So, I was watching this video, and I got to wondering, why couldn’t the main-video-woman get a bisexual woman to help explain bi erasure? I mean, we’re talking about the *erasure* of bisexual people, and somehow the best way to combat this is by… not showing any bisexual people? But, instead showing a lesbian who likes dating bisexual women? (Yeah, also, thanks for perpetuating the hypersexualization of the gender/sexual orientation combination with some of the lowest mental health statistics.)
But, annoying as this video is, it’s not really what I’m here to talk about. At least, not directly. You see, what this video is a prime example of is how *one group* talks about the problems people in *another* group have, without really providing any novel insight. Sometimes, I hear people of color complain about this – that they don’t need to be “saved” by white knights mansplaining racism. And, like – I sort of heard it, but when I saw this video, I began to understand a bit why they might find this shit hella annoying.
So, one of the obvious things, is people who are not in the specific discriminated against group can ONLY talk about the experiences they have HEARD about, while people in the discriminated group can actually talk about the EXPERIENCE. And, there’s nothing wrong with someone talking about second hand experiences, but in those cases it is important for the speaker to cite their sources. So, in these video, we got two lesbians talking about bisexual erasure, but neither of them really know what it’s like – and, they never specifically reference any event that actually happened to a bisexual women. They only talk in the abstract.
It’s like coming to my house for Thanksgiving. My family is English, and we can go out and buy a turkey, and read up on “traditional” Thanksgiving recipes, but we kind of don’t fully get it. And, you can feel it. Same thing, these women don’t get it. “Of course true bisexuality exists” they say, while in the same breath casting doubt on it with “well, a lot of gay people use bisexuality as a stepping stone.” Sure, some gay people do that – but, they’re not bisexual. Many gay people identify as straight at some point in their lives, but when we’re talking about straight issues (like, say birth control or pregnancy) we don’t devote time to exploring why gay people sometimes identify as straight.
In the end, the entire video comes off as half-heartedly regurgitating platitudes about bisexuals. (Yeah, bisexual people are real! Bisexual erasure totally sucks!) There’s no real insight – what is it like to LIVE with bisexual erasure? How does this take a toll on your psyche, and how were you able to define your sexuality in spite of these shortcomings? What can you do do improve it? What can you do to be happy in a world that doesn’t see you?
The worst part, is it almost feels like these women don’t even *really* believe the dull, PC shit they’re saying. If you are really still mulling over “wow, bisexual’s really do exist,” chances are you’re not really as good a bisexual ally as you think you are. My girlfriend got pissed the other day, because her insurance company reaffirmed the importance of providing equal care to racial minorities (she’s Latina.) I didn’t get it at the time, but now I see, if an insurance company is still saying “we think hispanic people deserve just as good health care as white people!” as if it’s a statement that needs to be said, chances are they’re so behind the times it casts doubt on their ability to actually provide said equal health care.
Finally, I have to wonder, why did these lesbians even want to make this video? Warning: my answer to this question is totally not-pc.
I think these lesbians made this video to get some pussy. It’s not a coincidence that the lesbian who wanted to talk on bi issues fucks a lot of bi women. This video wasn’t really about lesbians trying to make space for bisexual women, it was about lesbians trying to make themselves look good by being knowledgeable on bi issues. It’s about lesbians trying to impress the type of women they are attracted to (bisexual ones, apparently) by going on you tube and spouting shit they think will make them seem appealing.
I don’t want to be a bitch – I’ve been there. My interest in issues of racial equality has jumped by about 1000% since I started dating my girlfriend. And, part of this is I desperately want to be accepted by people of color. I want to be liked, and loved. But this is MY need, and if I go into safe spaces for POC and start spouting whatever PC bullshit I think will get my ass liked, I am transforming a place for POC issues to be about my issues.
I think those lesbians are doing the same thing – they want to be liked, so they’re trying to be PC. But, by doing so, they made this video about THEM not about bisexuals. And so, in a misguided effort for acceptance, they perpetuate the same bisexual erasure they’re supposedly combatting.
You’re definitely right about the inherent problems of people talking with the air of authority/expertise about issues that they are only really aware of tangentially. They seemed to be trying to pull in whatever “this is what other people think” perspectives they could think of and then saying, “of course that’s not correct”–“this is how it really is”, based on their proximity knowledge of bisexual issues. Like you said, it’s ok to try to relate to those experiences and explain it within your own context, but without a) having a person with 1st-hand experience or b) bringing statistics/data to the discussion, your position is just as suspect as anyone else’s. If there are so many bisexuals, you’d think they’d be able to find one (like the guest’s gf) to talk about it. I guess when you put out enough videos and get a following about a certain subject you become an expert.
All that said, the video really is based around “Do bisexuals exist?” which then appears to focus on the lowest common denominator viewpoint: the complete disbelief about the “stable” existence of such a creature (and why that viewpoint might exist). It isn’t exactly a hard-hitting, deep, or scientific approach. It’s two girls spouting opinion.
As for their motivation, your guess is as good as any, but I would temper your argument with the idea that it is possible to try to be helpful (that is, not-entirely-selfish) in an ignorant way. It’s one of those “their heart is in the right place, but…” sort of things. Not everyone intuits the most effective way to 1) empathize with others, 2) construct an argument, 3) recognize their own ignorance, 4) fill those knowledge gaps, 5) share their perspective with proper authority. I wouldn’t say they necessarily made this video about themselves rather than bisexuals–I’d say they made this video about the people who don’t believe bisexuals exist in the first place. Perhaps it’s from something they’ve seen with regularity within their community? or outside their community? or a belief they once had? who knows?
Assumptions through tangential knowledge are great, unless you actually want to understand someone or something deeply. If you absolutely don’t want to hear something or understand it, assumptions through willful ignorance are the best.
There’s a bunch of stuff I’m talking about when I refer to bisexual women as being hypersexualized. I mean, it could be a whole post in and of itself.
But, a quick rundown: things in the media like, Katie Perry’s “I kissed a girl,” or the Brittany/Madonna kiss on the TV are done, basically, to increase the sex appeal of the artists (hence, buying into bisexual women as “sexy”). See longer post on depictions of bi women in the media here: http://radicalbi.wordpress.com/2012/04/25/hot-sexy-bi-babes-media-depictions-of-bisexual-women/
There’s also the concept of a “barsexuals” or “girls who make out with girls just to turn men on,” and the female bisexual third (aka unicorn: http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=Unicorn+Hunter) is frequently sought for the elusive MFF threesome, and very frequently requested on dating sites.
From personal experience, I can verify that I regularly get contacted for MFF threesomes when I post on OKCupid. People say *weird* shit too – like “we’re looking for a woman to pull into our marriage.” Creepy. Men have often been explicit about being attracted to me because I was bisexual (sometimes, not to my face – but, a few times male friends have been like “so and so’s into you cuz he likes bisexuals.”) This was particularly difficult for me when I was younger, and did not have the emotional maturity to brush off such requests.
To be fair, most of the hypersexualization of bisexual women does not come through lesbians. However, I’d argue that *because* of bisexual sexualization, picking someone to represent bisexuals on the basis of “sleeping with a lot of them” is a choice that reveals a lot of ignorance about the issues facing bisexual women. Bisexual women are forced to bare the burden of other people’s desire from a very young age (which, i’d also argue, plays a large role in the abysmal statistics of sexual abuse/rape for bisexual women http://www.buzzfeed.com/annanorth/bisexual-women-almost-twice-as-likely-to-be-abused) and probably they actually need *protection* from the people who are sexually fascinated by them, them, not “representation” by them.
Yeah – your take on their intentions is a lot kinder than mine 🙂 – and in a way, I do agree that their hearts were sort of in the right place. But, I still hold, reinforcement of their own ego was part of the motivation behind that video. And, again, that’s sort of human nature – but, it also has annoying consequences. Like, bisexual erasure.
I’ve been struggling to understand the issues people have with things like “I kissed a girl” and false-adoption of culture. For me–if it’s bullshit, then it’s bullshit, but what harm is it doing? Put into a broader context I can see how some of it makes sense, but I’m still pretty resistant to indulging in outrage over petty things like that. I mean, there are barsexuals or whatever, but again, the issue still seems to be about culture/identity ownership.
It could be because I’ve been doing some casual thought experiments about “status quo” relationship arrangements and the viability of threesome (or more) arrangements, but I’d like to think there’s some possibility there. I don’t have much experience to speak of, but the issues I imagine have to do with the notions of “possession”, trust, priority (time, money, energy), jealousy, arousal, and expectation. As I touched on in my other post, the practical and emotional reasons for entering into a relationship vary drastically from person to person, moment to moment. The quote, “we’re looking for a woman to pull into our marriage.” denotes what issues? Is the person coming in then a plaything? Or is it a full-fledged, equal member of the trio? How does one assess the truth to that equality? Is it ok to just be the visitor? You’ve mentioned having multiple relationships simultaneously before, what is the effective difference here?
I guess I’m not looking to get into a discussion about the viability of threesomes, as this really was more about hypersexualization, but my theories about the possible reasons for a guy being attracted to a bisexual woman (and I think is similar to the threesome equation) has to do with a few possible ones: 1) Novelty, 2) Emotional flexibility (ie, the guy hasn’t been able to express himself fully in a traditional relationship and the bisexual is more likely to be “flexible”), 3) Desire for experiencing a threesome, 4) pre-conceived notion about hyper-sexualization of bisexual women 🙂
I see what you’re saying about the effects of this sense of hyper-sexualization on decisions like picking a girl who sleeps with a lot of bisexuals to do an interview about them. I had no idea that 35% of women experienced rape, violence, or stalking. That is an obscenely high number. Since I recently wrote about the emotional aspect of relationships, and due to the even higher number of reported rapes of bisexuals (46.1%) I was prompted to wonder for that study you linked to, out of the 131 bisexuals (61.1% of 214 total) that reported rape/violence/stalking, how many of them switched from a straight perspective to a bi perspective after the fact. I further wondered how many of those bisexuals experienced (1st or 3rd party) physical or emotional abuse in the household as children. I looked at some other study results from wikipedia, and while the results seem to be all over the place, there have been others around that 35% for women mark. From another study 44% of lesbians reported domestic violence with their partners. The numbers for experiencing domestic violence in the household ranges between 10-20% nationally overall. My sense is that people live in patterns, and seek out familiarity that results in these sorts of problems. It would stand to reason that negative association with men as a result of domestic violence (emotional or physical) in combination with their learned interpersonal approaches with partners would lead to combative same-sex relationships. I have trouble wrapping my head around these numbers though. I’ve been pushed to the limit by people I’ve cared about, but it just seems way too high.
I watched an upworthy video (http://www.upworthy.com/a-woman-wore-a-hidden-camera-to-show-how-many-times-in-a-day-she-gets-harassed-argh?c=upw1) today about street harassment of women, and while I felt for the girls who were assaulted, I couldn’t help but think about the lesser offenses from the guy’s perspective. I think in some cases it’s coming from the sense of freedom for expressing their own sexuality, or the very least expressing their response to what they perceive as overt sexuality by a woman (the issue presented of course is, a woman should not be considered overtly sexual just by their mere existence). I know some of them are acting with the mad hope that expressing their interest will result in a positive reaction–ahh, to be acknowledged–to be wanted–to feel a sexual charge. I wonder how this sort of thing works in other countries. In the US it seems that you exhibit self-control in public spaces, sexuality is limited to certain spaces, but you can wear whatever provocative things you want in public because it’s self-expression…but the argument seems to be that guys can’t express themselves openly because it’s harassment (men must assume interest is unwanted, it is offensive to express that interest).
I feel like some of the time the expectation by some women is that they should be totally ignored while in public space. They showed guys in the video doing double-takes at beautiful women walking by as if it was some sort of crime. I’m all about respect, but really, if you see a beautiful woman on the street and get caught off guard–we’re then talking about what is an appropriate response, right? Some girls like cat-calls because it acknowledges part of their identity. Some girls dress provocatively or really nicely, or differently (like the girl in the video) and then get mad when she gets attention for it. Whether you dress up or down, someone might have that urge to connect–at that point we’re talking about what is an appropriate way of connecting with someone that you’re randomly walking by on the street. Right?
I’ve had dudes compliment me while I’m walking down the street with my girlfriend. I’ve had dudes compliment my girlfriend while we’re walking down the street together. I’ve had girls call me out (usually when drunk). Is it confidence? Is it arrogance? Is it some sort of perverse sense of ownership? Should each of us feel assaulted when reminded of our sexuality and innate, consciously or subconsciously projected qualities? Is someone expressing themselves from afar oppressive? It is if you feel put upon to respond to it. If their action is a burden on you to acknowledge and receive it when you actively don’t want it, I can see how that is. It is, if male freedom to express is a reminder of the power they have over you (real or imagined). I feel like I’ve written about this before. There is harassment, and there is self-expression. Is there a middle ground here?
In the context of the rape and violence statistics, and of this evidence of an oppressive society towards women, I get it. I don’t see it on a day-to-day basis, and I’ve always tried my best to take a feminist perspective, but I can see why this argument towards de-sexualization, anti-male-expression exists.
First off, if a lesbian or a gay man even tried to explain bi erasure to me, I’d laugh in their face and ask them an important question: What do you know about being bisexual? Since it’s not very damned likely that they do know – and hearing about it from some other source doesn’t count – I’m not going to bother to listen because there’s just no way they can know what the hell they’re talking about.
I really can’t stand two-faced gay people: We’re good enough to fuck but beyond that, they’re at the front of line of the group trying to make bisexuals either disappear or choose sides.
Hypersexualization… yeah, I get it and even I will admit that watching two women making out is the holy grail of sex; unlike a lot of men, I’ve seen it live – watching porn really doesn’t do it any justice – but with all the crap I’ve been hearing about fake bi women and all that, I’m not surprised that the bi bashers would use a woman’s angst about being seen as a sexual object against them in this way.
But you know what? The bashers can talk all the smack they want to and do their level best to erase us – it ain’t gonna work and it will never work and I’m really surprised that they’re not intelligent enough to realize this.
is erasure really about an active agenda? my impression was that it is a result of how the bisexual lifestyle is viewed from the outside (ex. the only way to confirm a stable bisexual is if they were in fact in both a homosexual and heterosexual relationship at the same time, or perhaps switched off between the two over a longer period of time). I can imagine conservative members of both groups (especially extremists who feel it’s a social war of some kind) might wish for the middle to disappear (with us or against us mentality), but like with most extremism, I feel like that has to be a small minority. It might not have to be the war mentality of course–it might just be manipulative narcissists or the conservative “social enforcers” wanting a bigger piece of the pie.
I guess when people feel oppressed they also feel the need to fight, but here’s my pseudo-scientific theory and viewpoint:
The way I look at relationships in general is that a person is primarily trying to fulfill emotional needs rather than physical ones (even if the physical attraction is the conscious element). Physical appearance or physical attributes are associated with the need they are trying to fulfill. If a person associates a certain attractive trait with a certain group of people, then their own attraction to that group will be increased. The things we learn from childhood to the mindsets that we adopt at any given stage in our lives shape the way that we fit together in relationships. I feel like homophobia and the rejection of homosexual attraction is something that is socialized on top of the average heterosexual leanings of humanity. Conservatism seems to be a hallmark trait of tribal society, so it’s unsurprising that “different” is ostracized or self-censored.
My bet is that the genetic or chemical/organizational brain makeup of homosexuals and heterosexuals alike (as a result of genetics and environmental factors during pre- and early stage development) results in a tendency towards bonding/attraction to a person who exhibits characteristics (or emotional energy) that are instinctively valued. I won’t suppose to guess what that attraction framework looks like, but as with most/all things, it is probably a derivative of tribal makeup, ie “power” traits.
I feel like the basis of those snap attraction/value judgments can then shape the individual’s own mindset from an early age about how they fit into the world. This perspective yields an assessment of how they are “supposed to” (practically speaking) relate to people who exhibit traits (either directly or through associated characteristics) that they judged to be valuable in relation to their view of themselves. During the development of their assessment, if a person feels “different” in either physical quality or emotional tendency, then the socialized result might lead to a homosexual relationship in order to fulfill those emotional needs (I feel protected with this person, I feel fulfilled when I provide for this person, etc etc).
It might be that the combination of things–the “feminine” yearning for a sense of physical protection and “masculine” domineering that led the intense diminutive guy to a relationship with a big guy who’s a softie (who yearns for providing but prefers being subordinate). The girl might love “the D”, the muscular guys, and the thrill of aggressive energy that sometimes goes along with it, but prefers the intense calm, consistency, and softness of her girlfriend (who really just prefers serenity most of the time, but enjoys being dominated and dominating once in a while). Those physical and emotional traits aren’t unique to one sex or another, one gender or another, one year to the next. Peoples’ lives intersect at many junctions, for many reasons.
I really feel that the terms “homosexual” and “heterosexual” miss the intrinsic characteristics of attraction, since it seems clear that an individual’s sex rarely results in a simple, homogeneous framework of emotional and practical needs that is fulfilled by relationships with other people. The variability of genetics as it relates to an individual’s sex and resulting physical product (including brain chemistry) across race/ethnicity creates a wide array of human individuals. The temporary or long-term mindsets that people adopt as a result of their environment can create a large swing in perspective on relationships and personal needs.
“Homosexual” and “Heterosexual” or “Bisexual” all attempt to define something that far exceeds the scope of those definitions. That’s why I have always thought that the attempt to define and categorize gender and sex and relate everything using previously existing frameworks has been a massive clusterfuck. Maybe it’s just me, but…Really? We’re going to try to put a box around each person here without any science or understanding of anything? That’s what the rainbow is all about, assholes. Watching friends and lovers try to self-diagnose and adopt one of these boxes for themselves has been painful to watch. It’s getting better, but holy shit. Externalize your identity into something like that and you’re going to have a bad time. And you wonder why people might think bisexuals don’t even exist. Fuck, I don’t have a box–what now?!
It seems like an active agenda – why else would it exist in the first place? I don’t know why people want to use a relationship to validate bisexuality – it doesn’t really mean or prove anything other than their ability to have a relationship – of some kind. And while I don’t know about anyone else, no matter if I’m in a relationship with a woman or a man (or both if I could get away with it), it doesn’t change or negate the fact that I’m bisexual. I’m in a relationship with a woman I love very much… and I’m still just as bisexual as I was before I even met her.
Relationships, therefore, cannot and should not ever be used to validate someone’s sexuality. If a bisexual man is in a relationship with a gay man, he does not stop being bisexual, does he? He can change his behavior, like not cheating on his partner so he can get some pussy – but that’s not gonna change how he feels about his sexuality.
It would probably serve a purpose if there were no middle ground when it comes to sexuality… but it’s there; it’s always been there and, I’m sorry, nothing anyone can say or do is going to change that. Methinks the fact that bisexuals aren’t as out as gays are is an issue, like it never occurred to anyone that, at least in the US, we have the right not to put our sexuality business out in the street if we don’t want to and, yeah, a lot of us know that if/when we do, we might get our heads handed to us by those who believe that we’re just so immoral that we’re all going to hell or something… and all because we innately know or even have reason to not be straight… or gay, for that matter.
You mention boxes and the active agenda is to shove bisexuals into one box or the other and I know I ain’t trying to hear it, ain’t ever gonna do it, and don’t believe that it can be done. This is a lesson in sociology and at an extreme level. For God only knows how long, people have been under the impression that you’re either straight or gay and despite the science that says there is another box for people to be in if they want to be. What boggles my mind is that people are so headstrong in their sexuality beliefs that they can only see two boxes instead of three… or more if you wanna include transgender folks – and, oh, yeah, some of them are bisexual despite their gender assignment.
It’s not that hard to understand – bisexuals exist and that’s a big fucking duh because I exist and I know I’m bisexual and I’ve probably been this way longer than the people speaking out against bisexuality have been alive – I’m coming up on 50 years – five whole decades – of being actively bisexual so what is it that these people know that I don’t?
We like it when stuff like this is all nice and neat and bisexuality just upsets all of that. We’d like it a whole lot if attraction was, say, just boy/girl or boy/boy… but bisexuality says fuck that – our attraction is boy/girl AND boy/boy and even though there are “rules” about this, we say fuck the rules; you’re not gonna make me like just girls or like just guys because it makes you happy – this ain’t about society as a whole: This is about me and I loudly say that I love pussy and dick and, you’re damned right, if I can have both at the same time (and I have) then it’s really all good.
They’re just pissed that bisexuals are capable of things that their limited understanding of things won’t allow them to do. They think they’re right… and they aren’t and that just proves how narrow-minded they are when it comes to this.
Our mindset hasn’t caught up with our behavior and while this is changing, it’s not changing fast enough to catch up with what we’re doing. Bisexuals have been around like forever, yes, hiding out in the background but there just the same. And we’re getting tons of grief just because we don’t want to be like everyone else. Are we being greedy because we like and want things from both men and women?
The naysayers say this is true but that’s because they believe that you should only want something from men or women… and not both. And I say fuck them and not in a good way.
Bisexuals exist. I exist. Anything else is petty bulshit coming from people who simply don’t like that I exist as a bisexual.
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