a little book tour. I’ll be in like LA, Chicago, Boston…
Karen Yates: Chicago!
Zachary Zane: Yes, I’ll let you know. Okay. June Six American Writers museum for pride. So I’ll be all over. So hopefully I can see you guys in person too.
Karen Yates: Fantastic. Thanks so much. Thank you. To learn more about Zachary Zane and BOYSLUT, go to the show notes.
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