Stop Pretending That Bi+ Women Exist For You
0 / 0 / September 20 2018


Bisexual people, and bi+ (anyone who is attracted to more than one gender identity) women in particular, are met with a skepticism that gay, lesbian, and heterosexual identities do not face. While “born this way” has become somewhat of a rallying cry within the LGBTQ+ community, this mentality isn’t always put into practice when bi+ women are involved.

It is often suggested that bi+ women are able to choose heterosexuality and thereby opt out of oppression. This not only erases the fact that we can never actually be heterosexual—even if we exist in relationships with men—but it also suggests that we are only queer when we’re with a same-sex partner. Bi+ women can lean in either direction (or have no preference at all) and those are all valid manifestations of a bisexual identity.

A recent study explored what’s known as the androcentric desire hypothesis, the widely held perception that bisexual people tend to sexually prefer men. In this mindset, bisexual men are often classified as “actually gay” while bisexual women’s desires for other women are seen as temporary, fleeting, or just for fun. As a bisexual woman who prefers other women, I notice that my desirability amongst lesbians is lower because they don’t anticipate me considering them as serious romantic partners. Another study likewise suggested that, overall, bi+ women are viewed as less desirable friends and romantic partners by the lesbian community. 

Several communities perceive us to be less marginalized, attention-seeking, and immoral. We are treated as though our identities are merely a performance, rather than a valid aspect of who we are. And while we are still desired by heterosexual men, it often comes hand-in-hand with an objectification of our identities and experiences. Cisgender men learn to sensationalize our same-sex behaviors and believe that we are indiscriminately available for threesomes, group sex, and their voyeurism. At the very least, they sexualize us before they actually have sex with us—sometimes, before even knowing us.

When people are perceived as sexual objects, they’re viewed as something that can be used and discarded, something that is acted upon, something that is commodified. Our sexuality becomes something that exists solely to fulfill male desires. All of this informs harmful media narratives, and considering that studies link the media objectification of women to negative physical and mental health, the further objectification of bi+ women is likely to cause similar effects in people who identify as such. Not surprisingly, studies indicate that bi+ individuals are more prone to anxiety, depression, self-harm, and suicide than gay, lesbian, and heterosexual people.

When it is assumed that we unilaterally cater to the male gaze, it becomes easier for men to justify sexual violence against us. And when our hypersexualization results in our portrayal as being sexually indiscriminate, greedy, and disloyal—we become people “deserving” of domestic violence. The CDC reported that we are more likely to experience rape, sexual assault, and intimate partner violence than lesbian and heterosexual women. Trans women and gender non-conforming individuals who identify as bisexual are even more vulnerable. And according to the United Nations, bisexual women around the world are “especially at risk of acts of sexual or intrafamily and domestic violence.” Bisexual women who reported experiencing domestic violence acknowledged that their identities were used to justify that violence. And when they chose to report said aggression, research found they were less likely to be believed and more susceptible to police violence.

When other members of the queer community mention our ability to “choose” heterosexuality, they fail to mention our heightened proximity to violence.

They pretend that bisexuality is a switch that can be flipped and act as if we are not still navigating relationships from a queer perspective. They conflate objectification—wherein our sexuality is being used for someone’s gratification—with a celebration of our identity. And they ultimately make it difficult for us to be integrated within our own community by suggesting that we don’t exist or that we need to pick a side. When you consider that bisexual people make up more than half of the queer community, our erasure feels particularly damaging.

It is important to affirm narratives in which bisexual women are people who not only exist, but exist for themselves. The purpose of our identity is not to live in service of male desires. And while it is a struggle for all queer persons to figure themselves out, we have to consider the particular struggles that come with an identity facing stigma comes from both sides. More importantly, we cannot keep ignoring the actual harm that biphobia creates.

Bi+ women, just like all members of the queer community, deserve to be safe.