So, what does bisexual mean?
The answer: that you’re sexually or romantically attracted to both males and females. Not necessarily in equal amounts and not necessarily favouring one over the other, but to be bisexual is defined by having an attraction to both genders.
There is some contention about being bisexual because some camps define bisexual as when a person isn’t clear about, or ready to admit, they’re homosexual. If you sleep with people of the same sex – even sometimes – doesn’t that make you gay?
According to a Williams Institute study, approximately 2.2% of women identify as bisexual (compared to 1.1% who identify as lesbian) and 1.4% of men identify as bisexual (compared to 2.2% who identify as gay). The fact is, people who are attracted to both sexes are neither straight nor gay. Bisexual is really a ‘thing’. It’s a bit like there are people who eat pizza but not pasta and then there are others who like both.
Bisexual.org says “Many monosexual people (straight, gay, and lesbian) find bisexuality confusing.” The reason being, bisexuality redefines the boundaries by not limiting them. “Straight, gay, and lesbian sexuality divides humanity into two categories – two biological sexes, one of which is potentially attractive to the person, and one of which is not.” Bisexuality, which is considered one of the four main sexual identities: gay, straight, asexual and bisexual, blows the binary outlook of sexuality out of the water.
The term bisexual has been used in modern language since 1850 when it was coined by American neurologist Charles Gilbert Chaddock so it’s certainly nothing new. Today though, bisexuality is often described as a fluid form of sexual identity as it can take many forms and potentially change over time.
Dr Michael Aaron, Certified Sex Therapist and author of Modern Sexuality says “I don't think it's so much that we are becoming more sexually fluid, but that people feel more social freedom to experiment. For example, only 66% percent of individuals in Gen Z describe themselves as "exclusively heterosexual" while another study found that 43% of millennials identify as sexually fluid.”
Bisexual.org has many real-life examples of people who identify as bisexual and what that means to them. “I truly do not feel a preference to one gender over the other,” says Molly.
“I am more attracted to women than men. And yet, I ended up marrying the only man I ever fell in love with, because he reciprocated my feelings and the women that I cared for didn't,” says Amarin.
The truth is, bisexuality is particular to each individual.
Are we all bisexual?
If more than half of us identify as having some same-sex attraction, could it be that we are all bisexual to a degree? The jury is still out on that one. Aaron says today’s fluidity is less about us all being bisexual and more likely down to the fact we have more social freedom.
He says, “Kinsey created a scale from 0-6, in which 0 is exclusively heterosexual, while 6 is exclusively homosexual. I'm not sure things are so cut and dry, but other factors play a role, especially personality traits such as openness to new experiences.”
“People who are more open are more willing to take chances and try new things, so they may very well experiment with sexual fluidity, although they are primarily interested in one gender. Some people are less open and curious, so they are closed off to experimentation.” Aaron claims “You cannot separate sexual behaviour from personality.”
Kristen Stewart, who famously left Robert Pattinson then dated a string of women, agrees. Stewart, who is set to direct the bisexual tale The Chronology of Water told The Guardian, “The whole issue of sexuality is so grey. I’m just trying to acknowledge that fluidity, that greyness, which has always existed. But maybe only now are we allowed to start talking about it.”
Rather than shedding light, studies on bisexuality seem to throw even more shades of grey into the mix. A report published in the PLos One Journal found that in response to watching erotic male or female stimuli, the pupil dilation in bisexual men correlated more closely to that of heterosexual women.
In other words, women who identify as straight were equally as turned on by watching male-to-female or female-to-female porn. Among men, however, the most substantial pupil dilation to both sexes was with bisexual-identified men.
Pansexual vs Bisexual
So what is the difference between bisexual and pansexual? ‘Pan’ is defined as being more fluid than ‘bi’; which many people who neither identify as straight, gay or bi say more fully defines them, because it takes more of a ‘gender neutral’ approach. It’s less about the gender and more about the person.
As Miley Cyrus told Variety, “My whole life, I didn't understand my own gender and my own sexuality. I always hated the word 'bisexual,' because that's even putting me in a box. I don't ever think about someone being a boy or someone being a girl.”
When you peel back the layers, identifying your sexuality is a personal journey. And it can change. The morphing is part of what’s seen as the complexity of bisexuality. However, it’s not that people who are bisexual are confused, it’s more that our language around it has been. But thankfully, that’s changing.
Are you bisexual or just bi-curious?
Wondering whether you might be bisexual? Take this quiz to find out
Harry Styles - TRUE (probably)
“The boys and the girls are here. I mess around with them. And I’m okay with it.” Lyrics from Styles’ song Medicine.
Channing Tatum -TRUE
Channing may be bisexual in the attraction sense but whether or not he’s had sexual or romantic relations with a man is not confirmed.
But he did say this in a tweet: “Sometimes while I’m on set I wonder how big my co-workers dicks are. I still love women but I can’t deny I like men too strong and sweaty.”
Tom Hardy - FALSE
When asked by Attitude magazine in 2010 if he’d ever had any sexual relations with a man Hardy said, “As a boy? Of course I have. I'm an actor for f***’s sake. I'm an artist. I've played with everything and everyone. But I'm not into men sexually.”
Katy Perry - TRUE
“I speak my truths and I paint my fantasies into these little bite-sized pop songs,” Katy said as she accepted a National Equality Award at the Human Rights Campaign Gala in 2017.
“For instance; I Kissed a Girl – and I liked it. Truth be told I did more than that.”
Vin Diesel - UNCOMFIRMED
The actor told Details about his reaction to being asked by a fan if he plays for the other team. “I’m not going to put it out there on a magazine cover like some other actors.”