CONTENT NOTE FOR SEXUAL VIOLENCE, INTIMATE PARTNER VIOLENCE, BIPHOBIA
I feel like I write this article every year.
In 2016, when I authored the Invisible Majority report.
In 2017, when #MeToo tore through the entertainment industry.
In 2018, when Queerty ran a piece titled “Why does bisexuality make us so uncomfortable?”
In 2019, when I answered the questions of bi+ women wondering if they’re “bi enough” to call themselves bisexual.
And now, in 2021, when Evan Rachel Wood confirmed the open secret that Brian Warner (aka Marilyn Manson) was the person to whom Wood had alluded for years — the person who raped her. The person who subjected her to constant sexual and physical violence.
I’m fucking tired of writing this article. And I know I’m not the only one. Here’s Lo Shearing in The Independent. Here’s Reina Gattuso in Teen Vogue. Here’s Zachary Zane for Bi.Org. Here’s Nicole Johnson and MaryBeth Grove in the Journal of Bisexuality. Here’s Sarah Head in the new book Intimate Partner Violence and the LGBT+ Community. Here’s Lynn Addington, a Professor in the Department of Justice, Law & Criminology at American University, writing for the University of Minnesota’s Gender Policy Report.
Same stats, over and over. I know them by heart.
From the Centers on Disease Control and Prevention, 2010 Findings on Victimization by Sexual Orientation:
- Forty-four percent of lesbian women, 61% of bisexual women, and 35% of heterosexual women experienced rape, physical violence, and/or stalking by an intimate partner in their lifetime.
- Twenty-six percent of gay men, 37% of bisexual men, and 29% of heterosexual men experienced rape, physical violence, and/or stalking by an intimate partner at some point in their lifetime.
- Approximately 1 in 8 lesbian women (13%), nearly half of bisexual women (46%), and 1 in 6 heterosexual women (17%) have been raped in their lifetime. This translates to an estimated 214,000 lesbian women, 1.5 million bisexual women, and 19 million heterosexual women.
- Four in 10 gay men (40%), nearly half of bisexual men (47%), and 1 in 5 heterosexual men (21%) have experienced SV other than rape in their lifetime. This translates into nearly 1.1 million gay men, 903,000 bisexual men, and 21.6 million heterosexual men.
- Of those women who have been raped, almost half of bisexual women (48%) and more than a quarter of heterosexual women (28%) experienced their first completed rape between the ages of 11 and 17 years.
- Approximately one-fifth of self-identified lesbian and heterosexual women (20% and 22%, respectively) and one-half of bisexual women (48%) reported they were concerned for their safety and/or reported at least one post-traumatic stress disorder symptom (20%, 46%, and 22%, respectively).
- Nearly 1 in 3 bisexual women (37%) and 1 in 7 heterosexual women (16%) were injured as a result of rape, physical violence, and/or stalking by an intimate partner.
Sixty-one percent of bisexual women experienced rape, physical violence, and/or stalking by an intimate partner in their lifetime. Nearly half of bisexual women (46%) have been raped in their lifetime.
WHAT DO I DO WITH THIS INFORMATION??
How do I hold this information in my body? The body that has also experienced sexual violence. The body that has, in the past, held my friend’s bodies, their hands, their trauma as they told me stories of their own assaults — whispered stories, shouted stories, secret stories, “was this enough” stories, “was I really raped” stories, “but I was drunk” stories, “but he told me I deserved it” stories.
Sometimes I feel like the data makes it worse; the data confirms what we suspected all along.
Violet* reached out to me on Twitter. In November, Violet was able to leave her abusive relationship, her first same-gender relationship with a woman who ended up gaslighting Violet and weaponizing her sexual orientation. I asked her how her story made her feel about her bisexuality. “I am now hesitant to pursue relationships with other people because I feel even more fragile and unsure about being bi+ than I was before coming out. My situation didn’t “look” like the abuse that I had seen on TV or in movies, so it took reading an article my mom sent me about coercive control for me to allow myself to accept the reality of what was going on, and start taking steps to leave.”
I’m sharing Violet’s story because she shared it with me, but I must also provide the context that Violet’s story is very rare. The vast majority (95% in one study) of perpetrators of intimate partner violence against women are male. I often hear from survivors whose perpetrators were female and I think it may be a call for validity. “Am I a survivor if my perpetrator was female?” Of course. You are. You are a survivor.
Male violence in the United States is an epidemic that ties Marilyn Manson directly to the insurrection on January 6th, a connection built on the living bodies of bisexual people, with a quick stop by AOC’s recent video connecting her own experience of sexual violence with the terror she felt during the insurgence.
Alex DiBranco is executive director of the Institute for Research on Male Supremacism. She’s written extensively about the connections between misogyny, male supremacy, and intimate partner violence. In her piece Mobilizing Misogyny, DiBranco details how anti-feminism infects Men’s Rights Movements with rhetoric openly advocating for violence against women.
The virulent misogyny promoted by male supremacists, often couched as anti-feminism and accompanied by racism and nativism, has serious repercussions that play out on a global stage. In 1989, Marc Lépine killed 14 women at an engineering school in Montreal under the guise of “fighting feminism.” In 2009, George Sodini killed three women and then himself at a fitness class in Pennsylvania, leaving behind a website that complained about being rejected by women (and leading PUAs to coin the term “going Sodini”). Anders Breivik murdered 77 adults and children in Norway in 2011, leaving behind a manifesto attacking “the radical feminist agenda,” Islam, political correctness, and “Cultural Marxism” (see David Neiwart’s article in this issue). And in May 2014, Elliot Rodger set out to “slaughter every single spoiled, stuck-up blonde slut” at the “hottest” sorority at the University of California, Santa Barbara, writing, “I don’t know why you girls aren’t attracted to me, but I will punish you for it.” He ultimately killed six people and himself, though he failed to make it inside the sorority.
Violence against bisexual women fits perfectly into this narrative: a group that is over-sexualized by mainstream media and isolated from community support. The ideal target for male supremacist anger and violence. Sarah Head explores the particular vulnerability of bisexual people to intimate partner violence in her new book chapter. “For instance, an abused person will experience a sense of dissonance when their experience and their beliefs about what a relationship should be conflict with each other. So, when a partner, for example, threatens to “out” a bisexual person to their children’s school to undermine how their parenting is viewed, this behavior conflicts with an abused person’s belief that their partner acts in their family’s best interest. Such an abusive tactic will evoke a degree of discomfort (or dissonance) for the abused person.”
Nicole Johnson and MaryBeth Grove offer a comprehensive theory of the outsized vulnerability that bisexual women face. (With the caveat from me that while substance use and alcohol use may be correlative to an increased vulnerability to intimate partner violence, that does not mean that if bisexual women were to decrease their substance use or alcohol use, that this would reduce their vulnerability to violence.)
The limited research to date points to several vulnerability factors, including: a cultural milieu prone to hypersexualization, objectification, and dehumanization of bisexual women; stereotypical understandings of bisexuality in women that may engender negative appraisals and resulting aggression toward this group; and an increased risk of problematic substance use, or negative consequences associated with one’s use of alcohol and/or other substances, in this population, possibly as a result of the aforementioned risk factors.
Evan Rachel Wood has talked openly about her vulnerability to Brian Warner’s abusive tactics. Wood and other accusers have come out publicly about Warner’s torture and manipulation, and his insistence on total control and sexual availability.
Wood’s bravery cannot be understated.
Violet, like me, is incredibly proud to call Evan Rachel Wood family. This is because Evan Rachel Wood saved Violet’s life. “The only reason that I am out of my abusive relationship now is because of Evan Rachel Wood. My mom went to a talk hosted by a legislative advocate that is working with ERW to extent the statute of limitations for domestic violence, at which the concept of coercive control was discussed. I had discussed some of my issues with my mom, and she had concerns of her own, so when she heard the talk a lightbulb went off and she sent me an article about it.”
*Violet’s name has been changed.