Bi people who date one gender

Remember that time when the OKCupid blog claimed that most bisexuals on OKCupid were lying?  Although their interpretation is highly suspect, it is based on some rather interesting data.  Apparently (as of 2010), 41% of bisexual-identified people on OKCupid had only sent messages to men, 36% had only sent messages to women, and only 23% had sent messages to a mix.1

It’s possible that many people are lying, but are the numbers so surprising that we need to resort to such a conclusion?  Bisexual people are attracted to multiple genders, but they aren’t necessarily actively seeking dates with multiple genders.  For example, we can imagine someone who is a 4 on the Kinsey scale (”predominantly homosexual, more than incidentally heterosexual”) deciding that they should just focus all deliberate dating efforts on people of the same gender.2  Maybe if someone of a different gender came along, they would be open to a relationship, but as far as deliberately messaging people on OKCupid, it’s easier to just stick to one gender.

There are also many obvious differences between m/w, m/m, and w/w dating cultures, and differences in the social repercussions of those relationships.  It is easy to imagine that a person might prefer one or the other, even if that preference is limited only to a particular time in their life, or just to the OKCupid platform.

There are also national surveys in the US showing that most bisexuals in committed relationships are with someone of different gender.   According to Pew, 9% of bisexuals in relationships have partners of the same sex, 84% have partners of the opposite sex (and the other 7% an additional 4% have trans partners).  Another independent study found that 12% of bisexual women and 10% of bisexual men in relationships have same-gender partners.

You might look at these numbers and suggest that most bisexual people end up in different-gender relationships because it’s the more socially acceptable option.  But actually, there’s an even more basic explanation.  The m/w dating pool is simply larger than the m/m dating pool or w/w dating pool, on account of most people being straight.  If someone just selects at random a partner with compatible orientation, chances are they’d pick someone of different gender.  If anything, it’s surprising how many bisexuals end up with someone of the same gender.  This wouldn’t apply to OKCupid, where you can easily search through any dating pool even if it’s relatively small.

Although OKCupid statistics and the national surveys seem to be saying something similar, but I want to point out a major difference  The OKCupid statistics suggest that many bisexual people, individually, may prefer to date only one gender or another, but as a group, they are about evenly divided.  The national surveys don’t say anything about individual preferences (since they only ask for the gender of current partners, and not their history of dating partners), but they suggest that bisexuals as a group mostly have committed relationships with people of a different gender.

The general conclusion is that while bisexual people might be attracted to multiple genders, there are a lot of factors that might push people–either individually, or in aggregate–towards dating one gender or another.  I suspect there may be a lot of personal stories to be told, although TBH I had trouble finding them in a basic search.

Any thoughts?

1. Since these numbers add up to 100% I assume they excluded people who never sent any messages. I have no idea what they did with people who sent only one message ever.  I always thought this was a flaw in how they reported this data. (return)

2. According to the Pew survey, only 28% of bisexual men and 31% of bisexual women are attracted to men and women equally. So this explanation could apply to a significant fraction of bisexual people. (return)


  1. milù says

    my immediate interpretation was that maybe many bisexual people might be looking for same-sex hookups online because for some it’s harder to do IRL (eg if you’re closeted, or your area doesn’t have a gay/lesbian community that you know of, or if you’re not a part of that community for whatever reason). but reading the article you link, the figures don’t support that. (also if you’re closeted irl but out on okcupid you’re probably not very concerned about staying in the closet i guess.)

    but i agree with “lots of different personal stories” which would be interesting to hear. also more data would be needed to begin to make halfway relevant guesses. also i think the author’s handling of this data is a bit insensitive. his main interpretation is that being bi is “a phase” for younger gay men, and “a fantasy” for straight and lesbian women. maybe there’s some truth to that but it’s kind of a blunt. though i guess statistical analysis always is a bit heartless.

  2. Maya says

    Sorry if I’m misinterpreting the last paragraph, but If you are looking for anecdotal evidence; I identify as bisexual, tend to feel physical attraction towards masculine partners, but have only dated people who identified as women.

    A large part was due to growing up as a closeted trans woman in a conservative community, and did not feeling safe even to consider dating men until my later college years, and then the men who had caught my interest weren’t interested in me.

    At this current point in my life (navigating transition) I’m not actively looking for any kind of relationship because I don’t currently have the spoons to cope.

    An additional difficulty is that the cis men I’ve encountered tended to have a lot of weirdness about dating trans women, so there was an extra level of BS that got exhausting to navigate, and that limited potential masculine partners quite a bit.

  3. milù says

    Another figure you quote i found really arresting, “7% [of bisexuals in relationships] have trans partners”, and looking up the source, it’s true the bar graph seems to support that, but the text actually says “4% [bis in a commited relationship] have a spouse or partner who is transgender” (or am i missing something?)

    the remaining 3% could be people who “didn’t answer [or] did not identify as either male or female” (fine script under the bar graph). which of course are two very different reason to be left out of the data and it’s frustrating that there’s no breakdown for that.

    still, 4% is higher than the ratio of trans people in the general population in most estimates, and there’s another sort of question there, and another set of personal stories i’m sure are fascinating!

  4. says

    @Maya #2,
    Yes, I was fishing for personal experiences of bisexual people, although I don’t particularly expect many people to comment on some random blog post. Thank you for sharing.

    I imagine “safety” is one common reason for bisexuals to date only one gender. The interesting thing is that it could go either way; maybe some people find other-gender dating to be safer, and others find same-gender dating to be safer.

    I did find one other personal story of a bisexual guy who only dates guys. In his case, the primary reason is that it’s more socially convenient.

    @milù #3,
    Good catch. I honestly don’t know what’s up with the remaining 3%. The relatively high percentage of bi people with trans partners is not surprising to me. I think I’ve heard a lot of personal stories along those lines.

  5. says

    I wonder how many bi people have just given up on a sex. I know if I were to get back into dating, I’d completely rule men out. Yes, it would limit my dating pool, but I just don’t want to deal with all of that.

  6. says

    Omg Tabby, you know you’re not allowed to say that!
    Personally, I’m reluctant to claim the label of bisexual.
    When I realised that indeed there are so many more options than being straight* I was already in a heterosexual monogamous marriage and I have zero interest in ever changing that, so I don’t want to “play a queer person on the internet” if you get what I mean.
    But like Tabby I would probably not go for men again if I were ever to be back on the dating scene.
    *The Christian taliban do have a tiny bit of a point when they are whining about “indoctrination of children with the gay agenda: lots of people are exploring options now that they are becoming more aware and I think that’s particularly true for predominantly straight people who would never have thought about partners of the same gender 20 years ago.

  7. Ann Queue says

    Married monogamous bi cis woman here. Sometimes I call myself ‘functionally straight’. My anecdote to add to the data: At the point at which I figured out I was bi, I had friends of both genders. I spent a little time in the lesbian scene, but it did not seem to welcome my male friends. Much as I liked the lesbian scene, I didn’t want to spend more time with people I didn’t know at the expense of time with my existing mixed gender friendship group. I ended up with a guy because I found someone who shared my interests and values. That someone just happened to be a cis guy. It still seems to me (with limited experience) that lesbian friendship groups largely exclude men. This may be less true for younger folks. I don’t begrudge that sort of scene – I envy the female-only energy – but it’s not the direction my life took, and that’s okay.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *