It seems as though bisexuals always have to justify their sexuality, that no one understands it and people are trying to figure out why it's so "popular" all of a sudden. We don't fit into either the "straight" or "gay" box, and many of us don't even fit into the likes-men-and-women-equally box many non-bisexuals have drawn up for us. There are so many of us who don't fit neatly into a simple label or category, and that tends to make the mainstream uncomfortable. Throughout history it's been easier for bisexuality to be discounted for either confusion or a phase or a hedge for someone who hasn't come to terms with his or her homosexuality.
There has been a societal shift lately where bisexual women have become more public and accepted, so now everyone is asking where all these bisexual women are coming from and, furthermore, where are all the bisexual men? As these articles illustrate, there's lots of chatter and theories about it. I'm no scientist, psychologist or sociologist, and I don't have my own studies to back up my theory, but I think it's pretty simple: It's safer for women to publicly embrace their bisexuality now than in the past. Conversely, it still isn't as safe for men to admit that they like men. However, this isn't always what the mainstream thinks. It seems that people often follow the following reasoning:
1.) Bisexuality is less reported by men
2.) Reports of bisexuality are growing in women
3.) Therefore simply fewer men are bi or it doesn't exist in men
4.) Therefore this is some sort of popularity trend in women and we should figure out why so many women are "turning" bi
[image-1]I pushed through my sensitive feelings over the titles of these articles and read them all. I struggled through the first page of the New York Times article as it said "a new study casts doubt on whether true bisexuality exists, at least in men." This study was done by psychologists in Chicago and Toronto "who have long been skeptical that bisexuality is a distinct and sexual orientation." Although I am not a man, I am bisexual and was offended by this on behalf of bi men. Then the article went on to say:
"People who claim bisexuality, according to these critics, are usually homosexual but are ambivalent about their homosexuality or simply closeted. 'You're either gay, straight or lying,' as some gay men have put it."
Throughout the first page I kept wanting to argue with my computer screen about the study, which measured genital arousal as subgroups of men looked at erotic images of men and women. But that's so limited, I wanted to say. You can't measure one's sexuality in such simple terms. There are so many other things that are involved in attraction, such as emotional connection. Attraction and romance is more than just physical. Finally, after a page and a half, these issues are touched on, and at the very end, it talks about bisexual women and that other research has shown that bisexual arousal for women may be the norm.
The "More women experimenting with bisexuality" and "Why are so many girls lesbian or bisexual" articles both touch on statistics that show that more women now report being bisexual than in earlier studies. I was initially turned off by the word "experimenting" in the first article because I felt it like it lessened the experience. After all, no one ever says, "Oh, Sally was just experimenting with heterosexuality." Nonetheless, once I got past that, the article did touch on some interesting and valid points. It said that in the 2005 survey by the CDC, 14 percent of women in their late teens and 20s reported having at least one sexual experience with a woman, as opposed to only 6 percent of men in the same age group who reported having at least one sexual experience with a man. Rather than jump to the conclusion that bisexuality is just less common in men, both researchers and other sources in the article say that this could just mean that men feel less safe to report such things or to admit to it. (Bingo!) After all, our society judges male-male sex much harshly than it does woman-woman sex.
The second article also somewhat touches on the safety factor of women's versus men's bisexuality. However, then it takes a different turn.
"Female sexuality is different from male sexuality. If a straight boy kissed another boy, perhaps to amuse some girls who might be watching, he would be unlikely to undergo a change in sexual orientation as a result. But, as Professor Roy Baumeister at Florida State University and others have shown, sexual attraction in many women seems to be more malleable. If a teenage girl kisses another teenage girl, for whatever reason, and she finds that she likes it then things can happen, and things can change. If a young woman finds her soulmate, and her soulmate happens to be female, then she may begin to experience feelings she's never felt before.
Especially if all the guys she knows are losers."
The author then goes on to discuss the rise of frequency of young men and teen boys watching porn and ends with the question of whether more women are embracing girl-girl relationships because the guys are such losers. Um, I don't think I necessarily buy that argument. However, I do see that while girl-girl couples are becoming more commonly accepted, there is still a strong fortress of Macho Manliness out there whose inhabitants feel threatened by guy-guy attraction. They fight off any slight indication of something seeming "gay" so that it's no wonder fewer men feel safe to admit these attractions. At the same time, I don't think straight men are initially threatened by girl-girl relationships especially with bi girls because they can insert themselves into their own kind of threesome fantasy. (Never mind the fact that many women wouldn't want that.) However, if they personalize two guys together? Out comes the puffed chest and over-expressions of testosterone.
Sexuality is a confusing web. We are raised in a society where you're straight by default, so you're raised with that mindset and aren't trained to view sexuality as more of a spectrum. As I look back on my life, I've had far more crushes on girls than guys, and I can trace my attraction to women all the way back to kindergarten. However, it's not that I'm not at all attracted to men. That I did have crushes on guys made me assume I fell in line with the rest of the straight crowd and that I just really, really wanted to be friends with those other girls. Or that they were just really cool. Or that I wished they were my sister so we could hang out all the time. Or...something. My brain tried to fill in something that would fit into society's logic and norms. It didn't occur to me until much later that these friendly obsessions were actually crushes, too. Given my own experiences, I find it quite likely that the same would be true for men. They're not trained to be open to the possibility that they may be attracted to men as well as women. In fact, they're trained that they'd be a failure at masculinity if they are. So it would be easy and a natural defense mechanism for the brain to shut down any of these feelings and store them far away, especially if they enjoy sleeping with women just fine, too.
I can only speak to my experiences as a woman of course. I would love to hear from bi men and hear their stories. Thoughts? Feel free to leave a comment or e-mail me at [email protected]