A controversy: Does bisexuality really exist in men?
Back in the 1980's, there was a widespread belief among lesbians and gays that bisexuality did not really exist.They viewed persons as being either totally heterosexual or totally homosexuality. Those who claimed to be bisexual were judged to actually be gay or lesbian, but had not fully acknowledged their real orientatIon. Some gays claimed: "You're either gay, straight or lying." 1
The New York Times reported:
"A 1979 study of 30 men found that those who identified themselves as bisexuals were indistinguishable from homosexuals on measures of arousal. Studies of gay and bisexual men in the 1990's showed that the two groups reported similar numbers of male sexual partners and risky sexual encounters. And a 1994 survey by The Advocate, the gay-oriented newsmagazine, found that, before identifying themselves as gay, 40 percent of gay men had described themselves as bisexual." 1
In 2005, a team of psychologists at Northwestern University in Chicago IL and the Center for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto ON measured genital arousal in men and women while they viewed erotic movies, some involving only men and others only women. They found that male gays were aroused by the movies featuring other males, but had little arousal to the movies with females. Heterosexual men showed the reverse. For men who identified as bisexual, about three quarters had arousal patterns identical to those of gay men; the rest had patterns identical to heterosexual men. 2 It was as if bisexuality simply did not exist in men.
Gerulf Rieger, at the time a graduate psychology student at Northwestern was the study's lead author. He said:
"Regardless of whether the men were gay, straight or bisexual, they showed about four times more arousal to one sex or the other."
Dr. Lisa Diamond, an associate professor of psychology and gender identity at the University of Utah, who was not involved in the study, said:
"Research on sexual orientation has been based almost entirely on self-reports, and this is one of the few good studies using physiological measures. [The discrepancy between what is happening in people's minds and what is going on in their bodies presents a puzzle] that the field now has to crack, and it raises this question about what we mean when we talk about desire. ... We have assumed that everyone means the same thing, but here we have evidence that that is not the case."
Dr. Randall Sell, an assistant professor of clinical socio-medical sciences at Columbia University, said:
"The last thing you want is for some therapists to see this study and start telling bisexual people that they're wrong, that they're really on their way to homosexuality. We don't know nearly enough about sexual orientation and identity to jump to these conclusions."
Dr. J. Michael Bailey, a professor of psychology at Northwestern and the study's senior author said:
"I'm not denying that bisexual behavior exists, but I am saying that in men there's no hint that true bisexual arousal exists, and that for men arousal is orientation."
Other researchers suggest that the method used in the study is too crude to measure components of sexual attraction other than physical arousal, such as erotic sensations, and feelings of affection, and admiration towards others.
Dr. Gilbert Herdt, director of the National Sexuality Resource Center in San Francisco, CA said:
""To claim on the basis of this study that there's no such thing as male bisexuality is overstepping, it seems to me. It may be that there is a lot less true male bisexuality than we think, but if that's true then why in the world are there so many movies, novels and TV shows that have this as a theme. Is it collective fantasy, [or] merely a projection? I don't think so."
In 2004-NOV, a study of bisexual women by the Chicago/Toronto team found that bisexual women responded very differently from male bisexuals. Most women who identified themselves as bisexuals were in fact aroused by both men and women in erotic movies.
Dr. Diamond concluded: "There's a whole lot of movement and flexibility. The fact is, we have very little research in this area, and a lot to learn." 1
Obviously this study greatly distressed many bisexual males. It generated considerable heated debate within LGBT-positive groups. No study had actually demonstrated that many bisexual men are sexually aroused by both men and women. All the studies seemed to indicate that bisexual men were either lying, or actually had a homosexual orientation, or that the technique to measure arousal did not accurately measure bisexual men's sexual interest in both men and women.
The Chicago/Toronto team later revisited their 2005 study. They recruited another group of men who not only identified themselves as bisexuals, but had actually been sexually active with both men and women. They added a third type of movie to the study that involved a man engaged in sexual activity with a woman together with another man. They found that the new test subjects did show a bisexual arousal pattern; they responded to both male and female erotic scenes. In addition, the bisexual men were more aroused by the bisexual movie than were either homosexual or heterosexual men. It still remains unclear what percentage of bisexual men respond in this way. 3
A second controversy: use of the word "choice:"
Cynthia Nixon played the role of lawyer Maranda Hobbes on the Sex and the City TV program series and movies. In real life, she identifies herself as bisexual, although she actually dislikes the term. During an interview in 2012-JAN, she told a New York Times reporter:
"I gave a speech recently, an empowerment speech to a gay audience, and it included the line 'I’ve been straight and I’ve been gay, and gay is better.' And they tried to get me to change it, because they said it implies that homosexuality can be a choice. And for me, it is a choice. I understand that for many people it’s not, but for me it’s a choice, and you don’t get to define my gayness for me.
A certain section of our community is very concerned that it not be seen as a choice, because if it’s a choice, then we could opt out. I say it doesn’t matter if we flew here or we swam here, it matters that we are here and we are one group and let us stop trying to make a litmus test for who is considered gay and who is not. As you can tell I am very annoyed about this issue. Why can’t it be a choice? Why is that any less legitimate? It seems we’re just ceding this point to bigots who are demanding it, and I don’t think that they should define the terms of the debate. I also feel like people think I was walking around in a cloud and didn’t realize I was gay, which I find really offensive. I find it offensive to me, but I also find it offensive to all the men I’ve been out with." 4
During this interview, she appears to be defining "straight" and "gay" in terms of behavior. If one defines homosexuality and heterosexuality in terms of behavior, then a bisexual person might well be viewed as switching during her life between being straight and gay. This is in fact how many religious and social conservatives would view Ms. Nixon: that she chose during her life to change from being straight -- in a 15 year relationship with Danny Mozes -- to gay -- in a seven year and counting relationship with Christine Marinoni. Many conservatives would view her has initially being heterosexual and more recently changing to adopt the "homosexual lifestyle." If she had such relationships in the reverse order, they would now view her as being an "ex-gay."
She seems to have adopted the religious and social conservatives' definition of straight and gay in order to avoid using the term "bisexual."
During an interview by Kevin Sessums of the Daily Beast, she was asked:
"You’ve been quoted as saying about these two relationships in your life:
'In terms of sexual orientation, I don’t really feel I’ve changed ... I’ve been with men all my life and I’d never fallen in love with a woman. But when I did, it didn’t seem so strange. I’m just a woman in love with another woman.'
I’m a bit confused. Were you a lesbian in a heterosexual relationship? Or are you now a heterosexual in a lesbian relationship? That quote seemed like you were fudging a bit."
"It’s so not fudging. It’s so not. I think for gay people who feel 100 percent gay, it doesn’t make any sense. And for straight people who feel 100 percent straight, it doesn’t make any sense. I don’t pull out the 'bisexual' word because nobody likes the bisexuals. Everybody likes to dump on the bisexuals. ... we get no respect. ...I just don’t like to pull out that word. But I do completely feel that when I was in relationships with men, I was in love and in lust with those men. And then I met Christine and I fell in love and lust with her. I am completely the same person and I was not walking around in some kind of fog. I just responded to the people in front of me the way I truly felt." 5
In other words, she viewed herself as a bisexual during her relationship with a man and also during her current relationship with a woman. She looked upon herself as a bisexual continuously through all of her relationships. But she hates using the term "bisexual" because so many people are disrespectful to bisexuals.
David Graham, reporter for the Toronto Star, wrote:
"Nixon’s comments landed her in hot water. Some gay rights activists fumed that her words had set their education campaign back decades. And as could be expected, the Rick Santorums of the world offered each other a collective high five." 6
The LGBT movement has been trying to convince religious and social conservatives for decades that people can control their behavior, but cannot change their sexual orientation. That is, a male gay is attracted only to other men; a lesbian is attracted only to other women; neither can become heterosexual and and be attracted to members of the opposite sex. They can chose to be sexually active with members of the same sex, or to be celibate. But that it the limit of their choice. Since, by definition, bisexuals are attracted to both men and women, they do have choice not experienced by persons with a heterosexual or homosexual orientation.
For Cynthia, a bisexual, to refer to her "gayness" and state that she had a choice to enter into a relationship with either a man or woman could cause confusion in the mind of the public.
However, actor Harvey Fierstein who is active in the LGBT equality movement supported Nixon. He told Newsday:
If Cynthia Nixon feels the best way to express her own journey -- and it has to be your own personal journey -- is to say, 'I am a lesbian by choice,' then God bless her. It takes nothing away from me." 6
Anne Heche (1969- ) caused a similar reaction in the year 2000. Before she met Ellen Degeneres, she had assumed that she was a heterosexual. Then she met Ellen and fell in love with her. She realized that she was actually bisexual. However, Ellen was the first woman to whom she was sexually attracted. Anne and Ellen lived together from 1997 to 2000. A year after their breakup, she married Coleman Laffoon a cameraman. They separated in 2007 and she has been since living with James Tupper.
The "Young Turks" attempted to clear up the confusion:
Responding to the complaints by gay civil rights workers who felt that her comments could be used to deny a biological basis for homosexuality, she clarified her position by releasing a statement to The Advocate magazine. She wrote that she is technically bisexual, and not by choice. She said: "What I have 'chosen' is to be in a gay relationship." 9 That is, she discovered rather than chose her bisexual orientation. In turn, her bisexuality allowed her to choose whether to have a relationship with a man or a woman.
The author of this section on bisexuality is a married heterosexual with a huge crush on Cynthia Nixon.
The American Institute of Bisexuality (AIB) hosts Bisexual.org. Their web site hosts web sites of other bisexual groups. They handle "Biographies
Personal Ads." See: http://www.bisexual.org/
BiNetUSA is a organization that promotes equal rights for bisexuals. It has been active since 1990. See: http://www.binetusa.org/
bi.org serves "the worldwide bisexual community by providing a free Internet presence for bisexual individuals, groups and non-profit organisations...there is a large set of pages detailing
resources..." Their web site has over 3,000 unique hyperlinks. See: http://serf.org/
The Bisexual Index "... is a collaborative network of activists and other UK bisexuals, working together for a change in the way people view bisexuality and bisexuals." See: http://www.bisexualindex.org.uk/