What do Sigmund Freud, Alfred Kinsey, Eleanor Roosevelt, Angelina Jolie, Drew Barrymore, Keanu Reeves, Marlon Brando, David Bowie, Pete Townshend and Ani DiFranco have in common?
According to a new study, they’re all liars. What makes them liars is the fact that they’re all self-proclaimed bisexuals. The study in question reaffirmed the age-old myth that bisexuality doesn’t exist and should not be taken seriously. Those who claim to be bisexual are either gay, straight or lying, according to the psychologists behind the experiment. Needless to say, this conclusion came as a shock and a setback to millions of bisexuals worldwide. The study, conducted by Northwestern University in Chicago and the Center for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto, involved a mere 101 men (in general, scientific studies require a much larger pool of participants to be reliable).
The sample consisted of 33 participants who identified themselves as bisexual, 30 as heterosexual and 38 as homosexual. The men were exposed to erotic movies, some involving straight sex, others involving gay sex. Using a sensor to monitor sexual arousal, the researchers found that gay men showed arousal to images of men and little arousal to images of women, and heterosexual men showed arousal to women but not to men. However, the bisexual men were either distinctively aroused by either gay or straight material. Based on this, the researchers drew the conclusion that because the bisexual men responded more strongly to one of the two sexes, bisexuality simply doesn’t exist.
Whoa! How many myths and false assumptions could they possibly cram into one single study? First off, the research included no women, yet there are millions of women worldwide who consider themselves bisexual. The lack of women in the research didn’t stop the Icelandic paper DV from publishing the study with the headline BISEXUALITY DOESN’T EXIST, as if it was true for both sexes. Secondly, the fact that the bisexual participants involved showed a stronger attraction to one of the sexes simply demonstrates that they have a preference for that sex. It doesn’t automatically mean that they can’t find themselves attracted to both sexes. One of the most stubborn myths surrounding bisexuals is that they’re equally attracted to both sexes, which is far from the truth. Many, if not most bisexuals say that they “lean straight” or “lean gay”, meaning that they have a predisposition to either gender, although they would consider a relationship with people of both sexes if there was a mutual attraction at hand.
Although about a third of the participating men in each of the three groups showed no significant arousal watching the movies, their lack of response did not change the overall outcome, one of the researchers said. Now, let me get this straight. Out of their already tiny pool of participants consisting of 33 bisexuals, approximately 8 of them didn’t respond to the sexy material, meaning that their grand conclusion was based on the behaviour of a mere 25 men. How credible is that?
Bisexuality is very much a reality. The celebrities mentioned above are only a few representatives for a large group of people. Bisexuals are often claimed to have “the best of both worlds” because they’re open to more relationship possibilities. This is also a myth. In fact, bisexuals arguably get the worst of both worlds, since they’re often met with prejudice from both the gay and the straight community. The gay community tends to judge bisexuals as being cowardly people who simply don’t have the guts to come out of the closet. The straight community tends to label bisexuals as whimsical, promiscuous people who are just going through a phase. As a result, bisexuals are constantly faced with a pressure from both sides to “make up their mind” and join either team, although it forces them to abandon their ideals. The research above may make life even harder for bisexuals, giving skeptics a reason to doubt their honesty.
In the light of this dubious research, it is high time to clear up some of the myths surrounding bisexuality. Here are the most common ones:
Bisexuality doesn’t really exist. People who consider themselves bisexuals are going through a phase. Ultimately they’ll settle down and realize they’re actually homosexual or heterosexual.
Bisexuality is a legitimate sexual orientation. Some people go through a transitional period of bisexuality on their way to adopting a homosexual/heterosexual identity. For many others, bisexuality remains a life-long orientation. Many bisexuals may well be confused, living in a society where their sexuality is denied by homosexuals and heterosexuals alike.
Bisexuals are just trying to be trendy, because bisexuality is “in” now.
Considering the stigma attached to bisexuality in both the gay and the straight community, it is unlikely that the majority of bisexuals are only trying to be trendy. Coming out as a bisexual can be equally as difficult as coming out as a homosexual, as bisexuals often face the same heterosexism and homophobia as gays do. In fact, “you’re just doing it to be hip” is a classic way of trivializing the subject and putting down bisexual people.
Bisexuality means having concurrent lovers of both sexes.
Bisexuals are people who can have lovers of either sex, not people who must have lovers of both sexes. Some bisexual people may have concurrent lovers, but the same is true for gay and straight people. However, being bisexual doesn’t imply a need to be with both sexes in order to feel fulfilled.
Bisexuals are attracted to every woman and man they meet.
Bisexuals have standards, like everyone else. Just like gays and heterosexuals, bisexuals can be very selective in their search for a partner. Promiscuity does exist within the bisexual population, but it is no more common than in the gay or straight population.
Bisexuals cannot be monogamous, nor can they or live in traditional committed relationships.
Bisexual people have a range of sexual behaviours. Like lesbians, gays or heterosexuals, some have multiple partners, some have one partner, some go through periods without any partners.
Bisexuals are endlessly seeking some kind of peace which they cannot ever find.
The lack of inner peace often stems from confusion caused by prejudice. The sooner society starts acknowledging bisexuality as a legitimate sexual orientation, less confusion will be caused to bisexuals. In spite of that, many bisexuals are perfectly happy and at peace with themselves.
Þórdís Elva Þorvaldsdóttir Bachmann is a playwright and a columnist for the Reykjavík Grapevine. She last wrote about the lack of media coverage of Snoop Dogg’s sexist and sexually explicit lyrics as the entertainer was preparing for the Icelandic leg of his European tour.
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