Monday, January 21, 2008

I'm pleased that I exist but...

A report from the American Psychological Association that (female) bisexuality is a stable identity has been doing the blog-rounds over the past few days, as well it might.

According to from which I lifted this (and a whole heap of other sites):
“A study of 79 bisexual, lesbian or unlabeled women ages 18-25 over a decade found that bisexuals maintained a stable pattern of attraction to men and women, according to a press release from the APA. The study also disproves the myth that bisexual women are unable to commit to long-term monogamous relationships. Results were published in the January issue of Developmental Psychology, published by the APA.
University of Utah psychologist Lisa Diamond, who conducted the study, said in the press release that the research provides the first experimental study on the topic and debunks long-standing beliefs.
"The findings demonstrate considerable fluidity in bisexual, unlabeled and lesbian women's attractions, behaviors and identities and contribute to researchers' understanding of the complexity of sexual-minority development over the life span," she said.
Bisexual women were more likely than lesbians to change their identity but tended to switch between bisexual and unlabeled rather than lesbian and heterosexual.
At the end of the 10-year study, most of the women were involved in long-term (more than one year in length), monogamous relationships -- 70 percent of the self-identified lesbians, 89 percent of the bisexuals, 85 percent of the unlabeled women and 67 percent of those who were then calling themselves heterosexual. (The Advocate)”

So great ammunition for anyone who’s been on the receiving end of the: bisexual women are just confused / waiting for a man to come along / you watch out – it’ll all end in tears stereotypes.

What do you think?

There was a bit more background to the study, and lots of really interesting comments on the great blog Feministing. Jessica, who writes it, asks her readers whether the study concentrated on women because men’s bisexuality is less acceptable and seen more as a temporary stop on the way to gayness. (Well, just because that’s true, doesn’t make it a reason not to study women’s behaviour/ identity/ whatever.)

I do have this nagging feeling, though, that all this new-found quasi acceptability bi women seem to be enjoying (I say seem, because I’ve seen little evidence of it in “real life”) actually is because men (some: not all by any means, despite the stereotype) like it. Fundamentally, I believe that women's bisexuality is actually a bit more challenging than that - or it can and should be. I want women’s relationships with each other, sexual and otherwise, to be taken seriously and not always viewed in relation to men. I want bi women who bear no resemblance to Tila Tequila to appear in the media. I want bi women of all ages, shapes and sizes – not just young and pretty ones – to be able to live without harassment. And really, I know that this won’t happen until bi men are taken a bit more seriously too.


Alan Pritt said...

At last I have a bit more personal experience in this now (only as a man of course). And for me, at least, a relationship with a woman and a relationship with a man feels exactly the same. This was a great surprise to me and I think that alone demonstrates how much of a cultural influence has been cast on me.

Where it feels slightly uncomfortable in a gay relationship and perfectly comfortable in a straight one is when I'm out in public. I'm very self-conscious about simple things like holding hands with another man. Partly, I believe this is in my head.

(The only other thought is the possibility for children. But that's not a major concern for me at this stage of my life.)

So yes, I think our lack of exposure to gay relationships in general, does have a direct unconscious affect on those relationships. And if you are bisexual it is pretty easy to just ignore opportunities for gay relationships if you can have a fulfilling love life with the opposite sex. (An unhealthy one though, since those opportunities will always be at the back of your mind.)

I believe the first step is for a conscious acceptance of homosexuality. Then for an unconscious acceptance through personal experience (e.g. you have gay friends, you see gay couples being romantic in public, and even the same thing on TV). Only then will it start to feel as natural as it is. And then bisexuality acceptance will follow from that I think.

Sue George said...

Yes, I completely agree that gay acceptability and bi acceptability are intrinsically linked. But I think too that your feelings of discomfort holding hands with a man in public are also connected to the potential reactions of other people. You aren't going to have trouble holding hands with a woman; but people might react badly to you holding hands with a man.

Oh and hello! I wondered how you were...

figleaf said...

The shift from identification of any sort to non-identified seems as interesting as any of the other combinations. It corresponds well to two long-term serial monogamist women friends who wound up with different genders when their decades-long domestic relationships ended. One said outright "I guess I'm supposed to be bisexual but I've never felt that way."

A lot of good food for thought.


Marquis said...

I agree with Alan pritt. 1st off, these "studies" on human sexuality sound like they are all biased to me. i dont think you can really measure human sexuality, i mean back in Jesus' time, people were having sex with both sexes or one sex. even if they were gay, they still had to marry into a heterosexual lifestyle.

Anybody can have a fulfilling relationship and live a happy life. one of angelina jolie's ex gf is a lesbian and she is married to a bisexual woman. I am a bisexual woman, i dont think you need to bring in science and try to distinguish the difference between lesbians and bisexual women.