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Dating Mating Sex and Reproduction

Study: Gay, Straight, or Lying

A study, soon to be published in the journal Psychological Science, appears to have laid the groundwork for a serious challenge to the concept of bisexuality in men.  Researchers showed male participants erotic movies and measured their physiological responses.  It turns out that across the board, people who displayed significant sexual response were approximately four times more turned on by one sex than the other.  Even self-identified bisexuals.

Ok.  Now the disclaimers.  This is a preliminary study, and the results need to be repeated with larger sample sizes before we jump on the bandwagon.  Also, this only addresses one aspect of attraction.  The business of falling in love is more complicated than getting a boner.  So nobody’s suggesting that everyone who claims to be bisexual is lying.

In fact, previous research indicates that bisexuality may be a real and even relatively normal thing in women:

About 1.5 percent of American women identify themselves bisexual. And bisexuality appears easier to demonstrate in the female sex. A study published last November by the same team of Canadian and American researchers, for example, found that most women who said they were bisexual showed arousal to men and to women.

Although only a small number of women identify themselves as bisexual, Dr. Bailey said, bisexual arousal may for them in fact be the norm.

A recent blog on OKCupid lends credence to the findings.

OkCupid is a gay- and bi-friendly place and it’s not our intention here to call into question anyone’s sexual identity. But when we looked into messaging trends by sexuality, we were very surprised at what we found. People who describe themselves as bisexual overwhelmingly message either one sex or the other, not both as you might expect.

More specifically, only 23% of bi’s sent messages to both females and males.  Of course, there are some problems with this data.  It could be that lots of bi people are using OKCupid to find a lover to add to an existing twosome.  Also, dating site data doesn’t represent a random sample.  However, crunching more data does lead to some intuitively appealing conclusions:

…throughout the teens and twenties, the male bisexual population is mostly observably gay men. By the mid-thirties, it seems, most of these men are more comfortable self-identifying as gay and have left the bi population. By the end of our chart, 3 of every 4 bi males on OkCupid are observably straight. Meanwhile, the proportion of men who message both women and other men holds fairly steady.

This suggests that bisexuality is often either a hedge for gay people or a label adopted by straights to appear more sexually adventurous to their (straight) matches.

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that even in our relatively gay-adverse culture, young gays would still find it more socially acceptable to call themselves bi.  In the hyper-sexualized teens and twenties, it also makes sense that women have trouble finding a mate (thus the dating site) would fib a little bit to give the idea that they are sexually adventurous.   I believe this data — even with its obvious limitations — represents a real phenomenon.  Even though the scientific study only addresses bisexuality in men, the trends on OKCupid were extremely similar in women.

This leads us to more questions.  Is there a significant population of women who have suffered abuse from men and chosen to be bisexual to gain the non-sexual benefits of a relationship with another woman and avoid the mental trauma of being with another man?  What about cultural pressure to be “experimental?”  (Have you heard of L.U.G.s?  That’s “Lesbian Until Graduation.”)  What are we supposed to do with the small but significant population of men who identify as bi but are turned on by women only?  I honestly don’t know what to think about that group.  Do any readers have an idea?

Also, what do we do with this data?  Twelve percent of females on OKCupid identify as bisexual, while only 1.5% identified as such in the scientific study.  Are bisexual women flocking exponentially to dating sites?  Are ten percent of women wrong in thinking themselves straight?

Do any of my readers consider yourselves bisexual?  Do you genuinely get turned on sexually (boner or vagina tingle) watching or thinking about both sexes?  I’m not talking about watching straight sex and thinking both participants are hot.  Can you watch males only and females only and get equally turned on by both?  If you are not equally sexually aroused by both sexes, what does it mean to you to be bisexual?



4 thoughts on “Study: Gay, Straight, or Lying

  1. I heard this study before, and once considered myself bisexual, but now comfortably identify as homosexual. I think I did it primarily for social reasons. It’s easier for family to accept you when you’re bi, as you might fulfill the heteronormative lifestyle. I used feelings like getting aroused when deep kissed by women to justify the bisexual label, but very few things aroused me that allegedly aroused straight men, such as female only porn. The thought of giving oral sex to women is repulsive, but not giving it to men.

    Posted by MKandefer | July 20, 2010, 4:31 pm
  2. I consider myself very heterosexual, but comfortable enough with who and what I am to say that there are exceptions to every rule. Call it a misfiring synapse or a hormonal imbalance; call it what you will, but there have been times in my life when I’ve appreciated male beauty for more than simple aesthetics. If I may be frank, I’m a happily monogamous heterosexual male, but I’ll still admit to being curious even without attraction.
    I think that physiological attraction is a substantial part of the mating puzzle (it is for me, anyway), but it’s too cut and dry to say that biological arousal and sexual attraction are the same thing. We have our reasons, both conscious and unconscious, for doing who we do. A mouth feels the same either way, and a mental/emotional attraction to a person is as powerful a motivator as any.

    Posted by Peter R | July 22, 2010, 1:31 pm
  3. Thanks, Peter. Great points, all. You’ve done a great job of highlighting the disconnect between love, sex, and attraction, all of which can exist separately, but each of which is an integral part of the “complete relationship” we tend to seek.

    Posted by hambydammit | July 22, 2010, 1:53 pm
  4. I don’t think anybody is 100% hetero or homo sexual.

    For myself, despite my views on the portrayal of women in the media,I still find some of those images images homoerotic.

    I think that this identifying as bi is more confusion and pigeon holing that you are suppose to be 100% hetero or homo sexual and any deviation makes you bi, which is of course not the case.

    Posted by cptpineapple | July 22, 2010, 8:14 pm

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