By David Richardson
"Is there really such a thing as Bisexuality or is it just a word coined by those who don't want to be identified as homosexual?"
Many of us have heard people describe themselves as "bisexual" rather than "Gay" or straight. What does that description imply and how do bisexual people explain their "middle-of-the-road position? All animals are biologically bisexual to some extent, but only a relative few actually practice Bisexuality. Bisexuality, as used in this article, refers to more than incidental sexual encounters with members of the same sex while coupled with a sexual interest in the opposite sex.
There is not a great deal of material on the subject. Many clinicians feel it does not truly exist and, when it is recognized, it is more often than not dealt with as a form of homosexuality. However, there are a few sources that recognize Bisexuality as a distinct form of sexual expression-distinct from heterosexuality on one end and homosexuality on the other. The diversity of sexual expression is impressive, especially since most of us have been thoroughly trained to think in terms of polarities: male or female, heterosexual or homosexual.
Heterosexuality and homosexuality have always been polarized. Homosexuality was openly practiced in the days of the early Grecian and Roman empires as an ideal way of life. The same was (and is) true of other cultures outside the Judaic/Christian influences. Bisexuality was either taken for granted or not recognized. Charles Darwin was the first to use the word "bisexual." In 1868 he wrote in "The Variations of Animals and Plants Under Domestication," that Bisexuality alone could explain certain hereditary traits.
Darwin wrote, "Latent characteristics of the opposite sex can be transmitted to future generations in both fauna and flora." Sigmund Freud later expanded on the idea of Bisexuality. In "Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality."
"It is well known that at all times there have been, as there are, human beings who can take as their sexual objects persons of either sex without the one trend interfering with the other. We call these people bisexual...But we have come to know that all human beings are bisexual in this sense, and that their libido is distributed between objects of both sexes, either in manifest or latent form."
This is the very essence of Bisexuality. Since it was generally agreed that biologically all humans contain something of the opposite sex, would these traits manifest if it were not for powerful social restraints which stem from the Judaic/Christian influence?
Could Bisexuality be the true "norm"? Examine: A newborn baby can be easily stimulated. It does not distinguish between a male or female stimulus; it will simply respond if the stimulus is a pleasurable one. However, if he or she was never taught to distinguish between the two (as it most certainly will be), would he or she remain open throughout its life, judging the quality of the stimulus bur not the giver of the stimulus? What part would nature play?
"The term bisexual is somewhat misleading. People often assume the prefix "Bi" denotes equal, but few, if any, are truly Bisexual in that they are equally attracted to both sexes. One most always has a preference of one gender over the other."
At this point it is necessary to examine what lies behind sexual choices of any type. It is true that most animals, and most humans, prefer heterosexual coitus to any other form of sexual expression. This is certainly not because of the existence of some so-called instinct. Among animals much lower on the evolution scale than man, the whole process of mate selection is under, relatively tight physiological control.
For instance, specific scent glands emit odors that are exciting to the opposite sex, or internal secretions of other sorts may stimulate certain muscles. However, as we move up the scale, behavior that had appeared to be automatic and directional either disappears or begins to lose its orderliness.
A centrally important evolutional change in all this is that the cerebral cortex, vital to the learning process, has slowly begun to increase in size and in its ratio to the rest of the brain. It comprises about 25 percent of the brain in lower animals, more than 50 percent of the brain in anthropoids and over 90 percent of the volume of the human brain.
From this point of view it can be seen why man can learn as much as he does and, lacking the physiological control that are apparent in lower animals, must learn all of his behavior in the period of time his maturity requires.
People simply respond sexually in ways in which they have learned to respond. Conversely, people fail to respond sexually when they have arrived at an aversion. Sol Gordon and Roger W. Libby in "Sexuality Today and Tomorrow " found that "Every sexually responsive person could respond to every other sexually responsive individual if it were not for aversion reactions."
Unfortunately the majority of human beings never live according to their own nature. Family and society impose their conditioned ideas on the child and influence or distort the way he/she perceives his/her image. Only a minority by-pass stereotyping by parents and society and live more authentically than the rest. Bisexuality could be that authentic lifestyle.
However, the term bisexual is somewhat misleading. People often assume the prefix "Bi" denotes equal, but few, if any, are truly Bisexual in that they are equally attracted to both sexes. One most always has a preference of one gender over the other.
It is a documented fact that large numbers of people practice Bisexuality. This was shown by Alfred Kinsey and associates who conducted what many clinicians feel to be the most thorough study of human sexuality yet produced. Kinsey developed a scale numbered O to 6. Each point on the scale represented a different degree of sexuality as follows:
O - exclusively heterosexual
1- mainly heterosexual with a small degree of homosexuality
2 - mainly heterosexual with a substantial degree of homosexuality
3- equally heterosexual and homosexual
4 - mainly homosexual with a substantial degree of heterosexuality
5 - mainly homosexual with a small degree of heterosexuality
6 - exclusively homosexual
Respondents were asked to identify themselves at one point on the scale. Kinsey found that between the ages of 16 and 55, 25 percent of the male population in 1948 had had more than incidental homosexual experience or reaction for at least three years.
In 1953 Kinsey published his findings on sexuality in females. Those having more than incidental homosexual experience between the ages 20 and 35 were as follows:
Unmarried women: 6-14 percent
Married women: 2-5 percent
Previously married women: 8-10 percent
In terms of numbers, these percentages translate into about 30-40 million Bisexual women in the United States. How would these figures stand 30 years later? In January 1977, "Psychology Today" published a survey on masculinity wherein 68 percent of the male respondents considered themselves heterosexual, 6 percent homosexual, and 29 percent had some degree of Bisexuality. In 1975, 100,000 women answered a "Redbook" magazine survey on sexual pleasure. Ten percent of the separated or divorced women surveyed had had sex with other women and four percent of all women were currently doing so. These figures were very close to Kinsey's original figures.
"The figures are almost twice as high for men in all categories than for women. One reason is, the male is generally more open to explore sexuality. As it now stands, men-be they homosexual, heterosexual or bisexual-are still, culturally and socially, allowed more freedom to be openly expressive in their need for sexual fulfillment."
As one can see, the figures are almost twice as high for men in all categories than for women. One reason is, the male is generally more open to explore sexuality. However, with the women's movement and the diminishing double standard, this is growing less true. But as it now stands, men-be they homosexual, heterosexual or bisexual-are still, culturally and socially, allowed more freedom to be openly expressive in their need for sexual fulfillment. To get some idea how all this theory manifests itself in real life, I questioned several people about Bisexuality. The following interviews were taken from tape-recorded transcripts. The names have been changed, but everything else is told in each person's own words.
George, at 32, has a wife, two kids and a lover. He is reluctant to define himself as "bisexual" and firmly resists being labeled "Gay." He prefers not to place himself in any category which he considers "limiting" and says he just "is." "I don't remember ever being consciously attracted to guys, but I do remember my first time being with one. My wife was in the last stages of her pregnancy with our first child. We had not had any sexual relations for weeks, and I was hot. "One day I ran into this guy on the street and while it was not the first time I had been approached, that particular time I went along with it. Afterwards, I felt very guilty and swore to myself that I would never do it again. However, I did. For the longest time, all I would allow was for them to blow me. I didn't consider that as having "sex." Or that's how I rationalized it. "Soon, things escalated and I became more involved and with a couple of guys it became more than sex. I liked them as people. During the entire time this was going on, my relationship with my wife remained basically the same. I never lost any interest in her or other women sexually. And if I had to make a choice between the two lifestyles, I would choose my wife. This is not to say that I have worked out in my head exactly what is going on in my life; but for the moment, I'm in it."
Denise is 26, divorced and lives with her boyfriend in an apartment in Southwest Washington, D.C. "When I got married, I was nineteen and very naive of the ways of the world. My husband was older and much more experienced. After we were married, things were fine for the first few months. Then he started running the streets staying out later and later. Soon, he wasn't coming home at all. "One night, one of his women called to let me know where he was spending his time. I was shattered emotionally and though we somehow got over that incident, several others happened. I finally left him. For weeks I was depressed. It was the worst period of my life because I was still in love with him.
"During the course of one of my nightly depressions, I went to see a friend of mine. I will never forget it. We were sitting on the couch and I was low. She had put her arm around me and she was saying things like. 'Don't worry, it will be okay,' the usual things friends say at times like that. "At some point it began to be clear that she was doing more than just consoling me. It was a very strange feeling. On one hand I knew it was going on and part of me wanted to pull away. But it had been a long time since I had been held and it felt nice. Out of that need I allowed it to continue.
"The first time was awkward. I didn't know what I was to do or what she was going to do, but I didn't find it an unpleasant experience. So, I tried it a second time and a third. For a while, it was all I was into, not women as such, but this particular woman. I was never a Lesbian. But she did help me get over my husband and she helped me learn a lot about myself. "But soon I found that I was not completely satisfied, something was missing-men.
I find women to be much more tender and loving than men and I can get into them emotionally. The sex is almost like a by-product. Men are so into themselves and their pleasure that it is difficult to get into most of them. "The man I live with now is an exception. We have a good sex life and he is a very warm and considerate person. He does not know that I sometimes sleep with other women. He couldn't deal with that."
Bisexuality as it manifests within the Gay community drew some interesting responses. After doing a limited survey I was surprised to find that quite a few of the men and some Lesbians did have sexual relations with the opposite sex. Frank is one of those. While he identifies himself as "Gay," he also considers himself "Bi." On any given Saturday night Frank can be found on the dance floor of the Clubhouse, usually with his girlfriend because, as he says, "She dances better than my lover." "I have been "Gay" for nearly eight years. Prior to that, I always had girlfriends. Then, when I turned fourteen, I started playing around with guys. For the next few years I was exclusively Gay but women never stopped being attractive to me. Two years ago, I had sex with a women for the first time. To my surprise, I enjoyed it! The way her body felt. The softness. The way she pampered me was different than anything I had experienced with a man. The attraction that I have for women is not strong enough to stop my attraction to men. Though I call myself "Gay," if I were to be technical about it, I would be a Bisexual because I can adapt to either sex. For the moment I see no conflict. I love women and I love men I would not limit myself exclusively to one or the other."
There you have it. Bisexuality. Is it the true norm? Or is it just a few million people who are confused about their sexuality? You decide. To that end, perhaps the words of the late anthropologist Margaret Mead in her article entitled "Bisexuality, What's It All About?" will help: "Changing traditional attitudes towards homosexuality is in itself a mind expanding experience. But we shall not really succeed in discarding the straight jacket of our cultural beliefs about sexual choice if we fail to come to terms with the well-documented, normal human capacity to love members of both sexes."