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?