Updated: Apr 1, 2021
What Does Bisexual Actually Mean?
When you hear the term “bisexual”, what are some of the things that come to mind? What are some associations that we as a society have with the term, and with people that identify as bisexual? Bisexual people tend to face their own unique stereotypes and prejudice that are distinct from other members of queer society. Let’s delve into the truth behind these myths and assumptions about bisexual folks, and discuss why they are both untrue, and harmful.
First of all, let’s define what the term “bisexual” means. Bisexuality is a term that describes physical, romantic, or sexual attraction that is not limited to a single sex or gender. There is also often some contention around the term, and some people prefer “pansexual” as an alternative, but at its heart, they both mean the same thing, and are equally valid identities.
Myth 1: "All bisexual people are exactly 50/50 in their attraction to men and women."
One of the most common misconceptions about bisexuality is that it means a 50/50 split of attraction to (usually cis) men and women. One of the issues with this is that it completely ignores the potential for attraction to trans and nonbinary folks. Moreover, this is one of the most pervasive myths, and is often mentioned as a reason someone is unsure if they are “bisexual enough” for the label. There is no one correct way to be bisexual!
If you have only ever dated men, but have occasionally experienced attraction to women - no problem! If you have only dated men so far, but feel attraction to others - great! If you haven’t dated anyone, or had sex at all, but find all genders sexy - fabulous! There are as many ways to be bisexual as there are bisexual people, and all of them are valid. The only thing bisexual people have in common is that they are attracted to more than one gender.
Myth 2: "Bisexual people are just looking for attention."
Another common perception of bisexual women specifically is that they are doing it “for attention” (usually from cis men). Being bisexual, or any sexual orientation, is not something performative that is done “for” someone else. This is a good example of the way our mainstream society denies womens’ desires and sexuality, and re-centers cis-hetero male desires. Tropes like this one have lead to imagery, pop culture references, and porn of bisexual or even lesbian women engaging in their sexuality for the benefit of a man, which has lead to confusion regarding what even is considered normal sexual behaviour in femme relationships.
Bisexual folks are not inherently more or less sexual than anyone else, and how interested a person is in sex is always a fluctuating thing - regardless of sexual identity.
Myth 3: "Bisexuals are just sex obsessed!"
Next up in “bi myth bingo”, is the assumption that bi people are obsessed with sex, and are unable to maintain monogamous relationships; there is a lot to unpack here!
The hyper-sexualisation of queer identities shows up in many different places, and forms, and has always been used to justify all kinds of discrimination towards the queer community. Bisexual folks are not inherently more or less sexual than anyone else, and how interested a person is in sex is always a fluctuating thing - regardless of sexual identity. Bisexuals are not any more likely to cheat, or desire multiple relationships than other orientations - bisexuality is about who you are attracted to, not how you date, or what kind of relationships you prefer. A good thing to note: a bisexual person’s sexuality does not change when they get married!
Myth 4: "Bisexual people can't have friendships because they want to have sex with everyone!"
Something that bisexual people often hear is that bi people are unable to have real friendships, because they’re attracted to everyone! This is one of the more ridiculous myths, which falls apart at even the slightest bit of scrutiny, and tells you more about how the person saying it views friendships than it does about bisexual relationships! By this logic, lesbians couldn’t have other female friends, straight women couldn’t have male friends...you can see how silly this becomes, almost immediately. Being attracted to more than one gender doesn’t mean that you find EVERYONE attractive, nor does it mean that you only view those of the genders you are attracted to as potential partners.
Myth 5: "All bisexuals want threesomes!"
Lastly, let’s review one of the oldest, most cringe-worthy assumptions: All bi people want threesomes! Let’s be honest, this particular trope is usually brought up by hetero men who see dating a bi woman as their free pass to their fantasy of having sex with multiple women at once. Bi women (and bi people in general) are more than just vessels to provide others with their sexual fantasies - as we mentioned above, being bi is about who you are attracted to, but not a signifier of how many people you’d like to date, have sex with, or be involved with at once. Let’s put this old tale to rest at last!
"They often experience being “too straight” for the gay or lesbian parts of the community, but “too gay” for the straight community..."
Biphobia and Bierasure
So as you can see, biphobia manifests in many different ways, and this is often accompanied by a struggle to be visible or accepted in both the straight and the queer communities. They often experience being “too straight” for the gay or lesbian parts of the community, but “too gay” for the straight community, in addition to various forms of biphobia, like we’ve covered here. Hopefully now that you know some of the usual ways that biphobia comes up, you’ll be able to fight it in your own lives and conversations!
What biphobic myths have you heard? Let us know in the comments!
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