BisexualityFeminismSexual Assault

Why The Bisexual Slut Stereotype Is Harmful

[CN: Biphobia, Slut Shaming, Sexism, Rape]

Last week on his Focus on the (heteronormative patriarchal) Family radio show, James Dobson once again ranted and raved about how marriage equality will lead to Christian persecution and all that bullshit. Which isn’t really news; at this point if Dobson said anything nice about queer people, it would be the biggest news story of the century. But on this particular episode, he issued a warning to pastors “who are compassionate toward to those who have same-sex attraction” (which is strange because wasn’t Jesus all about compassion?):

“I would like them to think, just for a moment, about ‘LGBT.’ The ‘B’ stand for bisexual! That’s orgies!  Are you really going to support this?”

Ain’t that the cherry on top of the shit sundae!

I wish I could say the whole idea that bisexuality equals “slut” is just another example of right-winged Christian bigotry, but, unfortunately, it’s a very common idea outside of the church. Despite all the supposed “progress” our society has made for LGBTQ rights, people still misunderstand bisexuality. Despite there being no correlation between bisexuality and promiscuity (go ahead, Google it), people still think that bisexuals will “sleep with anything that moves.”

Not only is the Bisexual Slut stereotype bullshit, but studies show it actually hurts bisexuals.

According to a January 2014 report published by the U.S. Department of Health, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that 46% of bisexual cisgender women and 13.2% of bisexual cisgender men have been raped, while 13% of lesbians, 17% of straight cisgender women, 11.6% of gay men, and 1.6% of straight cisgender men reported being raped. While this particular study does not explain why the numbers are higher for bisexuals (especially bisexual women), other studies suggest there’s a connection between these numbers and the Bisexual Slut stereotype.

In a 2009 article published by the Journal of Bisexuality, researcher Breanna Fahs had bisexual, gay, and straight women “perform bisexuality” (i.e. kiss each other or be asked to join in threesomes) for men. According to the study:

[Y]ounger women were overrepresented in the group of women that reported feeling the specific pressure to perform as bisexual in front of male partners or groups of men in public. Women frequently reported that they felt pressure to accommodate their male partner’s sexual fantasies that they engage sexually with other women; further, all of the young women reported that they were aware of, and had witnessed, some form of performative bisexuality either on television or in person. Pressure to perform as bisexual appeared for heterosexual-identified women and for bisexual and lesbian-identified women, though heterosexual women reported more pressure from their sexual partners whereas bisexual and lesbian women reported feeling pressure from men who were strangers and/or nonpartners.

Citing these studies in her book Bi: Notes for a Bisexual Revolution, Shiri Eisner dispels the myth that bisexual women are more accepted in our culture than bi men, and instead suggests that female bisexuality is “encouraged” to please the male gaze:

Bisexual women are presented in hypersexualized contexts, as sexual objects for the hegemonic cis straight male gaze, which directly or covertly appealing to a quasi-pornographic fantasy of a (two females and one male) threesome, and while also reassuring us that these women are not really bisexual, but are simply behaving so for the satisfaction of the presumed male spectator. (p. 159)

This is just one example of the dehumanizing effect the Bisexual Slut stereotype has on bisexuals. As with all things, when human beings are reduced to cartoon caricatures, society stops seeing them as complex individuals. And when that happens, people get hurt.

People like me.

Besides, if I was having as much as sex as Dobson thought I was, I’d be a much happier person.

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Trav Mamone

Trav Mamone

Trav Mamone is a bisexual genderqueer Humanist writer. They blog at Bi Any Means, and host the Bi Any Means Podcast. They live in Maryland.

6 Comments

  1. April 24, 2015 at 3:34 pm —

    While appreciate any and every opportunity to shed light on the issue, I think your use of the word “only” in the paragraph with statistics of rape against bisexual, lesbian, and gay people is a careless minimization of an all-too-common crime and harmful against victims of rape.

  2. April 24, 2015 at 3:35 pm —

    Thanks for pointing that out to me. I’ll fix it right now.

  3. April 24, 2015 at 5:56 pm —

    So I followed the citation to the US Dept of Health report. Only the statistics on women come from the CDC (specifically the 2010 NISVS), while the statistics on men instead come from Balsam, Rothblum, & Beauchaine 2005. The NISVS doesn’t report numbers for gay and bi men. The NISVS and Balsam numbers aren’t quite comparable because the latter reports lower numbers overall. I’m not sure what causes the difference is exactly, but I’d guess different sampling and different ways to define rape.

    Anyway, according to Balsam, the numbers for bisexual men and women are similar. For bisexual men, it’s 39.5%, 15.8%, and 13.2% for coerced intercourse, attempted rape, and completed rape respectively. For bisexual women, it’s 34.1%, 11.3%, and 16.9%. (I have no idea what the distinction is between coerced intercourse and rape.) Otherwise, the study fully supports your point.

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