Bisexuality Essay

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Situated within the heterosexual versus homosexual binary, bisexuality is a sexual orientation or preference consisting of more than incidental amounts of sexual feeling, sexual behavior, or romantic desire for persons of both one’s own and the other sex. The term encompasses those who self-define as bisexual, whether or not currently active with both sexes. It also refers to others who experience dual attractions or behavior but identify as heterosexual, gay, or lesbian, or simply reject the use of a sexual label altogether.

Although estimates vary widely and remain unresolved, representative national survey data indicate perhaps 6 percent of men and about 4 percent of women in the United States have had bisexual experiences from adolescence onward. Far fewer report recent sexual activity (in the past year) with both sexes. Likewise, a considerably smaller percentage self-defines as bisexual. Nonetheless, more people across the life course report bisexual behavior than exclusive same sex behavior, but fewer men and women self-define as bisexual than as gay or lesbian.

People who think of themselves as bisexual or who are actively bisexual often are not equally attracted to or equally sexual with both sexes. Evidence suggests there are more heterosexual-leaning bisexuals than homosexual-leaning bisexuals. Among self-defined bisexuals, more report heterosexual attractions and behaviors earlier in life than homosexual attractions and behaviors. The label bisexual often is adopted years later, after a period of identity drift and confusion, which results from a lack of acceptance of bisexuality in the larger world.

Bisexual lives are diverse. Serial bisexuality involves switching from a partner of one sex to another one at a time. Simultaneous bisexuality consists of ongoing sexual relationships with partners of different sexes. Whereas some bisexually oriented people practice monogamous relationships, others prefer multiple partners in a group relationship structure, and yet others live with a core primary partner with casual partners outside. Regardless of the structure, heterosexual marriage is common, involved partners of bisexuals often are not bisexual, and outside sex may or may not be openly agreed upon.

People in both the heterosexual and gay and lesbian communities view bisexuality in problematic terms, though for different reasons. On the one hand, during the 1980s, the AIDS crisis emerged and bisexual identified men were viewed as a threat for transmitting the disease to the straight world. In response to the AIDS crisis, many openly identified bisexuals turned to practicing safer sex—using condoms or latex, screening partners, avoiding exchange of bodily fluids, and so forth. Today, AIDS research focuses on men who have sex with men, recognizing that bisexual behavior may occur among gay or heterosexual identified men as well, creating a more complex picture of risk.

On the other hand, despite the proliferation of more inclusive GLBT (gay/lesbian/bisexual/transgender) groups on college campuses and elsewhere, bisexual-ity still holds a marginalized status in the gay and lesbian world. Perceptions persist that bisexuality is nothing more than a transitional fence-sitting sexuality. Bisexuals are likewise stereotyped as prone to jumping ship and as less capable of forming committed relationships. Additionally, bisexuals who live with or who are married to partners of the other sex are said to hide behind heterosexual privilege and to be politically incorrect. For example, while the issue of same-sex marriage is currently being contested, the question in the case of heterosexual coupled bisexuals is whether or not they are equally involved politically in this debate.

Bibliography:

  1. Fox, Ronald C. 2004. Current Research on Bisexuality. Binghamton, NY: Harrington Park.
  2. Weinberg, Martin S., Colin J. Williams, and Douglas W. Pryor. 1994. Dual Attraction: Understanding Bisexuality. New York: Oxford University Press.

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