On the existence of male bisexuality …

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There are many possible explanations for the results of the study on arousal patterns of men claiming to be gay, straight or bi. The obvious explanations that the bi men are either not telling the truth or don’t understand their own sexuality fall a little flat for me.

I think a more likely explanation would be to look at the nature of bisexuality, not whether or not it exists. Could it be that a bisexual male is a man who is sometimes attracted to men and sometimes attracted to women, rather than a man who is always attracted to men and women? These could be phases that come and go with time. Then, the bi men sampled in the study on average identify as gay 75 percent of the time, and straight 25 percent of the time. I doubt the study rules this out, though I don’t know the details of the experiment so can’t be certain.

It could also be that a bi man is attracted to … men and women he finds attractive (duh). I’m pretty damn gay but don’t find most men, and do find some women, sexually attractive. Perhaps the actors in the porn presented to the bi subjects were just not found attractive by 25 percent of the subjects. This is less likely than the first explanation because it is unlikely that 25percent would have no reaction to any of the gay porn and would react to the straight porn. Again, without the details of the study I can’t be certain.

It wouldn’t be too tough to design an experiment to resolve the issue, and I’m sure the NU researchers are already writing their next grant proposal.

Bidentity Crisis

As a neuroscience Ph.D. student with a personal interest in male sexuality, I’m glad to see Savage Love taking an interest in the scientific literature. Or perhaps, the literature as viewed through the lens of The New York Times. I have to say that the news media has gone wild with the results of Rieger’s study. But the interpretation being published in the newspapers is somewhat in the eye of the beholder. For one, Rieger showed that men claiming to be bisexual do seem to show a more balanced pattern of arousal — less skewed toward one sex than gays or straights. For another, it is entirely possible that bisexual men tend to feel more attracted to one sex or the other on any given day or hour — a pattern I have observed in myself. But hey, maybe I am just another gay man in denial. —Skepticism Please In the News

That bi study at NU seems pretty unscientific.

I’m a straight guy … I’ve had one or two experiences with other guys in my past though, so maybe that makes me bi? You know, before I get to what I thought was wrong with that study, let me mention how stupid all these damned labels are.

Anyway, that study: I have watched so damned much porn over the years that I have become immune to the things that originally turned me on the most. In the beginning, all I cared about was girl-on-girl porn. I could not get enough. This is when I was 17, 18 years old. I didn’t have any interest in seeing a guy involved. After all, I was a guy and was stuck at home masturbating, so why did I need to see a guy getting to have sex? It annoyed me more than it turned me on. So then, a few years later, my biggest porn turn-on was one guy with two or more women. I guess after I stopped being a virgin, actually seeing penetration was more of a turn-on. This went on for a long while. Eventually I OD’ed on it. Then it became full-on orgies — group sex. The sight of many people all engaged or connected in one way or another was the biggest turn-on. At this point, I am pretty sick of this as well. I had stumbled upon some porn with two men and one woman recently and that was a turn-on. Up until now everything I have mentioned has been classified as straight porn. I have found myself aroused by bisexual threesomes lately, though I can’t say I really have any interest in having one. In other words, I don’t think what may or may not get a reaction from me in porn accurately measures my actual orientation.

I just don’t see the point in a study like this. —No Name

This is for STUD: I LOOOOOVE it when straight (or marginally straight) guys kiss and fondle each other. It gets me so excited. The only reason I don’t rush off to date bi guys is because—in my experience—bi guys usually turn out to be just plain gay. My advice for you, STUD, is to make it clear to straight girls that 1) you really and truly are wild for women, 2) you are capable of monogamy, and 3) you would occasionally be willing to make your bi-ness worthwhile for them. Believe me, I would die to find a guy like that. —Girl Bi Fan

I think your implied definition of bisexual is a little lacking, Dan. Bisexual is a word one often uses to define one’s sexuality when one just doesn’t fit in a gay/straight box — like STUD. I also consider myself bi, because I am a woman who finds women attractive, but not most men. I’m also happily married and monogamous and I like sex with men. How can I call myself straight and then spend hours drooling over that hot girl in the sunglasses shop? How can I say I’m a lesbian when I love bonking my husband? Human sexuality is never that simple, and it would be nice if everyone could stop pretending that it is. —Bisexual And Annoyed

I’m a 34-year-old bisexual guy, and I’ve had long-term relationships with both bi men and bi women. So, it’s not all the bisexuals who don’t think of dating other bisexuals.

As far as the study goes, I have performed similar experiments upon myself in the privacy of my own home, and have found that my penis has responded to girl-on-girl porn, boy-on-boy porn, boy-on-girl-porn, girl-on-boy porn, and various permutations and combinations of girls-and-boys-on-each-other porn. It’s all good, or at least there is some of each that is very, very good.

The study used a self-selecting group, and had a very small sample size — it’s really not great science. And, maybe they had some lame-ass porn. —Equal Opportunity Fucker

Come the fuck on.

You want to reference one study conducted by an anti-gay eugenicist with a tiny sample size, questionable methodology, and ambiguous results to wipe out all human history of bisexuality (to say nothing of bisexuality in other species)? Dude, maybe the gay porn that the gay graduate student selected was just a little bit hotter. Or maybe it’s hard to be turned on by both sexes immediately one after the other.

But seriously, what the hell is your issue with bisexuals? Are you that insecure with being gay that you have to convince everyone that there are no other options? For every bi guy who ends up flamingly gay, the psycho religious right will trot out a "redeemed" queer who’s now straight with six kids. Some people’s sexuality moves around. Deal with it. —Stop Fucking Over Bisexuals

I’m a gay male who definitely thinks there are plenty of self-identified bi guys who aren’t really that bi, but I don’t believe the Northwestern study rules out bisexuality in males entirely.

A key point to me, even though it was explicitly dismissed by Rieger, is "the fact that a third of the men in each group showed no significant arousal watching the movies" at all. Since it’s not logical to argue that a third of bi guys are in reality asexual, I’d say a guy’s response to visual stimuli (especially porn) is not the entire measure of his sexuality. Heck, personally when I watch porn it’s almost exclusively hairless twinks, yet my most intense attraction in a relationship was to a stocky, hairy-chested guy just because his alpha-male personality got me wild (yet, alpha-male twink and barrel-chested military porn do nothing for me).

I think for almost all guys, there are many more factors to attraction than just visual — personality, tactility, emotional connection. For a portion of guys, these factors might be equal to or stronger than the visual, and a smaller portion may be triggered by something very different than visual triggers — almost more stereotypically "female" in that regard. I’ve definitely known bi-but-mostly-gay guys (most transitional phases, at least one because he felt bi made him seem hotter) as well as bi-but-mostly-straight guys (none really opportunistic horndogs per Rieger’s conjecture—they were either sort of political/experimental about it or had these affectionate half-horseplay/half-sex-play adolescent-ish relationships with male friends that would contrast more passionate "serious" relationships with girlfriends). But I’ve had, I’d say, three male friends (and one ex-boyfriend) in the latter category—emotionally and sexually attached to people of either gender, and clearly bi, no matter how much I’ve tried to psychoanalyze them. That’s by no means a mass majority, but enough to convince me that not all bi guys are lying. —At Least Lots To Yield Pithy, Easy Studies

In your advice to STUD you wrote, "In fairness, it’s possible that all the smart, hip, together bis are already contentedly banging other bis, and since they’re not having problems, I don’t hear from them."

For my part I find this to be the case. I have a bi girlfriend, and am myself bisexual. We are both polyamorous and have individually had relationships with other women and men, respectively. We have no problem finding other smart, hip, together bis. My problem with your article is based on how you go on to say, "But still, what kind of statement does it make about the general desirability of bisexuals when so many bisexuals can’t even conceive of dating other bisexuals?"

I’ve found that a lot of it has to do with nightlife. I’m from Portland so I might be a bit parochial here, but I don’t really know of very many bisexual/pansexual hangouts. There are a lot of gay bars and cafés and such, and a lot of straight locales, but in all fairness, the majority of people at either of those places aren’t going to be bi, and a lot of them are going to be of the opinion that you should pick a side or else not play. As a point of advice, I find that goth clubs tend to be fairly good places to pick up bi folk. —A Smart, Hip, Together Bi

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About The Author

Dan Savage

Dan Savage is a sex-advice columnist, podcaster, and author, and has appeared on numerous television shows. His sex advice column “Savage Love” first appeared in The Stranger, Seattle’s alternative weekly, in 1991. The column is now syndicated across the United States and Canada. He has published six books...
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