By TJ Acena, PQ Monthly
While that headline might not be the most shocking revelation, especially to bisexuals, turns out there have been relatively few studies of bisexuality. The New York Times recently did a feature called “The Scientific Quest to Prove Bisexuality Exists” and there were a lot of interesting facts to take away from the article:
–A report by the Williams Institute found that “among adults who identify as L.G.B., bisexuals compromise a slight majority.”
–3.1% of Americans identify as bisexual where as 2.5% of American identify as gay or lesbian
–A Pew Research Survey found that only 28% of self-identified bisexuals are open about their bisexual identity. And overall, bisexuals are less likely “to view their sexual orientation as important to their overall identity” than gays or lesbians.
–The American Institute of Bisexuality (A.I.B.) found that “compared with their exclusively homosexual and heterosexual counterparts, bisexuals have reported higher rates of depression, anxiety, substance abuse, victimization by violence, suicidal ideation, and sexual-health concerns.”
It seems the tradeoff for experiencing the pleasure of both sexes comes with double the potential problems you might face; Biphobia exists from the straight and gay communities. Bisexuals have been perceived as ‘indecisive’ or ‘promiscuous’ by society, conservative people have shunned them for breaking from heteronormative behavior, gays and lesbians sometimes view bisexuals as ‘fence sitters’ and have viewed them as ‘untrustworthy’ as partners, and bisexuality is often viewed as ‘phase’ people go through. To tell someone that their identity isn’t valid is a pretty horrible thing to do, and I think gays and lesbians should know better.
But like I said before, science has proved that bisexuality is real. How exactly? Well it involves attaching electrodes to genitals and measuring pupil dilation as subjects are subjected to pornographic images. Turns out there are people who are stimulated by images of men and women. Good job scientists! But as bisexual activist Robyn Ochs points out:
“It’s about other sensory inputs too. And it’s about our emotional response. Sexuality is so complex and I worry that valuable funding dollars are going to studies that don’t really tell is all that much about bisexuality.”
The NYT article ends up pondering questions about ‘identity’ vs. ‘behavior’, which seems to miss Ochs’ point.
Speaking of this research methodology, I’d like to point your attention to a blog post on Autostraddle entitled ‘The Journalistic Quest to Write An Accurate Story About Bisexuality’, which really examines the NYT article. Autostraddle points out that the New York Times gives a lot of coverage to the researcher Michael Baily, who previously did a study on bisexuality was based around his belief that bisexuality is not a real sexual orientation, and did not include any bisexuals that study. Additionally the article focuses on heavily on bisexual men, when bisexual women have very different experiences. As an example they bring up recent story by Jezebel that found that almost half of bisexual women have been raped. Half.
Obviously we’re heading into some complex terrain as we really dig into the bisexual experience. Definitely more complex than I have the credentials or time to discuss. You should definitely read both articles, especially you realize (like I did) that I don’t really know very much about bisexuality. I’ll leave you with the end of the Autostraddle article, which I think gets to the point nicely:
Hopefully this conversation, inaccuracies and all, can be the final word in the discussion of whether bisexuals can be proven to exist: they do. Maybe if everyone can agree about that, we can move on to the next step: letting actual bisexuals speak about their experiences and their community, and taking them seriously when they do.