Bisexuality is romantic attraction, sexual attraction, or sexual
behavior toward both males and females, or romantic or sexual
attraction to people of any sex or gender identity; this latter aspect
is sometimes alternatively termed pansexuality.
The term bisexuality is mainly used in the context of human attraction
to denote romantic or sexual feelings toward both men and
women, and the concept is one of the three main
classifications of sexual orientation along with heterosexuality and
homosexuality, all of which exist on the heterosexual–homosexual
continuum. A bisexual identity does not necessarily equate to equal
sexual attraction to both sexes; commonly, people who have a distinct
but not exclusive sexual preference for one sex over the other also
identify themselves as bisexual.
Bisexuality has been observed in various human societies and
elsewhere in the animal kingdom throughout recorded
history. The term bisexuality, however, like the terms hetero- and
homosexuality, was coined in the 19th century.
1.1 Sexual orientation, identity, and behavior
1.2 Kinsey scale
2 Demographics and prevalence
3 Studies, theories and social responses
3.1 Brain structure and chromosomes
3.2 Evolutionary theory
3.4 Prenatal hormones
4.1 General social impacts
4.2 Perceptions and discrimination
4.4 Within BDSM
4.5 Within feminism
7 Among other animals
8 See also
10 Further reading
10.2 Ancient Greece and Rome
10.3 By country
10.4 Modern Western
10.5 Other reading
11 External links
Sexual orientation, identity, and behavior
Main articles: Sexual orientation, Sexual identity, and Human sexual
Bisexuality is romantic or sexual attraction to males and females. The
American Psychological Association
American Psychological Association states that "sexual orientation
falls along a continuum. In other words, someone does not have to be
exclusively homosexual or heterosexual, but can feel varying degrees
Sexual orientation develops across a person's
lifetime–different people realize at different points in their lives
that they are heterosexual, bisexual or homosexual."
Sexual attraction, behavior and identity may also be incongruent, as
sexual attraction or behavior may not necessarily be consistent with
identity. Some individuals identify themselves as heterosexual,
homosexual or bisexual without having had any sexual experience.
Others have had homosexual experiences but do not consider themselves
to be gay, lesbian, or bisexual. Likewise, self-identified gay or
lesbian individuals may occasionally sexually interact with members of
the opposite sex but do not identify as bisexual. The terms
queer, polysexual, heteroflexible, homoflexible, men who have
sex with men and women who have sex with women may also be used to
describe sexual identity or identify sexual behavior.
Some sources state that bisexuality encompasses romantic or sexual
attraction to all gender identities or that it is romantic or sexual
attraction to a person irrespective of that person's biological sex or
gender, equating it to or rendering it interchangeable with
pansexuality. The concept of pansexuality deliberately rejects
the gender binary, the "notion of two genders and indeed of specific
sexual orientations", as pansexual people are open to relationships
with people who do not identify as strictly men or women.
The bisexual activist
Robyn Ochs defines bisexuality as "the potential
to be attracted—romantically and/or sexually—to people of more
than one sex and/or gender, not necessarily at the same time, not
necessarily in the same way, and not necessarily to the same
According to Rosario, Schrimshaw, Hunter, Braun (2006):
...the development of a lesbian, gay, or bisexual (LGB) sexual
identity is a complex and often difficult process. Unlike members of
other minority groups (e.g., ethnic and racial minorities), most LGB
individuals are not raised in a community of similar others from whom
they learn about their identity and who reinforce and support that
identity. Rather, LGB individuals are often raised in communities that
are either ignorant of or openly hostile toward homosexuality.
Bisexuality as a transitional identity has also been examined. In a
longitudinal study about sexual identity development among lesbian,
gay, and bisexual (LGB) youths, Rosario et al. "found evidence of both
considerable consistency and change in LGB sexual identity over time".
Youths who had identified as both gay/lesbian and bisexual prior to
baseline were approximately three times more likely to identify as
gay/lesbian than as bisexual at subsequent assessments. Of youths who
had identified only as bisexual at earlier assessments, 60 to 70
percent continued to thus identify, while approximately 30 to 40
percent assumed a gay/lesbian identity over time. Rosario et al.
suggested that "although there were youths who consistently
self-identified as bisexual throughout the study, for other youths, a
bisexual identity served as a transitional identity to a subsequent
gay/lesbian identity." By contrast, a longitudinal study by Lisa M.
Diamond, which followed women identifying as lesbian, bisexual, or
unlabeled, found that "more women adopted bisexual/unlabeled
identities than relinquished these identities," over a ten-year
period. The study also found that "bisexual/unlabeled women had stable
overall distributions of same-sex/other-sex attractions." Diamond
has also studied male bisexuality, noting that survey research found
"almost as many men transitioned at some point from a gay identity to
a bisexual, queer or unlabeled one, as did from a bisexual identity to
a gay identity."
Main article: Kinsey scale
In the 1940s, the zoologist
Alfred Kinsey created a scale to measure
the continuum of sexual orientation from heterosexuality to
homosexuality. Kinsey studied human sexuality and argued that people
have the capability of being hetero- or homosexual even if this trait
does not present itself in the current circumstances. The Kinsey
scale is used to describe a person's sexual experience or response at
a given time. It ranges from 0, meaning exclusively heterosexual, to
6, meaning exclusively homosexual. People who rank anywhere from 2
to 4 are often considered bisexual; they are often not fully one
extreme or the other. The sociologists
Martin S. Weinberg and
Colin J. Williams write that, in principle, people who rank anywhere
from 1 to 5 could be considered bisexual.
The psychologist Jim McKnight writes that while the idea that
bisexuality is a form of sexual orientation intermediate between
homosexuality and heterosexuality is implicit in the Kinsey scale,
that conception has been "severely challenged" since the publication
Homosexualities (1978), by Weinberg and the psychologist Alan P.
Demographics and prevalence
Demographics of sexual orientation
Demographics of sexual orientation and Kinsey Reports
Kinsey's 1948 work
Sexual Behavior in the Human Male
Sexual Behavior in the Human Male found that "46%
of the male population had engaged in both heterosexual and homosexual
activities, or 'reacted to' persons of both sexes, in the course of
their adult lives". Kinsey himself disliked the use of the term
bisexual to describe individuals who engage in sexual activity with
both males and females, preferring to use bisexual in its original,
biological sense as hermaphroditic, stating, "Until it is demonstrated
[that] taste in a sexual relation is dependent upon the individual
containing within his anatomy both male and female structures, or male
and female physiological capacities, it is unfortunate to call such
individuals bisexual." The Janus Report on Sexual Behavior,
published in 1993, showed that 5 percent of men and 3 percent of women
considered themselves bisexual and 4 percent of men and 2 percent of
women considered themselves homosexual.
More modern studies estimating the demographics for bisexuality have
varied. A 2002 survey in the United States by National Center for
Health Statistics found that 1.8 percent of men ages 18–44
considered themselves bisexual, 2.3 percent homosexual, and 3.9
percent as "something else". The same study found that 2.8 percent of
women ages 18–44 considered themselves bisexual, 1.3 percent
homosexual, and 3.8 percent as "something else". In 2007, an
article in the 'Health' section of
The New York Times
The New York Times stated that "1.5
percent of American women and 1.7 percent of American men identify
themselves [as] bisexual." Also in 2007, it was reported that 14.4
percent of young US women identified themselves as "not strictly
heterosexual", with 5.6 percent of the men identifying as gay or
bisexual. A study in the journal Biological Psychology in 2011
reported that there were men who identify themselves as bisexuals and
who were aroused by both men and women. In the first large-scale
government survey measuring Americans' sexual orientation, the NHIS
reported in July 2014 that only 0.7 percent of Americans identify as
From an anthropological perspective, there is large variation in the
prevalence of bisexuality between different cultures. Among some
tribes, it appears to be non-existent while in others a universal,
including the Sambia of
New Guinea and similar Melanesian
Studies, theories and social responses
Biology and sexual orientation
Biology and sexual orientation and Environment and
Further information: Prenatal hormones and sexual orientation,
Fraternal birth order and sexual orientation, and Innate bisexuality
There is no consensus among scientists about the exact reasons that an
individual develops a heterosexual, bisexual or homosexual
orientation. Proposed reasons include a combination of genetic
factors and environmental factors (including fraternal birth
order, where the number of older brothers a boy has increases the
chances of homosexuality; specific prenatal hormone exposure, where
hormones play a role in determining sexual orientation as they do with
sex differentiation; and prenatal stress on the
American Academy of Pediatrics
American Academy of Pediatrics has stated that "sexual orientation
probably is not determined by any one factor but by a combination of
genetic, hormonal, and environmental influences." The American
Psychological Association has stated that "there are probably many
reasons for a person's sexual orientation and the reasons may be
different for different people". It further stated that, for most
people, sexual orientation is determined at an early age. The
American Psychiatric Association
American Psychiatric Association stated: "To date there are no
replicated scientific studies supporting any specific biological
etiology for homosexuality. Similarly, no specific psychosocial or
family dynamic cause for homosexuality has been identified, including
histories of childhood sexual abuse." Research into how sexual
orientation may be determined by genetic or other prenatal factors
plays a role in political and social debates about homosexuality, and
also raises fears about genetic profiling and prenatal testing.
Magnus Hirschfeld argued that adult sexual orientation can be
explained in terms of the bisexual nature of the developing fetus: he
believed that in every embryo there is one rudimentary neutral center
for attraction to males and another for attraction to females. In most
fetuses, the center for attraction to the opposite sex developed while
the center for attraction to the same sex regressed, but in fetuses
that became homosexual, the reverse occurred.
Simon LeVay has
criticized Hirschfeld's theory of an early bisexual stage of
development, calling it confusing; LeVay maintains that Hirschfeld
failed to distinguish between saying that the brain is sexually
undifferentiated at an early stage of development and saying that an
individual actually experiences sexual attraction to both men and
women. According to LeVay, Hirschfeld believed that in most bisexual
people the strength of attraction to the same sex was relatively low,
and that it was therefore possible to restrain its development in
young people, something Hirschfeld supported.
Hirschfeld created a ten-point scale to measure the strength of sexual
desire, with the direction of desire being represented by the letters
A (for heterosexuality), B (for homosexuality), and A + B (for
bisexuality). On this scale, someone who was A3, B9 would be weakly
attracted to the opposite sex and very strongly attracted to the same
sex, an A0, B0 would be asexual, and an A10, B10 would be very
attracted to both sexes. LeVay compares Hirschfeld's scale to that
developed by Kinsey decades later.
Sigmund Freud believed that every human being is bisexual in the sense
of incorporating general attributes of both sexes. In his view, this
was true anatomically and therefore also psychologically, with sexual
attraction to both sexes being an aspect of this psychological
bisexuality. Freud believed that in the course of sexual development
the masculine side of this bisexual disposition would normally become
dominant in men and the feminine side in women, but that all adults
still have desires derived from both the masculine and the feminine
sides of their natures. Freud did not claim that everyone is bisexual
in the sense of feeling the same level of sexual attraction to both
genders. Freud's belief in innate bisexuality was rejected by Sándor
Radó in 1940 and, following Radó, by many later psychoanalysts.
Radó argued that there is no biological bisexuality in humans.
Edmund Bergler argued in Homosexuality: Disease or
Way of Life? (1956) that bisexuality does not exist and that all
supposed bisexuals are homosexuals.
Alan P. Bell, Martin S. Weinberg, and Sue Kiefer Hammersmith, writing
in Sexual Preference (1981), reported that sexual preference was much
less strongly connected with pre-adult sexual feelings among bisexuals
than it was among heterosexuals and homosexuals. Based on this and
other findings, they suggested that bisexuality is more influenced by
social and sexual learning than is exclusive homosexuality.
Letitia Anne Peplau et al. wrote that while Bell et al.′s view that
biological factors may be more influential on homosexuality than on
bisexuality might seem plausible, it has not been directly tested and
appears to conflict with available evidence, such as that concerning
prenatal hormone exposure.
Human bisexuality has mainly been studied alongside homosexuality. Van
Wyk and Geist argue that this is a problem for sexuality research
because the few studies that have observed bisexuals separately have
found that bisexuals are often different from both heterosexuals and
homosexuals. Furthermore, bisexuality does not always represent a
halfway point between the dichotomy. Research indicates that
bisexuality is influenced by biological, cognitive and cultural
variables in interaction, and this leads to different types of
In the current debate around influences on sexual orientation,
biological explanations have been questioned by social scientists,
particularly by feminists who encourage women to make conscious
decisions about their life and sexuality. A difference in attitude
between homosexual men and women has also been reported, with men more
likely to regard their sexuality as biological, "reflecting the
universal male experience in this culture, not the complexities of the
lesbian world." There is also evidence that women's sexuality may be
more strongly affected by cultural and contextual factors.
Camille Paglia has promoted bisexuality as an ideal.
Harvard Shakespeare professor
Marjorie Garber made an academic case
for bisexuality with her 1995 book Vice Versa:
Bisexuality and the
Eroticism of Everyday Life, in which she argued that most people would
be bisexual if not for repression and other factors such as lack of
Brain structure and chromosomes
LeVay's (1991) examination at autopsy of 18 homosexual men, 1 bisexual
man, 16 presumably heterosexual men and 6 presumably heterosexual
women found that the
INAH 3 nucleus of the anterior hypothalamus of
homosexual men was smaller than that of heterosexual men and closer in
size of heterosexual women. Although grouped with homosexuals, the
INAH 3 size of the one bisexual subject was similar to that of the
Some evidence supports the concept of biological precursors of
bisexual orientation in genetic males. According to Money (1988),
genetic males with an extra
Y chromosome are more likely to be
bisexual, paraphilic and impulsive.
Some evolutionary psychologists have argued that same-sex attraction
does not have adaptive value because it has no association with
potential reproductive success. Instead, bisexuality can be due to
normal variation in brain plasticity. More recently, it has been
suggested that same-sex alliances may have helped males climb the
social hierarchy giving access to females and reproductive
opportunities. Same-sex allies could have helped females to move to
the safer and resource richer center of the group, which increased
their chances of raising their offspring successfully.
Brendan Zietsch of the Queensland Institute of Medical Research
proposes the alternative theory that men exhibiting female traits
become more attractive to females and are thus more likely to mate,
provided the genes involved do not drive them to complete rejection of
Also, in a 2008 study, its authors stated that "There is considerable
evidence that human sexual orientation is genetically influenced, so
it is not known how homosexuality, which tends to lower reproductive
success, is maintained in the population at a relatively high
frequency." They hypothesized that "while genes predisposing to
homosexuality reduce homosexuals' reproductive success, they may
confer some advantage in heterosexuals who carry them" and their
results suggested that "genes predisposing to homosexuality may confer
a mating advantage in heterosexuals, which could help explain the
evolution and maintenance of homosexuality in the population."
In Scientific American Mind, the scientist Emily V. Driscoll stated
that homosexual and bisexual behavior is quite common in several
species and that it fosters bonding: "The more homosexuality, the more
peaceful the species". The article also stated: "Unlike most humans,
however, individual animals generally cannot be classified as gay or
straight: an animal that engages in a same-sex flirtation or
partnership does not necessarily shun heterosexual encounters. Rather,
many species seem to have ingrained homosexual tendencies that are a
regular part of their society. That is, there are probably no strictly
gay critters, just bisexual ones. Animals don't do sexual identity.
They just do sex."
Masculinization of women and hypermasculinization of men has been a
central theme in sexual orientation research. There are several
studies suggesting that bisexuals have a high degree of
masculinization. LaTorre and Wendenberg (1983) found differing
personality characteristics for bisexual, heterosexual and homosexual
women. Bisexuals were found to have fewer personal insecurities than
heterosexuals and homosexuals. This finding defined bisexuals as
self-assured and less likely to suffer from mental instabilities. The
confidence of a secure identity consistently translated to more
masculinity than other subjects. This study did not explore societal
norms, prejudices, or the feminization of homosexual males.
In a research comparison, published in the Journal of the Association
for Research in Otolaryngology, women usually have a better hearing
sensitivity than males, assumed by researchers as a genetic
disposition connected to child bearing. Homosexual and bisexual women
have been found to have a hypersensitivity to sound in comparison to
heterosexual women, suggesting a genetic disposition to not tolerate
high pitched tones. While heterosexual, homosexual and bisexual men
have been found to exhibit similar patterns of hearing, there was a
notable differential within a sub-group of males identified as
hyperfeminized homosexual males who exhibited test results similar to
The prenatal hormonal theory of sexual orientation suggests that
people who are exposed to excess levels of sex hormones have
masculinized brains and show increased homosexuality or bisexuality.
Studies providing evidence for the masculinization of the brain have,
however, not been conducted to date. Research on special conditions
such as congenital adrenal hyperplasia (CAH) and exposure to
diethylstilbestrol (DES) indicate that prenatal exposure to,
respectively, excess testosterone and estrogens are associated with
female–female sex fantasies in adults. Both effects are associated
with bisexuality rather than homosexuality.
There is research evidence that the digit ratio of the length of the
2nd and 4th digits (index finger and ring finger) is somewhat
negatively related to prenatal testosterone and positively to
estrogen. Studies measuring the fingers found a statistically
significant skew in the 2D:4D ratio (long ring finger) towards
homosexuality with an even lower ratio in bisexuals. It is suggested
that exposure to high prenatal testosterone and low prenatal estrogen
concentrations is one cause of homosexuality whereas exposure to very
high testosterone levels may be associated with bisexuality. Because
testosterone in general is important for sexual differentiation, this
view offers an alternative to the suggestion that male homosexuality
The prenatal hormonal theory suggests that a homosexual orientation
results from exposure to excessive testosterone causing an
over-masculinized brain. This is contradictory to another hypothesis
that homosexual preferences may be due to a feminized brain in males.
However, it has also been suggested that homosexuality may be due to
high prenatal levels of unbound testosterone that results from a lack
of receptors at particular brain sites. Therefore, the brain could be
feminized while other features, such as the 2D:4D ratio could be
Several studies comparing bisexuals with hetero- or homosexuals have
indicated that bisexuals have higher rates of sexual activity, fantasy
or erotic interest. Van Wyk and Geist (1984) found that male and
female bisexuals had more sexual fantasy than heterosexuals. Dixon
(1985) found that bisexual men had more sexual activities with women
than did heterosexual men. Bisexual men masturbated more but had fewer
happy marriages than heterosexuals. Bressler and Lavender (1986) found
that bisexual women had more orgasms per week and they described them
as stronger than those of hetero- or homosexual women. They also found
that marriages with a bisexual female were happier than heterosexual
unions, observed less instance of hidden infidelity, and ended in
divorce less frequently. Goode and Haber (1977) found bisexual women
to be sexually mature earlier, masturbate and enjoy masturbation more
and to be more experienced in different types of heterosexual
Research suggests that, for most women, high sex drive is associated
with increased sexual attraction to both women and men. For men,
however, high sex drive is associated with increased attraction to one
sex or the other, but not to both, depending on sexual
orientation. Similarly for most bisexual women, high sex drive is
associated with increased sexual attraction to both women and men;
while for bisexual men, high sex drive is associated with increased
attraction to one sex, and weakened attraction to the other.
Main article: Bisexual community
General social impacts
The bisexual community (also known as the bisexual/pansexual,
bi/pan/fluid, or non-monosexual community) includes members of the
LGBT community who identify as bisexual, pansexual or fluid.
Because some bisexual people do not feel that they fit into either the
gay or the heterosexual world, and because they have a tendency to be
"invisible" in public, some bisexual persons are committed to forming
their own communities, culture, and political movements. Some who
identify as bisexual may merge themselves into either homosexual or
heterosexual society. Other bisexual people see this merging as
enforced rather than voluntary; bisexual people can face exclusion
from both homosexual and heterosexual society on coming out.
Psychologist Beth Firestein states that bisexuals tend to internalize
social tensions related to their choice of partners and feel
pressured to label themselves as homosexuals instead of occupying the
difficult middle ground where attraction to people of both sexes would
defy society's value on monogamy. These social tensions and
pressure may affect bisexuals' mental health, and specific therapy
methods have been developed for bisexuals to address this concern.
Bisexual behaviors are also associated in popular culture with men who
engage in same-sex activity while otherwise presenting as
heterosexual. The majority of such men — said to be living on
the down-low — do not self-identify as bisexual. However,
this may be a cultural misperception closely related to that of other
LGBT individuals who hide their actual orientation due to societal
pressures, a phenomenon colloquially called "being closeted".[original
In the U.S., a 2013
Pew survey showed that 28% of bisexuals said that
"all or most of the important people in their life are aware that they
are LGBT" vs. 77% of gay men and 71% of lesbians. Furthermore, when
broken down by gender, only 12% of bisexual men said that they were
"out" vs. 33% of bisexual women.
Perceptions and discrimination
Biphobia and Bisexual erasure
Like people of other
LGBT sexualities, bisexuals often face
discrimination. In addition to the discrimination associated with
homophobia, bisexuals frequently contend with discrimination from gay
men, lesbians, and straight society around the word bisexual and
bisexual identity itself. The belief that everyone is
bisexual (especially women as opposed to men), or that
bisexuality does not exist as a unique identity, is common.
This stems from two views: In the heterosexist view, people are
presumed to be sexually attracted to the opposite sex, and it is
sometimes reasoned that a bisexual person is simply a heterosexual
person who is sexually experimenting. In the monosexist view, it
is believed that people cannot be bisexual unless they are equally
sexually attracted to both sexes, regulating sexual orientation to
being about the sex or gender one prefers. In this view,
people are either exclusively homosexual (gay/lesbian) or exclusively
heterosexual (straight), closeted homosexual people who wish to
appear heterosexual, or heterosexuals who are experimenting with
their sexuality. Assertions that one cannot be bisexual unless
equally sexually attracted to both sexes, however, are disputed by
various researchers, who have reported bisexuality to fall on a
continuum, like sexuality in general.
Male bisexuality is particularly presumed to be non-existent, with
sexual fluidity studies adding to the debate. In 2005, researchers
Gerulf Rieger, Meredith L. Chivers, and
J. Michael Bailey used penile
plethysmography to measure the arousal of self-identified bisexual men
to pornography involving only men and pornography involving only
women. Participants were recruited via advertisements in gay-oriented
magazines and an alternative paper. They found that the
self-identified bisexual men in their sample had genital arousal
patterns similar to either homosexual or heterosexual men. The authors
concluded that "in terms of behavior and identity, bisexual men
clearly exist", but that male bisexuality had not been shown to exist
with respect to arousal or attraction. The assertion of Bailey
that "for men arousal is orientation" was criticized by Fairness and
Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR) as a simplification which neglects to
account for behavior and self-identification. Further, some
researchers hold that the technique used in the study to measure
genital arousal is too crude to capture the richness (erotic
sensations, affection, admiration) that constitutes sexual
National Gay and Lesbian Task Force
National Gay and Lesbian Task Force called the
The New York Times
The New York Times coverage of it flawed and biphobic.
American Institute of Bisexuality
American Institute of Bisexuality stated that Bailey's study was
misinterpreted and misreported by both
The New York Times
The New York Times and its
critics. In 2011, Bailey and other researchers reported that among
men with a history of several romantic and sexual relationships with
members of both sexes, high levels of sexual arousal were found in
response to both male and female sexual imagery. The subjects
were recruited from a
Craigslist group for men seeking intimacy with
both members of a heterosexual couple. The authors said that this
change in recruitment strategy was an important difference, but it may
not have been a representative sample of bisexual-identified men. They
concluded that "bisexual-identified men with bisexual arousal patterns
do indeed exist", but could not establish whether such a pattern is
typical of bisexual-identified men in general.
Bisexual erasure (or bisexual invisibility) is the tendency to ignore,
remove, falsify, or reexplain evidence of bisexuality in culture,
history, academia, news media and other primary sources.
In its most extreme form, bisexual erasure includes denying that
bisexuality exists. It is often a manifestation of
biphobia, although it does not necessarily involve overt
There is increasing inclusion and visibility of bisexuals,
particularly in the
LGBT community. American psychologist Beth
Firestone writes that since she wrote her first book on bisexuality,
in 1996, "bisexuality has gained visibility, although progress is
uneven and awareness of bisexuality is still minimal or absent in many
of the more remote regions of our country and internationally."
The bisexual pride flag.
A common symbol of the bisexual community is the bisexual pride flag,
which has a deep pink stripe at the top for homosexuality, a blue one
on the bottom for heterosexuality, and a purple one, blended from the
pink and blue, in the middle to represent bisexuality.
The overlapping triangles
Another symbol with the same color scheme is a pair of overlapping
pink and blue triangles, the pink triangle being a well-known symbol
for the homosexual community, forming purple where they intersect.
The double moon
Many homosexual and bisexual individuals have a problem with the use
of the pink triangle symbol, as it was the symbol that Hitler's regime
use to tag and persecute homosexuals (similar to the yellow Star of
David constituted of two opposed, overlapping triangles). Therefore, a
double moon symbol was devised specifically to avoid the use of
triangles. The double moon symbol is common in Germany and
surrounding countries. Another symbol used for bisexuality is a
purple diamond, conceptually derived from the intersection of two
triangles, pink and blue (respectively), placed overlapping.
In Steve Lenius' original 2001 paper, he explored the acceptance of
bisexuality in a supposedly pansexual
BDSM community. The reasoning
behind this is that 'coming-out' had become primarily the territory of
the gay and lesbian, with bisexuals feeling the push to be one or the
other (and being right only half the time either way). What he found
in 2001, was that people in
BDSM were open to discussion about the
topic of bisexuality and pansexuality and all controversies they bring
to the table, but personal biases and issues stood in the way of
actively using such labels. A decade later, Lenius (2011) looked back
on his study and considered if anything has changed. He concluded that
the standing of bisexuals in the
BDSM and kink community was
unchanged, and believed that positive shifts in attitude were
moderated by society's changing views towards different sexualities
and orientations. But Lenius (2011) does emphasize that the pansexual
BDSM community helped advance greater acceptance of
Brandy Lin Simula (2012), on the other hand, argues that
resists gender conforming and identified three different types of BDSM
bisexuality: gender-switching, gender-based styles (taking on a
different gendered style depending on gender of partner when playing),
and rejection of gender (resisting the idea that gender matters in
their play partners). Simula (2012) explains that practitioners of
BDSM routinely challenge our concepts of sexuality by pushing the
limits on pre-existing ideas of sexual orientation and gender norms.
BDSM and kink provides a platform in creating identities
that are fluid, ever-changing.
Feminist positions on bisexuality range greatly, from acceptance of
bisexuality as a feminist issue to rejection of bisexuality as
reactionary and anti-feminist backlash to lesbian feminism. A
number of women who were at one time involved in lesbian-feminist
activism have since come out as bisexual after realizing their
attractions to men. A widely studied example of lesbian-bisexual
conflict within feminism was the Northampton Pride March during the
years between 1989 and 1993, where many feminists involved debated
over whether bisexuals should be included and whether or not
bisexuality was compatible with feminism.
Common lesbian-feminist critiques leveled at bisexuality were that
bisexuality was anti-feminist, that bisexuality was a form of false
consciousness, and that bisexual women who pursue relationships with
men were "deluded and desperate." Tensions between bisexual feminists
and lesbian feminists have eased since the 1990s, as bisexual women
have become more accepted within the feminist community, but some
lesbian feminists such as
Julie Bindel are still critical of
bisexuality. Bindel has described female bisexuality as a "fashionable
trend" being promoted due to "sexual hedonism" and broached the
question of whether bisexuality even exists. She has also made
tongue-in-cheek comparisons of bisexuals to cat fanciers and devil
Sheila Jeffreys writes in The
Lesbian Heresy that
while many feminists are comfortable working alongside gay men, they
are uncomfortable interacting with bisexual men. Jeffreys states that
while gay men are unlikely to sexually harass women, bisexual men are
just as likely to be bothersome to women as heterosexual men.
Donna Haraway was the inspiration and genesis for cyberfeminism with
her 1985 essay "A Cyborg Manifesto: Science, Technology, and
Socialist-Feminism in the Late Twentieth Century" which was reprinted
in Simians, Cyborgs and Women: The Reinvention of Nature (1991).
Haraway's essay states that the cyborg "has no truck with bisexuality,
pre-oedipal symbiosis, unalienated labor, or other seductions to
organic wholeness through a final appropriation of all powers of the
parts into a higher unity." However, the book Feminist Essays
(2017) by Nancy Quinn Collins states that in the opinion of its author
this "is wrong because bisexuality is a sexual orientation, a harmless
attraction some people simply have, not something they try to have or
do in order to create organic wholeness through a final appropriation
of all powers of the parts into a higher unity. Therefore, I [the
author] would say that cyborgs can be bisexual, and cyberfeminism can
and should be accepting of bisexuality."
A bisexual woman filed a lawsuit against the magazine Common
Lesbian Lives, alleging discrimination against bisexuals when
her submission was not published.
History of bisexuality
Bisexuality in the United States
Shudo (Japanese pederasty): a young male entertains an older male
lover, covering his eyes while surreptitiously kissing a female
Homosexuality in ancient Greece and
Young man and teenager engaging in intercrural sex, fragment of a
black-figure Attic cup, 550 BC–525 BC, Louvre.
Ancient Greeks and Romans did not associate sexual relations with
binary labels, as modern Western society does. Men who had male lovers
were not identified as homosexual, and may have had wives or other
Ancient Greek religious texts, reflecting cultural practices,
incorporated bisexual themes. The subtexts varied, from the mystical
to the didactic. Spartans thought that love and erotic
relationships between experienced and novice soldiers would solidify
combat loyalty and unit cohesion, and encourage heroic tactics as men
vied to impress their lovers. Once the younger soldiers reached
maturity, the relationship was supposed to become non-sexual, but it
is not clear how strictly this was followed. There was some stigma
attached to young men who continued their relationships with their
mentors into adulthood. For example,
Aristophanes calls them
euryprôktoi, meaning "wide arses", and depicts them like women.
Similarly, in ancient Rome, gender did not determine whether a sexual
partner was acceptable, as long as a man's enjoyment did not encroach
on another's man integrity. It was expected and socially acceptable
for a freeborn Roman man to want sex with both female and male
partners, as long as he took the penetrative role. The morality of
the behavior depended on the social standing of the partner, not
gender per se. Both women and young men were considered normal objects
of desire, but outside marriage a man was supposed to act on his
desires only with slaves, prostitutes (who were often slaves), and the
infames. It was immoral to have sex with another freeborn man's wife,
his marriageable daughter, his underage son, or with the man himself;
sexual use of another man's slave was subject to the owner's
permission. Lack of self-control, including in managing one's sex
life, indicated that a man was incapable of governing others; too much
indulgence in "low sensual pleasure" threatened to erode the elite
male's identity as a cultured person.
Main article: Media portrayals of bisexuality
Bisexuality tends to be associated with negative media portrayals;
references are sometimes made to stereotypes or mental disorders. In
an article regarding the 2005 film Brokeback Mountain, sex educator
Amy Andre argued that in films, bisexuals are often depicted
I like movies where bisexuals come out to each other together and fall
in love, because these tend to be so few and far between; the most
recent example would be 2002's lovely romantic comedy, Kissing Jessica
Stein. Most movies with bi characters paint a stereotypical
picture.... The bi love interest is usually deceptive (Mulholland
Drive), over-sexed (
Sex Monster), unfaithful (High Art), and fickle
(Three of Hearts), and might even be a serial killer, like Sharon
Stone in Basic Instinct. In other words, the bisexual is always the
cause of the conflict in the film.
— Amy Andre, American Sexuality Magazine
Using a content analysis of more than 170 articles written between
2001 and 2006, sociologist Richard N. Pitt, Jr. concluded that the
media pathologized black bisexual men's behavior while either ignoring
or sympathizing with white bisexual men's similar actions. He argued
that the black bisexual is often described as a duplicitous
heterosexual man spreading the HIV/AIDS virus. Alternatively, the
"Brokeback" white bisexual is often described in pitying language as a
victimized homosexual man forced into the closet by the heterosexist
society around him.
Angelina Jolie is an openly bisexual American actress.
In 1914 the first documented appearance of bisexual characters (female
and male) in an American motion picture occurred in A Florida
Enchantment, by Sidney Drew. However, due to the censorship
legally required by the Hays Code, the word bisexual could not be
mentioned and almost no bisexual characters appeared in American film
from 1934 until 1968.
Notable portrayals of bisexuality can be found throughout mainstream
media in movies such as Black Swan, Frida, Showgirls, The Pillow Book,
Alexander, The Rocky Horror Picture Show, Henry and June, Chasing Amy,
Velvet Goldmine, Kissing Jessica Stein, The Fourth Man, Basic
Instinct, Mulholland Drive, Sunday Bloody Sunday, Something for
Everyone, The Rules of Attraction, and Brokeback Mountain.
Virginia Woolf's Orlando: A Biography (1928) is an early example of
bisexuality in literature. The story, of a man who changes into a
woman without a second thought, was based on the life of Woolf's lover
Vita Sackville-West. Woolf used the gender switch to avoid the book
being banned for homosexual content. The pronouns switch from male to
female as Orlando's gender changes. Woolf's lack of definite pronouns
allows for ambiguity and lack of emphasis on gender labels. Her
Mrs Dalloway focused on a bisexual man and a bisexual woman
in sexually unfulfilled heterosexual marriages in later life.
Following Sackille-West's death, her son
Nigel Nicolson published
Portrait of a Marriage, one of her diaries recounting her affair with
a woman during her marriage to Harold Nicolson. Other early examples
include works of D.H. Lawrence, such as
Women in Love
Women in Love (1920), and
Colette's Claudine (1900–1903) series.
The main character in Patrick White's novel, The Twyborn Affair
(1979), is bisexual. Contemporary novelist Bret Easton Ellis' novels,
such as Less Than Zero (1985) and
The Rules of Attraction (1987)
frequently feature bisexual male characters; this "casual approach" to
bisexual characters recurs throughout Ellis' work.
David Bowie famously declared himself bisexual in an
Melody Maker in January 1972, a move coinciding with
the first shots in his campaign for stardom as Ziggy Stardust. In
a September 1976 interview with Playboy, Bowie said, "It's true—I am
a bisexual. But I can't deny that I've used that fact very well. I
suppose it's the best thing that ever happened to me." In a 1983
interview, he said it was "the biggest mistake I ever made",
elaborating in 2002 he explained "I don't think it was a mistake in
Europe, but it was a lot tougher in America. I had no problem with
people knowing I was bisexual. But I had no inclination to hold any
banners or be a representative of any group of people. I knew what I
wanted to be, which was a songwriter and a performer [...] America is
a very puritanical place, and I think it stood in the way of so much I
wanted to do."
Freddie Mercury was also open about his bisexuality,
though did not publicly discuss his relationships.
Jill Sobule sang about bi-curiosity in her song "I Kissed a
Girl", with a video that alternated images of Sobule and a boyfriend
along with images of her with a girlfriend. Another song with the same
Katy Perry also hints at the same theme. Some activists
suggest the song merely reinforces the stereotype of bisexuals
experimenting and of bisexuality not being a real sexual preference.
Lady Gaga has also stated that she is bisexual, and has
acknowledged that her song "Poker Face" is about fantasizing about a
woman while being with a man.
Brian Molko, lead singer of Placebo is openly bisexual. Green Day
Billie Joe Armstrong
Billie Joe Armstrong has also identified himself as bisexual,
saying in a 1995 interview with The Advocate, "I think I've always
been bisexual. I mean, it's something that I've always been interested
in. I think people are born bisexual, and it's just that our parents
and society kind of veer us off into this feeling of 'Oh, I can't.'
They say it's taboo. It's ingrained in our heads that it's bad, when
it's not bad at all. It's a very beautiful thing." In 2014
Armstrong discussed songs such as "Coming Clean" stating, "It was a
song about questioning myself. There are these other feelings you may
have about the same sex, the opposite sex, especially being in
Berkeley and San Francisco then. People are acting out what they're
feeling: gay, bisexual, transgender, whatever. And that opens up
something in society that becomes more acceptable. Now we have gay
marriage becoming recognized... I think it's a process of discovery. I
was willing to try anything."
See also: List of
LGBT characters in television and radio
Netflix original series
Orange is the New Black
Orange is the New Black the main
character, Piper Chapman, played by actress Taylor Schilling, is a
bisexual female inmate who is shown having relationships with both men
and women. In season one, before entering the prison, Piper is engaged
to male fiancé Larry Bloom, played by actor Jason Biggs. Then, upon
entering the prison, she reconnects with former lover (and fellow
inmate), Alex Vause, played by Laura Prepon. Another
character who is portrayed as bisexual in the show is an inmate named
Lorna Morello, played by actress Yael Stone. She has an intimate
relationship with fellow inmate Nicky Nichols, played by Natasha
Lyonne, while still yearning for her male “fiance”, Christopher
MacLaren, played by Stephen O'Reilly.
The FOX television series House features a bisexual female doctor,
Remy "Thirteen" Hadley, played by Olivia Wilde, from season four
onwards. The same network had earlier aired the television series The
O.C., which for a time featured bisexual Alex Kelly (also played by
Olivia Wilde), the local rebellious hangout spot's manager, as a love
interest of Marissa Cooper. In the
HBO drama Oz,
Chris Keller was
a bisexual serial killer who tortured and raped various men and women.
Other films in which bisexual characters conceal murderous neuroses
include Black Widow, Blue Velvet, Cruising, Single White Female, and
Girl, Interrupted.
Beginning with the 2009 season, MTV's
The Real World
The Real World series featured
two bisexual characters, Emily Schromm, and Mike
The Showcase supernatural crime drama, Lost Girl, about creatures
called Fae who live secretly among humans, features a bisexual
protagonist, Bo, played by Anna Silk. In the story arc she is
involved in a love triangle between Dyson, a wolf-shapeshifter (played
by Kris Holden-Ried), and Lauren Lewis, a human doctor (played by
Zoie Palmer) in servitude to the leader of the Light Fae clan.
BBC TV science fiction show Torchwood, several of the main
characters appear to have fluid sexuality. Most prominent among these
is Captain Jack Harkness, a pansexual who is the lead character and an
otherwise conventional science fiction action hero. Within the logic
of the show, where characters can also interact with alien species,
producers sometimes use the term "omnisexual" to describe him.
Jack's ex, Captain John Hart is also bisexual. Of his female
exes, significantly at least one ex-wife and at least one woman with
whom he has had a child have been indicated. Some critics draw the
conclusion that the series more often shows Jack with men than
Russell T Davies
Russell T Davies says one of pitfalls of writing a
bisexual character is you "fall into the trap" of "only having them
sleep with men." He describes of the show's fourth series, "You'll see
the full range of his appetites, in a really properly done way."
The preoccupation with bisexuality has been seen by critics as
complementary to other aspects of the show's themes. For heterosexual
character Gwen Cooper, for whom Jack harbors romantic feelings, the
new experiences she confronts at Torchwood, in the form of "affairs
and homosexuality and the threat of death", connote not only the Other
but a "missing side" to the Self. Under the influence of an alien
pheromone, Gwen kisses a woman in Episode 2 of the series. In Episode
Owen Harper kisses a man to escape a fight when he is
about to take the man's girlfriend. Quiet
Toshiko Sato is in love with
Owen, but has also had brief romantic relationships with a female
alien and a male human. British newspaper The Sun ran the headline "Dr
Ooh gets four gay pals" prior to the first series, describing all of
Torchwood's cast as being bisexual.
In October 2009, "A Rose By Any Other Name" was released as a
"webisode" series on YouTube. Directed by bisexual rights advocate
Kyle Schickner, the plot centers around a lesbian-identified
woman who falls in love with a straight man and discovers she is
Among other animals
Main article: Animal sexual behaviour
See also: Homosexual behavior in animals
Many non-human animal species exhibit bisexual behavior.
Examples of mammals that display such behavior include the bonobo
(formerly known as the pygmy chimpanzee), orca, and the bottlenose
dolphin. Examples of birds include some species of
gulls and Humboldt penguins. Other examples of bisexual behavior occur
among fish and flatworms.
Many species of animals are involved in the acts of forming sexual and
non-sexual relationship bonds between the same sex; even when offered
the opportunity to breed with members of the opposite sex, they pick
the same sex. Some of these species are gazelles, antelope, bison, and
In some cases, animals will choose to engage in sexual activity with
different sexes at different times in their lives, and will sometimes
engage in sexual activity with different sexes at random. Same-sex
sexual activity can also be seasonal in some animals, like male
walruses who often engage in same-sex sexual activity with each other
outside of the breeding season and will revert to heterosexual sexual
activity during breeding season.
Journal of Bisexuality
List of bisexual characters in literature
List of bisexual people
List of gay, lesbian or bisexual people
List of LGBT-related organizations
List of media portrayals of bisexuality
Situational sexual behavior
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