To carry on from where I left off last week...
“Why," asks my correspondent "is the fact that the gender one is attracted to of such importance in our conceptions of sex and not, say, the fact that we have such a conception in the first place?”
Indeed. And in a different kind of world it wouldn’t have anything like such importance. At the moment, though, for society at large, the biological sex of your sexual partners is by far the most important thing. Not whether you only like people who are older or younger (unless this is by many years); a difference race to you or the same; always blondes or never blondes; short or tall; kind or cruel. All these are seen as behaviour choices, rather than as saying something profound. They are things that can be changed not innate. Sexual orientation, on the other hand, is meant to be innate – although I personally believe it is far more complicated than that.
And as you say, there is certainly no concern over whether I have a partner I never have sex with, always dump them after six months, want sex three times a day, don’t ever really want sex with anyone, like it swinging from the chandeliers or standing on my head. Etc.
To my mind, that’s because the whole way society is organised is predicated on straight good/gay bad. Bisexuality, or in anyway refusing to accept that dichotomous view of sexuality, blurs the boundaries too much. Straight men in particular need to know that the man they are dealing with is definitely straight or definitely gay in order that they know how to deal with him. In addition, the appearance of monogamy is important to the maintenance of the nuclear family. But it’s only an appearance. For probably most people of every sexuality, at least in 2007, long-term monogamy is a goal that they can never quite attain. Bisexuality throws that into question, even if the individuals concerned are 150% faithful.
To those involved though, as distinct from the concerns of mainstream society, other sorts of sexual identities can be at least as compelling. I’m thinking here of people I’ve interviewed and who I have found through predominantly bisexual forums. It seems to become an identity if they feel it is something they are oppressed over and which is fundamental to their sense of self. For instance, to my surprise actually, many of them identified as poly at least as much as they identified as bi. Polyamory – loving more than one person – is increasingly something its adherents are public and vocal about. To me personally, relationships are “poly” rather than people are “poly”. It is me, on the other hand, rather than my relationships, that is bisexual.