Friday, April 1, 2011

The Outlaw of Sex [Bisexuality]

Bisexuality immediately doubles your chances for a date on Saturday night.

-- Woody Allen

The subject of today’s blog photo is Olivia Wilde, the sublimely beautiful actress who plays “Thirteen” the bisexual resident in the TV series, House. Her character's sexual orientation is often the butt (and fantasies) of Dr. House, the misanthrope of the title. The issue offers the writers plenty of room to exploit the many misconceptions of bisexuality.

Popular conceptualizations of sexual orientation often present a strictly either/or perspective on intimate relationships and human sexuality: a person is either heterosexual or homosexual; a person is emotionally and sexually attracted to either women or men. However, research shows that human sexuality is much more fluid than the simple gay-straight binarism. In fact, many people are neither exclusively heterosexual nor exclusively homosexual.

The other day, for example, a friend remarked that she couldn’t understand how anyone could date a bisexual because they couldn’t be monogamous. I found this utterly stupid. I mean, are heterosexuals compelled to be non-monogamous simply because of their sexual orientation? Are gays? Also, bisexuals get no respect, even from the LGBT community, many of whom seem hostile to these sexual outlaws. LOL

I have had two important relationships with women who identified as bisexual. In fact, there came a time where it seemed that I was dating bisexual women exclusively. Perhaps it was my own bias, but I felt bisexual women were less inhibited, sexually, more willing to explore. Whether that’s true or not is beside the point. In my experience, some of the best sex I ever had was with women who identified as bisexual.

I also learned a lot about myself in the process. My first relationship was difficult because I was insecure about her bisexuality. Like most people, I assumed she would need a woman in her life, which was total bullshit. We had a very trusting, deeply intimate relationship. So, let’s get some things straight (pun unintended)…

What is Bisexuality?

The most basic definition of bisexuality I’ve come across goes:

Bisexuality is the potential to feel sexually attracted to and to engage in sensual or sexual relationships with people of either sex. A bisexual person may not be equally attracted to both sexes, and the degree of attraction may vary over time.

One of my former lovers put it best when she said that for her the person was more important than the sexual orientation. Hearing that was an epiphany for me, since I had never looked at it from that perspective. There’s a caveat in that self-perception is the key to a bisexual identity. Many people engage in sexual activity with people of both sexes, yet do not identify as bisexual. Likewise, other people engage in sexual relations only with people of one sex, or do not engage in sexual activity at all, yet consider themselves bisexual. There is no behavioral “test” to determine whether or not one is bisexual.

Myth: Bisexuality only is a transition phase for people coming out as gay or lesbian.

Reality: Some gay and lesbian people identify as bisexual before coming out as gay or lesbian. Likewise, some people who now identify as bisexual previously identified as gay or lesbian. Other people identify as bisexual their whole lives. For some people, their experience of sexuality is fluid, something that can change over the course of their lifetimes

The world is not black and white. Although it is sometimes hard for people to see the shades of gray that they do not understand. It is this attitude that all things fall into extremes that keeps many people from learning about and adopting the label, Bisexual. The fact remains that there are many people who identify as bisexual in this world. This is the label that they feel best describes their attractions, be they physical or emotional, towards different genders.

Myth: Bisexuals are confused about their sexuality. They can't have it both ways... they have to make a choice.

Reality: This is quite possibly the hardest myth to dispel because of the fact that many people in transition from identifying as straight to identifying as gay or lesbian (and vice versa) use the label Bisexual as an aid in their transition. There is nothing wrong with this and in fact many people may feel bisexual for a time in their lives and then find that they identify more as gay/lesbian or straight, than bisexual. Most self-identified bisexuals have made their choice. What is meant by choice here is in choosing that label and not in choosing their sexual orientation. Sexual orientation is believed by many doctors (including psychiatrists) to be determined biologically and is not a conscious choice. Whatever other choices may be made, such as to the monogamy of relationships, is made on an individual basis and has little, if anything, to do with the label one adopts

Myth: To be bisexual you have to love both genders equally.

Reality: Identifying as bisexual does not set a limit as to how attracted one must feel towards either gender. There is no defined cut off point at which one must cease to identify as bisexual and must identify as gay/lesbian or straight because of a shift in attractions. Most bisexuals do not f eel equally attracted to both genders on a sexual and emotional levels and experience shifts in attraction levels to either genders. As I noted before, some bisexuals are not attracted to a gender per se, but are instead attracted to the person's personality or various other attributes and take note of gender afterwards, if at all. In these cases gender does not really come into play.

Myth: Bisexual people are more promiscuous than heterosexual or gay and lesbian people.

Reality: Bisexuality is a sexual orientation. It is independent of the decision to be monogamous or non-monogamous. Some heterosexuals, gays, lesbians, and bisexuals are monogamous, others are not. It is a mistake to assume that because someone has the potential to be attracted to men and women, they must have twice as many sex partners.

Myth: Bisexuals need at least one partner of each gender.

Reality: Bisexuals have the potential to be attracted to more than gender, but they do not necessarily need to have a partner of each gender. Most bisexuals do not have to be involved with more than one gender at a time in order to feel fulfilled.

Myth: Bisexuals are more accepted by straight society.

This myth has all been expressed by some as “Bisexuals are more accepted by gay/ lesbian society.” The truth is that although bisexual activists fight for many of the same rights as gay and lesbian people do, they are not always made to feel welcome as a part of the community/ movement. The heterosexual community often groups bisexuals as being “confused or undercover homosexuals” and so rejects bisexuals and the concept of bisexuality. For the opposite reason some lesbian and gay people reject bisexuality as a valid sexual orientation and see the stigma and not the people. The fact is that many bisexual people feel as if they are somewhere in between the two worlds and feel both positive and negative feelings from both. Of course, this is not to say that lesbian, gay and bisexual people do not work together in the equal rights movement and accomplish great things.




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