Bisexual Performance – or – Girls Who Pretend to be Bisexual

Nothing is better than a good, fake bisexual roasting. Fucking straight female attention seekers, co-opting queerness to enhance their heteronormative sex appeal. We should have a pussy eating entrance exam for bi women! With judges – make me one! Amirite?

(Hint: I am not right)

Do you remember that song, I Kissed a Girl by Katie Perry? (Yeah, I know it’s been a while.) It’s about… a girl, kissing another girl – and liking it! But, you know – it was sanitized. No one was eye-deep in pussy, Perry had a boyfriend, and it was just an experiment (a “naughty” one at that.) And some queers cried “appropriation” and I get it, but, on another level it actually reminded me of my very early experiences with women from a time when, well, we just assumed everyone was straight.

Many of my first experiences with girls were essentially bisexual performances for men, and before you cry “hetronormative appropriation of queer culture” you should know I was 12. Or 13, but young anyway. I didn’t know myself, I didn’t know my sexuality, and I certainly had no idea how it related to other people or the queer community as a whole. It didn’t stop me being attracted to women when men weren’t around. It didn’t stop me casually dating women in my 20s. It didn’t stop me from eventually falling in love the woman I now call my girlfriend. But, yeah, when I was young I used to kiss girls to turn men on. It’s not PC, but it’s true.

Most of the criticism for this phenomenon falls to the girls themselves – like from this bisexual woman who doesn’t want to think of herself as one of those bisexuals (aka, a bisexual performing straight woman.) One of the most common questions I got when coming out as bisexual was was I a “real” bisexual (aka, how much pussy have you eaten?) starting from when I was outed at 13. I went from being a fairly nerdy, anonymous middle school girl to someone who was immediately hypersexualized, and I did not have the emotional maturity to deal with it.

On a related note, check out this graph:

www_cdc_gov_ViolencePrevention_pdf_NISVS_SOfindings_pdf

It’s from a study that documents the higher rate of sexual abuse among bisexual women than among any other sexual orientation (see here.) In this study, 46% of bisexual women had experienced a rape (as opposed to 13% of lesbians, and 15% of straight women.) You can also see most of these rapes were happening during the ages of 11-17 (at every other age, straight women are more likely to be raped.) Bisexual women are vulnerable to being raped right around the age they are likely to be discovering their sexuality and coming out. This is also the age we tend to see a lot of “fake” bisexuals, who are forced to absorb a lot of cultural expectations about their sexuality.

I don’t want to read too much into this study, since the sample size of bisexual women was small, but it fits with my own experience. At the time when I was most vulnerable, I was also exposed to a blast of criticism and doubt about my sexuality, as well as a blast of hypersexualization. And, I *was* attracted to men, I *did* want to impress them, and I didn’t fully understand the negative repercussions of bisexual performance. By the time I was in high school, I’d figured it out and avoided it, but I also had a heavy feminist influence in my life. I can understand it would take some women a little longer to come to sort through this mess, especially since many bisexual women lack support from their queer community (I feel uncomfortable attending events for “lesbians” because I have been explicitly un-included before. This is an annoyance at 29, but probably has much sharper repercussions at 19 – “sharper” repercussions being sexual abuse because the only people you can find to support you also hypersexualize you.)

There is a much deeper message, however, to all of this that I – and probably many other bisexual women – have absorbed. And, that message is “your sexuality is not determined by how you feel, but rather how others judge you to be.” I have often felt the obligation to *prove* my bisexuality, even to people who were supposed to accept me. For instance, I used to see a gay therapist who specialized in issues of sexuality. He once, explicitly, asked me if I was really bisexual or if I was just attached to the identity. I was so shaken by his question that for about a month I identified as straight, but felt so sad I eventually decided I’d rather be a happy “fake” bisexual than a sad “real” straight person. But, if I’d kept that identity, I would never have fallen in love with my girlfriend. My life would have been less in ways I can’t even begin to describe.

Perhaps a deeper question is, why do we resent these young, “fake” bisexual women? Unfortunately, I’m too drunk and it’s too late to answer that question. Another day, perhaps.

6 thoughts on “Bisexual Performance – or – Girls Who Pretend to be Bisexual

  1. I resent the implications that having gay sex is what proves if you’re bisexual or not. I’m 46, and have been married for 20 years to a man. I only recently accepted the fact that I am bi. Because I married and don’t want to screw around, having sex with a woman is not an option. I am still attracted to women, and that happened at a young age for me. Just because I’m a same sex “virgin” doesn’t change the fact that I’m bisexual.

    • I completely agree with you on this point (maybe I was unclear in my post? Some of it was supposed to be sarcastic.) I was attempting to voice frustration at how I often *felt* the need to prove my sexual orientation, when no more proof other than my own feelings was needed. I also think there is value in accepting and voicing your sexual orientation, even if doing so will not change your day to day behavior, so thank you for your comment. Bisexuals are a diverse group of people, and to deny any one of them right to use the “bisexual” label unless they conform to straight or gay expectations of what bisexuality is a form of emotional oppression – in my opinion, anyway.

  2. oh my god i loved this article.

    this really hit home– ”
    I was so shaken by his question that for about a month I identified as straight, but felt so sad I eventually decided I’d rather be a happy “fake” bisexual than a sad “real” straight person.”

    personally, i feel like part of me becoming more accepting of my bisexuality and more confident in it (and moving away from hiding behind the word queer, which for me, has always felt like it actually really erases bisexuality) is also owning the fact that bisexuality IN MY LIFE (emphasis on this being my personal experience and not the experience of other bi people necessarily) has been fucking confusing as hell. like constant state of confusion.

    i think when you are not connected to queer community, it can be harder to meet women and trans people to date. i’ve recently moved to a new city and that’s my boat. plus the two years previous i was traveling and it was just EASIER to find men to hook up with. and after a few men in a row i always start to wonder— does this mean i’m straight? do other people think im straight now?

    luckily, i present pretty masculine-ly, so people don’t often say as much to my face. but their bi-phobia of other femme bi people still affects me and lets me know that i am on the verge of being seen as straight.

    basically, bisexual feels right. im working towards letting myself be attracted to whatever individuals attract me, and not getting overly worked up about what their gender says about my identity. as you wrote, i’d rather be a happy fake bisexual than a sad real straight person.

    this year i made a t shirt for pride that says–i’m not bisexual because i’m confused. i’m confused because i’m bisexual.

    i think it’s important that people know that not all bisexual people are confused. AND it’s important to remind ourselves (bi community) that being bisexual IS CONFUSING for a lot of us and that’s real. And there is nothing wrong or “fake” about feeling confused.

    i’m trying to understand confusion as a sign of my bisexuality rather than as a sign of my non-bisexuality.

    does that make sense? thoughts, feelings, rxns?

    • That sounds like a great shirt! I totally agree on the being confused part.

      I agree with you that it’s hard to find not-cis-men to date when you’re disconnected from the queer community (well, unless you ARE a man) so bisexuals will necessarily date straighter when they can’t find/are rejected from the queer community.

      I didn’t feel rejected by the “straight community” the same way – I’ve never known any straight people to disallow bisexuals.

      I’m not sure exactly what the difference in experience would be between a masculine/feminine presentation, but I imagine it would be quite substantial. My own appearance varies from fairly femme, to sort of girly-tomboy and even over that range I notice a huge difference in how people treat me, and yeah, people generally are more skeptical of my “being bisexual” the girlier I look. I actually would wonder, for more masculine presenting bisexual women, if people actually accuse you of being a lesbian who isn’t fully out yet – but, it doesn’t sound like that was your experience so far.

      Really, my personal takeaway has been people are really superficial. Sometimes, it feels like they’re seeing some deep part of you, but they’re probably not. They’re probably just responding to the most superficial parts they can see.

      Anyway, thanks for your response! It was interesting to hear about your experience.

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