On Bisexuality

by Jason Stotts

I think it’s strange how bisexuality has been demonized, marginalized, and even taken to be no more than an illusory state that one passes through as a position between the two legitimate categories of homosexual and heterosexual.

Frankly, I think that’s asinine.

I think that there are more bisexuals (Kinsey 1-5’s) than there are heterosexuals (Kinsey 0’s) or homosexuals (Kinsey 6’s). The problem is that people like to think in neat little (rationalistic) categories and bisexuality is a problem for this. I would imagine that there are very few heterosexuals who have never been attracted to someone of the same sex or been interested in a same sex experience. Likewise, I would imagine that there are very few homosexuals who have never been attracted to someone of the opposite sex of been interested in an opposite sex experience. The problem is that these desires are seen as “wrong” and in opposition to the person’s sexual identity, so are consciously self-corrected.

We won’t let ourselves have a desire that contradicts “who we are.” Yet, what if the problem is in our understanding of sexual identity and what it means to be homosexual or heterosexual.

Part of the problem lies in our current understanding of masculinity and femininity. Let us look to an example from Hellenistic Greece. In the time of Plato and Aristotle it was common for boys from good families to take an older male lover who would mentor them and show them the ways of the world. In return for knowledge, social status, and gifts, the young boy would reciprocate by allowing his mentor to penetrate him anally (oral sex was beyond taboo, equivalent to bestiality in our culture). This practice is known as pederasty (it was ephebophilic, not pedophilic). The interesting point of the story is that these boys were then expected to grow into productive members of society and to marry women and start families. Furthermore, they were expected, once they had achieved a good position for themselves, to become a mentor for a boy and help him into adulthood. The Greeks did not think that having sex with a man challenged their masculinity in any way. The only way they had a problem with a man having sex with men is if he did this to the exclusion of all else and became “like a woman” in that he would always desire to be penetrated and never to be the penetrator or fail to take up his role in society.

In an interesting aside, the Greeks had no conception of homosexuality or heterosexuality when applied to people. They understood that homosexual acts and heterosexual acts were different, but that didn’t have any bearing on a person’s identity. Men were expected to be sexually proficient with both men and women, and this was just part of what it meant to be a man. (Lesbianism was less frequent in Greece, but still happened. It just isn’t known to what extent, as women were not in the public spotlight and are absent from most historical accounts.)

What’s so interesting about the Greeks is that they didn’t need a special category of “bisexuality” as they considered all people to be bisexual, and for them it was natural to be aroused by beauty, whether it was in a man or woman. This brings us back to the topic of our discussion: those who think that bisexuality is a transitional state. If this is true, then it should have been true for all humans and we have already seen a notable counterexample. Indeed, the Greek system lasted for hundreds of years and is not the only society in history to not have rigid lines between homosexuality and heterosexuality.

The common explanation today, for the marginalization of bisexuality, is the “vampire theory.” The idea is that the bisexual is the most dangerous kind of person because they carry disease between the pure heterosexuals and the tainted homosexuals. Interestingly, though, safe sex is necessary no matter your orientation: AIDS does not discriminate based on sexual orientation.

I think a more plausible explanation of the vilification of bisexuality is sexual insecurity. In Greece, a man was committed to his wife and family, while still able to have homosexual relationships with men outside. Since he was committed to his household, these relationships did not threaten his relationship with his wife (which was his primary relationship). In our society, however, the bisexual is dangerous because he or she has needs that just one partner cannot fulfill. They are destined to hurt their partner by having needs that they cannot fulfill and so the partner has to deal with either knowing that their partner is unfulfilled or allowing them to acquire another sexual partner.

However, with honesty and open communication, a relationship with a bisexual can be viable. To do so requires first that both people in the couple be committed to each other and completely honest and open about their needs and desires. They must consider their relationship to be their primary relationship that would take precedence in any case of conflict and their partner to be their primary partner so that they are not ignored. If both partners freely agree to this, then the bisexual partner would be able to have outside relationships of the opposite kind, thus fulfilling their needs, while still being able to maintain a healthy core relationship.

The problem is that most people are not honest enough with themselves or open enough with their partners to make it possible. However, this does not mean that it cannot be done. The first step is to move beyond the idea that just because your partner has needs that you cannot fulfill, that you are therefore not adequate. This is just sexual insecurity. There is no way that one person can fulfill every need that another person has. This is one reason why we have friends and not all of our friends are the same. The second is to establish open communication based on absolute honesty, to oneself and one’s partner. This is vital if the core relationship is to persevere. While a bisexual relationship is certainly not for everyone, it can be done and it is the best option for some people.

Bisexuality is not shameful!

In fact, it seems to be the most honest kind of sexuality with the least amount of repression and shame. We need to let go of our fear of not being a K0 or K6. In fact, we need to be open to the idea that our sexual orientation can change. Right now, I might be a K1, but in five years I could be a K3 or even move to a K5. If we’re open to change and we move beyond the rigid categories of homosexual and heterosexual, we might just find our some surprising things about ourselves.

In fact, we might find out that the reason we hate bisexuals is because we fear that we might be one and this challenges our very conception of ourselves.

2 Responses to “On Bisexuality”

  1. Erosophia

    […] is on a continuum.  For a fuller account of my views on bisexuality, see my essays: “On Bisexuality“, “Kinsey and Sexual Identity“,  and “Bisexual […]

  2. Erosophia

    […] 9.  On Bisexuality […]