You’ve probably heard a lot of stereotypes/jokes about bisexuality, the bastard stepchild of sexual orientations. Most people can’t even agree on a definition of bisexuality, which has led to a lot of confusion, angst and reality shows starring Tila Tequila.
Ironically, part of the reason bisexuality gets a bad rap and why so few people openly identify as such, is because it’s associated with many negative cultural connotations.
For our purposes, I’ll define a bisexual as someone who is drawn to emotional and/or sexual relationships with different genders, although terms relating to bisexuality run the gamut and can include descriptors such as “pansexual,” “queer,” “ambisexual,” “omni-sexual,” and “Larry King.”
In this article, I aim to dispel the biggest bisexual misconceptions and stereotypes, shed light on some new ones, and help to document a sexual identity that is often shrugged off as a “phase,” a “gateway,” “homosexuality lite” or “college.”
- Bisexuals are sluts. Okay, I’ll be the first to admit that I would probably f*ck a jar of Nutella if it looked at me the right way, but just because bisexuals technically have more options for sexual partners doesn’t mean they are more promiscuous. As a friend wrote to me in an email recently, “I’m glad I’m not bisexual because then I’d be rejected by men and women.” Naturally, there are bisexuals who are non-monogamous, and who want to sow their oats into as many Quakers as possible, but the same could be said for every sexual orientation. Perhaps the truer statement is we all have the potential to be slutty, regardless of which way we swing.
Bisexual women only do it to turn straight guys on. We call these ladies beersexuals, and yes, they do exist, but not usually outside of college campuses or David Schwimmer parties. There are also, of course, the Madonna/Britney Spears make-outs of the world, though that was more of a straight-up gay-for-pay publicity stunt than to give America a collective stiffy. Katy Perry pulled the same stunt with her “I Kissed A Girl” song, which is so tepid it’s downright laughable. Lyrics paraphrased: “I kissed a girl, but I was drunk! And I have a boyfriend! And it’s human nature, but I’m still really rebellious!”
Pair that with her song against feminine men, “UR So Gay” and you’ve got a recipe for an Out magazine award waiting to happen. (I’m not kidding. She was “Person of the Year” in 2009.) Barring celebrity bisexuals and Girls Gone Wild girls though, I can assure you that most bisexual chicks are highly annoyed by leering dudes who catcall, whistle, or are generally all up in their biznass when they are courting another lady.
- Bisexuals are indecisive or confused. A gay man I met at a bar once told me that bisexuals “just can’t make up their minds.” And I replied, “I don’t have a problem making up my mind. For instance, I think you’re an asshole.” Derogatory statements like the above are all too common to a bisexual’s ears. And yes, it comes from both the gay and straight communities, which sometimes think bisexuals are either cowardly or are taking advantage of straight privilege. However, being attracted to more than one gender is about as likely to make you “indecisive” as watching a lot of musical theater is likely to turn you gay. Also, isn’t it odd that it’s always the gays and straights who are confused about bisexuality, and not bisexuals themselves?
- Bisexuality is a cop-out or a phase. It’s always scary to come out of the closet for the first time, despite what you may have seen on Bravo, but coming out as bisexual is essentially declaring that you don’t have a preference. It’s a revolving closet, so it’s somewhat understandable that people tend to view bisexuality as a stepping stone to a more “valid” or “realized” sexual identity. And sometimes this is indeed the case. Elton John comes to mind. But this rationale is just another way people try to devalue bisexuality as an identity, the same tactic used to devalue homosexuality, or being transgender, etc. A lot of thought, turmoil and struggle goes into the decision to come out, and to dismiss it so readily is deliberately insulting.
- Everybody is bisexual. Not even close. This misconception started with Freud, was bolstered by Kinsey, and now seems to be spread predominantly through Yahoo! forums. However, there are a lot more people acting on bisexual desires than there are who identify as such. We call these people “Republican senators.”
While not everyone is bisexual, here’s a small smattering of bi celebs who are commonly mistaken or purposefully misconstrued as card-carrying homos and heteros: Sappho (yes, the Greek poster-dyke), Kurt Cobain, James Dean, Ani DiFranco, Walt Whitman, Anais Nin, Frida Kahlo, Eleanor Roosevelt, Alexander the Great, Tchaikovsky, Michael Stipe, Lord Byron, Emily Dickinson, Andy Dick, Herman Melville, Eve Ensler, Judy Garland, Georgia O’Keeffe (who was Frida’s lover for a time), Marlon Brando, Cary Grant, Billie Holiday, Angelina Jolie, Janis Joplin, David Bowie, Jack Kerouac, Kristanna Loken (from Terminator 3 and the one who burned Shane’s house down in Season 4 of The L Word), Madonna, Elton John, Amanda Palmer (from the Dresden Dolls), Cole Porter, Anthony Rapp (Rent), Virginia Woolf, Patti Smith, Mick Jagger and on and on.
- Nobody is bisexual. As one of my bisexual male friends said recently, “When people say bisexual men don’t exist, it cracks me up. Would you like to hook me up to some wires and machines and have me watch both gay and straight porn to see that both will increase my heart rate and give me a hard-on?” When I told him that study had actually been done, which supposedly proved that bisexual men were just “liars,” he quipped, “I’ve done that study on my own a few times. I liked the results.”
The study, but perhaps more significantly the New York Times article where it was showcased, claimed, “You’re either straight, gay or lying.” The study based its conclusions on whether self-described bisexual men responded physically to visual sexual stimuli, i.e. porn. The problem with the study (one of many problems documented by the National Gay and Lesbian Taskforce, among others) is that it bases sexual orientation on arousal alone.
On the flip side, also curiously in a New York Times article, straight women were found to be physically aroused by everything from masturbation to naked ladies to couples doing it, even to bonobo chimps getting it on. What didn’t turn these women on, you ask? Pictures of naked men. Yet, no one seemed to call these women lying rug munchers in denial, did they?
- Bisexuals can never be happy in a monogamous relationship. Let the record show that bisexuals are just as likely to fail at monogamy as the rest of you infidels! According to Peggy Vaughan, author of The Monogamy Myth, statistics show that 40 percent of women and 60 percent of men have affairs at least once in their marriages. Since these people aren’t always married to each other, that means about 80 percent of all marriages are “touched” by adultery.
But being bisexual doesn’t make you any more likely to cheat than being straight or gay does. Nor does it mean that bisexuals are destined to be miserable without a variety of genitalia at their disposal. Just as in other sexual relationships, being partnered with one person doesn’t suddenly negate your attraction to other people. The same goes for bisexuals in monogamous relationships.
- Bisexuals love threesomes! This is one that’s both really irritating and understandable at the same time. Sure, who doesn’t want to have their cake and eat their pussy too from time to time? But the culturally pervasive hetero dude fantasy of the threesome-as-Holy-Grail has turned a delightful, occasional sexytime experience into an annoying bombardment of cold-call propositions, usually from strangers or drunks. There was a time last year when every week, I would get a threesome proposition online from (often) the dude-half of a straight couple asking if I would like to bone them.
Rarely did these propositions even contain a perfunctory “Hello, you look nice in pinstripes” or any other kind of humanizing email chatter. Instead, bisexuals are thought of as the Jiffy Lubes of sexual experience, always ready and available to help you with your fluids at the drop of an un-proofread email. To be fair, one guy didn’t just ask me and my then-girlfriend for a threeway; he asked us to bear his children and then also offered to pay us $10 to do data entry. Also, while swinging and orgy parties do seem to be on the rise (there are roughly 3,000 clubs worldwide) preference for group sex will always be in the minority. Remember that the next time you try to slur your way into a bisexual’s pants at dollar draught night.
- Bisexuals love puns. This one is true. Whoever said “puns are the lowest form of humor” was probably not getting laid regularly. Puns are a form of wordplay that exists in all languages. They’re cheeky, exploit the multiple meanings of words, and are the verbal equivalent of a double take. Come again, you ask? Many bisexuals love to pun because they operate on the assumption that nothing has a fixed meaning, much like sexual identity.
Take the term “hasbien” for example. This is used as a mildly derisive name for lesbians who have gone back to dating men. Instead of viewing hasbiens as traitors, or policing others for the sake of political correctness, punsters decided not to go bi the book and instead created a humorous renaming of bisexuality in the word hasbien.
Another reason bisexuals like puns is because the word bi is infinitely pun-able. Take a quick look at these bi publications: Seattle Women’s Bisexual Network newsletter, “North Bi Northwest”; “BiAngles,” a bisexual zine; “BiCEP,” the Bisexual Committee Engaging in Politics; “LeBiDo,” and my favorite, the Queer Nation Bi Caucus, “UBIQUITOUS” (Uppity Bi Queers United in Their Overtly Unconventional Sexuality).