James W. Hicks, M.D.

Posts Tagged ‘bisexuality’

Comedian, Travon Free

In Flexible People on January 18, 2011 at 9:44 am

The young stand-up comedian, author, and former college athlete, Travon Free, has joined the small rank of celebrities who have declared themselves bisexual. His coming out is unusual not only because he is male, but also because he is black. Read his coming-out essay on his blog, which eloquently describes his evolving sense of his sexuality, his challenges and supports, and his relationship to god, religion, the black community, and college friends.

Free describes himself as sexually interested in both boys and girls since he was 14 years old. He’s had relationships with both men and women and is currently in a relationship with another man. He politely resists suggestions that he is “really gay.”

In terms of the sexual types defined in this blog, Free might be ambisexual or flexamorous, two categories which obviously overlap. But why parse, since he is proud and comfortable with the term “bisexual.”

You can also read more about Free on his professional web site, but be sure to read his essay.

"The Bisexuals I Know Are Only Interested in Sex."

In Myths on November 11, 2010 at 8:46 am

Being a member of a minority group does not make anyone immune to sharing the stereotypes of the broader community. Even if you have sexual attractions to both men and women and have been thoughtful and restrained in pursuing your relationships, you may view bisexuals, as a group, as somehow more promiscuous and deviant.

Part of the problem is that discussions of bisexuality tend to involve people revealing their sexual interests and experiences, because sceptics want proof. Bisexuality is too invisible to discuss in the abstract. And people with more extensive experience tend to be the ones most comfortable coming out of the closet. Perhaps it would help if “sex” were not a part of the word, and if everyone was assumed to have some degree of flexibility in matters sexual.

How Many Bisexuals?

In Research on November 5, 2010 at 11:16 am

I posted previously about the incidence of bisexuality among men and women. Since then, the results of two more national surveys have been published.

The 2008 General Social Survey involved face-to-face interviews with about 2,000 adults (though nearly 13% declined to answer the questions about sexual orientation and behavior). According to an analysis of the data by The Williams Institute, less than 2% of men said they were gay, less than 2% of women said they were lesbian, and less than 2% altogether identified as bisexual. But another 6%, who consider themselves straight, reported having had sex with someone of the same sex. In total, nearly 10% could be considered something other than heterosexual based on self-identification or sexual history.

Of note, women were twice as likely as men to consider themselves bisexual, while men were twice as likely to consider themselves straight even when they had had a same sex partner. This may reflect greater stigma for men in being anything other than straight.

The National Survey of Sexual Health and Behavior of 2009 focused more on specific sexual behaviors and was conducted over the internet, which may have been less embarrassing. Nearly 6,000 adolescents and adults agreed to participate. According to the special issue of the Journal of Sexual Medicine which published the results, about 8% of adults consider themselves something other than straight, with women much more likely to identify as bisexual or “other.” The highest rate of bisexual identification (8.4%) was reported by adolescent girls (who were also much more likely than boys to engage in same-sex behaviors).

The published findings regarding sexual behaviors are frustratingly incomplete, in that they do not distinguish whether insertive anal practices and mutual masturbation were conducted with same-sex or opposite-sex partners, and cunnilingus seems to be the only same-sex activity identified for women. That said, the following rates of same-sex behavior were found among adult men: 8-15% have received oral sex, 6-13% have given oral sex, and 4-11% have received anal sex. Among women, 4-17% have received oral sex from a woman, and 4-14% have given oral sex to a woman. (The ranges reflect the rates in different age groups.)

Again, the rates of same-sex behavior are considerably higher than the rates of gay and bisexual identification, which confirms previous findings that most men and women who have had homosexual experiences nevertheless consider themselves straight (in my schema, most would probably be heteroflexible).

Of note, neither of these surveys sampled institutional settings, such as dormitories, barracks, and jails, where same-sex behavior may be more common. If we were to add in those settings and consider any same-sex behaviors that lead to orgasm, rates of de facto bisexuality would probably be closer to the 20-30% originally identified by Kinsey.

Coming Out as Bisexual

In Flexercises on October 12, 2010 at 3:00 pm

Coming to terms with ones sexual orientation and coming out to ones friends and family are viewed as markers of a successful adjustment for gays and lesbians, but does the same developmental process apply to those with flexible sexual interests?

How do you come out when your identity is defined by flexibility, experimentation, and open-mindedness rather than labels and categories? Many give up on finding a label. Even some gays and lesbians have surprised themselves (and their friends and family) by coming out a second time as bisexual after discovering that their potential for affection and desire was broader than they had realized.

A Zen-like attitude may be more useful for those who have flexible sexual desires. You do not need to fit into a box. You certainly do not need to define yourself as gay, straight, or bi. Be mindful and accepting of your potential for affection and desire for both sexes, and see where those interests lead you. Recognize that your sexual flexibility is natural and not a shameful and solitary affliction. You should find someone with whom you can speak honestly about these feelings, whether within a friendship, a chat room, or a local club or support group, because it is difficult to keep such feelings completely secret, and you may need someone’s encouragement or advice. But you do not need to tell everyone; if you do, be prepared to explain over and over that no, you are not really gay. Even parents may prefer to think you are gay than to be left in limbo, uncertain with whom you will form your next relationship. (“Alright, Mom, I’m gay. Yes, I’ll go on a date with the nice [boy/girl] you met at church. Give [him/her] my number.”)

If you are in a relationship, should you come out to your partner? It may be easier to reveal your bisexual feelings than to lobby for a threesome, but even talking about your attractions in the abstract carries some risk if your partner holds misconceptions. You might want to approach the topic this way: “Of course I find both women and men attractive. Everyone does to some extent. Men and women aren’t that different from each other.” If asked about your past experiences, you can refer to the high rates of same-sex experiences that even straight men and women have, with reference to the research. Flexible sexual feelings and behaviors cannot be abnormal if they are so universal.

"That’s Disgusting!"

In Myths on October 9, 2010 at 3:08 pm

Many people have a visceral reaction to what they consider deviant sex. Homosexuality can still evoke disgust, but many Americans have learned to suppress their feelings and express tolerance for what is increasingly viewed as an unalterable gay or lesbian identity, like race or gender, or (in the minds of those less tolerant) an unfortunate disability. But virtually everyone thinks of bisexuality as a lifestyle choice.

Bisexuals have also not benefited from the same sort of advocacy and exposure as gays. For example, there is no beloved openly bisexual role model like Ellen DeGeneres (though Anna Paquin has certainly stepped up to the plate). Celebrities who have claimed to be bisexual, like Elton John or Lady Gaga, are commonly viewed as gay or disingenuously self-promotional.

Extreme bi-phobic reactions could include parents throwing you out of the house, siblings telling you to stay away from their children, or acquaintances or strangers committing hate crimes. On the other hand, people’s initial reactions and prejudices often soften with time and, most importantly, with exposure. Viewed objectively, there is little difference between heterosexual and homosexual acts, so what precisely do people consider disgusting about bisexuality? What they don’t understand.

Only 1.5% of Brits Are Gay or Bisexual?

In Research on October 5, 2010 at 5:52 pm

Last month, the UK released the findings of a government survey conducted in 2009 which found that only 1.5% of adults (aged 16 or older) are gay, lesbian, or bisexual. The low rates have attracted media attention, particularly since previous surveys in the UK had suggested rates of 5-7%.

The survey was a general survey on a number of topics, to which one question about sexual orientation had been added. Subjects were asked to identify themselves as heterosexual or straight, gay or lesbian, or bisexual. 1.0% identifying as gay or lesbian and 0.5% identifying as bisexual.

A closer examination of the government’s report, produced by the Office for National Statistics, provides some explanation for the unexpectedly low findings. The survey was conducted mostly door-to-door and face-to-face, which is known to lower rates of honest reporting on sensitive topics like sexual orientation. In fact, adults living alone (who may have been more likely to be gay or lesbian) were less likely to answer the question about sexuality.

The figure of 1.5% also does not include the 3.8% who refused to answer, stuttered in embarrassment, or identified themselves using a different term. That leaves 94.8% who identified as straight, but the survey did not ask about sexual behavior, sexual attraction, or sexual desire. We know that many people call themselves straight, in spite of having sexual feelings and experiences with both sexes. In fact, among men who have had sex with men in the US, half consider themselves straight (see my earlier posts on US surveys of men and women).

There were a few interesting findings from the survey. Young adults and women were more likely to identify as bisexual than gay, and non-whites were more likely to answer “other” or not answer at all.

IKEA Goes Bisexual

In Media on September 29, 2010 at 6:07 am

Here’s an IKEA ad from Austria which plays nicely on our assumptions about people being either gay or straight… you don’t need to speak German to get the point.


William Shakespeare

In Flexible People on September 15, 2010 at 6:39 pm

The greatest writer in the English language was probably bisexual.

The majority of Shakespeare’s sonnets, written 400 years ago, were addressed to a young, beautiful, male beloved, perhaps the same “Mr. W. H.” to whom the book of sonnets was dedicated. “Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?” and many other famous lines were written about this young man and muse, the “master mistress of my passion.”

But Shakespeare also married a woman, fathered three children, and referred passionately in other sonnets to a dark-eyed, female mistress.

Shakespeare might exemplify a sexual type that I have not included in my list of a dozen types, because it is rarely encountered in the contemporary Western world: the inter-generational lover. But in most cultures throughout history (think ancient Greece and Rome, the Islamic caliphate, empirial China, etc.), adult men have been able to have both women and male youths as lovers. The older man offered experience, patronage, and wealth, while the beloved had beauty. Contemporary culture values egalitarian relationships and is fearful of the exploitation of minors, so inter-generational desires and relationships are viewed, at best, with skepticism.


In Media, Sexploration* on August 29, 2010 at 2:19 am

Many of us discovered our sexual preferences in adolescence while flipping through an older friend’s or relative’s stack of pornographic magazines. Now everyone is more likely to find pornography on the internet. A wide selection of pornographic studios provide free content to thumbnail gallery posts (TGPs), so you can browse and see what catches your interest. Most straight TGPs (for example, PicHunter) have links to gay, bisexual, and “shemale” material, so you may have already taken a peek at same-sex or transgender pornography, if only out of curiosity.

All pornography involves acting (not all of it very good), and a single twenty minute scene may have actually involved hours of uncomfortable intercourse. The real sexual orientation of the models may have little relation to the acts they perform (i.e., they may be versatile or simply miscast). So don’t be surprised if the participants don’t always look like they are having fun.

Most “lesbian” pornography, unfortunately, is aimed at straight men rather than women and may seem particularly artificial in its depiction of female passion. But there is at least one good, free lesbian TGP that depicts women who look and behave more naturally, at RealLesbianPorn.

Some gay pornography exploits the gay-for-pay concept by presenting “amateur” straight men who have been tempted to explore their gay side for money, only to find they enjoy it. This may hold particular appeal for bi-curious viewers who can identify with the models. Gaysexer is a good TGP with a wide selection of studios and model types. Gaydemon organizes its thumbnail galleries by type of model and action and includes bisexual and shemale directories

“Bisexual” pornography typically involves threesomes in which two men have sex with each other and another woman. Again, it is created for men but may appeal to women who are turned on by gay sex. “FFM” (female-female-male) porn rarely features women who appear genuinely interested in each other. PenisBot has straight, gay, and other galleries, including a fairly good selection of bisexual images.

When browsing through pornography on the web, beware of fake TGPs that endlessly redirect you to other TGPs and studios or that carry malware. The sites listed on this post seem to be relatively safe. Video clips may carry more malware than photographs.

"Does That Mean You Want to Have Sex with Me?"

In Myths on August 25, 2010 at 6:14 pm

If you tell your best friends, will they interpret it as a come-on? Men and women find it safe to talk about their sexual interests when the object of attraction is in another category. Soldiers on leave can whistle at a passing woman on the street. A gay man and his female friend can verbally undress the guys at a bar. But what happens when a male construction worker elbows his buddy and says, “Check out the ass on that guy?” Life becomes more complicated, one way or the other.

Coming out as gay has always posed this problem, though gay men at least have often felt safe confiding in their female friends. Whether you are a man or a woman, and whether you are speaking to a woman or a man, your declaration of bisexuality may raise uncomfortable questions that jeopardize your friendship.

On the other hand, you may find that your friends are wiser and more experienced than you thought, and your friendships may deepen, even while remaining platonic.

Simon Hughes

In Flexible People on August 25, 2010 at 6:01 pm

Yesterday I posted about politicians in the closet. As a counter example, I should point to MP Simon Hughes, Deputy Leader of the Liberal Democrats (the minority party that recently formed a governing coalition with the Tories) in the UK. When faced with accusations that he might be homosexual, Mr. Hughes told the BBC in 2006 that he had had relationships with both men and women. He later confirmed that he considers himself bisexual.

"I Like Guys and Girls in Different Ways."

In Myths on August 11, 2010 at 7:25 pm

Bisexual is not a particularly subtle term. It implies that you are sexually attracted to men and women to the same degree and in the same ways. In fact, social scientists speak of this as “true bisexuality,” as if other forms were not genuine. But no one explained this to Mother Nature.

In fact, as you might expect, people are often attracted to men and women to different degrees and for different reasons. You might enjoy the excitement and mechanics of sex with both genders without necessarily wanting or feeling an emotional love for both. You might be turned on by women but get crushes on men, or vice versa. In other words, your sexuality might be flexible but not easily defined or labelled.

Perhaps we need as many terms for sexuality as Eskimos are said to have for snow.

"What, Half the World’s Population Isn’t Enough for You?"

In Myths on August 5, 2010 at 7:53 pm

Bisexuality strikes some people as greedy and selfish. Given that there are so many members of the opposite sex to choose from, why insist on preying on your own? Single women, in particular, may complain about the additional competition for eligible men. Homosexuality is less threatening, if one assumes that gay men and lesbians mate only with their own kind.

And if bisexuality is thought to be just a transitory phase and not a genuine condition, then you may be accused of being unable to make up your mind as you alternate between women and men. And if you persist, you may be viewed as a sexual addict, unrestrained and tempted by everything.

Of course, it is silly to speak of potential partners in global terms; we fall in love as individuals with individuals, and there is no evidence that bisexuals are cornering the market on either gender.

"You Want to Have Sex with a Man and Woman at the Same Time?"

In Myths on July 24, 2010 at 9:17 am

Many people are confused by the concept of a bisexual orientation or identity. As a practical matter, sexuality is most easily defined by whom you sleep with. Even if you declare yourself bisexual, you may be viewed as alternately gay or straight depending on whether your current relationship is with a man or a woman.

Bisexuality becomes explicit only if you have sex simultaneously with a man and a woman, or if you maintain simultaneous relationships with both men and women. These are the least common (though perhaps the most popularly intriguing) manifestations of bisexuality.

The term is also used this way in male pornography to refer to scenes with two men and a woman, and this may be the only reference point for many men. (Scenes with two women and a man, in contrast, are called lesbian, but are presented for the man’s enjoyment.)

Three New Books about Muslim Bisexuality

In Cultures, Research on July 1, 2010 at 5:50 am

Westerners tend to focus on gay identity and gay rights when speaking about sexuality, but in much of the world, same-sex activity takes place between individuals who do not think of themselves as gay or lesbian and who are likely to be married. All men and women are seen as having the potential to feel affection and sexual desire for both sexes; the act, rather than the individual, is considered homosexual.

This is an oversimplification, but it’s important to emphasize that, while a wide range of emotions and desires are universal, the ways in which they are labelled may vary from one culture to another.

In the last decade, Westerners have become more curious about Islamic cultures, and three new books describe homosexuality in those cultures from different contemporary perspectives.

Afdhere Jama’s Illegal Citizens: Queer Lives in the Muslim World tells three dozen highly personal stories about real Muslim men and women (and transgendered individuals) living all over the world, from Africa to Southeast Asia. The stories are simply told but very moving, and few of the lives follow the trajectories of a Western coming-out story. The individuals are brave but not naive and find various ways to express their love while accomodating to their culture.

Michael Luongo is an author and journalist who has written about his own travels elsewhere. His new book titled Gay Travels in the Muslim World collects stories by predominantly gay Westerners (all men) about their experiences in Muslim countries. Luongo’s own chapter about Afghanistan is among the most fascinating, though a US marine corporal’s account of his encounter with an Arab man while on patrol in Baghdad powerfully shows how much we have in common. Several of the other stories disappointingly reveal a chasm in understanding, if not condescension and exploitation. Most of the chapters describe Muslims who might best be described as macho or versatile, though some might be gay in the Western sense.

Brian Whitaker’s Unspeakable Love: Gay and Lesbian Life in the Middle East describes the political and religious context in which homosexual activity and identity are expressed and curtailed.

Three other older books provide greater historical, literary, and academic analysis: Islamic Homosexualities by Stephen Murray and Will Roscoe, Before Homosexuality in the Arab-Islamic World, 1500-1800, by Khaled El-Rouayheb, and Homoeroticism in Classical Arabic Literature by J.W. Wright Jr. and Everett Rowson. These books remind us that, for most of the last millenium or so, homosexual love and desire was celebrated and protected more in the Muslim world than in the West.

Though the titles of each of these books refers to gays, lesbians, queers, or homosexualities, in reality they are each describing, for the most part, bisexual cultures and individuals.

Article in CNN Living

In Media on June 28, 2010 at 8:17 pm

The last person out of the closet? The bisexual male
By Stephanie Chen, CNN
June 28, 2010 9:04 a.m. EDT

An article that is neither skeptical nor salacious about the existence of bisexual men, and the challenges of identifying as bisexual.

Keep in mind that the figure quoted of 1.8% refers only to those who explicitly identify themselves as bisexual, not to the much larger numbers of men and women who have had bisexual experiences and attractions.

Stay tuned for a future post which will describe those higher numbers.

More Bisexual Announcements

In Flexible People on June 22, 2010 at 12:39 pm

Singer and songwriter Vanessa Carlton just announced at Nashville Pride that she is “a proud bisexual woman.”

Actress Cameron Diaz told Playboy magazine that she finds women sexually attractive.

For women in the entertainment industry, coming out as bisexual is viewed at worst as a publicity stunt. Why are so few male actors and singers announcing that they find both men and women attractive, or that they have had relationships with both genders?