5 Outdated Myths Everyone Still Believes About Bisexuality
If a girl in a bar tells a guy she's bisexual, there's a significant chance his reaction will be a raised eyebrow and an, "Oh, really?" as a series of porn movie scenarios suddenly flash through his mind. If a guy tells his friends he's bi, the reaction tends to be an unspoken, "Oh, so you're gay, but are still figuring some things out." In an era when understanding and acceptance of homosexuality is slowly becoming mainstream, lots of people still think bisexuality is just a sexy hobby.
Well, we spoke to Beth, a bisexual woman, and Jon, a bisexual man about their experiences being switch-hitters in a world that doesn't make much of an effort to understand them. They said ...
Most People Seem To Think Bisexuality Isn't Really A Thing
Let's try an experiment: Open up Google and type "do bisexual." Two of the top results are "do bisexual males exist" and the more poorly structured "do bisexual exist." Now consider that 3.1 percent of American adults identify as bisexual, compared with only 2.5 percent identifying as gay or lesbian. But on the flip side, while roughly three-quarters of all gay individuals are openly out, only 28 percent of all bisexuals are out, and only 12 percent of bi men openly identifying as such. Despite being the largest part of the LGBT community, they are also the least comfortable with their sexuality. This is to a large degree due to the fact that people just don't believe them.
"If you're really bi, deep throat this Popsicle. Right now."
For instance, in a study that was picked up by no less than The New York Times under the "not at all prejudicial" headline, "Straight, Gay or Lying?" researchers actually decided to test out whether or not bi men were telling the truth by strapping them to a machine designed to measure their arousal and showing them some gay porn and some straight porn. They found that all the people who claimed to be bi were significantly more aroused by one or the other, thus apparently proving that bis are filthy goddamned liars. Of course, one-third of the men showed no arousal to either, even though nobody identified as asexual, but why should that stop them from drawing sweeping conclusions from a modicum of data?
But that's just the way it is for bisexuals -- in the collective consciousness, they exist as the mythological fusion of two extant creatures, like a mermaid, instead of a real combination that exists, like a spork. As Beth explained, "People definitely like to label you as just 'going through a phase' and will respond with statements like, 'Oh, yeah, I experimented in college, too.' And on the off chance you do get them to believe you, they'll still split hairs by labeling you 'bi-curious' or 'college lesbian' or, my personal favorite, 'heteroflexible.'"
Or if you're a guy "ambidickstrous".
The backlash from the nonexistent bisexuals over the piece prompted the Times to do a follow-up article where the writer set out on a quest to prove that bisexuals exist, kind of like Bigfoot, instead of just gathering a bunch of people to a porn buffet and watching their dicks. Ultimately, the article concluded that bisexuals do exist and they have some grainy, out-of-focus pictures to prove it.
But bis aren't just battling science for recognition. Even within the LGBT community, bisexuals are largely marginalized and ignored. According to Jon, "I remember talking to a gay guy at a party once about LGBT issues, and I made some comment to the effect that gay rights help bi people too. The guy responded, kind of angrily, that he didn't think bisexuals belonged in the movement because, 'they've always had the option of hiding as straight.' Gay guys have a tendency to view bi men as deceitful."
"Sell that shit elsewhere, you lying cunt-jockey!"
Another way to put it ...
People Think Bi Means "So Horny You'll Fuck Anything"
If a TV character is bi, there's a pretty good chance they're having more sex than anybody else (such as, Olivia Wilde's character on House). And why not? Since bisexuals can have fun with pretty much anyone, it only stands to reason that they're rampaging (man)whores, right? If hetero people can barely keep it in their pants with a mere 3.5 billion potential partners to choose from, it's just a nonstop orgy once you double that number.
They tried to have a bisexual-only movement, but all the meetings devolved into massive sex-parties.
"I've had comments made to the effect that bisexuals are always swingers," says Jon. "And one girl said she could never date a bi guy because she 'couldn't trust him.'" Yeah, that's the flip side of the "These kinky bastards are down for anything!" myth -- an undercurrent of distrust of bisexuals, who are often viewed as deceitful. They refuse to pick a "side" so therefore must be willing to switch allegiances at the slightest provocation, like a naked Game of Thrones (so, regular Game of Thrones, we guess). It's a pervasive enough idea that GLAAD had put up a page that specifically debunked the notion that bis are constantly rubbing their genitals on each other.
Beth has experienced this slut-suspicion as well: "As much as guys fantasize about wanting a girl who swings both ways, I think a lot of them get nervous when they're confronted with the reality. Most people view female sexuality as somewhat malleable to begin with, so couple that with just the normal weird shit that women sometimes do like smacking each other on the ass, and they start viewing every woman as a threat. There's this sort of insecurity that because you can enjoy sex with either gender, then you have to enjoy sex with either gender. Like there's some piece of you that will always be unfulfilled without another set of giggly bits to play with, rather than a normal, monogamous person who prefers a loving, caring partner over casual sex."
"How can she be happy!?! Our balls ... they're gross."
And then there's the suspicion that with all the promiscuous sex that these bisexuals are having, they must be a veritable Petri dish of STDs. Beth recalls, "I remember my dad actually said once that bisexuals have more diseases than hetero or gay people (I'm not out to him) they get diseases from straight people and gay people ... if I get chlamydia from a man and chlamydia from a woman, do they form some kind of super Voltron chlamydia?" (Note: Beth does not have chlamydia.)
He's hardly the only one who believes it -- the University of Illinois had to spend money (probably your money) researching the fact that bis are not more likely to be carrying crotch plagues than anyone else.
Everybody Assumes You're Up For A Threesome
Ah, the Holy Grail of sexual exploration: the three-way. You get all the kinky points for doing it while still being too classy to join an actual orgy. The obvious problem, however, is that for maximum enjoyment, someone needs to be ready to chow down on both pieces of equipment. Otherwise, you're just sitting around, waiting for your turn, and if you wanted to sit idly by while two people go bananas on each other, you could have just gone to the bus station.
At least there, farting is tolerated, if not outright encouraged.
Since guys in general tend to be more "open" about their sexual desires, Beth has learned to be choosy with whom she comes out to. "I have to be super careful. Once they know I'm bi, it's like I'm the threesome fairy. They'll crack jokes about it constantly, in a 'haha, just kidding, but maybe?' kind of way. It's even worse online. Putting 'bi' on your profile guarantees you'll be inundated with requests for three-ways, mostly guys, but a fair number of girls, too. It got bad enough that I think OkCupid actually gives you the option that if you're bi, you can appear as 'straight' to guys so they'll stop pestering you for a threesome and can go back to pestering you for regular sex."
But it's not just dudes trying to attain the Unholy Trinity. "Every girlfriend that I've come out to has asked me for a threesome with two guys," says Jon, "and I would probably guess that a third of my female friends have indicated they would be open to it as well. They try to be subtle about it by saying stuff like, 'I've thought about having a threesome with two guys before' and then waggling their eyebrows at me. It's apparently a much more common fantasy than women have let on."
"Oh, uh, I was just kidding ... Double Stuf Oero?"
Well, ladies, that's why God invented Craigslist. But there is one challenge that seems specific to the males ...
People Will Just Assume That You're Really Gay (If You're A Guy)
If you've watched House of Cards, you know that Frank Underwood is no stranger to kinky sex. He hooks up with a much younger (and now much deader) woman, alludes to numerous other affairs with the full knowledge of his wife, and late in the second season, has a three-way with his wife and his bodyguard. If you haven't watched House of Cards, don't read that paragraph.
Now head to Google and ask "Is Frank Underwood gay" and "is Frank Underwood bisexual". You'll find that the former turns up six times as many results as the latter. It doesn't matter how many times we see Frank bang Zoe or lovingly kiss and caress his wife; he kissed a dude for half a second in 26 episodes and bam, he must be gay.
"Back in Gaffney, we have a saying: 'You're either the pitcher or the catcher.'
Well ... I'm sure you can guess which one I am."
Jon can relate: "I like to think my friends are pretty progressive, but I'm not out to them and never will be. They would probably wonder if I've just been faking it all these years with my girlfriends and I'd prefer not to have a discussion about sexuality as a spectrum every time I bring a new girl around. I will never be in a serious relationship with a guy and they're never going to meet one of my partners, so why complicate things?"
While homophobia undoubtedly plays a part in that, Jon says that it's not just guys who feel that way. "A few years ago, I was dating a girl who knew I was bi, and one day she found exactly one gay porn video in my browser history. She nearly had a mental breakdown over it. Keep in mind, she frequently watched lesbian porn herself. But when I brought that up to her, all she could say was, 'It's not the same!' She was terrified that I was going to suddenly flip the gay switch and leave her for a guy."
"... in sickness and in health, to love and to cher- HOMOBOTS, TRANSFORM AND GAY OUT!"
Sex and the City fans might remember the episode where Carrie dates a bi guy, but states that she thinks he's "just on a layover on the way to Gay Town" (in the end, she breaks up with him because she views it as an experimentation phase and declares that "she's too old for their games"). You can even read this Frisky article where a woman talks about a guy she was dating coming out to her. At first she feels "duped" and then later acts surprised when he's "not at all afraid of girlie parts."
"If her boyfriend is like me," says Jon, "he's had about 20 times more straight sex than gay sex, so being surprised that he knows what he's doing with her is like being surprised that Michael Jordan is better at basketball than baseball. Also, I'm not claiming I'm the Michael Jordan of sex."
Dennis Rodman is probably a more accurate Bulls analogy.
And if that statement about "20 times more sex" is leaving you confused, well ...
Bisexual Doesn't Mean Humping Both Genders Equally
This is maybe the central point of confusion that causes all of the misunderstandings above. People really, really want sexuality to be a black-and-white thing with neat categories everyone can fit into. So even if somebody is prepared to accept that bisexuality is a thing, they want it to mean exactly what the name says: that they equally prefer both genders. But that's rarely the case.
Good thing, otherwise every time at the bar would be like Sophie's Choice.
"In my experience, most bisexuals tend to lean more one way than the other," says Jon. "Without going into too much detail, there's a very specific set of things I like to do ... given the option between a man and a woman, I will almost always choose a woman, and when it comes time to settle down and get married, I know 100 percent that it will be with a woman." Beth agrees: "I definitely prefer guys for sex and relationships. I don't know if I'd ever date a girl, I guess it would depend on the girl in question. I'll for sure hook up with a woman, but dating, I don't know how likely that will ever be."
And right now, despite everything explained above, a whole lot of you just said to yourselves, "Oh, so both of them are really straight." It's almost impossible to get past for most people, because we so desperately want to find out what orientation a person "really" is -- despite having known for 60-plus years that sexual orientation is a spectrum. "You tell people that you're bi, and they'll ask, 'but which one do you prefer?'" says Beth. "And I'll obviously say that I prefer guys, and they'll reply, 'OK, then you're straight.'"
"At which point I'll straighten something else out."
Take the example of a woman who wrote into Slate's Dear Prudence advice column, asking for advice after coming to terms with her bisexuality and telling her husband. Shockingly, Prudence tells her that, since that she wasn't planning on leaving her husband or pursuing any relationships with women, it's really just a fetish and she should keep it to herself. The idea that her orientation could be bisexual, while remaining monogamous with one gender, was just impossible for the writer to conceive. But maybe Beth explains it best: "When I was a virgin, nobody told me, 'you haven't fucked a guy yet, how can you be straight?'"
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For more insider perspectives, check out 5 Realities Of Being Gay In A Country Where It's Illegal and 6 Weird Ways the World Looks Different When You're Asexual.