Saturday, 23 August 2008

Shattering Sexuality Myths.

Last month, Penny Red posted about her bisexuality, and how it relates to her politics. Today, Jennie Rigg has taken that ball and run with it, adding her thoughts on the lack of accurate terminology surrounding 'open' relationships.

I'm just going to give a quick précis of what my sexuality IS and IS NOT.

I am bisexual.

This DOES NOT mean:

1) That I am eyeing up you/your girlfriend/your daughter/your sister/your mum.
Actually, and you may be surprised to hear this, I am only as likely to be doing that as a heterosexual man would be, perhaps less. I do not leer at people, I do not make advances to people who would clearly be uncomfortable with it, and I wish that people finding out I am not 100% heterosexual didn't lead so often to them feeling creeped out.

2) That I will join/invite you for a threesome. Group sex makes me feel really uncomfortable. The same goes for people who like to greet any two women who are introduced to them as a couple with "woah, can I watch?" - most people who come out with that little gem wouldn't *dare* say it to a woman and her boyfriend, so what makes them think that it's ok to say it to a girl they have previously identified as straight, who is stepping out with her girlfriend? Sex, for me, is a private thing and an emotional thing, and what I share with sexual partners is not for sale or show-and-tell.

3) That I am greedy/am not fussy. These things are often said to me as a joke, even by people who are very close to me. And they are more hurtful than I let on. I have in the past attempted to laugh along, and I probably will again, when it inevitably happens again. But what you're essentially saying there is that I am a slag. Cheers for that. For the record I am only ever attracted to people who are special to me in some way. And even then it's a rare, rare event. And if my completely unwarranted reputation as someone who will shag anything precedes me, there's a good chance all you jokey, having-a-laugh friends and family will cause problems for me in the relationships I build with those people who are so special to me.

4) That I am going through a phase and will grow out of it/That I am experimenting and don't know my sexuality Grrrrrr. This is the one that really makes me angry. How much more patronising can you GET than to tell someone they don't know their own hormonal urges? Seriously, if you've ever said this to anyone, you SUCK. I trust people to know their own minds and do not assume that other adults want me to patronise them with my opinion on things about them I have never experienced and do not understand. I often ask questions of people about their experiences if they are different from me in some way, so I can better understand their point of view. I do not mentally stick a big label on them saying "categorised" and "I know better than you, what you are and what you want", and reject their story. I would appreciate the same in return. I realise I'm not always going to get it, more's the pity.

5) That I am amoral. Couldn't be further from the truth. I have some very, very strict rules about how I live my life, and my moral code has absolutely sod all to do with what's in the pants of my past sexual partners.

6) That I am also polyamorous. Now here's the part where I think the word itself - 'bisexuality' - can be a bit misleading. It implies I like both, two. Twosexual. I am much more of a Onesexual person in this sense though: I've only really ever had one relationship at a time. Just as you might like tea and coffee, but not make yourself a mug of each every time you brew up so you can sit there sipping at both; I don't feel the need to have sex with men and women at the same time to be sated, nor can I particularly begin to get my head around how much more organised I would have to be to have more than one relationship on the go. So, being bisexual doesn't mean you can't stick to one relationship. Even for life. Sex is sex, as I said before it's a private and an emotional thing whoever it's with, one's desires can be sated without specific body parts being present, and I think there's something a bit suspect about the assumption I must 'miss' the other gender when I'm in a monogamous relationship. Having said all that I have quite a few polyamorous friends, who do a very good job of all the organisation, are happy, and enjoy themselves. I admire that. I think if you're finding yourself strongly attracted to other people outside the relationship you're in, it's well worth talking about some form of mutually consensual non-monogamy as an option rather than the alternatives of breaking up something that makes you happy for something else you want as well, or being dishonest and having an affair.

This DOES mean:

1) That when I am looking for a partner, I do not restrict my options to any one particular gender.
That is all.

I've had to steel myself to do this, not least because I am quite a private person and talking about something so personal, when not just joshing around, is quite frightening for me somehow. Also because I don't want to become defined by my sexuality - it is just one tiny aspect of who I am, and is about as relevant as my hair colour, my height or what I had for breakfast in making any assessment of my character. I want to express my thanks to Jennie and to Penny Red for giving me the guts to get this out in the open though, because if I spell things out here, hopefully all it can do is help me. I am sick to death of running up against the same tired bullshit and I wanted to spell a couple of things out. I know that many people may think that sexuality is 'nobody else's business' and I feel some of that sentiment too, but it hasn't worked out too well for me using that attitude. It has not been helpful to let people assume that I am straight, until told otherwise - that route causes more problems than it solves, believe me. And more importantly if someone as gutsy as me can hide all of this away and let people make their own assumptions about me based on who they see me with, what hope is there for bisexuality to shake off its near-invisibility? We can't expect the broader "LGBT" lobby to fight for bisexuals that well, because frankly bisexuals come in for as much if not more vehement prejudice and ill-treatment from gay and lesbian activists than they do from the heterosexual majority. We have to do it for ourselves.

ETA:You'll find me personning the DELGA stall at Bournemouth. If you're not already a member, please consider signing up.


david santos said...


Paul Luton said...

Nicely put.

David said...

Excellent post.

Refreshing honesty and a great explanation of the situation.

Jennie said...

* applause and whistling *

Fantastic post, Steph. You and I aren't exactly the same in these matters, but we at least have the same views on what effect it should have on our relationships with others.

Stephen Glenn said...

I love the succinct way you summed up exactly what it does mean to be bi-sexual. If only the world would realise that we'd all end up with more time on our hands as there'd be less stupid questions asked of us.

asquith said...

I don't know why this sexuality business has been going around the blogosphere over the last few days. I would have hoped we'd collectively got over it 40 years ago...

Did you read this?

You will need a strong stomach...

I'm not sure as to what I wrote in the comments section now. I must have laid too much emphasis on "bi-curious" as opposed to bisexual.

It does rile me because, even though I'm heterosexual & have no interest in men, these bigotries are not only irrational & damaging in themselves, but very strongly correlated with other forms of idiocy.

A liberal society is not possible so long as Mail-reading knuckledraggers and the sort of twat who get "advice" from Yahoo Answers get together & have a good bout of fear & incomprehension over the unknown.

Jennie said...

"these bigotries are not only irrational & damaging in themselves, but very strongly correlated with other forms of idiocy. "

Indeed. But talking about them brings them out, and when we know that people hold them, we can fight agin the nasty prejudices more effectively.

Caron said...

This is a really good and wise post, done with honesty and humour. Nice one:-)

Oranjepan said...

I'm open-minded.

The only things which matter are whether you are available, and whether you are interested.

Frank H Little said...

the lack of accurate terminology surrounding 'open' relationships
My first thought was that a good shorthand term would be "a Marlene", after Dietrich, to whom gender was not the most important consideration in choosing a sexual partner. But that might risk confusion with Beryl Reid's most famous creation. ;-)