Bisexual folks have an image problem in America. Could science help?
A new feature, published in the New York Times Magazine, follows the efforts of the American Institute of Bisexuality to fund scientific studies on bisexuals. The institute works to combat damaging beliefs about bisexual people, including that they are actually gay, not bi; that they are just experimenting or going through a phase; and that they are unfaithful partners. The institute supports surveys of bi folks’ sexual activity and mental health, as well as studies of bisexual people’s arousal. Yes, that means those funny studies in which researcher show study volunteers porn and measure how their volunteers react.
You might think that institute-funded research would be kind of boring, adherent to the party line: Bisexuality exists, guys! Bi-identified folks, for the most part, aren’t lying or actually gay! But the studies the Times article covers are fascinating, sophisticated looks into human sexuality.
There’s one researcher that’s looking into whether what makes some men identify as bi is their non-aversion to women. That is, when they’re watching porn with two men, they don’t lose steam when a woman joins in. Gay-identified men, on the other hand, may be the ones who won’t stand for a lady in the scene.
There are almost as many men decide to identify as bisexual, queer, or “unlabeled” after identifying as gay earlier in life as there are men who first identify as bi, then as gay.
There’s a survey of 394 men and women that found that there are almost as many men who decide to identify as bisexual, queer, or “unlabeled” after identifying as gay earlier in life as there are men who first identify as bi, then as gay. The researcher who conducted that survey, Lisa Diamond of the University of Utah, originally assumed women are more sexually fluid than men, the Times reports. Researchers are now finding, however, that men’s attraction can be pretty complex, too. (O rly?)
Complexity can make things harder. As the Times points out, men who change identities provide fodder for those who tout damaging “gay cures.” For journalists, complexity can make a science story harder to tell: Scientists found X is true, but only in these specific cases, and maybe they are right and maybe they are wrong? But probably they are right? In this case, however, it makes for a fun, thoughtful read.