Who’s that girlfag? (Clare T. Rampling)

Originally published in BUST magazine, Summer 2003, p. 65

Sometime around 1985 I remember picking up a copy of Men in Love by Nancy Friday. It was full of a whole spectrum of stories of men’s sexual fantasies, and it was both educational and hot. In the chapter “Women with women” she describes the very common men’s fantasy of watching two women together. However, she writes, “If a woman did have a fantasy about sharing her bed with more than one man, it would certainly not be a scenario of her watching two men perform with each other.” I was horrified! The fantasy of watching two men together had been a favorite of mine for years–was I really that far out there?

A few years later my interest in gay men had expanded far beyond the simple fantasy of just watching them–I wanted to watch them and be like them, be close to them, have sex with them, love them. For me it was about physical and emotional and social desires. Imagine my relief, then, when I read a book in which Carol Queen wrote, without apology, that “A man only really started to interest me after he’d had a dick in his mouth.” Oh wow–that’s me too, I thought. And if there were two of us, there must be more. Once I realized that there were other women out there who were strongly and deeply attracted to gay men and gay male culture, I resolved to find them.

In September 2000, I created an email list and started www.girlfags.com, as a site to coordinate info about the topic. The list grew fantastically, and soon had well over a thousand members. It helped me to learn a lot about my fellow girlfags and what we had in common. For the website and email list, I provided a definition: A girlfag is woman who is very attracted to gay/bi men. She may (or may not) also feel she is (fully or partly) a “gay man in a woman’s body.” Girlfags may identify primarily as bi or straight or lesbian, and are often attracted to more types of people than just gay/bi men. Eventually I started calling “girlfag” an “orientation flavor,” since it was a taste preference that existed in addition to one’s sexual orientation.

From the email list, I discovered that many girlfags agreed with me that we were interested in gay and bi men for far more than just sex. We wanted to have gay-styled relationships with them, too. We wanted relationships with a basic equality (free choice of roles) and queer style that gay men had. It was liberating (and hot) to realize that a woman (girlfag) and man (mostly gay) could have a gay old time together.

Some girlfags are turned on by casual male affection, such as kissing and tender touches. Others like raunchy hot gay sex. Some girlfags just want to see pictures or watch gay porn, others want to participate in person. Some girlfags want to fantasize about gay men, others want to have a monogamous relationship with a gay-acting bi man, still others want to have open relationships with multiple partners. We girlfags are very diverse in our desires and our ways of satisfying them.

One common way that we girlfags seek to satisfy our girlfag (and other) sexual and relationship desires is through embracing polyamory. Polyamory is a word for “honest nonmonogamy.” One girlfag asked me how can I expect a gay man to give up his primary interest–gay men–to settle down with me? As a polyamorous girlfag, I answer that I don’t have to ask him to do that! In fact, I encourage him to seek out other men. Whether or not he shares those other men with me, I embrace his gayness and the happiness that these other men give him. And I relish the freedom I have to seek out other men too (including the occasional very special straight man!), or other women (I especially enjoy other girlfags). Although not all girlfags are polyamorous, so far this appears to be the most prevalent relationship orientation among us.

One very lucky thing for girlfags is that many bi men are ecstatic to find us. Some bi men wonder how they’ll ever find a woman who could understand about their “gay side.” To find that there’s a group of women who not only understand but embrace their gayness is a marvelous revelation. Some girlfags (and their “concerned” friends) worry that girlfags just want what they cannot have. But, very happily, that is most emphatically not the case, and more and more girlfags and gay/bi men are finding each other all the time! In the diversity of sexual orientation and tastes and relationship styles and preferences, there’s even room for girlfags!