The Journalistic Quest to Write An Accurate Story About Bisexuality

The New York Times doesn’t have a shining history when it comes to respectful and accurate reporting on bisexuality; sometimes it needs to be reminded by its readers that bisexuals exist, sometimes it writes about flawed studies that question the existence of bisexuals, or writes about “same-sex experimentation” and “lesbians until graduation”  without presenting bisexuality as feasible explanation. Since the NYT as an institution has consistently presented itself as being on the fence about the existence of bisexuals, the title of their newest article on it is perhaps not surprising: “The Scientific Quest to Prove Bisexuality Exists.”

It’s a lengthy piece, and a lot of the information it presents is accurate and helpful, especially for readers without a lot of understanding about bisexuality. Respected bisexual activist, Robyn Ochs and Lisa Diamond, who has written extensively about sexual fluidity, were involved in the article, and there’s some important knowledge dropped, like the fact that bisexuals have poorer physical and mental health outcomes, and that the modern definition of bisexuality doesn’t revolve around attraction to “men and women” or binary gender. (Robyn Ochs’ definition of bisexuality is “I call myself bisexual because I acknowledge that I have in myself the potential to be attracted — romantically and/or sexually — to people of more than one sex and/or gender, not necessarily at the same time, not necessarily in the same way and not necessarily to the same degree.”) For some readers who are operating with a limited or backwards understanding of bisexuality, these things will be big news, and important to include. Much previous writing about bisexuality has focused on straight or gay researchers’ work, and it’s important that this piece speaks to actual bisexuals doing research about bisexuality.


Robyn Ochs

However, the article isn’t consistent in terms of its approach — for instance, even though Robyn Ochs’s inclusive and non-binarist definition of bisexuality is included in the text of the article, the NYT’s excerpt for their article on the NY Times Magazine homepage still reads “How a new breed of activists is using science to show — once and for all — that someone can be truly attracted to both a man and a woman.” (Emphasis added.) And while it’s great that bisexual activists and researchers like Ochs, Diamond and more are included, very little time is spent discussing their work when compared to how much space is devoted to Michael Bailey

Bailey isn’t bisexual; in fact, much of his previous work (which was referred to in the previous NYT article “Straight, Gay or Lying? Bisexuality Revisited“) was designed from a place of personally not believing in bisexuality as a real sexual orientation, especially among men. His research revolves around measuring physical sexual arousal in response to different gendered stimuli to “prove” or “disprove” bisexuality. His work has been roundly criticized by people of a number of sexual orientations, and while the article explains how American Institute of Bisexuality has worked with him to make his studies slightly less problematic and therefore seemingly measure the “proof” of bisexuality more accurately, the fact remains that the premises of his work seem at best uninteresting and at worst offensive.

Bailey… went into an explanation of his proposed study, which I was surprised to hear wouldn’t include any actual bisexuals. Instead, he planned to test the arousal patterns of 60 gay-identified men.

“We’re interested in the role that sexual inhibition can play in people’s sexuality, in ways that might be relevant to sexual identity or capacity,” he began. “There’s evidence from prior studies that if you start with a stimulus that might turn on a gay guy — say, two guys [being sexual] — and then add a woman to the scene, some gay men are going to be inhibited by that and feel less aroused, while others won’t see their arousal decrease. A subset of bisexual-identified men might be explained by that.”

Even leaving aside the fact that he’s designing a study about bisexuality without including any bisexuals, there’s plenty to take issue with here. The clear implication is that the goal of the study is to see if at least some bisexual-identified men can be “explained away;” if a reason can be found that would account for their baffling behavior and identification — you know, any explanation at all besides their being actually bisexual. It’s also telling that, almost ten years after his famous (and flawed) study, Bailey is still obsessed with trying to measure sexual arousal to define sexual orientation. While most people can figure out why this might not be the greatest yardstick to use — not every person of every sexual orientation is going to be physically aroused by every person of the gender(s) they’re attracted to! Some lesbians are more into Shane, some more into Carmen! — it’s particularly frustrating when used to talk about bisexuality.

Bisexuals have historically been imagined as sexually predatory, “greedy,” “slutty,” or as necessarily requiring simultaneous sexual activity with people of different genders — essentially, bisexuality has been defined by mainstream culture as an inherently sexual and sexualized category, sometimes little more than a genre of porn. In contrast, with identities like “straight” or “gay” we’re much more willing to recognize that there’s more to how someone lives their life than their sexual desires; we understand that being gay, for instance, also has cultural connotations, a history, social rites of passage, and emotional and psychological contours. For this reason, when sexual behavior or arousal are the only factors considered important in studying bisexuality, it comes across as worse than just a less than effective research method; it reads as though the researcher is buying into the assumption that sexual behavior is the defining inherent characteristic of a bisexual person.

We also allow people to identify as straight or gay outside of sexual experience; straight people are assumed to be straight even before they’ve become sexually active, and gay people are usually (although not always) believed by others when they come out as gay even without same-sex sexual experience. Why, then, do researchers remain skeptical of someone’s bisexuality — when that person identifies as bisexual, has dated multiple genders, has maybe faced stigma from both the straight and gay communities but continues to identify as bisexual — unless they can measure a large enough pupil dilation at the sight of a particular set of genitalia? Many of the people quoted in this piece seem willing to take straight and gay people at their word, but when it comes to bisexuals, are fixated on what they call the “the tricky matter of identity versus behavior.”

To be fair, the article’s premise is defined as exploring the “scientific quest to prove bisexuality,” and so in that light all the time that’s spent on talking about Bailey might be kind of defensible — after all, he’s one of the only researchers still working on that problem, since others have long since accepted that bisexuality exists and have moved on to other questions, like “Why are bisexuals more likely to live in poverty and be food insecure?” or “Why do bisexual women report higher rates of intimate partner violence?” But unfortunately, aside from reporting on flawed research, the article itself also seems to come in with some flawed assumptions, or at least assumptions based in a certain level of male privilege.

Benoit Denizet-Lewis, the author of the NYT piece, identifies as a gay man. (Although he’s briefly shaken in this identity when a researcher tells him that his pupil dilation is similar to that of a straight man, he ultimately decides that “no matter what my pupils suggest… It doesn’t feel true as a sexual orientation, nor does it feel right as my identity.” It’s unclear why the writer doesn’t choose to apply these same insights to others in the story.) The two people he talks to most in constructing this story are John Sylla and his partner Mike Szymanski, who are the president of the American Institute of Bisexuality and co-author of The Bisexual’s Guide to the Universe respectively. Input from bisexual women was minimal; although Diamond and Ochs are quoted, it’s in small soundbites, with little if any analysis. As a result, a familiar problem of LGBT media coverage develops: male bisexuals and their experiences are the most heavily drawn from, which gives a skewed impression that a) the problems of male bisexuals are the most pressing, and b) that the problems of male bisexuals are the problems of all bisexuals. Just like gay men and lesbians face different challenges and oppression — lesbians aren’t usually thought of as accessories for straight women who love shopping, and gay men aren’t usually quizzed about how they have penetrative sex by strangers — bisexuals of different genders face very different problems.

John Sylla and Mike Szymanski, via GLAAD

John Sylla and Mike Szymanski, via GLAAD

If Denizet-Lewis’s article was the only text about bisexuals a reader was ever exposed to, they would likely conclude that the biggest issue facing bisexuals was the collective refusal to believe that bisexual men really exist, and problems with successfully dating people of the same gender as them — because these are the issues that the bisexual men who are the focus of this article experience in their own lives. The only paragraph devoted to the issues specific to bisexual women suggests that their biggest challenge is dating lesbians — basically, the same problem the bisexual men Denizet-Lewis talks to report with gay men.

Bisexual women also struggle to find lesbians willing to date them — or even to take them seriously. The bisexual activist and speaker Robyn Ochs told me that when she realized in college that she was bisexual, she hoped to be honest about that with the lesbians on her campus. “But it didn’t feel safe for me to do that,” she said. “They said that bisexuals couldn’t be trusted, that they would inevitably leave you for a man. Had I come out as lesbian, I could have been welcomed with open arms, taken to parties, invited to join the softball team. The lesbian red carpet, if you will. But for me to say I was a lesbian would have required that I dismiss all of my previous attractions to men as some sort of false consciousness. So I didn’t come out.”

The focus on this issue has the effect of pitting two groups of women against each other and of positioning individual lesbians as the cause of bisexual women’s struggles rather than systemic oppressors like heterosexism or monosexism. While some individual bisexual women may feel that way, plenty of solid research indicates that as a group, bisexual women have much larger and more complicated problems. Denizet-Lewis doesn’t seem to have set out to write an opus about the current challenges facing bisexual groups, which is fine, but the fact that there have been so many recent and hard-to-miss stories bringing to light oppressions unique to bisexual women — like the recent headline that almost half of bisexual women have been raped, a percentage much higher than either straight women or lesbians — makes the highlighting of dating woes as a supposed major problem seem even more egregious. The fact that the majority of the experiences focused on were those of men sets the article up for this kind of misunderstanding, and that’s even before looking at the fact that the vast majority of the people spoken to for this article appear to be white and cisgender, when many bisexuals are transgender and/or of color. Given the ways in which cultural assumptions about bisexuals — that they’re hypersexual, duplicitous, and not to be taken seriously — overlap in meaningful ways with cultural assumptions about trans people, people of color, and trans people of color, it seems especially unhelpful to focus on the experiences of cis white bisexual men.

It especially seems like a misstep to avoid looking at the growing list of ways in which bisexuals experience oppression because if the question is really one of “proof” that bisexuals exist, isn’t the already-published research about the ways in which bisexuals experience unique marginalization already pretty compelling in that regard? More than the degree to which one’s pupils widen when being shown footage of a threesome, it seems like given the fact that people who identify as bisexual all experience similarly poor levels of health, sexual assault and violence, mental illness, alcohol abuse that are more extreme than and distinct from those of other sexual orientations, there’s something pretty real going on there.

Hopefully this conversation, inaccuracies and all, can be the final word in the discussion of whether bisexuals can be proven to exist: they do. Maybe if everyone can agree about that, we can move on to the next step: letting actual bisexuals speak about their experiences and their community, and taking them seriously when they do.

In order to make sure that the comments section on this article is a healthy and welcoming place for our bisexual readers, please note that any comments that question the validity of bisexuality or sexual fluidity as a sexual orientation, question Autostraddle’s decision to publish pieces discussing bisexuality, or make essentialist claims about bisexual people (ex. bisexuals are cheaters, bisexuals turn out to be gay) will be swiftly deleted.

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Originally from Boston, MA, Rachel now lives in the Midwest. Topics dear to her heart include bisexuality, The X-Files and tacos. Her favorite Ciara video is probably "Ride," but if you're only going to watch one, she recommends "Like A Boy." You can follow her on twitter and instagram.

Rachel has written 1142 articles for us.


    • Articles like this (and the reminder at the bottom!) are what make me feel like a welcome and valued part of the AS community. Thanks for articulating some of the reasons a lot of the current mainstream writing about bisexuality is so offensive!

  1. Rachel, your ability to seamlessly write the most detailed and innovative articles never ceases to amaze me. Wonderful work, again.

    This whole Bailey character seems like a quack. I remember coming across the NYT article, but gave it major side-eye. I don’t believe that science needs to validate people’s identities. This is why everyone should be an anthropologist, end of story.

  2. Great article and analysis Rachel as always! I was thinking also when I read the bisexual woman paragraph that limiting their discussion of bisexual women to Robin Ochs’ college experience is also problematic because she went to college in the late ’70s/early ’80s! It’s a worthwhile experience to include amongst other experiences and I’m sure her experience rings true for many bisexual women in college today, but I can’t imagine any other context, such as an article about gay men or lesbians, where somebody’s recounting of their experience of on-campus LGBTQ communities 35 years ago would be considered representative enough to stand alone as the only experience presented by one of the demographic groups discussed in the article. (Also sidenote I love Robin Ochs — and would’ve loved for the article to include quotes about her lived experience as a bisexual activist today, like when she was the only bisexual speaker at a conference I recently attended.)

    Also i can’t believe that guy is still doing these studies!

  3. The NYT has a history of being homophobic and biphobic. That crap about studying bisexuality using 60 gay men is completely outrageous. It doesn’t matter (to me) that they included other more credible sources. As usual, they couldn’t resist a microaggression against both groups. And their selection of “the quest to prove” as a framework for discussing the topic gave them power to do so.

  4. Thanks for addressing this issue. I especially agree that those of us who are Bi, should be leading the conversations about what stigma’s and biases we face, but alas it does seem we still have to find a way to validate our idenities within the straight and LGBT community. ;)

  5. Thanks so much as always, Rachel, this was so good and so necessary. I wouldn’t have even been able to put together a coherent sentence because my blood starts to boil every time I think about bisexuality needing to be *proven* when there are plenty of bisexuals you could just, I dunno, talk to to figure out what’s up. Also some of those NYT headlines sound like Onion articles. “Straight, Gay or Lying? Bisexuality Revisited“?! REALLY?!

  6. Thank you for writing this much needed article. One of the things that never ceases to amaze is how it has not yet seemed to occur to these various media outlets that if they would like to publish an accurate story about bisexuality, they should consider:

    (1)asking one of the many fine journalists, bloggers, academics, and authors who self-identify as bisexual to write the piece and then

    (2) take the daring step of instructing this journalist to read a broad and representative swath of current bisexual-queer theory, research and literature created by bisexual thinkers; familiarize themselves with everyday bisexual culture such as local, regional, national and international groups and organizations as well as cultural, academic and social conferences + events; and then interview a good many reputable bisexual activists, intellectuals, scientists, researchers, musicians, visual artists, poets, writers, as well as just plain folks.

    After all if a media outlet was going to do a major piece on botany, they would assign it to someone who was knowledgeable in that field; they would expect that the journalist would do some background work to bring themselves up-to-date on the subject at hand; and they would also expect that the writer would interview a number of reputable of people in the field such as professors, trained horticulturalists, professional gardeners and knowledgeable hobbyists.

    They would not (unless the wanted to be laughed out of the profession), assign it to say their foreign affairs correspondent because she happened to be fond of flowers or think asking a few random people found purchasing bouquets at the local florist shop to be sufficient.

    So for goodness sakes, why do these otherwise intelligent (seeming) press outlets continue to do the (im)moral equivalent on the subject of bisexuality, bisexual people and the bisexual community?

  7. Rachel, thank you for this wonderful article. This is what measured, respectful, critically-thinking journalism looks like.

    It saddens but does not surprise me that mainstream media outlets still do not know how to write about A) sexuality or B) identity in an informed, inclusive or remotely unbiased way. I really don’t know why they still think these huge arenas of knowledge are some sort of journalistic fluff that only requires consulting a few individuals and no in-depth background understanding of the field.

    In short, as per usual, thank the heavens and goddesses for Autostraddle. And I always want more content and better understandings of bisexual culture! :)

  8. My question is, would this NYT piece get published if it was about “The Scientific Quest to Prove Lesbians exist?” Or “The Scientific Quest to Prove Gay Men exist?” Why do we have to prove anyone’s identity exists? If you identify as something, then it exists. The end.

    • I had this thought too. Actually, I’d kind of love to see a headline that said “The Scientific Quest to Prove that Heterosexuality Exists.”

  9. Very thoughtful analysis! As someone who came out as bisexual and now usually identifies as queer, I really appreciated the quotes in the article from bisexual people and activists, as well as talking about intra-community struggles for non-monosexual people trying to navigate the LGBTQ world. I was actually really surprised that the article only used the word “queer” once–I kept waiting for the author to talk about other non-monosexual identities like pansexual and ominsexual and queer in relation to bisexuality. I wonder if this stuff would have come up if the author had interviewed younger people.

    One disagreement with you Rachel–I actually liked that the article emphasized the experiences of bisexual men. While of course we gotta be critical when we center cis men in any conversation, bi men have a lot less visibility than bi women in the media and in mainstream LGBT communities. I find gay cis guys to be way more biphobic than gay/queer women, and I think more articles like these, that interview bi men and discuss their experiences, could help change that. But yeah, like Riese said, “limiting their discussion of bisexual women to Robin Ochs’ college experience is problematic,” and there was only one throw away mention of “trans people can be bisexual too!” which was pretty shitty.

    • I think you’re right that bisexual men definitely have less visibility and that it’s important for the focus to be on them sometimes — I think the problem is that the article claimed to be about bisexual people, but was really just about bisexual men and focused on a study about bisexual men. It happens all the time with articles that say they’re about the LGBT community that turn out to just be about gay men.

    • Just a quick comment. Don’t assume that the people interviewed for this piece didn’t talk about transgender, queer, pansexual or other non-monosexual identities. It’s all in what the author/editor chooses to put into the piece.

  10. It’s nice to read a positive article on bisexuals.

    I wish people would stop ‘investigating bisexuality’ though. I understand that’s not going to happen because that’s what science is, but it really annoys me, especially when their findings indicate bisexuals don’t exist. I am bisexual, therefore we exist. If only it was that simple.

      • Yes! When I read the headline, I thought “Well, I could have saved y’all a lot of trouble if you’d just asked me. Because yep, I do exist. Now can we please spend research money on something that’s actually a real issue?”

  11. Wish this could have been the Times article!
    That being said, I do wish people would stop putting labels on things… I firmly believe that sexuality is very fluid, that nobody is really just one thing. People should stop trying to prove that people do or don’t fit into neat labels others have created and appreciate the beautiful spectrum of human sexuality.
    Wonderful article! I wish there were more like it elsewhere!

    • Some of us like our labels. For some of us, they make up an important part of our identity. Some of us fought long and hard for our labels to be recognised. It’s also quite offensive to assume that everyone’s sexuality is fluid. My sexuality is not fluid, I am bisexual with unwaveringly equal levels of attraction to both genders and I don’t appreciate total strangers ‘believing’ otherwise.
      How about just don’t ‘believe’ or ‘assume’ anything about anyone’s sexuality, okay? Don’t make generalisations. Some people’s sexuality might be fluid, others’ might not be.

      • Ah, sorry that’s not what I meant! I should have explained better, and I am very sorry if I offended you!! I just feel like the reason we have so, so many labels is that people aren’t meant to be labeled. We just are. We are sexual beings, and we have different preferences and tastes and attractions which I don’t think should be boxed into certain categories.
        I do agree that labels are an important part of our identity, and we have fought extremely hard for them to be recognized. I’m just questioning why we, as humans, feel the need to label everything. Can’t we just agree that people can have sex with whomever they want? We don’t need to have certain categories people need to fit into. I don’t know, that’s just my take.
        Really sorry about that, my wording was totally wrong! I didn’t mean that sexuality in a single person fluctuates all the time, and I definitely didn’t mean to offend you by saying that, because it is not true (though it may be for some). I am really sorry that I offended you!
        I do identify as bisexual, as well, but with more of an attraction to women, so I’ve never felt like I fit into one category, which is probably why I think like this.
        Again, I do very sincerely apologize! I know how one offensive thing on the internet can ruin someone’s day.
        I hope I cleared it up?

    • Please don’t assume that *everyone* is sexually fluid or that no one is really “just one thing,” i.e. completely gay or straight. I wish everyone would recognize and accept that it’s very possible to be just “one thing.” It’s kind of insulting to suggest that people don’t know their own sexuality.

      Like, I’m completely and utterly gay – I’m only romantically, emotionally, and sexually interested in women. I don’t even have any crushes on male celebrities. It’s tiring when people paint everyone with the same brush, because I’m pretty sure I know what I am and what I like!

      • I am so sorry! I used the wrong language, and I’ve definitely learned my lesson about that! You can read what I really meant above… and I really am sorry if I offended you, because I really did not mean to! I really did make a mess of things!

        • Hey, it’s okay! I’m sorry for phrasing things the way I did and if it felt like I was ganging up on you – I think it came across as being a little too harsh toward you personally. It just reminded me of much worse things I’ve read on other sites and I should have directed my finger-wagging at those people, not you! Your comment actually wasn’t that bad, so I apologize if I made you feel attacked.

          • Oh, gosh, it’s ok! I completely understand! I would be angry, too! Don’t worry, I’m used to it – I once asked commenters on a Game of Thrones soundtrack on Youtube to stop posting spoilers! The backlash there was way worse than this! :P
            Thanks for your apology though, it’s really sweet. I only wish there were a way to delete my previous comment!

    • Hey guys! I just wanted to apologize for posting the totally wrong thing earlier!
      I should have explained what meant better, and I am sorry if I offended anyone.
      Here’s what I meant to say (NOT that everyone’s sexuality is fluid!):
      I just feel like the reason we have so, so many labels is that people aren’t meant to be labeled. We just are. We are sexual beings, and we have different preferences and tastes and attractions which I don’t think should be boxed into certain categories.
      I do agree that labels are an important part of our identity, and we have fought extremely hard for them to be recognized. I’m just questioning why we, as humans, feel the need to label everything. Can’t we just agree that people can have sex with whomever they want? We don’t need to have certain categories people need to fit into. I don’t know, that’s just my take.
      Really sorry about that, my wording was totally wrong! I didn’t mean that sexuality in a single person fluctuates all the time, and I definitely didn’t mean to offend you by saying that, because it is not true (though it may be for some). I am really sorry that I offended you!
      I do identify as bisexual, as well, but with more of an attraction to women, so I’ve never felt like I fit into one category, which is probably why I think like this.
      Again, I do very sincerely apologize! I know how one offensive thing on the internet can ruin someone’s day.
      I hope I cleared it up?
      Anyway, I sure learned my lesson: look in a dictionary before commenting! And, thanks to everyone who brought it to my attention. What a big goof-up!

  12. As your friendly neighborhood mathematician, I have a concise and elegant proof that bisexuality exists: I found a bisexual person. It’s me. QED. Why is this still up for debate?

  13. This is the beeeest. Newsflash NYT: just because someone somewhere asks a question doesn’t mean you have to validate it with a thousands-of-words-long article.

  14. It would be lovely if it were no longer necessary to discuss whether bisexuality exists, but since people are still pumping out what are often ill-informed articles, it’s great to have a reasonable voice like Rachel to present a counterpoint. Thank you.

  15. Rachel, thank you! Brilliantly done. The organized bi community has been holding its breath to see what Denizet-Lewis was going to write, after interviewing many people over the course of a year. Indeed, it is disappointing to see the same old tired headline and theme. There are so many other stories that need to be told about our community, as you say, so let’s move one. FYI, the Bisexual Resource Center is in its final week of Bisexual Health Awareness Month and is highlighting sexual assault and intimate partner violence, a huge issue for our community. Follow us at @brc_central on Twitter and find us on Facebook.

  16. Rachel – excellent analysis. As someone who identifies as bisexual (and sometimes lesbian-bisexual), my quest to educate and converse with others is about the fluidity of attraction, the fact that attraction goes way beyond sexual attraction,and the words we may (or may not use) to identify ourselves, rather than focuses on behaviors. What more proof do we need that bisexuality exists than LISTENING to bisexuals themselves? I’m surprised there is no mentioned of the Klein Sexual Orientation Grid in the article….after all, it is an important contribution that Fritz Klein gave to the field.

  17. When I saw the NYT article, I was initially happy about the visibility, but I was also a bit unsure how to feel after reading about the research described. It kind of feels like a big “are you sure you are bisexual? Has is been PROVEN based on genital blood flow and pupil dilation??” *angry glare,* yet at the same time I appreciate that the article portrayed bisexual people as fairly normal and not crazed sex fiends or something.

  18. Nice analysis, thanks! The only thing I noticed was the implication that bisexuals should be conducting the research on bisexuals. I know we don’t live in an ideal world, but the scientific method should be unbiased – genital response should be measured the same way no matter who is testing it. Obviously this guy has framed his hypotheses and come up with testing methods in a biased way, so I agree that we should disregard his work. But don’t you think that anyone should be able to ask scientific questions about sexuality in an unbiased way?

    • yes, ideally that’s definitely how science should work! and of course i don’t think we should be throwing out the conclusions of research done by scientists who aren’t bisexual. the point made in the article about including bisexual voices isn’t really about the realm of scientific research, but about writing about it — there are people of various sexual orientations doing research and activism about bisexuality, but historically, the bisexual people doing those things have been overlooked in favor of straight or gay people, so it’s meaningful that they’re included here. there’s also a long history (starting with Freud) of bisexual people being made into novelty test subjects and having their experiences interpreted by monosexual researchers in harmful or backwards ways. and so bringing up bisexual researchers and activists isn’t a way of saying that they are the only ones qualified to do this work, but that since they’ve been intentionally kept out of the public conversation and not allowed agency to talk about bisexual experiences as actual bisexual people for a long time, it’s important that what they have to say is given a platform!

      • that makes a lot of sense to me, especially in regards to writing about bisexuality! thanks for clarifying. and on the science front, if only people could just make logical, non-biased and non-asshole-y studies! then it could be a free-for-all of learning. maybe one day :)

  19. Nthing my joy at seeing such a well-researched and inclusive treatment of bisexuality on Autostraddle. I’ve been a mostly-silent reader for years and have seen the “obligatory” hairy bisexuality-related commentary that comes up, so reading this article and its comment policy made me feel great great great and like maybe I belong on this site too. Thanks, y’all.

  20. I have a bad feeling about bisexuality, a horrible feeling – which is called JEALOUSY and/or ENVY! The capacity of being attracted, or falling in love, (insert here all the possibilities), to people despite of their genders… it’s truly amazing.

    I can not believe this is still being discussed in terms of “existence”, really. I try to think HOW bisexuality could be a problem, but I just can’t see it. If I’m interested in a girl, for example, the only thing that matters is if she’s also interested in me. If she identifies as gay, or bi, or I-don’t-know, doesn’t matter at all.

    Besides, I have so many wonderful guy-friends – and I can’t blame no one for liking and desiring them. Just because I don’t (I’m terribly gay) doesn’t mean another woman couldn’t.

    There’s nothing more personal than your own sexuality. And the idea of having scientists “measuring” your pupils to confirm if you’re really telling the truth… well, makes no sense to me.

    Bisexuals of the world, you have all my support.

    • I agree – I think pansexuality or bisexuality is the most rational sexuality (in terms of it makes the most sense within my approach to sexuality). I was kind of disappointed when I realized I actually wasn’t bisexual =/

  21. 1. YESSSSS.
    2. I really appreciate your ability to be funny without being snarky.
    3. Every time I thought I was going to lose it with this article, he quoted Robyn Ochs, who made so much sense, and that was calming.
    4. There actually was a lot of great info in this piece. I wish it had been written as a series of linked articles about various bisexual groups. Yes, we are all pan/fluid/bi/queer/whatevers under one non-monosexual umbrella. However, obviously, different kinds of bisexuals have different kinds of issues. The article rambled over gay men, college students, the 60s, the author’s penis, dating problems, etc.

  22. Bisexuality doesn’t exist, in the same was that lesbianism/heterosexuality doesn’t exsit. These are physically-located terms that are shoddily used to describe an inanimate notion (one’s sexuality/identity). Like with all terms, there’s always going to be disagreement when it comes to deciding exactly how to use them because, news flash, we’re all human and all different.

    Gay/Straight binaries don’t help matters, but adding a middle option (Bisexual) is just like adding 0.5 to the binary scale. Everyone can choose to use whatever term they like to represent their sexual identity, but it’s unreasonable to think that there will be any kind of mass consensus about what that term means and how it can/must be applied.

    The sooner we start advocating flexibility and fluidity when it comes to sexuality, the sooner archaic discussions like “what is a bisexual?” will die out.

    That said, I can appreciate that those choosing to use the term ‘bisexual’ to represent themselves will want to enforce their beliefs of the term’s meaning, especially against the views of those that may never have identified as such.

    • This is what I was trying to say! We can’t use blanket terms to describe sexuality, it’s just not possible. There will always be people who feel left out, or like there is no term left for them. Of there will be people who describe themselves by so many terms, they feel as if they are drowning in letters of the alphabet!
      Sexuality isn’t easy to label, it’s not like hair color or Grade Point average. Everyone’s sexuality is different, therefore it is wrong to try to fit people into certain sexuality groups, because our sexual differences are so numerous that we could never create as many categories and labels as are needed. And, they do always end up misunderstood!

  23. Thank you so very much for writing this article. Also, thanks very much for the extra links in it, especially the one to The National Intimate Partner and
    Sexual Violence Survey.

    On a personal note, I’m seriously fed up with articles and messages like the one the NYT published. I just don’t get why people refuse to think that sexuality can be more than just a binary.

  24. Rachel you are amazing. Thanks for the thorough write-up. Ugh, we all have a long way to go, but as an avid Autostraddle member it gives a great sense of joy and belonging to see someone carefully write about this. I exist – bi people exist, non-binary queers exist. Let’s move forward NYT!

  25. Seems like the framework of this article was formed by the work that the Bisexual Foundation is doing/funding. The article might have been better framed as a report on the group, rather than bisexuality as a whole.

    With regards to “proving” bisexuality “exists”, I have to point out the reality within which this “need” exists.

    I’m no more enamored of Bailey than anyone else, in fact, I got rather queasy when I saw him mentioned, and what he was seeking funding to do… is there no one else to fund? I’m also adamantly not an “essentialist”, I don’t give a damn whether there’s a biological basis for bisexuality (or queerness in general), I don’t believe it should make one whit of difference in the legitimacy of my same-sex attractions and whether they’re entitled to legal recognition and protection.

    … but: That’s not the legal or political framework within which the bisexual movement in this country exists. Substantive and replicable research “proving” that we “exist” and that there’s a biological basis for (some people’s) bisexuality will have a meaningful impact on the credibility of our demands for legal protection, services, and other forms of recognition. However distasteful the need or the methods, to argue that we shouldn’t have to “prove” we exist is to deny reality. The goal should be to get past that question as soon as possible, and move on to all the other issues highlighted in this article (which I hope are receiving substantial funding from somewhere).

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