Is the Future Bisexual?




Last week, I heard a girl on the radio, who was talking about how she would have no problem doing a threesome with another girl, if her boyfriend desired it. The girl’s carefree attitude, revealing to hundreds of thousands of strangers that she was open to a bisexual experience reminded me of a certain 2005 study from the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics I had recently come across, which showed an increased percentage of girls who had had a homosexual experience compared to a similar study from 10 years earlier.

The implication would be that bisexuality might be losing the stigma that still pervades homosexuality and especially male homosexuality. If we look at popular media, there are clearly many more bisexual characters being portrayed in mainstream media today than a few decades ago. Groundbreaking films in that sense have included Basic Instinct, with its portrayal of a powerful bisexual female played by Sharon Stone, and Henry & June, which presented the complex relationships between writer Henry Miller, his wife and that icon of female sexual liberation — French writer Anais Nin. Popular TV series of the 21st century have also started commonly incorporating bisexual characters; with House as a prime example.

Considering that homosexuality was only removed from the American Psychiatric Association’s list of mental disorders in 1973, it is no wonder that the stigma of homosexuality, which naturally permeates bisexuality, is still deeply ingrained in Western culture.

The fact that legislation has started accepting homosexual relationships, enabling gay marriage and adoption by gay couples, also has an impact on our perceptions of bisexuality. In fact, if our perceptions hadn’t been slowly changing, those laws would never have been passed. Today, there is gay marriage in Argentina and the UK, in Sweden and parts of the US, and we are looking at a world that is ready to accept the possibility of healthy, functional families comprising two same sex partners.

Gay men, gay women: not the same?

It would seem that it is much easier for people in general to accept the idea of female homosexuality than that of male homosexuality. As erotic content across the media fosters the idea that lesbianism is “hot,” the transgression perceived in female homosexuality seems to be much smaller than the assumptions regarding gay males. The flip side would be that a large percentage of women engage in bisexual practices, just to satisfy their male partners, like the girl on the radio; however, without this necessarily implying an acceptance of bisexuality or homosexuality.

It would follow, hence, that bisexual women would face much less stigmatization than bisexual men. These double standards have been measured and assessed many times. For example, a psychological study measuring arousal patterns found that the vast majority of a group of men who claimed to be bisexual were in fact only attracted by men. The self-confessed bisexuals were shown erotic films and photographs portraying both men and women, and measurements showed that almost all of them were in fact only aroused by the erotic images of men. The conclusion would be that the stigmatization of male homoeroticism fosters a type of male bisexuality that is in fact “closeted” homosexuality.

Lisa Diamond, Associate Professor of Psychology and Gender Identity at the University of Utah, who has carried on her own very influential research, praised the study mentioned above, stating that:

Research on sexual orientation has been based almost entirely on self-reports, and this is one of the few good studies using physiological measures.

In fact, Diamond was right on target, as this is one of the main problems with this type of studies. Namely, that both the social stigma and the self-identity conflicts associated with bisexuality and homosexuality sometimes contribute to make statistical data unreliable.

The search for an identity

Woody Allen is credited with having defined bisexuality very lightly by saying that it “doubles your chance of a date on Saturday night.” It is not all that easy for bisexual individuals, it would seem. A bisexual identity is hard to come by, as it seems to be located in a grey area that is even harder for non-bisexuals to understand than homosexuality. According to Linda Alcoff,

Struggles of social identity have been fought against the subtle social contracts by which whole identity groups are denied equality and basic human rights.

As an anonymous bisexual student from the University of Minnesota put it in one of his blogs,

It is a difficult issue. For many, a bisexual is either ‘not gay enough’ within the gay community, or ‘just gay enough’ to be excluded from the straight community.

The problems of establishing and defining a bisexual identity were also addressed by Amy André, in her commentary of a study by Dr. Diamond:

Bisexuality, defined as experiencing attraction to other adults, regardless of gender, has often been described by mono-sexual people (i.e., heterosexuals, gays and lesbians) as mysterious and difficult to understand. This is because mono-sexual people take gender into account when assessing attraction; therefore, it can be challenging to imagine that there is a whole world of people out there who don’t do the same.

Bisexual individuals face a twofold identity problem: as they struggle to define themselves in terms of their sexual orientation and/or sexual desires/actions, they must also deal with the fact that most people do not understand the concept of bisexuality, and with assumptions such as the famous saying “you are either gay, straight, or lying,” which do not leave room for the construction of a true bisexual identity.

The future

Nobel prize nominee Umberto Veronesi raised some controversy a couple of years ago when he stated that he believed humanity was moving towards a bisexual future. The famous oncologist was not just looking to raise havoc. He actually had some good points to make. For example, he cited the scientific fact that the vitality of male reproductive cells has gone down by 50% since the end of World War II.

Based on evidence about the dissociation between sexuality and reproduction, the endless possibilities of artificial fertilization, and the fact that men and women are producing less and less hormones every day, Veronesi predicted that, as sexual interaction will lose its mainly reproductive function, bisexuality will become the norm rather than the exception.

Veronesi considers that a bisexual future will be a positive development in human evolution. On the other hand, futuristic novels such as Huxley’s Brave New World, The Handmaid’s Tale or Orwell’s 1984 and many that came after them have been speculating about a future of sexless or state-controlled reproduction for over half a century.

The origins of both Veronesi’s more scientific predictions and literature’s response to the questions about what the future of human reproduction will be like, seem to have a common core in the fact that science is objectively developing towards a future when male-female interaction will be basically disconnected from reproduction.

Provided bisexuality continues to lose the stigma it still possesses in Western societies, it seems that it will become a more frequent choice, as the barriers of social constraints are lifted and the concept of family and marriage keeps evolving to integrate the many nuances of the world’s present sexual diversity.

References

Mosher WD, Chandra A, & Jones J (2005). Sexual behavior and selected health measures: men and women 15-44 years of age, United States, 2002. Advance data (362), 1-55 PMID: 16250464

Bayer, R. Homosexuality and American Psychiatry, The Politics of Diagnosis. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1981.

Fahs, B. (2009). Compulsory Bisexuality?: The Challenges of Modern Sexual Fluidity Journal of Bisexuality, 9 (3), 431-449 DOI: 10.1080/15299710903316661

Rieger G, Chivers ML, & Bailey JM (2005). Sexual arousal patterns of bisexual men. Psychological science : a journal of the American Psychological Society / APS, 16 (8), 579-84 PMID: 16102058

Benedict Carey. Straight, Gay or Lying? Bisexuality Revisited, The New York Times, July 5, 2005.

Alcoff, Linda M. Visible Identities: Race, Gender, and the Self. New York: Oxford, 2006.

New study finds that bisexuality is a ‘distinct orientation’ in women. theTaskForce.org, January 29, 2008.

  • Thomas Gibson

    Congratulations on an excellent article! As a bisexual man, I agree with the observation that society tends to divide into “gay” and “straight” ghettos which exclude bisexual people.
    Perhaps you are referring in the article to an observation I once read – which may be supported by statistics – that self-described bisexual men are far more likely to be homosexual in their primary sexual relationship, while self-described bisexual women mostly live with straight male partners. While this may be partly caused by the factor of some gay men choosing to call themselves ‘bi’, I think that the effect of what might be termed a person’s value in the ‘marriage market’ is more important.
    Briefly, a ‘bi’ woman, deemed “hot” by society, is a valuable marriage partner for a man, especially if he enjoys watching or participating in threesomes. By contrast, a ‘bi’ man is no more valuable to a straight woman, unless perhaps (as is reported by some) the idea of two men together turns her on; and the influence of popular media would associate such a man in her mind with unfaithfulness, disease and possibly pedophilia.
    The idea of such ‘value’ in marriage has become increasingly important in some parts of the Western world, as the culture has changed and single men are viewed with more and more suspicion.

  • Thank you Thomas,
    what an interesting comment!!!
    I believe you are right, our Western societies are the kingdom of double standards. I really appreciate you contributing your perspective.
    It was a pleasure to read,
    Best
    Veronica

  • Anonymous

    Fantastic article. I hope over the coming decades all of society will come to accept this point of view rather than pigeon-holing people as “gay” or “straight”. While watching straight and gay friends increasingly experimenting with bisexuality, I’ve often found myself wondering whether being bisexual is in fact the most natural state and whether it is just society’s norms that has repressed this in us. As sexuality becomes so rapidly destigmatised in the west, I think the future might very possibly be bi!

    • You got some good points there, Anonymous.
      Thanks for talking back.
      V

    • If you look at history, from ancient times to the present, it is only within the last 6 centuries or so that Heterosexuality has been considered the norm.

      Proceeding that Bisexuality was the norm, which suggest to me that no only is Bi the future but it’s also been the past.

  • interesting article, but just want to caution you that this bit:

    “For example, a psychological study measuring arousal patterns found that the vast majority of a group of men who claimed to be bisexual were in fact only attracted by men. The self-confessed bisexuals were shown erotic films and photographs portraying both men and women, and measurements showed that almost all of them were in fact only aroused by the erotic images of men.”

    is actually from a discredited pseudo-study done by a problematic (some would say ‘loonie’) professor J. Michael Bailey who among other public pronouncements thinks it would be fine if people could identify some sort of “Gay Gene” and then abort all potentially queer fetuses, who also did a widely dismissed study the purported to show that transgender MtoF people were simply mutilated men who couldn’t accept their own homosexuality and had some sort of propensity to shop lift, and become sex workers etc., etc, etc.

    The “study” you are refering to consisted of only 101 men who self identified as Gay, Bisexual and Straight being hooked up to a plethysmograph while being shown snippets of “Gay” and “Lesbian” Porn. The results being that researchers threw out 35% of their sample as “non-responders” and then of those 60 some odd men who were left researchers found that approximately 3/4 responded to “Gay” Porn and 1/4 responded to the “Lesbian” Porn. So really the conclusions from all this nonsense could just as well have been “Almost 1/3 Of All Men Are Asexual” or “Very Few Men Turn Out To Be Lesbians”.

    It has no more validity than the various “studies” which allegedly prove that “homosexuals are more likely to suffer from depression, substance abuse, and emotional problems” and therefore are unfit to be parents done by anti-LGBT George Rekers (the one who was found on vacation with “rent boy”) and should not be quoted in any serious work on the subject.

    Please see this link here which has an overview and many, many links to articles on same:
    http://ai.eecs.umich.edu/people/conway/TS/Bailey/Bisexuality/Bisexuality-NYT%207-05-05.html

    • Wow, that is incredible.
      I will surely check that out.
      Honestly, I found the study to be cited and reported on by reputable source,
      so never doubted its validity to those extremes.
      Thanks a lot for the information.
      Cheers,
      Veronica

  • gregorylent

    leading edge stuff …. for 1992

    • Couldn´t say, I was in school then and had never heard the word bisexual. I am sure your 1992 was way more sexually advanced than mine.
      Thanks for stopping by,
      Veronica

  • Montoya

    “… healthy, functional families comprising two same sex partners.” Only a lunatic can say that! How can homosexual “families” be healthy and functional? Healthy towards AIDS? Functional towards childlessness?

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  • Hello Veronica,

    Interesting article! One thing you forget: there is also gay marriage in Holland.

    I’ve just tweeted about this article on my twitter polyamorie.

    Greetings from Holland,

    Pieter Schultz

  • NOTE: It has been brought to my attention that the study of reference regarding the arousal patterns of self-proclaimed bisexual men is at least controversial, and its validity was contested by certain groups.

  • James

    This was really refreshing to read. I’ve always felt that labels like ‘gay,’ ‘straight’ and ‘bisexual’ could become redundant in the future. I can’t see any point in them at all: since sex is sex regardless of who you have it with I think any labels you try to apply to it are necessarily arbitrary.

    I like sex with women and men but I don’t find it helpful to think of myself as fitting into any of the existing labels or categories because they all feel constrictive. I might feel more ‘gay’ one day but more ‘straight’ on another. I think without labels people might just be attracted to other people and sex could just be sex.

  • Lektu

    It’s funny that you say “[t]oday, there is gay marriage in Argentina and the UK, in Sweden and parts of the US, […]”, as if that was a comprehensive list, ignoring the fact that the Netherlands, Belgium, Spain, Canada, South Africa and Norway legalized it years before those you mention (and then, there’s Portugal, Iceland, and parts of Mexico)… Also, the UK has same-sex civil unions, not full marriage.

  • Valerie

    Well as a bisexual i belive that most poeple try new expirences. But in my case i became bisexual because i had a wreally hard past. Also, wen i was in the 6th grade for some reason i was atracted by girls more then i was atracted. But i wreally never paid attention to that feeling. Until i was in the 8th grade that a girl asked me out and said yes. After that moment i though i was guy. But then we broke up and dated a guy. So i was confused, and did not n=know what my idententy was. Until i when to counceling and realized that i was bisexual. Not gay but bisexual. And you see know i have a girlfiend and she bisexual like me. Weve been dating for 1 year and 3 months. And she made me realize that i should not care in what other people think. That as long as we happy everything is all righ. But if it werent for my past i do not know if i would have met my girlfirend or bacame bisexual.
    But i love the article.

  • Louis

    Hey, great article. Is there any source for the claim that Veronesi makes: ” …the vitality of male reproductive cells has gone down by 50% since the end of World War II.”? Thanks.

  • Pradip Gharpure

    Society needs to accept,adjust and recognise such trend. By any measure sex is strictly a personal choice, no body has got right to intervene in it, unless it is antisocial in any manner.

  • Anonymous

    Interesting stuff but I disagree with the fact that female-female relationships are more accepted than male-male, you just have to look at the number of lesbians compared to gay men on tv. Also, fictional f-f relationships are often based on and made for male fantasy.
    Thanks

  • Hanno Kirk

    I used to teach Human Sexuality. Two observations. Females in general tend to have less problem with gender bending than males.
    One of the phenomena we see is that female roommates in college can become sexually active with each other. It is more convenient, and less hassle than getting involved with men, without the added risk of pregnancy. Then after graduation they may easily turn hetero and get married. We call this phenomenon Lesbian until graduation or LUG. Males tend to feel more stigmatized by homosexual contact, and find it harder to be at ease with bisexuality. As others have pointed out above, there are also sociological reasons why women would not be satisfied with a bisexual man as a long term partner.

  • Matthew

    Freud’s Civilsation and it’s discontent. We “box” things because it makes us
    feel safe even if it does not match reality. I was always surprised that peopl thought
    they were “gay” or “straight” it never seemed real to me. Especially the behavior of so
    called straight kids in grade school or high school. Perhaps everyone believes the world works based on how they see themselves. But I still believe Jung, Freud, and Kinsey were correct that all humans are bisexual and have polymorphic sexuality – some perhaps realize this and others don’t they need to box themselves.

  • andrew

    Hey, I found this very interesting, I certainly think that in the next 50 years western society will be far more sexually fluid. In ancient Greece, homosexuality, wasn’t just accepted it was encouraged, and I think Christianity probably has had a strong influence on making bi-sexuality or homosexuality the taboo it was and still can be today, but as attitudes change, as they already are, I think bisexuality amongst men will likely increase. My straight friend and I discussed this ourselves, as a gay man, I know I am not attracted to women, but I will describe myself as straight curious, as in I am open to have experimental sexual relations with a woman, my friend wouldn’t go that far himself, but he could understand my point and we considered that maybe in a few years time we could all be like that regardless of our preferred orientation. As our generation is probably the one with the most sexual freedom, it will inly increase as time passes, college dare games like gay chicken only prove that a small level of sexually intimacy between males can be fun, regardless of how straight you are!
    I agree that it is far more socially acceptable for women to be bi-sexual than men, but hopefully it will change soon that nobody cares and people are free to explore the full pleasure of human sexuality

    • Anonymous

      Andrew, a detail: in Greece homosexuality was only encouraged in the cases of relationships between older men and very young men, who often for today’s standards would be considered minors. Adult men were supposed to have sex with women or very young men/boys. Homosexuality between two adult men was stigmatized too. This is sometimes misunderstood, but is a historical fact. Keep in mind also that in earlier days girls of age of 13 were getting married, etc. Different societies, different mores.

      “Far more socially acceptable” to be a bi women? Bi women are stigmatized by heterosexuals as nymphomaniacs, sluts, “f…..g everything which moves,” objectified by hetero men as women who finally will make all their wildest kinkiest fantasies come true, called prudish when refusing, etc. Lesbians are more respected than bi women. Ask bi women who identified themselves as lesbians and as bi women, when they had more troubles,as lesbians or as bi’s. This article has errors, assumptions.

      I share your hopes that things will change.Greeting.

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  • Lost&Found

    I have been wondering for this whole time about the possibility of the future bisexual world. This is so enlightening!

    The world is beautiful and labels should not be a significant part of people.
    There are so many questions I was wondering about bisexuality and this article has answered most of my questions.

    I am clueless about my sexual orientation due to the complexity of modernity in this 21st century (I am going to be 21 years old soon and in search, of the true self and have not had a relationship yet.) It sometimes can be so stressful and harshly painful.

    I am always dreaming of having a family and love to be with a woman for the rest of my life, currently talking to this amazing girl. (I asked myself, is this because I was brought up that I ‘should’ and ‘must’ marry a woman since a childhood?)

    I do watching gay porns and I looked mostly at their muscles and not enjoying their sexual organs. (I wanted a body like them, like a model.)

    I am considered myself a nacissist because I have childhood traumas as being bullied in high schools and definitely learnt to care and love myself extremely.

    With all these behaviours, will anyone would leave a comment to this statement about the possibility of the sexual orientation? Will I fall under the category of bisexuality?

Veronica Pamoukaghlian, MA

Veronica Pamoukaghlian, MA, holds a Masters in Creative Writing. She has directed two documentaries shot in psychiatric wards and a feature documentary about the 77-year old senior Decathlon champion of the world, Raul. Her last production is Monstruo, a short film about non-voluntary euthanasia. She is the CEO of Uruguayan film production company Nektar FIlms. You may visit her blog at The Wander Life
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