radio off

Guys like Liam Payne need to stop writing songs about bisexual people

This article was previously published on Medium under a different headline.

Monosexuals (people attracted to one gender), it’s time to talk about the songs you’ve been writing about bi people. More specifically, it’s time to admit that you need to stop writing songs about us. You’ve proven too many times that you are simply not up to the task.

As far as I can tell, people who aren’t bi have only even written two types of songs about bi people:

  1. “My partner (usually girlfriends because bi men barely exist in mainstream consciousness) is bi, it’s so hot, we’re gonna have a threesome!”
  2. “The person I like/have been flirting with got a boy/girlfriend (which ever would make them in a “straight passing” relationship) instead of being with me, so they must be a fake gay!”

This week, #LiamPayneIsOverParty was trending on Twitter because of the biphobic song on his new album, LP1. “Both Ways” is supposedly a song about Payne’s bisexual girlfriend and includes such romantic lines as “My girl, she like it both ways/She like the way it all taste/Couple more, we’ll call it foreplay/No, no, I don’t discriminate/Bring it back to my place/Yeah, she like it both ways (Both ways).”

Payne is not the first straight man to use the fetishization of bi women as a catchy hook in his music. Other examples include the Weekend’s “Lost in the Fire” (You said you might be into girls/Said you going through a phase/Keeping your heart safe/Well, baby, you can bring a friend/She can ride on top your face/While I f*ck you straight) and even one of my guilty-pleasures, Tinie Tempah’s “Miami to Ibiza” (I’ll wake up in the morning with a/Mild case of amnesia/With a girl that like a girl/Like Lindsay Lohan and Queen Latifah(. Th)se songs and the many others like them perpetuate the dangerous stereotype of bi women as hyper-sexual, sex toys for straight couples, or down for anything.

These stereotypes are one reason why bi women face such high rates of sexual violence, with research showing that up to 66% or even 75% of bi women have experienced sexual violence. We can no longer tolerate fetishization in pop culture like music or TV, especially when the sexual violence it leads to is then completely either completely erased or ignored. At current, my organization the Bi Survivors Network, is the only resources specifically for bi survivors in the UK, with many bi survivors reporting they have had negative experiences when attempted to access help or support.

Bi people also have to deal with the second type of invalidating songs, often from gay or lesbian artists (I’ve personally come across a lot more from lesbians than gay men). Examples include GRLWood’s “Bisexual” (Every time we talk, it’s about your boyfriend/I don’t really wanna hear anymore about him/Can you talk about anything besides your boyfriend?/Good goddamn, I don’t wanna hear about your boyfriend), Hayley Kiyoko’s “Curious” (Calling me up, so late at night/Are we just friends?/You say you wanted me, but you’re sleeping with him) and Tegan and Sarah’s “Boyfriend” (You treat me like your boyfriend/And trust me like a like a very best friend/You kiss me like your boyfriend/You call me up like you want your best friend/You turn me on like you want your boyfriend/But I don’t want to be your secret anymore).

All of these songs rely on the biphobic stereotypes that bi women are just straight women looking for a bit of adventure, unwilling to leave their boyfriends, cheaters, and just all-round bad or unreliable partners.

(Side note; I’ve always wondered why the women who write these songs think they are better for the women they’re writing about than their boyfriends, when they seem so generally resentful of them and hung up on bisexual stereotypes.)

While these songs aren’t as damaging as those written by straight men, mainly because queer artists will never been given as much mainstream attention or clout, they do contribute to the “bad partner” narrative that makes bi people more vulnerable to jealousy-based abuse and to the double discrimination that causes bi people to have worse mental health outcomes than gay men or lesbians.

As if these tropes being so common in songs wasn’t bad enough, the frequent backlash against bisexual artists for creating songs about our experiences salts the wounds. As I wrote about earlier this year, when female musicians such as Demi Lavato, Rita Ora, or Ariana Grande who have up until now been assumed straight release songs about their multi-gender attraction, they are often accused of queerbaiting or ‘doing it for attention’ because bi people face a higher burden of proof when it comes to our queer credentials than other members of the LGBT community.

So monosexuals, it’s time to stop writing songs about us. You’ve done a pretty terrible job so far. Might I suggest taking a step back and letting us create our own music about our experiences (and in turn accepting that it’s okay if we’re queer in a way that’s different to you). After all, which some many amazing bi/pan/queer artists out there such as Janelle Monea, Christine & The Queens, Frank Ocean, and Harry Styles churning out bop after bop, we’ve got it covered. Thanks.

Lois Shearing is a bisexual activist, freelance writer, and content marketer. They founded the Bi Survivors Network and the anti-biphobia campaign DoBetterBiUs.