Bisexuality does not require that a person be attracted equally to both sexes; one may still have a distinct preference for one sex over the other while identifying as bisexual. A 2005 study by researchers Gerulf Rieger, Meredith L. Chivers, and J. Michael Bailey, which attracted media attention, purported to find that bisexuality is extremely rare in men. This was based on results of controversial penile plethysmograph testing when viewing pornographic material involving only men and pornography involving only women. Critics state that this study works from the assumption that a person is only truly bisexual if he or she exhibits virtually equal arousal responses to both opposite-sex and same-sex stimuli, and have consequently dismissed the self-identification of people whose arousal patterns showed even a mild preference for one sex. Some researchers say that the technique used in the study to measure genital arousal is too crude to capture the richness (erotic sensations, affection, admiration) that constitutes sexual attraction. The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force called the study and The New York Times coverage of it flawed and biphobic. FAIR also criticised the study.
In 1995, Harvard Shakespeare professor Marjorie Garber made the academic case for bisexuality with her 600 page, Vice Versa: Bisexuality and the Eroticism of Everyday Life in which she argued that most people would be bisexual if not for "repression, religion, repugnance, denial, laziness, shyness, lack of opportunity, premature specialization, a failure of imagination, or a life already full to the brim with erotic experiences, albeit with only one person, or only one gender."
The American Psychological Association states that sexual orientation "describes the pattern of sexual attraction, behavior and identity e.g. homosexual (aka gay, lesbian), bisexual and heterosexual (aka straight)". "Sexual attraction, behavior and identity may be incongruent. For example, sexual attraction and/or behavior may not necessarily be consistent with identity. Some individuals may identify themselves as homosexual or bisexual without having had any sexual experience. Others have had homosexual experiences but do not consider themselves to be gay, lesbian, or bisexual. Further, sexual orientation falls along a continuum. In other words, someone does not have to be exclusively homosexual or heterosexual, but can feel varying degrees of both. Sexual orientation develops across a person's lifetime-different people realize at different points in their lives that they are heterosexual, bisexual or homosexual."
According to Rosario, Schrimshaw, Hunter, Braun (2006), "the development of a lesbian, gay, or bisexual (LGB) sexual identity is a complex and often difficult process. Unlike members of other minority groups (e.g., ethnic and racial minorities), most LGB individuals are not raised in a community of similar others from whom they learn about their identity and who reinforce and support that identity. Rather, LGB individuals are often raised in communities that are either ignorant of or openly hostile toward homosexuality."
In a longitudinal study about sexual identity development among lesbian, gay, and bisexual (LGB) youths, its authors "found evidence of both considerable consistency and change in LGB sexual identity over time". Youths who had identified as both gay/lesbian and bisexual prior to baseline were approximately three times more likely to identify as gay/lesbian than as bisexual at subsequent assessments. Of youths who had identified only as bisexual at earlier assessments, 60–70% continued to identify as bisexual, while approximately 30–40% assumed a gay/lesbian identity over time. Authors suggested that "although there were youths who consistently self-identified as bisexual throughout the study, for other youths, a bisexual identity served as a transitional identity to a subsequent gay/lesbian identity."
Bisexuals commonly start to identify as bisexuals in their early to mid twenties. Bisexual women more often have their first heterosexual experience before their first homosexual experience, whereas bisexual men will more often have their first homosexual experience first.
A 2002 survey in the United States by National Center for Health Statistics found that 1.8 percent of men ages 18–44 considered themselves bisexual, 2.3 percent homosexual, and 3.9 percent as "something else". The same study found that 2.8 percent of women ages 18–44 considered themselves bisexual, 1.3 percent homosexual, and 3.8 percent as "something else". The Janus Report on Sexual Behavior, published in 1993, showed that 5 percent of men and 3 percent of women consider themselves bisexual and 4 percent of men and 2 percent of women considered themselves homosexual. The 'Health' section of The New York Times has stated that "1.5 percent of American women and 1.7 percent of American men identify themselves [as] bisexual."
Dr. Alfred Kinsey's 1948 work Sexual Behavior in the Human Male found that "46% of the male population had engaged in both heterosexual and homosexual activities, or 'reacted to' persons of both sexes, in the course of their adult lives". Kinsey himself disliked the use of the term bisexual to describe individuals who engage in sexual activity with both males and females, preferring to use "bisexual" in its original, biological sense as hermaphroditic: "Until it is demonstrated [that] taste in a sexual relation is dependent upon the individual containing within his anatomy both male and female structures, or male and female physiological capacities, it is unfortunate to call such individuals bisexual" (Kinsey et al., 1948, p. 657). Dr. Fritz Klein believed that social and emotional attraction are very important elements in bisexual attraction. One third of the men in each group showed no significant arousal. The study did not claim them to be asexual, and Rieger stated that their lack of response did not change the overall findings.
There is no consensus among scientists about the exact reasons that an individual develops a heterosexual, bisexual or homosexual orientation. Reasons include a combination of genetic factors and environmental factors (including fraternal birth order, where the number of older brothers a boy has increases the chances of homosexuality; specific prenatal hormone exposure, where hormones play a role in determining sexual orientation as they do with sex differentiation; and prenatal stress on the mother).
The American Academy of Pediatrics has stated that "sexual orientation probably is not determined by any one factor but by a combination of genetic, hormonal, and environmental influences." The American Psychological Association has stated that "there are probably many reasons for a person's sexual orientation and the reasons may be different for different people". It stated that, for most people, sexual orientation is determined at an early age. The American Psychiatric Association has stated that, "to date there are no replicated scientific studies supporting any specific biological etiology for homosexuality. Similarly, no specific psychosocial or family dynamic cause for homosexuality has been identified, including histories of childhood sexual abuse." Research into how sexual orientation may be determined by genetic or other prenatal factors plays a role in political and social debates about homosexuality, and also raises fears about genetic profiling and prenatal testing.
Sigmund Freud theorized that every person has the ability to become bisexual at some time in his or her life. He based this on the idea that enjoyable experiences of sexuality with the same sex, whether sought or unsought, acting on it or being fantasized, become an attachment to his or her needs and desires in social upbringing. Prominent psychoanalyst Dr. Joseph Merlino, Senior Editor of the book, Freud at 150: 21st Century Essays on a Man of Genius stated in an interview:
|–||Freud maintained that bisexuality was a normal part of development. That all of us went through a period of bisexuality and that, in the end, most of us came out heterosexual but that the bisexual phase we traversed remained on some unconscious level, and was dealt with in other ways....He did not consider it something that should be criminalized, or penalized.... Freud felt there were a number of homosexuals he encountered who did not have a variety of complex problems that homosexuality was a part of. He found people who were totally normal in every other regard except in terms of their sexual preference. In fact, he saw many of them as having higher intellects, higher aesthetic sensibilities, higher morals; those kinds of things. He did not see it as something to criminalize or penalize, or to keep from psychoanalytic training. A lot of the psychoanalytic institutes felt if you were homosexual you should not be accepted; that was not Freud's position.||–|
Human bisexuality has mainly been studied alongside with homosexuality. Van Wyk & Geist argue that this is a problem for sexuality research because the few studies that have observed bisexuals separately have found that bisexuals are often different from both heterosexuals and homosexuals. Furthermore, bisexuality does not always represent a halfway between the dichotomy. Research indicates that bisexuality is influenced by biological, cognitive and cultural variables in interaction, and this leads to different types of bisexuality.
There is currently a debate on the importance of biological influences on sexual orientation. Biological explanations have been put to question by social scientists, particularly by feminists who encourage women to make conscious decisions about their life and sexuality. A difference in attitude between homosexual men and women has also been reported as men are more likely to regard their sexuality as biological, "reflecting the universal male experience in this culture, not the complexities of the lesbian world." There is also evidence that women's sexuality may be more strongly affected by cultural and contextual factors.
Most of the few available scientific studies on bisexuality date from before the 1990s. Interest in bisexuality has generally grown, but research focus has lately been on sociology and gender studies as well as on bisexuals with HIV and AIDS.
Krafft-Ebing was the first to suggest that bisexuality is the original state of human sexuality[verification needed]. Freud has famously summarized on the basis of clinical observations: "[W]e have come to know that all human beings are bisexual – - and that their libido is distributed between objects of both sexes, either in a manifest or a latent form." According to Freud, people remain bisexual all their lives in a repression to monosexuality of fantasy and behaviour. This idea was taken up in the 1940s by the zoologist Alfred Kinsey who was the first to create a scale to measure the continuum of sexual orientation from hetero to homosexuality. Kinsey studied human sexuality and argued that people have the capability of being hetero or homosexual even if this trait does not present itself in the current circumstances.
From an anthropological perspective, there is large variation in the prevalence of bisexuality between different cultures. Among some tribes it appears to be non-existent while in others a universal, including the Sambia of New Guinea and other similar Melanesian cultures.
Even though only a small percentage of people have bisexual traits, this does not rule out the possibility of bisexual behaviour of the majority in different circumstances. Similarly, although evolutionary psychologists consider most males as promiscuous by nature, the majority of American men are faithful to their wives, appearing essentially monogamous. These traits can be explained as the result of culture constraints on evolutionary predispositions.
Several studies comparing bisexuals with hetero- or homosexuals have indicated that bisexuals have higher rates of sexual activity, fantasy or erotic interest. Van Wyk and Geist (1984) found that male and female bisexuals had more sexual fantasy than heterosexuals. Dixon (1985) found that bisexual men had more sexual activities with women than did heterosexual men. Bisexual men masturbated more but had fewer happy marriages than heterosexuals. Bressler and Lavender (1986) found that bisexual women had more orgasms per week and they described them as stronger than those of hetero- or homosexual women. They also found that marriages with a bisexual female were more happy than heterosexual unions, observed less instance of hidden infidelity, and ended in divorce less frequently. Goode and Haber (1977) found bisexual women to be sexually mature earlier, masturbate and enjoy masturbation more and to be more experienced in different types of heterosexual contact.
Recent research suggests that, for most women, high sex drive is associated with increased sexual attraction to both women and men. For men, however, high sex drive is associated with increased attraction to one sex or the other, but not to both, depending on sexual orientation.
More recent research, however, associates high sex drive and increased attraction to both sexes only in women. Bisexual men's pattern has been more similar to heterosexuals with a stronger correlation with high sex drive for one sex, but with other-sex attraction as well.
Masculinization of women and hypermasculinization of men has been a central theme in sexual orientation research. There are several studies suggesting that bisexuals have a high degree of masculinization. LaTorre and Wendenberg (1983) found differing personality characteristics for bisexual, heterosexual and homosexual women. Bisexuals were found to have fewer personal insecurities than heterosexuals and homosexuals. This finding defined bisexuals as self assured and less likely to suffer from mental instabilities. The confidence of a secure identity consistently translated to more masculinity than other subjects. This study did not explore societal norms, prejudices, or the feminization of homosexual males.
In a research comparison, published in the Journal of the Association for Research in Otolaryngology, women usually have a better hearing sensitivity than males, assumed by researchers as a genetic disposition connected to child rearing. Homosexual and bisexual women have been found to have a hypersensitivity to sound in comparison to heterosexual women, suggesting a genetic disposition to not tolerate high pitched tones. While heterosexual, homosexual and bisexual men have been found to exhibit similar patterns of hearing. There was a notable differential within a sub-group of males identified as hyperfeminized homosexual males who exhibited test results similar to heterosexual women.
The prenatal hormonal theory of sexual orientation suggests that people who are exposed to excess levels of sex hormones have masculinized brains and show increased homosexuality. Studies to provide evidence for the masculinization of the brain have however not been conducted to date. Research on special conditions such as CAH and DES indicate that prenatal exposure to, respectively, excess testosterone and estrogens are associated with female–female sex fantasies in adults. Both effects are associated with bisexuality rather than homosexuality.
There is research evidence that the ratio of the length of the 2nd and 4th digits (index finger and ring finger) is somewhat negatively related to prenatal testosterone and positively to estrogen. Studies measuring the fingers found a statistically significant skew in the 2D:4D ratio (long ring finger) towards homosexuality with an even lower ratio in bisexuals. It is suggested that exposure to high prenatal testosterone and low prenatal estrogen concentrations is one cause of homosexuality whereas exposure to very high testosterone levels may be associated with bisexuality. Because testosterone in general is important for sexual differentiation, this view offers an alternative to the suggestion that male homosexuality is genetic.
The prenatal hormonal theory suggests that a homosexual orientation results from exposure to excessive testosterone causing an over-masculinized brain. This is contradictory to another hypothesis that homosexual preferences may be due to a feminized brain in males. However, it has also been suggested that homosexuality may be due to high prenatal levels of unbound testosterone that results from a lack of receptors at particular brain sites. Therefore the brain could be feminized while other features, such as the 2D:4D ratio could be over-masculinized.
LaVey's (1991) examination at autopsy of 18 homosexual men, 1 bisexual man, 16 presumably heterosexual men and 6 presumably heterosexual women found that the INAH 3 nucleus of the anterior hypothalamus of homosexual men was smaller than that of heterosexual men and closer in size of heterosexual women. Although grouped with homosexuals, the INAH 3 size of the one bisexual subject was similar to that of the heterosexual men.
There is some evidence to support the concept of biological precursors of bisexual orientation in genetic males. According to Money (1988), men with an extra Y chromosome are more likely to be bisexual, paraphilic and impulsive.
Some evolutionary psychologists have argued that same-sex attraction does not have adaptive value because it has no association with potential reproductive success. Instead, bisexuality can be due to normal variation in brain plasticity. More recently, it has been suggested that same-sex alliances may have helped males climb the social hierarchy giving access to females and reproductive opportunities. Same-sex allies could have helped females to move to the safer and resource richer center of the group, which increased their chances of raising their offspring successfully.
Brendan Zietsch of the Queensland Institute of Medical Research proposes the alternative theory that men exhibiting female traits become more attractive to females and are thus more likely to mate, provided the genes involved do not drive them to complete rejection of heterosexuality.
Also, in a 2008 study, its authors stated that "There is considerable evidence that human sexual orientation is genetically influenced, so it is not known how homosexuality, which tends to lower reproductive success, is maintained in the population at a relatively high frequency." They hypothesized that "while genes predisposing to homosexuality reduce homosexuals' reproductive success, they may confer some advantage in heterosexuals who carry them." and their results suggested that "genes predisposing to homosexuality may confer a mating advantage in heterosexuals, which could help explain the evolution and maintenance of homosexuality in the population."
In the June 2008 of the magazine Scientific American Mind|, scientist Emily V. Driscoll stated that homosexual and bisexual behavior is quite common in several species, and that it fosters bonding and peacefulness among animals: "The more homosexuality, the more peaceful the species". The article also stated that "Unlike most humans, however, individual animals generally cannot be classified as gay or straight: an animal that engages in a same-sex flirtation or partnership does not necessarily shun heterosexual encounters. Rather many species seem to have ingrained homosexual tendencies that are a regular part of their society. That is, there are probably no strictly gay critters, just bisexual ones. Animals don't do sexual identity. They just do sex."
In 124 AD the bisexual Roman emperor Hadrian met Antinous, a 13 or 14 year old boy from Bithynia, and they began their pederastic relationship. Antinous was deified by Hadrian when he died six years later. Many statues, busts, coins and reliefs display Hadrian's deep affections for him.
Spartans thought that love and erotic relationships between experienced and novice soldiers would solidify combat loyalty and encourage heroic tactics as men vied to impress their lovers. Once the younger soldiers reached maturity, the relationship was supposed to become non-sexual, but it is not clear how strictly this was followed. There was some stigma attached to young men who continued their relationships with their mentors into adulthood. For example, Aristophanes calls them euryprktoi, meaning "wide arses", and depicts them like women.
Because some bisexual people do not feel that they fit into either the homosexual or the heterosexual world, and because they have a tendency to be "invisible" in public, some bisexual persons are committed to forming their own communities, culture, and political movements. Some who identify as bisexual may merge themselves into either homosexual or heterosexual society. Still other bisexual people see this merging as enforced rather than voluntary; bisexual people can face exclusion from both homosexual and heterosexual society on coming out. Psychologist Beth Firestein states that bisexuals also tend to internalize social tensions related to their choice of partners. Firestein suggests bisexuals may feel pressured to label themselves as homosexuals instead of occupying a difficult middle ground in a culture that has it that if bisexuals are attracted to people of both sexes, they must have more than one partner, thus defying society's value on monogamy. These social tensions and pressure may and do affect bisexuals' mental health. Specific therapy methods have been developed for bisexuals to address this concern.
Bisexual behaviors are also associated in popular culture with men who engage in same-sex activity while otherwise presenting as heterosexual. The majority of such men–said to be living on the down-low–do not self-identify as bisexual. However this is a cultural misperception and should actually be seen as more closely associated with all LGBT individuals who due to societal pressures hide their actual orientation, a phenomenon colloquially called "being closeted".
A common symbol of the Bisexual community is the bisexual pride flag, which has a deep pink stripe at the top for homosexuality, a blue one on the bottom for heterosexuality, and a purple one, blended from the pink and blue, in the middle to represent bisexuality.
Another symbol that uses the color scheme of the bisexual pride flag is a pair of overlapping pink and blue triangles, the pink triangle being a well-known symbol for the homosexual community, forming purple where they intersect.
Many homosexual and bisexual individuals have a problem with the use of the pink triangle symbol as it was the symbol that Hitler's regime used to tag homosexuals (similar to the yellow Star of David that is constituted of two opposed, overlapping triangles). Because pink triangles were used in the persecution of homosexuals in the Nazi regime, a double moon symbol was devised specifically to avoid the use of triangles. The double moon symbol is common in Germany and surrounding countries. Another symbol used for bisexuality is a purple diamond, conceptually derived from the intersection of an upside down triangle and a right way up one, pink and blue (respectively), placed overlapping.
Many non-human animal species also exhibit bisexual behavior. Examples of mammals include the bonobo (formerly known as the pygmy chimpanzee), orca, and bottlenose dolphin. Examples of avians include some species of gulls and Humboldt Penguins. Other examples occur among fish, flatworms, and crustaceans.
Many species of animals are involved in the act of forming sexual and relationship bonds between the same sex; even when offered the opportunity to breed with members of the opposite sex, they picked the same sex. Some of these species are gazelles, antelope, bison, and sage grouse.
In some cases animals will choose intercourse with different sexes at different times in their life, and sometimes will perform intercourse with different sexes at random. Homosexual intercourse can also be seasonal in some animals like male walruses, who often engage in homosexual intercourse with each other outside of the breeding season and will revert to heterosexual intercourse during breeding season.
In some cases bisexuality is actually a form of fitness favored by evolution. For example, in the absence of male whiptail lizards (Cnemidophorus), females reproduce by pairing up with each other. During the breeding season females will take turns switching between "male" and "female" roles as their hormones fluctuate. Estrogen levels are high during ovulation ("female" role) and much lower after laying eggs ("male" role). While in the "male" role, a female lizard will mount another in the "female" role and go through the motions of sex to stimulate egg-laying. The hatchlings produced are all female. This all-female species has evolved from lizards with two sexes, but their eggs develop without fertilization (parthenogenesis). Female whiptail lizards can lay eggs without sex, but they lay far fewer eggs than if they engage in sexual stimulation by another female.
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Notable portrayals of bisexuality can be found throughout mainstream media. In movies such as: The Pillow Book; Alexander; The Rocky Horror Picture Show; Henry and June; Chasing Amy; Kissing Jessica Stein, The Fourth Man, Basic Instinct, The Rules of Attraction and Brokeback Mountain.
A recent documentary called "Bi the Way" aired on the LGBT network Logo, on August 1, 2009 and again August 3, 2009, and is also available on Logo online. The movie followed the lives of five young bisexual Americans ages 11 to 28, and talked about bisexuality in general, as well showing scientific studies, interviews with many leaders in the bisexual community, and media portrayals, While some in the bi/pan/fluid community felt the movie stereotyped them, overall it was well received by the community for being a mostly positive portrayal of bi/pan/fluid people, and for bringing their struggles to media attention.
In 1995, Jill Sobule sung about bi-curiosity in her song "I Kissed a Girl". The video for the song was slightly less subtle alternating images of Jill Sobule and her boyfriend (played by Fabio) with images of her with her girlfriend. The recently popular song "I Kissed a Girl" by Katy Perry also hints at bisexuality, or at least bi-curiosity, with lyrics such as "I kissed a girl just to try it/I hope my boyfriend don't mind it" and "You're my experimental game/Just human nature". Some find this song offensive however, as it reinforces the stereotype of bisexuals simply experimenting and bisexuality not being a real sexual preference. Another considered offensive lyric is "not the way good girls should behave". Lady Gaga has also admitted to being bisexual, and her song "Poker Face" is about fantasizing about a woman while being with a man.
Virginia Woolf's Orlando: A Biography (1928) is one of the earliest examples of bisexuality in literature. The story about a man who changes into a woman without a second thought, was based on the life of Woolf's then bisexual lover Vita Sackville-West. Woolf used the gender switch to avoid the book being banned for homosexual content, and was successful for it. Prior to Orlando, Woolf's Mrs Dalloway (1925) focused on a bisexual man and a bisexual woman in sexually unfulfilled heterosexual marriages in later life. Following Sackille-West's death, her son Nigel Nicolson would publish Portrait of a Marriage, one of her diaries recounting her affair with a woman during her marriage to Harold Nicolson. Other early examples include works of D.H. Lawrence, such as Women in Love (1920), and Colette's Claudine (1900–1903) series. The main character in Patrick White's novel, The Twyborn Affair (1979), is bisexual. Contemporary novelist Bret Easton Ellis' novels, such as Less Than Zero (1985) and The Rules of Attraction (1987) frequently feature bisexual male characters; this "casual approach" to bisexual characters recurs throughout Ellis' work,.
As of October 2009, there is a bisexual "webisode" series known as "A Rose By Any Other Name" being released on YouTube that was directed by Independent film director and bisexual rights advocate Kyle Schickner of Fencesitter Films. The plot of the series centers around a lesbian identified woman who falls in love with a straight man, and goes on to realize she is actually bisexual, and the reaction of both her friends and her boyfriend's friends.
On December 30, 2009, MTV premiered their 23rd season of the show The Real World. The series took place in Washington DC, and features two bisexual characters, Emily Schromm, and Mike Manning. Manning's sexuality appears to have generated some controversy, with both bloggers and many comments on blogs saying that he is really gay, although he himself identifies as bisexual and has dated both sexes.
There tend to be negative media portrayals; references are sometimes made to stereotypes or mental disorders.
In an article regarding the 2005 film Brokeback Mountain, sex educator Amy Andre argued that in films, bisexuals are often depicted negatively:
I like movies where bisexuals come out to each other together and fall in love, because these tend to be so few and far between; the most recent example would be 2002's lovely romantic comedy, Kissing Jessica Stein. Most movies with bi characters paint a stereotypical picture: the unlucky, unsuspecting, hetero or gay person falls for the bisexual bon vivant, and all hell breaks loose. The bi love interest is usually deceptive (Mulholland Drive), over-sexed (Sex Monster), unfaithful (High Art), and fickle (Three of Hearts), and might even be a serial killer, like Sharon Stone in Basic Instinct. In other words, the bisexual is always the cause of the conflict in the film.–Amy Andre, American Sexuality Magazine
Using a content analysis of more than 170 articles written between 2001 and 2006, sociologist Richard N. Pitt, Jr. concluded that the media pathologized black bisexual men–s behavior while either ignoring or sympathizing with white bisexual men–s similar actions. He argued that the "Down Low" black bisexual is often described negatively as a duplicitous heterosexual man whose behaviors threaten the black community by spreading the HIV/AIDS virus in the same community. Alternatively, the "Brokeback" white bisexual (when seen as bisexual at all) is often described in pitying language as a victimized homosexual man who is forced into the closet by the heterosexist society around him.
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