In a world where multiple choice means freedom of choice, isn’t it apt that we now realize how flexible we are sexually? As Ray Davies famously sang: “Girls will be boys and boys will be girls, it’s a mixed up muddled up
shook up world except for Lola, Lo-Lo-Lo-Lo Lola”
I don’t mean to overinflate my ego, but I always considered myself somewhat of the Lewis and Clark of pubescent homosexuality in my small California town. I came out to all my high school friends by age 15, and had no shame in the fact that in a town full of summer church camps, with a steeple on every corner, I was perusing copies of The Advocate at our local Borders and would stay up extra late to watch reruns of Queer as Folk. Regardless of teasing, condemnation, and the lack of a mentor who could tell me exactly how to use a flat iron, I made a choice in high school to be unwaveringly myself, and for the most part that won the respect and friendship of my classmates. Though I was forbidden by my school district at the time to start a Gay/Straight Alliance, I was elected class president, I earned superlatives in the yearbook, and was voted to prom court. For my small town high school, I was the face of gay. I will never forget that the week I graduated, when a freshman at our school came up to me and said, “I think you made it easier for a lot of kids to be themselves here.”
Flash forward five years to an age where we are fighting (hopefully) our final battle with Prop 8 instead of still reeling from the effects of Prop 22. Facebook will let you be married to whoever you want, regardless of race, creed, sex, or number of mutual friends. I’m back in California, reminiscing with an old friend. Finally, we come to the “who’s getting married” section of the conversation, which naturally leads to “romantic oddities.” This usually encompasses which former Academic Decathlon member is dating which former cheerleader and things of that nature, but today’s topic is a little hotter: the amazing number of girls in our graduating class who have discovered bisexuality. My friend mentions three, five, seven girls that have been up to bat for both teams and have never gone back. Though statistically I knew this day would come, when I was not the only one in my graduating class who could hope to tumble through the West Village in a Pride parade, I still felt a tinge of ordinariness knowing I would have to let my freak flag fly among the company other alumni from my high school. It got me thinking, however, why so many girls who five years ago were crying into their diaries every night over our big men on campus have diverged on such a different path in such a short amount of time. Do these numbers reflect some truly deep self-discovery or is there something more socially constructed to be discovered here?
I think it is safe to say that bisexuality is heavily trending in the American social landscape, and that the doors of experimentation have flown open, creating a sense of freedom, expression, and sexual autonomy. Bisexual experimentation and pansexuality (sexual desire regardless of gender identity or biological sex) definitely appear at first glance to be some of the most sexually-liberating experiences a person can experience in their lifetime. To encounter in our discursive society such a break from prescribed social boundaries of who you can love and lust for, and allow yourself to feel the same deep and truthful connection with another human being, regardless of their plumbing, sounds blissful and idyllic to say the least. But we all know that when sex is involved, nothing is ever that free of complication. In an age where “bisexual” is a label that every college girl is donning on her lapel like “pledge” or “political science major,” multi-gender menagerie enthusiasts are sprouting up everywhere, and in some cases for all the wrong reasons.
Since 2008, Katy Perry has admitted to kissing girls and liking it, Lindsay Lohan spent quite some time up in Samantha Ronson’s turntables, and Tila Tequila went through a brief engagement with heiress Casey Johnson before her untimely and very questionable death. What have we learned from all this? Taking a few steps over on the Kinsey Scale can be a great attention-grabber. I found an article written by a group of teenage girls that details their “Eight Reasons Why It’s Cool to Pretend to be Bisexual.” The reasons are: “it’s naughty, it’s sexy, it’s forbidden, it’s intriguing, it’s attention grabbing, it’s cool, it’s tolerant, and it’s a political stance.” While all of these reasons can contribute to the climb up the social ladder, none of them have anything to do with self-discovery and honesty, two of the biggest motivations for sexual exploration. The article continues, saying that these girls would adopt bisexuality because “boys like it,” it’s a “rebellious output,” and it’s “sure to grab the attention of other partygoers and get people talking about you.” In the case of these teen girls, bisexuality is yet another thing to help you stay afloat in the rough waters that can be high school social politics. I am all about sexual self-discovery if it stems from personal honesty, but these trends toward sexual popularity contests seem downright dangerous and ultimately degrading.
Almost tangential to this attention-seeking is a school of thought which conjectures that the increase in young female bisexuality is correlated with the rise of young male sexuality at an earlier age and the influx of pornography in the lives of young men. In his studies, Dr. Leonard Sax, a PhD psychologist and author, found that many young women felt a huge deal of pressure from their male counterparts to be as sexy as the girls they saw smeared across the internet. Instead of creating an uncomfortable sexual relationship with these young men, girls were seeking connections through relationships with other young women. Sax talked to one young woman who felt horrible after her boyfriend suggested she model her pubic hair after his favorite porn star, who now finds comfort in relationships with women that center on how it feels to be “intimate emotionally and spiritually, as well as physically.”
There is even another school of thought that digs down deep to the pleasure center of women, claiming that unlike men, who generally label themselves by the body part they admire most (“tit men”, “ass men”… “rippling shoulder men”), women are attracted to sex as a concept. For many, it doesn’t matter who’s performing the act. According to some research compiled in a 2008 article by The New York Times, women respond to the level of intimacy and sensuality in a situation, and are turned on by the act of making love. Thus, being a bisexual provides more options in the search for pleasure. According to researcher Dr. Meredith Chivers, “women physically don’t seem to differentiate between genders in their sex responses,” and for women in her study involving pornography and sexual stimulation, “gender didn’t matter; they responded to the level of activity.” In her research, Chivers used tapes of men with women, women with women, and men with men, and found similar results in the type and amount of pleasure racked up by the women in her group. From this, it might be safe to say that bisexuality is something contained in every woman, and that the bisexual revolution is merely a way for the repression to be lifted without social repercussion. If all women truly have the ability to feel equal pleasure from any sexual situation, who am I to deny them this awesome right of their sex?
It seems to me that the idea of sexuality is probably something that was constructed by a man. Though I fear that “bisexuality” for some is merely a safety blanket to cover up other insecurities or make it through tougher times in teenagedom, as a gay man I can say it is nice to feel a stronger presence of those who seem willing to accept, experiment, and discuss in this newfound age of Gaga “bluffin’ with her muffin.” Though the doors haven’t quite yet swung open for a man to be as liberated socially and sexually in his pursuit of coupled bliss, I think the way sexuality is trending will slowly creep toward an overall inclusion someday soon. And if not, I hope at least Katy Perry will still be making music about it.