On Monday night a PR person got in touch with me to offer me an interview with her client, Garren James. He’s a former model who runs a male escort agency – Cowboys 4 Angels – to provide services for straight women. In her original email, she said something so bizarre I couldn’t help but wonder if this was genuinely the opinion of her client, or if she’d gone a bit off-piste. Was this just an individual being ignorant of her own prejudice, or was it a company that genuinely built its services on biphobic principles?
Let’s find out.
What is biphobia?
There are lots of things that fall under the category of biphobia – many of them equate to ‘making ridiculous/incorrect/offensive assumptions about bisexual people.’ See if you can spot any in this quote from the original email she sent me.
“Garren James, a former model/actor/escort started Cowboys4Angels when he noticed there were no agencies that only catered to women and felt it was a bit of a turn off for women to know that the men are bisexual or possibly even Gay (not that there’s anything wrong with that haha). Garren feels women who pay for this service deserve to be with men who are 100% heterosexual so the experience is genuine.”
Did you spot some? I did. The key assumption being, of course, that men who are bisexual are not able to have a ‘genuine’ experience with a woman, and by extension that bisexual women can’t have a ‘genuine’ experience with a guy either. It conflates ‘being bisexual’ with ‘being gay’ – two things which are poles apart. And hahahahahaha of course there’s nothing wrong with being either lol hahahaha. But saying that doesn’t make the conflation of the two any less ignorant.
“Why does he think that bisexual guys would not be ‘genuine’? What’s more, why does he think that women would (could, even) be turned off by guys who are bisexual? You say there’s ‘nothing wrong’ with guys being bisexual, yet at the same time imply that it’s not ‘genuine’, and that women might be turned off by it. Are Garren’s clients biphobic? Or is he making assumptions that they are? Or is he himself simply biphobic?”
I’ll spare you the details of the back and forth – you can read that on twitter if you like. In her responses, the PR rep repeatedly stated that she wasn’t biphobic, yet also tried to back up her client’s choice to not hire bisexual men because she herself would be ‘unsure’ if they were genuine. Which is a bit like saying ‘oh I don’t think badly of Starbucks staff, I just don’t trust any of them.’ It’s oxymoronic, ignorant, and so obviously illogical it’s almost impossible to argue against.
Biphobia and male escorting
I don’t want to focus on her personal views, so I asked the PR to forward my original questions on to Garren – owner of the male escort agency and apparently the one with a super-biphobic hiring policy. I told her I’d happily publish his statement in full (along with a link to his site) here, so here goes:
“I just never envisioned a classy heterosexual woman wanting to spend quality time with a man who spent the night before with another man. It seems like that has been the case. About 10% of the calls say and not your sure he is not gay right?
“I do believe there are men that can definitely be equally attracted to both men and women. I don’t think the fact that a man can be equally attracted to women or men is the problem. I think the problem is more with the consumer which is the female client. I think on average women are attracted more to a very straight masculine man. I am sure there are plenty of women out there that don’t care wither way. I just think women just might think in the back of their minds that experience is not as real if she also thought the guy was attracted to men. She may get the feeling that men can’t be bi and that he must just be gay and is faking this experience. I think women are very cerebral and so any hint of a man that also like men might just affect her self esteem. Like he is being paid to with a woman but he secretly would rather the client be a man. That could ruin the whole experience for them”
Let’s unpick this, shall we?
“I never envisioned a classy heterosexual woman wanting to spent quality time with a man who spent the night before with another man.”
There is absolutely nothing about sleeping with someone of the same gender that detracts from your ability to be good company the day after. Besides – you’re running an escort service. Your male escorts are, surely, professionals, who are unlikely to spend the entire date talking about the client they had the night before.
“About 10% of the calls say and not your sure he is not gay right?”
‘Gay’ and ‘bisexual’ are not the same thing. To repeatedly conflate the two, as Garren does here, is spectacularly ignorant. If Garren were to tell me he were straight, and I repeatedly insisted on referring to him as ‘bisexual Garren’, not only would it be rude, it would also be incorrect and make me look (quite rightly) like a twat.
“I do believe there are men that can definitely be equally attracted to both men and women.”
How magnanimous of you to accept that bisexual people exist.
“I think on average women are attracted more to a very straight masculine man.”
Why are you suddenly equating ‘straight’ with ‘masculine’? Can bisexual dudes and gay dudes not be masculine? If Garren truly thinks this then, when he’s eventually managed to dig his way out of the 1950s, he might like to go and meet some gay and bisexual people.
“I just think women just might think in the back of their minds that experience is not as real if she also thought the guy was attracted to men.”
Why – do you think that women are bigots?
“She may get the feeling that men can’t be bi and that he must just be gay and is faking this experience”
She? Or you?
“I think women are very cerebral and so any hint of a man that also like men might just affect her self esteem.”
According to Garren, women are not only bigoted, but are also apparently so lacking in self esteem that we could never have sex with someone who might at some point have fancied someone else.
“Like he is being paid to with a woman but he secretly would rather the client be a man. That could ruin the whole experience for them.”
OK. So this sentence touches on all the assumptions we’ve covered already:
- Assuming that bisexual dudes are actually gay – check
- Assuming that any of the escorts on his books would be unprofessional enough to spend the date chatting about who they fancy other than their client – check
- Assuming that women feel uncomfortable about bisexual guys – check
- Assuming that, in order to run a successful business, one must pander to the bigoted whims of your clients, with no regard for whether they’re actually correct – check
The first three need to get utterly fucked. The fourth deserves more analysis because I think it’s easy to accidentally set up a false dichotomy where you have ethics on one side and business on the other. Marketing professionals can sigh and say ‘oh, well we just HAVE to do this because our clients want it.’ While there are often compromises you might need to make in the name of business, happily this isn’t one of those areas. In fact, unless your company is specifically catering to bigots of a certain type, I think bigotry is always bad for business. Lemme explain…
Bigotry is bad for business
By making statements like this publicly, you make it clear that you think your customers (in this case straight women) hold certain prejudices. Personally, I would never use a company that made those kind of assumptions about me. On top of this, you drastically limit your pool of potential escorts by saying that not only must they ‘be 100% straight’ (How do you even know this, by the way? Is there a litmus test?), but that they must also fit your definition of ‘masculine’. In short: you bring your own prejudices and judgments to the fore, regardless of what your customers actually want. It would be like a book shop owner deciding to only stock books they personally like.
In the statement he made, Garren says that about 10% of the calls he receives ask about whether the escort is gay – he doesn’t mention whether callers care about bisexuality. So strike three: not listening to your customers.
Look: I am certain there are women out there who want to hire an escort who is ‘definitely 100% straight.’ These women are likely labouring under the same bigoted assumption Garren is: that ‘bisexual’ just means ‘gay’. But I am willing to bet that there are plenty more women who either understand what bisexual actually means, would refuse to use a company that assumed they were bigots, or would take offence at the implication that if they enjoyed spending time with bisexual guys they weren’t ‘classy.’
Let’s not forget also that a proportion of the women who hire male escorts will be bisexual themselves, and probably be similarly angry about the ignorance displayed by Garren’s policy.
If you’d like to find out more about bisexuality and biphobia, here are some cool things to check out:
- Cara Sutra’s blog post busting myths about bisexual people
- Danielle Meaney’s cracking guest blog on why she doesn’t ‘become straight’ just because she’s married now.
- In more depth, check out this neat presentation summary of the bisexuality report, put together by Dr Meg John Barker earlier this year. More detail on the report and a full download is available here, and it’s well worth reading.
- This doc, on biphobia and mental health, is really worth reading too.
Right of reply
I sent this post to the PR in question to see if Garren would like right of reply. At this time she’s sent me nothing but a string of increasingly bizarre, rude emails. If I’m honest, I was so shaken by them last night I considered just scrapping this blog post totally. But after a bunch of discussion with friends and a long hard think, I didn’t want her behaviour as an individual to detract from what I think is genuine and legitimate criticism of the biphobia exposed in Garren’s statement.
If Garren is reading this – offer to a right of reply is, of course, still open.