E! Online has a poll up right now about whether bisexuality actually exists. Because the best way to figure out whether a sexual identity exists – the best way to figure out whether any minority exists – is to poll the majority. That’s always accurate, and it never goes badly for anyone. The majority always knows all about the existence, makeup, and needs of the minorities under it, and has absolutely nothing invested in denying any or all of it.
What is this urge to validate (or, usually, invalidate) bisexuality, anyway? Why do people feel the need to go around discussing whether it really exists, and if not what motivates people to claim it does? What possible sense is there to any method other than believing people when they talk about their feelings and experiences? I’m totally baffled. I just don’t get how anyone could believe they understand someone’s motivations, desires, and experiences better than that person does hirself. I live in such a queer, sex-positive, accepting bubble that I’m totally flummoxed when reminded that sexuality and sexual identity are extremely loaded in the outside world, and people in general have a lot invested in the sexual identities of others. The only people in whose sexualities I’m terribly invested are the ones I’m attracted to, and even then I don’t care much if they usually like girls or femmes, or who else they like — I just want to know whether they’re attracted to me. I have trouble understanding why anything else matters. I have theories — that failing to take part in or uphold the heteronormative power structure is threatening; that women who don’t need men are dangerous; that people assume all queers of their gender will find them attractive, and simply being desired or hit on by a queer person will somehow taint them with queerness; that most people are unnaturally preoccuped with controlling the behaviors of others even when those behaviors have no impact on them (but don’t ask me why!); that bisexuality introduces an element of uncertainty as far as who one will be attracted to and what choices one will make that’s simply intolerable to people who need to put others into boxes and be able to predict and understand their choices, and denying that bisexuality exists and assigning people as either gay or straight sidesteps that uncertainty. But on a gut level it makes no sense to me.
And can we talk about the wording of the commentary on Lindsay Lohan that precedes the poll? When will she find comfort in her favorite male body part, indeed. Haven’t we already been through this? Even if cock were the be-all and end-all of sex – which, having had a significant amount of great sex that didn’t involve one, I can assure you it’s not – who’s to say that Samantha Ronson doesn’t have one (or several)? I have no more business speculating on their sex life than E! Online does, but really, people. The straight world needs to remember that cocks are not exclusive to or synonymous with men (another thing I could attest to from personal experience, should the need arise). And as Bitch and Animal point out, most men don’t get the same choice of size, shape, and color that many dykes do. So if that’s what Lindsay Lohan is hurting for (and how would they know that?!), maybe they’re doing it wrong.
I’m hesitant to urge all off you to go vote, since our choices are so atrocious -“Not a chance, it’s a stop on the way to homoville;” “Sure, I’m a little Anne Heche. I’ve experimented with both sexes;” and “Angelina Jolie dabbled with a woman and found her way to Brad Pitt. Works for me.” So “No,” and two options for bi-curious girls. No option stating that some people, or oneself, might be legitimately bisexual as an identity and a way of moving through the world. I realize E! isn’t known for its faithfulness to the scientific method, nor for journalism beyond reproach, but this is really atrocious. I could write better poll answers in my sleep (though of course it would never occur to me to determine the legitimacy of a sexuality – or any other identity – by popular opinion.) I could probably even do it while sticking to the totally vapid form of these responses, though it would be easier if I had a better working knowledge of pop culture. How about and “Yes, Lindsay seems so in love,” “I don’t know, Angelina or Orlando Bloom could tempt anyone,” and “Yes, I’m bisexual!” I’ll even let them keep “No, it’s just a stop on the way to homoville” (maybe with an add-on – “No, it’s just a stop of the way to homoville or a way for straight girls to get more attention from men” – not that the media would name that one, since it has so much to gain from keeping it in the subtext and capitalizing on it.) Still atrocious, which seems to be the goal, but at least now there’s a range of answers to choose from, including a couple that express a belief in bisexuality as something other than an experiment or a stop on the way to a hotter different-gender partner.
Still, it can’t hurt to go choose one of the moderately bi-friendly options, and leave a comment expressing just how offensive you find the idea of approving identities by poll, and just how limiting you find their options even if they are going to do such a thing. Mine will be right there above it. And we are so not alone; a quick glance at the comments leads me to believe most of the commenters are as irritated as I am.
And of course, I’m totally behind the times on this issue (as always — every morning I think “I’ll write that blog entry before I go to sleep tonight,” and one after another the days keep passing, with me writing bits and pieces on the train), so there have been further developments. Rather than simply apologizing for his poor judgment, Ted Casablanca is all up in arms over readers finding his poll offensive (good job, readers!), and is retreating to a bisexual identity himself as a defense. In this case, “bisexual” seems to mean “I used to date chicks before I came out as gay, and I don’t feel like being attacked just because I acted like a jerk.” So he decides that given his “technical” bisexuality, and also other celebrities using bisexuality to get attention, even though bisexuality is “a very real station in life for many,” he gets to be sarcastic and dismissive about it in front of an audience who have no reason to see him as a bisexual, or see him as anything other than nastily dismissive of certain people’s lives. Somewhere in there I fell off that train of thought.
And speaking of the claim that (female) celebrities are using hooking up with girls to get more attention, how on earth would he know whether these ladies are actually bisexual or just playing for the camera? He describes Angelina Jolie, Anne Heche, and Lindsay Lohan as “babes known for keeping us dancing around just who, and what, they’re cozying up to in bed.” Ick. Ick. “Or what”? What is it about people who dismiss others’ sexuality (and I really should learn not to expect better from gay men just because they’ve been the target of such dismissal themselves) that they get such a kick out of such implications? I wonder if it’s same- or different-gender partners Mr. Casablanca considers not quite human – or is he doing that thing people have historically done to gay men, and implying that bisexuality is a step away from such exploitative, non-consensual acts as pedophilia and bestiality? Shame on him. Not to mention that, as far as I can recall, there hasn’t been much keeping us guessing. Well, maybe on Lindsay Lohan’s part, but to the extent that I’ve been aware of such things Angelina Jolie and Anne Heche have been pretty straight-forward about who and what they like. They just refuse to narrow it down to put people at ease. If people can’t quite grasp bisexuality, and feel jerked around every time someone goes from a male to a female partner or vice versa, that’s hardly the fault of the bisexual in question. It’s not deceptive to behave in ways that conform to your claimed identity. If people would stop insisting that bisexuals are either really straight or really gay, they’d stop being confused every time we act really bisexual.
And finally, I’m so over the free speech defense. Yes, it’s your gossip column, and as an American you have a right to freedom of speech, and you can say whatever you want. You also have open comments on your column, and your readers also have the right to free speech, including telling you when they think you’re being a jackass. You don’t have to listen to them any more than your freedom of speech means we have to listen to you. It would only violate your rights if the U.S. government came in and shut down your site because of such content. And, um, I think we’re a long way from the government sallying forth in defense of bisexuals, so I don’t think Mr. Casablanca has anything to worry about on that score.