An ‘At What Point Do I Qualify: My Bi Experience’ Post
By Louise Clare Dalton
“Society (a male-dominated society, where men are predominantly in positions of power) will allow women to exist outside the binary because it suits the needs of men. Although this is undoubtedly a form of oppression, it can also make it easier for women to openly identify as bisexual.”
Hello rainbow lovers, and welcome back! Pull over a chair and grab yourself a coffee, because this one’s a head scratcher.
To those of you joining me for the first time, welcome to the party. This blog was created to break down the common misconceptions of bisexuality, and shine a light on the microaggressions us wonderful bi folk face on a regular basis.
Now, for the problematic catch of the day. A friend and I were chatting about sexuality and our wonderful queerness, when something tricky came up. ‘Women are just more likely to be bi, right?’. Wrong, but surprisingly (or unsurprisingly in this messy world) this is a really common point of view.
Our attitudes towards sexuality can be pretty complex, and are often influenced by a multitude of factors we may not even be aware of. In case you hadn’t guessed, most of them ain’t so groovy.
So, why is it so common to think women are more likely to be bisexual, and why do we feel more need to box men into the binary? How is this myth problematic, and how can we debunk it? Let’s have a look.
Unfortunately, women who love women (whether they be lesbian, bi, pan, etc.) are routinely oversexualised. When I hear about a film or TV show with a lesbian protagonist (or any story following women who love women), I get pretty darn excited! Representation – yes, yes, bloody yes! But where there’s excitement, there’s also apprehension. Which is often justified when I switch on the latest lesbian love story, only to see sex dominating the storyboard.
Don’t get me wrong, sex is great, and including sex just as you would in a film about a straight couple is important! But so often the sex between women on screen has been filmed through an oh-so murky filter – the male gaze.
“As for queer women, it continues to enforce the idea that we are hypersexual objects, as oppose to real human beings, whose relationships deserve to hold the same weight that hetero relationships do.”
The kind of performative sex we see between women in movies has often been created for and by men, and don’t even get me started on porn. This minimises our experiences as real queer women, and reduces us to objects. And so, the idea that queer women exist purely for the consumption of straight men is perpetuated. Honey, it’s a no from me.
So hold up. How does the oversexualisation of queer women contribute to the viewpoint in question: that women are more likely to be bi.
The answer, my friends, is that society (a male-dominated society, where men are predominantly in positions of power) will allow women to exist outside the binary because it suits the needs of men. Although this is undoubtedly a form of oppression, it can also make it easier for women to openly identify as bisexual. Make sense?
So let’s talk about bi men, who by this same token, are apparently less likely to be bisexual. Let’s unpick.
For men, coming out as bisexual is notoriously difficult (this is changing, but the problem is very much still there). This is because the homophobia against men who love men is deeply rooted and manifests in lots of different ways.
An example. As a bisexual woman, expressing my bisexuality to a straight man has never been used as a reason for him not to date me. Yes, it certainly can be problematic in other ways – he may now see me as a hyper-sexual being, yawn – but it’s unlikely to be a deal-breaker. So, I’m allowed to exist somewhere in the middle of the sexuality spectrum because I’m a woman, because women who love women are seen as sexual objects, there to satisfy straight men. This is what he’s most likely been taught through media, etc., the same as everyone else. Ugh.
However, for a bisexual man in a similar scenario, i.e., dating a straight woman, he could receive a very different reaction. Multiple times, I’ve heard straight women say they would never date a bi man. Often people say things like this without realising there’s any issue or taking a second to recognise that what they’re saying is likely influenced by biphobic, and ultimately homophobic, rhetoric. If you’re a straight woman who’s said or thought something along these lines, no hate, but take a second to understand the real reason you don’t want a relationship with a man who loves women and men.
This is just one example, but it’s enough. You can imagine for a man who truly identifies as bi or pan, it can be really difficult to express this, for fear of the way the world might perceive you.
And as for the statistics out there that back up this viewpoint, that there are more bi women than there are men, I believe that, almost certainly, these statistics are skewed by the societal pressure bi men are under to force themselves into the straight or gay boxes that don’t fit. So really, all genders are equally as likely to be bi, but the societal pressure stops these numbers seeming more equal.
So here is the two-sided problem.
Men are further forced into the binary, because the homophobia instilled in us towards gay men means we’re unable to think of men as being outside our straight/gay labels. This homophobia (often unconscious) needs to be unpicked, and it needs to go. Now.
And as for queer women, it continues to enforce the idea that we are hypersexual objects, as oppose to real human beings, whose relationships deserve to hold the same weight that hetero relationships do.
So what’s the solution? Now we’re talking!
A better understanding can lead us to a better world. Understand that men and women are both likely to bi, but women are more able to express themselves because of less hate towards their queerness. But we must also understand that women face a different oppression, with our queerness being over-sexualised.
It’s all about good representation, open-mindedness and critical thinking. Work on being able to unpick your own prejudice, because we all have some lurking somewhere. Watch the good stuff, the things written by queer women – ‘Feel Good’ by Mae Martin, I am obsessed. Listen to bi folk talk about their experiences, and approach all conversations on sexuality with an open mind.
Onwards and upwards, you gorgeous bunch!
Peace and rainbow love,
Louise Clare Dalton is a feminist, bisexual writer and poet interested in sharing her personal experience. She aims to open up the dialogue about common misconceptions and the biphobic narratives they perpetuate. Louise writes her own blog at www.louiseclaredalton.com, which focuses on ethical consumerism and healthy life hacks. Finalist in the Roundhouse Poetry Slam 19, her spoken-word poetry focuses on introspection and understanding how societal pressure affects human behaviour.
Lou was our featured poet in September 2020. Check out her performance of What They Told You
Read all of Lou’s At What Point Do I Qualify? posts
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