As a Classical Studies major, I read a great majority of material — both contemporary and ancient — that not only speaks to bisexuality and other sexualties in antiquity; it promotes it. I’ve read more historiographies and articles about bisexuality amongst the ancient Greeks than I’m sure exists on fan-fiction sites for Orange Is The New Black. But while TV dramas and some comedies portray gay and/or lesbian partners living the homonormative American Dream, for bisexuals, such is not the case. And the same can be said for those of us fluid on the scale of sexuality. In antiquity, women slept with women and older men even taught younger men the ways of love-making. People still got married, had families, and continued to sleep with people of the same sex. It was the norm, and it’s one of the few things we haven’t adopted from the ancient Greeks.
If you’ve ever met, befriended or dated a bisexual, then you’ve probably asked the question: “Why?” As in, “Why do you like both men and women?” or “Which one do you like better?” As though men and women were two different flavors somehow a bisexual person has to choose between one or the other. I’ve heard bisexuality compared to chocolate and vanilla ice cream, which may sound comical but it’s actually just ridiculous. “Why can’t you just like chocolate and STICK with chocolate?” What if I don’t want to stick with chocolate ice cream all the time? What if I’d like to try vanilla? And what if vanilla is a woman and chocolate is a man and maybe, just maybe, I’d like a little bit of both? With sprinkles?
I may not be speaking on behalf of all bisexuals every where, however, I believe it’s fair to assume that bisexuals will agree when I say that we are given a pretty terrible rep when it comes to sexuality. Some straight people can’t understand us, and some homosexual individuals can’t understand why we won’t just pick a side. If sexuality was a turf-war, both straight and homosexual people would be fighting over us bisexuals like we were Switzerland. But bisexuality isn’t about being neutral, and the problem here isn’t that people can’t accept bisexualty; it’s that they truly don’t understand it.
As a bisexual female, I have dated both males and females. If bisexuality can be summed up definitively as an attraction to both sexes, then it seems pretty simple that a bisexual person (whether male or female) would want to be with someone from either sex.
Though I have tried in earnest to explain my own bisexuality to friends, past partners, etc. the main theme I see reoccurring is that men, moreso than women, simply do not understand my bisexuality. Why, you ask? There’s no definitive response here. I’ve been told that bisexuality is confusing, there’s no rationale to it, you’re either straight or you’re not. I’ve even been told that bisexuality is to sex what agnosticism is to religion: it’s a fence, and you’re on it. But who put me on this fence, and why should I remain perched there? Out of the many people I’ve discussed sexuality with (most of whom have been partners), men seem to be the most misunderstanding of bisexuality. Sure, two girls having sexual intercourse is hot, but only if it’s part of a threesome or depicted in a sex scene like those steamy ones you see in movies the likes of Blue Is The Warmest Color. When it comes down to the nitty-gritty, a lesbian may not be willing to date a bisexual female long term but no man wants his girlfriend leaving him for another woman.
As my current boyfriend has mentioned on more than one occasion, bisexuality is “scary” to men because they know they can’t give a woman what another woman can. Just like women can’t give men what another man can. Confusing? Sure, for those who don’t understand bisexuality. Another issue I come across when I reveal to partners (specifically, the male ones) that I’ve had relationships with other women, is their immediate fear that our relationship is not and cannot be permanent, or satisfactory. Somehow, because I’ve swung both ways, this means that I will not be totally satisfied with a man for the long term and, wouldn’t you know it, this causes an insecurity in them that stems far beyond just my own self.
Bisexuality has been so loosely defined, and misappropriated, that now it simply represents “bicurious” youths who simply want to “experiment,” or drunk girls who make out with their best friends in bars on a Friday night. Maybe because they’ve been asked to by a hot guy buying them drinks, or maybe because they truly enjoy it. Who knows. It doesn’t change the fact, though, that when it comes to dating a bisexual, people are afraid. “Bisexual” is a term that has been stigmatized, and for heteronormativity, it means the opposite of “monogamy,” “fidelity,” and any other word or definition associated with relational loyalty. Just like the term “feminism,” people have their own differing views and definitions of bisexuality. What makes it difficult for cisgendered, straight individuals to deal with, is the idea that bisexuality equates to non-permanence. As much as a man may appreciate a woman for her independence and her self-knowledge, when a woman likes both sexes, there becomes the issue of choice. Which one do you choose? Why? Are you going to leave me for a woman? And, can this last forever?
The truth is, bisexuality is less about experimenting, more about knowing what makes you tick and, more importantly, what makes you happy. Despite the fact that media, society, and other outside influences like to categorize people based on things like sexuality, most people who don’t fall into the “norm” category (i.e. homosexuals and bisexuals) don’t view themselves as “different” from other people. If you’re not homophobic, but you can’t accept bisexuality, then are you biphobic?
If a bisexual woman is genuinely happy with her male partner, is that not enough? If relationships don’t always last forever, why are people so misunderstanding about bisexuality? Various articles telling you “how to date a bisexual” and other advice pieces try to expel the notion that bisexuality is real and often aim to make you enjoy having a partner that is sexually “open.”
For me, however, bisexuality isn’t about defining me sexually: just because I’ve been with women, doesn’t mean I want to be with them whilst dating a man. If a lesbian isn’t defined by her sexuality, why do we define bisexuals by their sexuality? Or, rather, their apparent ‘inability” to “pick a side?” Bisexuality isn’t simply a phase; it’s part of who you are as a person. it simply means being yourself. Whomever that is.