Are there really people out there who are attracted to more than one gender? Do male bisexuals exist? Is true bisexuality actually a thing?
You’ve heard the arguments that attempt to diminish bisexuality as an identity. Some say that bisexuality is a baby step that makes it easier for a person to come out as gay eventually. Others say bisexuality is a youthful fad until its time to settle down, as gay or straight.
We here at the Science of Sin looked into what researchers have found to see if they can help settle the debate.
1. How to study sexual orientation
The roughest measure to determine sexual orientation is recording people’s sexual and romantic histories. By tallying up a person’s sexual partners, you get an idea of their sexual orientation.
For more insight into sexual arousal, scientists measure blood flow to the genitals when people are shown various types of sexuality explicit imagery. If there’s more blood flow to the genitals, researchers assume that means the subject is turned on by what she or he sees. So what does the data say?
2. Women seem more likely to be bisexual …
Women are more likely show vaginal arousal to and form romantic bonds with both men and women. Men on the other hand appear more fixed – at least in terms of which gender sends blood to their penises.
And some studies have shown that men who say they are bisexual are really only aroused by other men. This leads credence to the somewhat stereotyped notion that bisexual males are really just gay.
3. But we might just be bad at studying bisexual men
However, in recent genital arousal studies with better recruitment methods, scientists were able to find clear male bisexual arousal patterns. This illuminates another problem with this type of research. We rely on people telling researchers their sexual background – which can be unreliable since people are often ashamed to discuss what really turns them on.
4. Or maybe we’re all a little bi
But in a way, bisexuality is a broad, almost meaningless term – encapsulating everyone and no one. Research is illuminating that sexuality should be seen as fluid rather than fixed.
Many self-identified straight people report participating in and enjoying sexual relations with the same sex at one point in their life – usually in adolescence but sometimes later in life. In prisons, people enter loving, affectionate same sex relationships that they never would on the outside. And many people report that an emotional connection was so intense it turned sexual — even though it was with someone of the gender they typically were not attracted to.
Some sociologists argue that the society you live in plays a big part in the genders you enjoy sleeping with. They point to the ancient Greek, Native Americans, Japanese and numerous other societies throughout history where it appears more people engaged in homosexual experiences because the culture was more tolerant.
Thus, we wonder if while we might be predisposed to certain sexual attractions, in a way we’re all “bisexual.” Sexuality seems more complex than researchers previously thought, and might depend more on the culture we grew up in and the environment we live in.
Pleasure, intimacy, connection and love just might be less dependent on gender than we might assume.
Are we all bisexuals at heart? Watch Alex and Xander debate the pleasure of bisexuality.
You can also see past Science of Sin posts on the evolution of homosexual men, the wonder of the penis, weight loss, marijuana, testicles and prostate pleasure. Visit our YouTube channel for more sinful videos.
(Sources: LeVay, Simon. Gay, Straight, and the Reason Why: The Science of Sexual Orientation. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2011.
Rosenthal AM, Sylva D, Safron A, Bailey JM. The male bisexuality debate revisited: some bisexual men have bisexual arousal patterns. Arch Sex Behav. 2012 Feb;41(1):135-47.
Weill, Cheryl L. Nature’s Choice: What Science Reveals about the Biological Origins of Sexual Orientation. New York: Routledge, 2009.)