Tuesday, December 30, 2008

The Conundrum of Bisexuality

I read the Opinion page of my newspaper. I read it sometimes to get myself really angry; I read it sometimes in order to see if there are any sane people in my area writing letters to the paper - those people who don't write in to say that Obama is a Muslim socialist who is going to wreck our economy, take away our liberties, and turn us all into communists. And I read my paper because I do have a genuine interest in the conservative viewpoint. I should probably pick a better paper to read for the conservative viewpoint, but the Republican-American is easily accessible (as it comes to my door - or more accurately, my paper box) and I am heart a lazy person.

Mona Charen's "In Defense of Rick Warren" is one of those examples for why I should find some other paper to read. Barring anything else, her discussion of bisexuality is not only flawed but simplistically separated from the rest of us. She says,
"But what about bisexuals? I ask this not to poke fun or to hurt anyone's feelings, but in all seriousness. How does same sex marriage help a bisexual? I assume if you are bisexual, you believe you need to have sexual relationships with men and women."
Except, that isn't bisexuality; bisexuality isn't needing to have sexual relationships with men and women. It is being attracted to both men and women. Not all men, and not all women. Bisexuality is not only dictated by the actions a person takes but the desires a person feels. A woman can be a bisexual and never have a sexual encounter with another woman; a woman can be a bisexual and never have a sexual encounter with a man. Just like a heterosexual person can be attracted to blondes and brunettes, and yet never have a sexual relationship with a blonde.

Charen goes on to postulate:
"If you are a bisexual man married to a woman, don't you need to break the marriage bond to express your bisexuality?"
No more than a person attracted to both blondes and brunettes would need to break his marriage bond to a brunette to express his interest in blondes. Bisexuals can engage in fidelity, just like every other person sublimates their attractions once they are in a committed, monogamous relationship does. And I'd again refer to the first point, that being that one doesn't need to express bisexuality in order to be a bisexual.

I would like to assume that Mona Charen is being sincere in her ignorance of bisexuality; but that ignorance, and questions over how action is necessary for identification - along with the continued idea that bisexuals are somehow just selfish and won't choose one of the two binary positions we have allotted (one, albeit, slowly, begrudgingly, and not yet fully) - are real issues for those marginalized by these assertions.

Bisexuals are oftentimes treated as the hyenas of the sexual orientation crowd. They aren't one thing or the other, and so at times are treated suspiciously by both. There are the "bi-curious", the girls who engage in bisexual behavior for the attention, and those identifying as bisexual as a stepping stone toward fully coming out as homosexual; and those variables help delegitimize the bisexual orientation. And there is consistently present this idea of a binary code existence in almost every area of life, but definitely present in sexual matters. Then there are the obtuse wonderings of people like Charen, people who have no problem accepting and expecting fidelity and monogamous relationships even while accepting that attractions will occur outside of those heterosexual and homosexual relationships. Bisexuality is largely ignored. It gets one of those letters in the LGBTTIQ; and it is used as a ratings gimmick on shows when the gimmick involves a conventionally attractive girl - like Marissa Cooper's couple of episodes-long relationship with Alex Kelly on The O.C. - but it is quickly abandoned or ignored. After all, even Willow on Buffy the Vampire Slayer went from being in heterosexual relationships to declaring, "gay now", and this was after a long time crush on best friend Xander and a long term relationship with werewolf Oz.

But the true answer to the question that Charen asks,
"How does same sex marriage help a bisexual?"
is a simple one. It allows them to have full and legal rights with the partner of their choice. It doesn't help the world understand bisexuality any better, but it does help with some of those practical matters for the bisexuals who have found lasting love among their own gender. We don't make those entering into a heterosexual marriage take sexuality tests to make sure they are indeed heterosexual - and not homosexual, or bisexual. The same can be said for those entering into homosexual unions. And so, access to same sex marriage helps bisexuals in the same way access to marriage helps anyone and any group.


John said...

so are bisexuals just constantly having sex with both men and women at all times? Because if they are, I'm surprised bisexuality isn't a LOT more popular.

Someone should explain to Mona Charen the difference between bisexual and polyamorous, and the fact that they're somewhat of a Venn Diagram situation.

mikhailbakunin said...

Come on, eveyone knows bisexuals have no impulse control. I'm constantly fending them off as they try to have sex with me on my way through the parking lot at work.

share941 said...

That was the most brilliantly and succinctly stated dissertation on bisexuality that I have ever had the pleasure of reading. It merits publication in the Journal of Human Sexuality. Well done.

share941 said...

That was easily the most brilliantly and succinctly stated dissertation on bisexuality I have ever had the pleasure of reading. It merits publication in the Journal on Human Sexuality. Well done.