You’ve heard them all: Bisexuality doesn’t really exist. Or, rather, bisexuality is a phase (i.e. college) that people eventually grow out of and then pick one side or another. Or bisexuality is the outdated, Rachel-hair flipping, belly-button piercing, ’90s version of queer.
In fact, back in July, OK Cupid’s research blog published its findings on the “lies” bisexuals make on its site:
REALITY: 80% of self-identified bisexuals are only interested in one gender.
Reality? Yes, bisexual people often have a preference in gender. Whether that preference lasts an hour or a whole lifetime is a matter of the individual. And no, “bisexual” is not a term bisexuals adopt to make them seem more sexually adventurous. Also, OK Cupid is not exactly the ideal space for watching the bisexuals mate as they would in their natural habitats. Phew, I’m sorry, was my inner lesbian feminist leg hair showing?
We’re looking at bisexuality in all the wrong ways. Sex does not a bisexual make. It’s all about attraction. We don’t question straight people’s orientation if they’ve never had experience with the opposite sex. We don’t question a gay man’s gayness if he started out dating girls in high school. So why are we all up in the bisexual’s grill, telling them that they’ve got to pursue both sexes to prove their attraction? I know it’s not rare to get propositioned by a couple in this neck of the woods, but honey, not every sexual opportunity comes in a pair.
The Klein grid. Let me show you it. The Klein grid is a three-dimensional version of the Kinsey scale that takes into account not just sexual behavior but attraction as well as social patterns. Just like there are straight girls who kiss other straight girls in bars and straight guys who seek out a dick to suck (NSFW), bisexuals can range anywhere from “bi-curious,” “hetero/homoflexible,” to “I identify as bisexual but I’m mainly interested in femme women only right now, sorry dudes.”
As with any other orientation, there are various manifestations. Some bisexuals find emotional and sexual connection with one gender but just sexual attraction with another. Some only date one gender at a time. Some have open relationships that allow them to hook up with people opposite their partners’ sex. And some are not yet ready to pursue the same sex. Or the same sex is purely fantasy–but a very, very attractive one.
So how does that make queerness any different from this bigger scope of bisexuality? It depends on who you talk to. Some may see “queer” as an umbrella term and “bisexual” as part of that greater whole. To others, queerness includes the attraction to people outside the gender binary, whereas bisexuality means attraction to “both” sexes. That doesn’t mean one is better than the other. It means some people are more comfortable with one term over the other.
Clearly, sexual orientation is not as clear cut as we’ve been raised to believe. It is neither fixed nor defined in any specific way. For women especially, sexuality tends to be more fluid. Or sometimes, the attraction to both sexes has its idiosyncrasies, like attraction to a specific (gendered) body part. For bisexual men (or for “straight” men who troll casual encounters and wipe their browsers clean of she-male porn), it’s often more about the cock than the man/transwoman attached. Does the ladies’ man Jack want to slobber over some other guy’s tool? Yes. Cuddle with him afterward? Not so much.
Sure, bisexuality can be a convenient stepping stone in between the closet and the open, but that doesn’t make it any less legitimate than any other orientation. Some people use it–the term, the experimentation–to cross over from hetero to homo. If it works for them, why begrudge someone their own sexuality and identity? Whether you’re bisexual in your 20s or bisexual throughout your life doesn’t really matter; what matters is that however long you are there, you identify as such and that is true to who you are in the moment.
Image from mod as hell.
The Sexual Manifesto is Christine Borden’s weekly column on sex in the city, sex and culture, and, well, sex. Got a tip for Christine (and it’s not in your pants)? Email her at email@example.com.