6 major myths about bisexuality
When it comes to expressions of sexual orientation and sexuality, people are more open-minded than ever before.
Our modern way of dating (and living) is like sitting before an all-you-can-eat smorgasbord of delectable delights, scroll-through menus, and seemingly endless possibilities – with less judgement than ever before about the way we choose to, um, eat.
Straight, gay, queer, trans, pansexual, asexual, hetero flexible, gender fluid, bisexual…
Just because it looks like an all-inclusive celebration at times, or at least in some circles, doesn't mean a lot of people aren't doing what a lot of people do: classifying and categorizing needlessly, and quietly (or not so quietly) ridiculing anyone who defies the labels.
Bisexuality, specifically, comes off as way less innocuous than one might expect in all this.
Maybe this is one of the reasons bi visibility day has been commemorated every year on September 23, since 1999.
That the term “visibility” is used here speaks volumes to one of the main issues at play: the unique stigma inspired by bisexuality among the majority of the population—be they straight, gay, lesbian, or various other categories of people characterized by more defined sexual orientations.
Why is this?
Unfortunately, some historically oppressed groups tend to go right ahead and further perpetuate oppression wherever they can.
To commemorate bisexual visibility and to contribute to crushing sexuality stigma wherever it rears its unsexy head...here are 6 mythical beliefs commonly held about women (and men) who identify as bisexual—and why they don’t hold much weight.
Myth #1: Bisexual women are straight gals sowing their wild oats
Lesbians often worry about their bisexual girlfriends being straight. The line is that bi women cheat, lie, and end up leaving you for a man—the ultimate betrayal.
Bisexual women may seem destined, in the eyes of many lesbians, to eventually bow to pressure and choose the smooth status of being straight over the endless and often draining navigation that is being queer.
While there’s truth to most clichés, and while some bi women do indeed “end up” with men, “ending up” with someone, even if the relationship is monogamous, doesn’t mean one’s bisexual orientation has necessarily changed.
Some onlookers have observed that lesbian communities are often so inhospitable and judgmental of bi women that they may, at times, drive them away.
Myth #2: Bisexual men are gays guys still in the process of realizing they’re gay
While lesbians are worrying about their bi gfs really being straight, straight women worry about their bi guys being gay.
Given the pressure to be straight that still lives on, it’s not entirely craycray to wonder if a bisexual person of the opposite sex is with you in an effort to be straight.
Many women freak out and start assuming their guy is gay or in denial and will eventually leave them for a guy if they say they’re identifying as bi. Again, clichés have been known to come true at times, but the status quo level freak-out over men exploring their sexuality is highly discouraging and keeps a lot of guys fenced in.
Dr. Jane Ward, author of Not Gay explains that straight men would be more likely to have a relationship with a bisexual woman than women are with a bisexual man. Which brings me to my next point.
Myth #3: Bisexual women good, bisexual men bad
The belief that it's somehow less acceptable for men to try same-sex lovin’ than it is for women is still rampant.
Straight-identified women get to have sexual contact with other women...as long as it’s for men’s pleasure.
It’s still a man’s world, yo, and pretty much anything aimed at getting men off (even if it erases authentic female pleasure and agency in the process) is widely celebrated. Same sex desire is not more inherent to women. It’s just that the self-satisfying man’s world as we know it gives women more permission with regards to orientation, of course looking far less favourably upon staunch lesbians (or bisexual women) who aren’t into the whole performance piece.
Myth #4: Bisexuals are greedy…and hyper-sexual
There seems to be a lot of confusion around bisexuality being an identity versus a behavior.
Believe it or not, most of us still choose eventual monogamy. If bisexuality is acts-based, it can seem irrelevant to say you’re bi, because you’ve chosen to be loyal to one person. But the myth here is based on the notion that being bisexual is indeed acts-based, meaning that if someone is bi, they need to sleep with both men and women.
While bisexual identity is largely about openness to both men and women, it gets redefined as needing both men and women, and feeling compelled to act on it. I personally know several bi women for whom this is not the case.
Myth #5: Bisexuals are just confused
In a recent UK study, when asked to place themselves on a “sexuality scale,” 50% of the 18 to 24 year olds participating chose something other than 100% heterosexual. This figure contrasted vastly from the rest of the general (older) population, of which 72% identified as exclusively hetero.
Does this study suggest that people are more confused than ever, or does it suggest that younger generations are generally more accepting of the concept of a broad and colourful sexuality spectrum? Not a trick question.
Myth #6: Bisexuality does not exist
Bisexuals are awarded very little credibility and therefore very little respect- from both the world at large, as well as from gay and lesbian communities.
Some insist bi people don’t exist, that those who identify as bi are either in transition to their straight or gay final destination, and that even if they say they’re legit bi, they’re lying to themselves or others.
If this isn’t stripping a group of people of their agency and right to self-identify, I don’t know what is.
We need to change our attitude toward bisexuality.
The notable lack of support for bisexuals means that fewer people feel it’s worth it to identify as such, and that’s what erasure looks like.
In a 2013 Pew Research Survey, only 28% of people who identified as bisexual said they were open about it. Researcher Brian Dodge, for the Journal of Bisexuality found that compared with their exclusively homosexual and heterosexual counterparts, bisexuals report higher rates of depression, anxiety, substance use, victimization by violence, suicidal ideation, and sexual-health concerns.
Alexandra Bolles of GLAAD (Gay and Lesbian Alliance against Defamation) says it well: “though bisexual people make up the majority of the LGBT community, they are less likely than their gay and lesbian peers to be out to the people they love, because their identity is constantly misconstrued as either a form of confusion, a lie, or a contrived and hyper-sexualized means to an end. Perpetuating these tropes undermines the truth that bisexuality is real and that bi people deserve to be treated equally and fairly.”
Here’s to hot equality and fairness for all!
Image Source: Matt Crump