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.
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)