Good Bi Love: Are More Bi People Poly?

5/14/2018

I think significantly more bi and pansexual people are in ethically non-monogamous relationships than straight people. There’s scant data on exactly the percentage of bi+ people in non-monogamous relationship, and the data that are out there ranges all over the place, so it’s not incredibly helpful to quote.

But I would feel very comfortable claiming that significantly more open and out bi+ people are in ethically non-monogamous relationships. The key here is on out bi people (which I’ll delve into more in a second).

My reasoning stems not only from personal experience with the burning man/polyamorous community with which I’m heavily involved, but from the research collected by Dr. Maria Pallotta-Chiarolli, of Deakin University, whose research on bi men is published in her 2016 book titled, Women in Relationships with Bisexual Men: Bi Men by Women.

In it, she posits that men who are open about and have embraced their bisexuality make for the best lovers, fathers, and partners. (Hair flip.)

Her reasoning was that bi men have been very introspective about their sexual identity, often having to reject certain ideals of masculinity and heteronormativity in order to get to a place where they can embrace their (bi)sexuality. This introspection, along with challenging certain heteronormative and cultural ideals (at least when it comes to relationships and identities), makes them all-around better partners.

They’re less concerned with gender roles. They’re more generous lovers, caring more about the pleasure of their partners. Lastly, they’re not only more attuned to their emotions, they don’t fear appearing “less manly” by discussing them.

And I believe that since these men (and also women, although the book focused on men) have been forced to challenge heteronormativity with their sexual identity, it would be only natural to then challenge how society views traditional relationships.

Thus, I actually don’t think there’s anything inherent about our attraction to multiple (or all genders) that makes us more likely to be ethically non-monogamous. It’s rooted in the fact that we didn’t feel accepted by traditional ways of living, so we were forced to create our own. (Similarly, this is why many gay men are in open relationships too, especially prior to the legalization of same-sex marriage.)

But there’s a large caveat to the research posited by Dr. Pallotta-Chiarolli, only men who are out and have embraced their sexuality are more likely to be better lovers, partners, and friends. (And adding in my hypothesis, ethically non-monogamous.)

Those who are closeted or are in denial of their bisexuality, are in fact the worst partners to have — often abusive (at least according to the experiences of the women who told their stories in “Women in Relationships with Bisexual Men: Bi Men by Women”).

These men often become more obsessed with keeping their identity a secret, which leads to aggression, hypermasculinity, and surely, a deep-seeded, internal pain. This pain manifests itself in hurting others, both physically and emotionally.

Similarly, I would speculate that men who are in denial of their bisexuality, or live a closeted-life, are actually more likely to cheat than bi+ men who are open about their bisexuality. I think this is in large part where the fallacious stereotype of “all bisexuals are cheaters” comes from.

Let me clarify. This isn’t all closeted bi men. Obviously not all closeted bi people are cheaters and abusive. Also, not all openly bi people want to be in ethically non-monogamous relationships. In fact, I’d argue that the majority of bi+ people want a more traditional monogamous relationship. What I’m saying now are my educated hypotheses and speculations. Ones I’m making from my years in activism, the research papers I’ve read, and the various out and closeted bi+ individuals I’ve met over the course of my lifetime.

So why do I bring all this up?

Well for one, because this is my column, and I have the power here. Y’all get to suffer along with me as I work through my own thoughts and contemplate bi identity politics ad nauseam. But second, I think this distinction for the reason why bi+ people explore polyamorous relationships more often is an important one worth addressing.

There’s nothing inherently more likely to make bi+ people polyamorous. It’s not that bi people feel as if they can never be satisfied with just one gender (although that may be the case for some bi+ people, and I thought that was the case for me for many years. If it is the case for you, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with it as long as you’re upfront and honest). I think it’s because we felt we didn’t fit in to the heteronormative ideal of relationships, and therefore, challenged traditional notions of relationships more. Something that straight people can do, and gay people have been doing all along.

I think this humanizes ethical non-monogamy more. It also reveals that it can be (and should be!) for everyone. Since I often see so many of my friends on Facebook — especially gay friends, ironically — illustrate their contempt and disgust with polyamory and open relationships, I hope this way of thinking helps to create more of an understanding towards ethical non-monogamy.

And while I know it’s not for everyone, I do think everyone should explore it at least once in their lifetime. Similarly, I believe everyone should be in at least one monogamous relationship in their lifetime.

Zachary Zane
Zachary Zane a Brooklyn-based freelance writer, speaker, YouTuber, and activist whose work focuses on (bi)sexuality, gender, identity politics, relationships, and culture. He's a contributing editor at The Advocate Magazine, a columnist at Bi.org, and currently writes for The Washington Post, Cosmopolitan, Out Magazine, and PRIDE.