Today I was wandering around the blogosphere and found a link via The Sex Carnival to this report on a poll about the prevalence of bisexuality that made me stop and think. The brief article touches on quite a few topics that I am finding immediately relevant. These topics are:

  • Hostility towards bisexual-identified people, most confusingly from gay- and lesbian-identified people.
  • A lack of cohesion and inertia in the bisexual community, who often identify with some other community instead (gay, lesbian, kinky, poly, etc.).
  • The harm that is caused by a simplistic understanding of communication, particularly when using language.

These topics are of obvious interest to me because they each affect my social spaces. One of the more startling findings of the poll is that there are apparently more than twice as many bisexual women as there are bisexual men. Or at least, of course, more than twice as many that feel comfortable identifying themselves as such in this poll.

The poll of 768 people, conducted last month, shows in its adjusted final tally that 15.4 percent of respondents are bisexual men and 33.5 percent are bisexual women.

In my personal experience this ratio is even more skewed, but I’m willing to give this finding some credence. To be brain-dead simplistic about the issue, one can say that women who identify as bisexual have an easier time of coming out about it because they just don’t face criticisms from as many fronts as men who identify as bisexual do. Specifically, bisexual women are stereotypically stigmatized only by lesbians, whereas bisexual men are stigmatized by both gay men and by straight men.

One of my strongest dissatisfactions with many of the gay men I’ve interacted with is their blindness towards gender fluidity and how that affects eroticism. This is perhaps one reason why I find myself having trouble finding these men sexy after they open their mouths. They seem so singularly focused on their own version of the masculine ideal that they ignore what I find to be important pieces of my femininity that are necessary to my own erotic fulfillment. The exceptions are the gay men who seem to enjoy femme-y boys, but even in these instances coming out as bisexual seemed to disqualify me to them.

“It’s sad to me that gays and lesbians have such a hard time standing by their bi brothers and sisters,” she said, “because we are really in this fight together, about having our love lives and families validated and respected, no matter what gender we love.”

On the flip side, I have intense trouble socializing with straight men. Consistently, the only straight men who I seem to be able to get along with are the ones who are either sensitive to issues of gender or sexuality (such as those already involved in a sexuality community) or those with whom I can talk technology. When my coworkers invited me out to bars, I declined because the conversation would not have been technology as it was (by necessity) in the office, and that would have quickly become uncomfortable.

In other words, sex is social. That’s a concept I want to explore in further depth later on, but for now suffice it to say that for people with a sex drive, an element of social interactions is sexuality, whether they realize it or not.

Another major issue this article touches upon is the fact that there are very few organized bisexual communities in comparison to other sexuality communities, and that the ones that do exist are fairly small. The most striking example of this was that at the last New York City LGBT Pride March, the bisexual contingent had a grand total of four (4!) people marching in it.

Even the BDSM contingent, who typically have one of the smallest groups in the parade (not including the “leather” sections, though I’m still confused as to why BDSM is contained within leather instead of the other way around), always have at least a dozen people or more marching with them. To be fair, I marched with the BDSM group instead of the bisexual group, and therein lies an example of the lack of visibility of the bisexual community.

I think that, by our nature, almost every one of us holds some other label equally important to us as the bisexual label. I am not just bisexual, I’m kinky, too. Most bisexual men I know are not just bisexual, they’re also polyamorous.

As a result of this multi-focal sexuality (“I like this and this…oh, and this too!”), it’s sometimes difficult for bisexual people to be taken seriously. The common argument is that we just haven’t “chosen” yet, but sooner or later, after enough experience and time, we’ll “settle down” into one of the all-or-nothing choices. (This is the same problem switches have in the BDSM scene: “you’re not really a switch, you’re either a top or a bottom and you just don’t know yet.”)

This point of view is no different from hetero-normative thinking, because it is founded on the principles of mutual exclusion. “You can’t be this and that.” Looking at sexuality this way treats such concepts as attraction as though they are finite resources, as if by being attracted to men you can not possibly have enough “spare attraction” to also be attracted to women, or that if you do then the attraction is lessened in direct proportion to how much attraction you have “spent” elsewhere.

I believe people think this way because they are confusing the things that do, in fact, have limited availability, such as time and physical energy, with things that do not, in fact, have any arbitrary limit. Am I the only person to whom confusing these sorts of things sounds absolutely insane?

Moreover, the idea that this insanity also holds true of language is equally absurd:

“There are plenty of lesbians in the gay community who occasionally sleep with men and still call themselves lesbians and vice versa. People need to start being honest in their daily lives about their actual behaviors rather than hiding behind convenient black-and-white labels that breed acceptance from their gay and lesbian peers who often condemn bisexuality.”

In other words, according to Nicole Kristal, who is quoted from the article above and who is a co-author of The Bisexual’s Guide to the Universe, you’re not a lesbian if you’re a woman who also sleeps with men. This is the equivalent of saying “you’re not a woman if you have a penis,” and we already know how ignorant confusing sex with gender identity is.

Ultimately, what this quote spotlights is the importance of understanding language as a tool for communication. The other day, a friend shared an awesome quote from Confucius with me that she read:

When words lose their meaning, people will lose their liberty.

She told me,

I read something today and thought of you immediately. Apparently, Confucius believed that correct usage of words was a prerequisite to working society. When words stopped being connected to specific meanings, he believed that it was a sign of the impending corruption and collapse of civilization. I like that way of looking at it, [but] I had never heard it put that way before.

It is for that reason why academics like Robert Heasley work so hard at providing a vocabulary with which to discuss things like masculinity, and why people like me work so hard at using such vocabularies to define distinctions between things. Doing so hones our understanding of the meanings of words, which fights rhetoric and propaganda in the process. In the war on sex currently being waged, language is the ultimate weapon.