So a couple of months ago, Dan Savage of the sex advice column Savage Love wrote this column about bisexuals. While it did get my dander up, it was certainly a sight better than some of what he’s written about bisexuality in the past. In his own words: “I no longer believe that most bisexuals wind up in [heterosexual relationships] because you’re all liars and cheats, or that you’re all dying to access societal perks reserved for heterosexuals, or that you’re all cowards and it’s hard out here for a homo.”
Gee, thanks, Dan.
No, instead he now says, “I think most bisexuals wind up in heterosexual relationships because most bisexuals are mostly hetero.”
Once again — thanks. Heaps.
I wrote the following letter in response — fairly reasoned, I thought — but he hasn’t printed it yet, and I’m assuming at this point that he won’t. (Which is fine — he must get hundreds of letters, most shorter than this one and actually asking for advice.) But I thought I made some important points, and I hate writing good stuff that never makes it out into the world (I’ve never kept a journal with anything like the regularity of this blog), and I thought y’all would be interested to see it.
I’m not going to yell at you or call you names. So please hear me out.
In your recent column, you asserted that “very few bisexual women wind up ‘sharing their lives’ with other women,” and that “most (bisexuals) can only fall in love with an opposite-sex partner.” I’m wondering: What data are you using to come to that conclusion?
I ask because your assertion is radically different from my own observations. In my own extended circle of friends, acquaintances, colleagues and family, the significant majority of bisexuals — both women and men — are in serious relationships with women. (BTW, that includes both me and my partner.)
There are certainly exceptions, and admittedly my extended circle is not a scientifically selected statistical sampling. But your claim is so drastically different from my own experience that I have to at least question it. Do you have data to back it up, or are you simply basing it on your own unscientifically-selected circle of people you know?
I also ask for another reason. I find it very troubling when people tell other people what their sexual orientation “really” is, based on their own definitions. And I find this especially troubling when it comes from a widely read and influential sex advisor. So many different factors go into deciding which sexual-identity label fits you best — does sex count as much as romantic love? does desire count as much as behavior? does sexual and romantic history count as much as present status? does present status count as much as potential future involvements? etc. etc. etc. — and thus the definitions vary enormously depending on who you’re talking to.
And because the definitions are both so variable and so heavily loaded, I think we need to let people define themselves, based on their own definitions. Saying that most bisexuals are really straight (or even “mostly straight”) isn’t very helpful, and it’s on the insulting side — as if we don’t know enough about our own sexuality to know what to call it. I appreciate how much you’ve changed your position on this subject over the years, but when you tell bisexuals “You think you’re bisexual, but actually you’re pretty much straight,” it really is just as annoying as all those annoying goddamn bisexuals who run around saying that “everyone is basically bisexual.”
P.S. I have seen at least one paper backing up my assertion that both women and men are more likely to get involved with women, at least under certain circumstances — but I’m not sure how much I trust it. Anyway, one paper is just one paper. If you’re curious and want to look it up, it’s by Andrew Francis, and there’s a pdf at http://home.uchicago.edu/~afrancis/research.html .
So anyway. Thoughts? Observations? What are the bisexually-identified people in your life — including you, if you’re one of them — doing sexually? Romantically? Are they/you mostly in hetero relationships, as Dan Savage asserts? Mostly in relationships with women, as has been my observation? Mostly sexual with one but romantic with the other? All over the map? Something completely different?
And if you do see a pattern — do you have a theory about why that pattern is? I have one about my “bis tend to end up with women” observation, but it kind of boils down to “men are pigs,” which I don’t actually believe. (Actually, I have a bi friend who was going to make T-shirts saying “Bisexuality: Men are stupid, women are crazy,” which, while still an obvious oversimplification, does, I think, hit closer to home.) But I’m very aware of the fact that my circle of close friends does not constitute a stastically accurate sampling — so I want to expand the sampling to my circle of people who read my blog. Much more accurate…
And yes, I was once one of those annoying bisexuals who insisted that everyone was basically bisexual. Mea culpa.