It’s Time to Take Bi Women Seriously
As a bi woman, it can be a challenge to get society to take our identity seriously. In a world where relationships between women are continually sexualized by the media, we face the same reactions almost every day. You must be doing it for attention, to turn men on, or only be interested in woman in a sexual, and not romantic, capacity.
Relationships between women are overwhelmingly sexualized in popular media. This is evident in films especially— scenes depicting two woman getting it on have no logic or authenticity. There is a sense of voyeurism about these scenes that makes it feel like we’re watching it from the perspective of a fourteen year old straight boy. These two women are getting it on, not for their own pleasure, but for the pleasure of the viewer.
By no means am I saying that every time two woman have sex on screen it has to be deep and meaningful, but more often than not these scenes are two straight women “experimenting.” Every gratuitous and illogical scene featuring curious straight girls feeds into the myth that bisexuality is a quirky kink, and not a legitimate identity. It also implies that women can be attracted to other women sexually, very rarely is that attraction romantic. How many more sex scenes feature two woman compared to scenes of two women romancing one another? The answer is: metric tons. This imbalance creates the stigma that bi women are only interested in kinky sex, not romance.
We’ve all been told at least once, usually by straight men, that as bi women our sexuality is ‘hot’ or ‘sexy’. Every time I hear this, a hair on my head turns gray— it gets really, really, old. This seemingly innocuous comment completely undermines our identity, it means that someone else can only conceive of our sexuality in reference to themselves. Catering to the male gaze is the last thing on our list. In fact, it’s not on the list at all. Making our sexuality into something to be celebrated because it’s something you like to ogle at takes away our power to celebrate who we are.
I have been asked by several past boyfriends, and sometimes random men, to describe my encounters with women. I am not an erotic fiction audiobook that exists for your listening pleasure, thank you very much. The idea that bi women just want attention perpetuates the idea that a woman’s love for another woman is something for straight men to enjoy. When people ask us demeaning questions about our personal life, they are not only violating our privacy, they’re putting fuel on the fire of the attention myth. We can talk about our encounters as little or as much as we like, but it needs to be on our own terms. It’s our lives and we do things because we want to. It’s acceptance we strive for, not attention.
Heteronormativity, which no one is safe from, is a real threat to bi women. That is to say that the widespread acceptance of heterosexuality being the default setting for humans can make it difficult for some people to accept that bi doesn’t mean mostly straight. Because we are attracted to men as well, it can lead to the absurd conclusion that we are just straight women who are up for whatever. A straight woman, but with an exciting hobby. Being treated like a novelty minimizes the perceived validity of bisexuality. It also implies that we are all the same.
We bi women are as different and varied as straight women. Some of us are sexually liberal and some more conservative. When someone perceives us as being straight by default, our attraction to men is seen as our primary mode of sexuality, the protagonist, if you will. Our attraction to woman is then seen as a sassy side character, with no real depth except in reference to the protagonist. In reality, as bi folk our sexuality has dual protagonists, both with intricate storylines and character development. We exist outside cultural norms, and no aspect of our sexuality caters to them, despite what anyone spouts about ‘straight passing’ women. Bi is not a cooler straight, it is separate entirely.
Someone I dated once said he felt threatened by my bisexuality. He said he felt like he could compete with any other man, but that a woman could give me something he couldn’t, and he felt insecure about not being able to ‘fulfill all my desires’. No wonder we struggle with being taken seriously— turns out bi people need a man and a woman simultaneously to be fulfilled. Thanks for clarifying that, dude, you sure know better than me. The idea that we require simultaneous relationships with multiple genders to feel whole makes bisexuality into something it isn’t. Some bi folks have multiple lovers (polyamory) or single lovers (monogamy). Regardless, we don’t require a relationship with multiple genders in order to function. My ex’s comments once again made my identity all about him, taking the autonomy out of who I am. Reassuring someone that my sexuality isn’t a threat to their ego is something I hope to never do again.
In order to be taken seriously, it’s unfortunate that us bi women need to take a machete through the overgrown jungle of society’s perception. But we’re cutting a clearer and clearer path every day. We’re not attention seeking, we’re not straight, we don’t exist for your pleasure, and we don’t all require multiple partners to be satisfied. We’re out here disproving the dull stereotypes, owning our identity, and stepping into the light as our whole, authentic selves. It just so happens that we’re doing a whole lot of eye rolling in the process.