Post 3.3 - Bi, Bi, Bi

A Facets Reader writes:
Food for thought... Though I consider myself to be a heterosexual man, I think that most everyone is *at least* a little bisexual. And I'm sure that 4 out of 5 psychologists would disagree with my simplistic view, but maybe some people think about/consider/fantasize/act upon those thoughts/feelings/desires more than others. But again, I may be over simplifying and there may be more to it than a lingering thought - who knows. 
As I've said before, human sexuality, in general, is a complicated thing.

The first in-depth, pioneering study was done by Alfred Kinsey, who released his data in 1948 and 1953 for men and women, respectively. The eponymous "Kinsey Scale" is an oft-used descriptor of sexuality, as it clearly illustrates that human sexuality is a continuum.


This is also useful for discussing our reader's observation.

While there are Kinsey-0s (exclusively heterosexual) and Kinsey-6s (exclusively homosexual), there is a lot of variety and variation in between. There is also a lot of difference between thinking about something and acting on it. And experimenting in one direction or another does not mean you get re-labeled. To use an analogy, if you manage to wire a lamp, it doesn't make you an electrician; if you have one same-sex experience, it doesn't make you homosexual.

In the early 1990s, I read a study that treated sexuality not only as a continuum, but dimensionally. It treated attraction, fantasy, and activity as three different aspects, which they truly are. In recent weeks, there has been the results of a study of self-identified male bisexuals that measured only physical responses and determined that these men were primarily homosexual based on their reactions to porn. Now, as some have noted, we don't know if it was good porn, and different people are turned on by different things - which is why sperm banks and fertility clinics have such a wide variety of pornography in their "collection rooms". Therefore, I give a bit more credibility and utility to the earlier examination.

Self-identitying as a bisexual is often used as a gateway to coming out as homosexual, particularly among males. To paraphrase Dan Savage, "come back and see me in 10 years and tell me again." Most in the gay community (not Savage) still feel that bisexuality is solely a gateway and not a true orientation. Others feel that bisexuals are somehow betraying the cause because they keep one foot (or toe) in the hetero-world and they can run back whenever being gay is too difficult. And still others just want bisexuals to choose.

There is a lot of misconception around bisexuality, as well, including suspected promiscuity, an assumed need for both genders all the time, inability to commit, etc. While these can be true of anyone, there is no reason to ascribe these traits to an entire group. And it really isn't fair.

When I was in college, I received a frantic call one morning from a friend in another dorm, asking me to come over immediately because he was having a problem. I got there, and apparently, he'd had a dream that he kissed a guy and he kinda liked it. Did this mean he was gay now? How should he know? What should he do? Oh noez!

Many young people - male and female - fantasize about a member of the same sex at some point, whether or not they act on it. It's about attachment, attraction, even hero worship sometimes - we are attracted to people and gravitate toward people for various reasons, whether overtly romantic or just to be friends because we want to be in that person's light. It's entirely normal. And when we're young, sometimes wires cross in our subconscious, but it doesn't make us homosexual or even bisexual. It doesn't have to mean anything. As Freud even once said, "sometimes a cigar is just a cigar."

Two of the girls I dated - we'll call them A and B - had lesbian feelings of varied degrees. Girl A loved porn, and fantasized somewhat frequently about lesbian sex. She never acted on these feelings, but it definitely turned her on. Girl B actually had lesbian sex; presumably, she'd fantasized about it before she did it, and finally gave it a try. Their personalities were very different, as Girl B was always more adventurous, but these activities alone did not make either of them lesbian, but perhaps varying degrees of bisexual. (Obviously, there is more to both of them, which I won't go into here).

Ok, so to go back to the dimensions for a moment, if you'd like to use it yourself...

For each category, assign a rating. And this works only if you are really honest with yourself about the answers, which only you will know - so don't be skittish.

  • Are your fantasies - the ones that turn you on the most - more heterosexual (0) or homosexual (6) in nature, or somewhere in between (1-5)?
  • Are the people you find attractive more often the opposite sex (0), the same-sex (6), or both (1-5)?
  • Are your most satisfying experiences exclusively opposite sex (0), same-sex (6), or a mix of both (1-5)?
Now, take those numbers and average them.

So let's take Girl A. I'd give her a 4 on the fantasy, a 2 on the attractions, and a 0 on the experiences. That totals 6, divided by 3, so she'd be a Kinsey-2. For Girl B, I'd give her a 5 on the fantasy, a 4 on the attraction, and probably a 5 on the experiences. So that's 14 divided by 3, or a Kinsey 4.7. And yeah, I'd say that's accurate with what I remember of them and know of them now. Note that this approach re-weighs the experiences against a broader picture, so Girl A computes as heterosexual with some bisexual tendencies and fantasies, but nothing more extreme (or scary!) than that. It also allows for trying something and not totally liking it.

The important thing to take away from this is that none of it is wrong, in the sense that you can be whatever you want to be and have your private feelings and even your random experience in high school or college and it doesn't make you a deviant or mean you have to redefine yourself, even if you enjoyed said experience. If you find yourself attracted to someone you didn't expect, that person is just appealing to you on some level. Thoughts are thoughts - we don't have to act on them to enjoy them.

However, if you do feel you want to act on them - that the thoughts and feelings are too overwhelming - there is probably something there, and there is nothing wrong with that, either. Talk about it with your partner or someone you trust. For me, it has always been a very intimate experience to share such things with a partner, whether they be my fantasies or attractions or theirs, and there a lots of ways this can be incorporated into your sex life without necessarily engaging the object of your private affection, as well as ways that do. If nothing else, it has the potential to bring you and your partner closer. If you're single, you may have other options, if it's something you're ready for. Either way, talking it out will help put whatever feelings or thoughts you have into perspective.

But don't be afraid of it. You're human, you're complex, and in the words of Blaise Pascal, the heart has reasons that reason knows nothing of. So whether you are straight, gay, bisexual, open, whatever - be accepting of yourself as the diverse, nuanced person you are.

Have a question or a suggestion for a topic? E-mail me at facetsblog@gmail.com.

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