If you haven’t read the honest and probing post by Saye Bennett on bisexuality, you can either read it on my blog or hers. It will make this post make a lot more sense.;)
The biggest puzzle to bisexuality in the lesbian community is the 50-50% theorem, the idea that bisexuals are naturally oriented towards sexual interest in both sexes at an equal rate. In real life, however, as all too many lesbians know, the real breakdown later in life is…100% straight. Ironically enough, very often, the most straightedge, conservative straight that there is! What the hell happened?
First, I theorize that very few women (or men) are 50-50% attracted, that most lean one way or the other. That has certainly been the case with me, and apparently, most “Straightbians.”;) This would explain why there is not a population-wide trend towards bisexuals ending up with men vs. women in equal numbers. Thanks to Purplesagefem’s comment on Saye’s guest post, I have another theory. PSF suggested that bisexual partners primarily end up with men due to availability, something that makes a lot of sense to me. I would like to add to that and suggest that nature is at work also. The majority of bisexuals end up with men because the majority of bisexuals lean straight. Just as the majority of humans on the planet are orientated straight, I believe most bisexuals are oriented straight also. This would confer an evolutionary advantage in the event that a large number of humans were dead or otherwise unable to reproduce. Even if the majority of the population were not straight, there are still enough around that are capable of draw towards heterosexual activities. Likewise, as homosexuals are the minority, so are homo-leaning bisexuals.
It appears that bisexuality does indeed have a presence in nature and isn’t just a human construct. Some fun facts can be found here. This includes evenly split bisexuality, homo-leaning, and hetero-leaning bisexuality. One species in this series, the lizard, even has something of a modified butch/femme dynamic. For the animals in this series, their bisexual behaviors often serve an evolutionary purpose, as in the case of the deep sea squid. If you need to reproduce, rarely encounter other members of your species, and never know at a given time if your partner is male or female…it makes sense that you would have sex with whomever you came across, just in case. It is also clear from the article that their bisexuality is influenced by their environment (deep sea living conditions, captivity, etc.) even when they would not ordinarily be inclined towards bisexual behavior.
Even if we accept the idea that bisexuals lean one way or the other, what sorts of attributes arouse interest in a bisexual towards a member of their non-preferred sex? As Saye noted, sex with men is very different from sex with women, almost to the point of being paradoxical. What could possibly compel a woman to break with a pattern that is working and swing the other way? My idea is that, to the extent that bisexuals enjoy the non-preferred sex, they are attracted to partners that remind them of their preferred sex. As Dirt and Saye have noted, a key indicator that a lesbian’s partner is not, herself, a lesbian is that she targets butch or otherwise masculine women, encourages them to transition, or to otherwise pretend to be male (i.e. stand on a curb while expressing affection publicly so the butch partner looks more imposing), viewing the butch personality as a facsimile of the dominant heterosexual male prototype. It makes sense that a straight-leaning bisexual targets masculine women and seeks to maximize her partner’s presentation and style of interaction to mimic her preferred love interest-straight men.
Likewise, homo-leaning bisexual women will gravitate towards male partners that remind her of her preferred female love interest. As a homo-leaning bisexual, all of my male love interests (in fantasy) have been feminine or androgynous men, both physically and in their personalities and interaction style. No manly men need apply in this group. They have just enough of a “masculine” energy force to be exotic and thus an adventure for the homo-leaning bisexual, but overwhelmingly flatter their own, and their partner’s, feminine proclivities.
So we have discussed how bisexual desire is distributed. Now let’s work backwards…what IS bisexual desire anyway? What is sexuality made up of?
Sexuality, in my view, is 50% internal and 50% external. What you are drawn to, what you imagine, and how those attractions and imaginings make you feel comprise the internal aspect of sexuality. A discussion of bisexuality will not make sense without integrating the internal aspect of sex into what makes a person bisexual. So how do you explain self-identified bisexuals who only act on their desires with women? Wouldn’t they just be lesbians?
A bisexual person who is primarily or exclusively interested in partnering with women, and has been for a long period of time (not just the rebellious college girl phase) may still find men physically, intellectually, and emotionally fascinating to the extent that it goes beyond friendship and into love. They may, and very likely will, fantasize about them sexually. So what makes them different from a non-bisexual person? They have no intention of acting out these fantasies. Anything can be pleasurable in fantasy land, but in real life, a homo-leaning bisexual will want nothing to do with seeing, touching, or intercoursing with penis. They are unlikely to pass a strange man on the street and be aroused. Generally, their sexual interest in men is nurtured to some degree. On the other hand, if the right woman walks by, she might experience an instant draw, more indicative of an innate sexual response than something nurtured by familiarity and affection over time.
How are these women when they migrate to the bedroom? Do males ever make an appearance. They might not…or they might, but not in the way you would think. Because the homo-leaning bisexual may have a handful of fantastical male characters that she has sex with in her mind. If the other partner enjoys role play, either she or her partner will play the masculine role. This merges the fantastical appeal of the male character being played, and the fantastical-plus-real-life sexual, aesthetic, and romantic appeal of a female sex partner.
Perhaps the homo-leaning bisexual did more than just fantasize. Perhaps earlier in life they had sex with men and enjoyed it. They were attracted to, and loved, their partners. Their partners might even have been good in bed. Perhaps the woman experienced orgasm. All animals experience orgasm when the right physical stimulation occurs. It is not necessarily an indication of will or pleasure. Both males and females can experience erection or orgasm while being abused or raped, but that is not an indication that the victim “wanted” it. As I mentioned in an earlier post, women breastfeeding infants can experience arousal and orgasm while breastfeeding, because the breasts are an erogenous zone and…the job of an erogenous zone is to respond sexually in ways that we cannot consciously control. That doesn’t mean a nursing mother is really a pedophile. Likewise, a woman experiencing orgasm as a result of PIV doesn’t necessarily enjoy men as much as, or more than women. Her partner either intentionally or accidentally provided stimulation sufficient to cause a response, and if she consented and liked her partner, she probably enjoyed in to some degree. Once she finds women, however, she may experience an attraction and pleasure that she has never felt with men before. In that sense, she is capable of enjoying men but doesn’t have anywhere near the interest in men as she does in women. The problem here is that these women rarely identify as bisexual, instead referring to themselves as lesbian, which is an accurate descriptor if you love women and only women for the rest of your life. It just reinforces the idea that women who identify as bisexual and end up with men are generally straight and do not admit as such. If you want relatively recent scientific evidence that lends support to my theory, I have the following article from Current Directions in Psychological Science, Volume 12, Number 2, in April 2003.
Disclaimer: There is significant conflating of orientation and self-identification, resulting in some cringe-worthy phrases, such as “change in sexual orientation over time.” It’s hardly complete but it’s a good start.
More or less, it supports the idea that women find intimacy erotic moreso than men, which could explain why women are able to eroticize encounters with people they are not really sexually interested in. Likewise, their sexuality is more responsive to cultural forces than that of men, which further explains why women are drawn to bisexual behavior and experience secondary sexual interest outside of their orientation. This article is more “similar food for thought” than it is direct evidence of my idea, but it inspired me and I thought you would enjoy it.
The same phenomenon happens in reverse. Hetero-leaning bisexuals may appreciate women aesthetically, emotionally, intellectually, and will achieve orgasm with a lesbian partner that is competent in bed. That does not automatically mean she is a lesbian. Does she initiate contact with a potential same-sex partner or feel immediately, deeply drawn, i.e. in a sexual sense, to strange women (which, as we discussed earlier, indicates an innate sexual reaction?) Rarely will a hetero-leaning bisexual or a straightbian do this, but won’t shy away from making similar comments about men, because that is her locus of interest. I don’t know what hetero-leaning bisexuals do in the bedroom, but I have two ideas. The first idea is a reverse of my earlier scenario with homo-leaning bisexuals: that to the extent that hetero-leaning bisexuals enjoy women, they enjoy women primarily in fantasy and may ask her male partner to role play this fantasy partner. The other, and in my view, more likely theory is that hetero-leaning bisexuals do not do this kind of role play. Unlike LGB individuals, straight people tend to be more gender-conforming (although this has changed with social acceptance of feminism ideals and gay rights and gay people). As such, unless they are part of the BDSM scene or identify as “kinky,” hetero-leaning bisexuals tend not to engage in his same-sex role play with their male partners. It remains a topic open to research.
In the previous installment of my behavioral theory of bisexuality, I discussed straight-leaning bisexuals. In my next installment, I will discuss homo-leaning bisexuals who may not actually be bisexual at all, but lesbians. I will discuss research that implicates that malleability of sexual orientation of women as well as the eroticizing of trauma and power dynamics. I theorize that for some lesbian women, this would lead to bisexual desire and activity among lesbians that goes away when a) the lesbian is able to heal with time and either therapeutic or natural supports in an environment that affirms lesbian identity and b) the eroticized triggers for trauma and power dynamics are removed from her environment and psyche.