The Bisexual Menace

Posted: January 1, 2011 in Uncategorized

Welcome to the bizarre world of the bisexual. This delightful video parodies  ‘public information films’  which really did exist in the 1950s and 1960s to warn young men about dangerous homosexuals:

The film-maker, Mister Sharp, has also made cartoon videos entitled ‘The Homosexual Menace’ and ‘The Splendid Chaps of The Military’

Now, it is easy for us to see this video as a satire and a parody isn’t it? We know that bisexual people  do not need to have sex with someone of ‘each gender’ every day, and that they don’t have any more problems making decisions than anyone else. But as is often the case with satire, in the wrong hands it can become something quite different. I wasn’t surprised when I found the evangelical G-A-Y Dan Savage  had posted the video on his website, as had some of his pure gay cronies such as Joe My God and Towleroad on theirs. They knew it was satire too but they found a way of using the video to promote the literal message it was lampooning.

‘Note that teh gays are their deadliest enemies. Straight people love bisexuals—which may explain why most bisexuals identify as straight’ scribbled Donna, under the video. In doing so he inserted a tiny bit of doubt into his readers’ minds: maybe  gay people have reason to fear/dislike bisexuals? Maybe bisexuals are just liars, pretending to be straight because they lack the balls to come out as gay? Maybe bisexuals don’t exist after all? The comments on Savage and the other GAY blogs show that indeed, the video was interpreted, maybe not literally, but through the lens of people who are already very prejudiced against bisexual people and bisexuality. For example this comment on Towleroad

‘I think there are two main reasons for bi resentment. First, many gay men and lesbians started out (in their teens, whenever) saying that they were bi because it was more socially acceptable, then eventually realized or accepted that they were truly gay. I’m not saying that bisexuals don’t exist or should be mistreated, but there is a perception among many gay men and lesbians that bi people are basically using them to fulfill their “edgy” carnal desires until they can move into socially acceptable relationships. Gay men and lesbians can’t do that.’

I think the GAYs were clever to pick up on the video, showing they don’t lack a sense of humour, and they are in touch with the youtube meme generator generation. But they were quick enough to use it to deliver their own, conservative ‘gays are pure’ and ‘bisexuals are liars’ message to their many readers and followers. The idea that bisexual people are more ‘socially acceptable’ than gay people, particularly as many ‘pretend’ to be straight anyway, is widely held, and used to shore up the ‘gay’ identity and the ‘victim status’ of ‘genuine’ gay people. I sometimes wonder if Donna and co. would be happier if bona fide gays were to be emblazened with a pink triangle on their foreheads, just so we knew who was who.

I first saw this video on Mark Simpson’s blog, where he found no need to leave any ‘clues’ as to how we should interpret it.

Context is everything and Simpson’s work has always been about breaking down distinctions between ‘gay’ and ‘straight’ and ‘bisexual’ so his readers were most likely to read the video as the satire it was intended to be.

But, even Mr Simpson missed a few points that I’d like to mention here about the video and about bisexuality.

1) ‘The bisexual’ in the film is a man. Bisexuality is mainly seen as a threat when related to men’s bisexuality, because women’s sexuality is always seen as less significant and potent than men’s. Women benefit from this situation in some ways, but the focus on men’s bisexuality means that it is also gay men that are being portrayed, as the key group who feel threatened by bisexuality. For all the girl-on-girl porn that exists in the world, and the fantasies of men for threesomes with their girlfriends and another hot babe, I think bisexual women still have a hard time being accepted and acknowledged- by straight and gay people.  The video had some ‘women’ characters in it but they were incidental to the narrative in my view. Maybe gay men are more threatened by bisexuality than lesbians? But that is not what I have heard. I know ‘lesbians’ who have kept their liasons with men a secret, not just from lovers but from the wider lesbian ‘community’ for fear of being ostracised. As for straight men, I think their ‘bi-curious’ fantasies about  women are in part a way of hiding their real fears that their women don’t need them as much as they’d like to think, and could run off with the postwoman/hot neighbour at any point.

2) Does bisexuality exist? Really?

I was thinking about this and I have decided it doesn’t. Just as heterosexuality and homosexuality don’t.  Because BI-sexuality relies on the gender BInary, which is constructed in order to distinguish between ‘normal’ sexuality/gender identities and abnormal, deviant ones. Man/Woman Male/Female Gay/Straight can only exist if there is something in between, that doesn’t fit. e.g : intersex, transgender, bisexual. The ‘third gender’. To acknowledge and support bisexuality is in a way to reinforce the binary. I for example have never had sex with a woman, but I have fantasised about it (often about two women-I think my silly submissive sexist subconscious believes it would take two women to dominate me, but only one man. Idiot). I have had a relationship with a ‘bisexual’ man which felt more ‘homosexual’ than anything, surrounded as we were by sodomites, Roland Barthes and Scott Walker. But I couldn’t identify as ‘bisexual’. It feels too fixed. And also a bit of a lie, considering my knowledge of the sapphic arts is so pathetic. I know Mr Simpson doesn’t focus on fixed identities either, but still, it is worth pointing out, when a video like this is doing the rounds, that the ‘bisexual’ is necessary for the gayists and the straights to feel comfortable in their own sense of ‘fixed’ ‘natural’ sexuality. To challenge their complacency we may have to go that one step further and turn the applecart over altogether, get out our pencil rubbers and ‘erase’ all forms of sexual identity if we possibly can.

As Mr Zeeland said: ‘sexual identity is a joke’.

The video did make the joke, but maybe it didn’t deliver it with quite enough punch.

P.s. As for Donna, I am with this SLOG commenter, who suggests why Donna may think bi people identify as straight:

‘Gee, Dan, maybe they identify as straight so you won’t hit on them and get hate cooties all over them? Gods, you’re pathetic. Racist, sexist, cissexist, and biphobic and people ignore that because you’re a cute white cisgay. Fucking tired of it.’

  1. GD Williamson says:

    Good good good post. As a bisexual who’s primarily attracted towards the opposite sex, I’d naively thought that the sudden visibility of bi celebrities in the 1990s was going to get rid of the “don’t you have to be equally attracted to both genders?” crap forever. Finally I could sleep with who I wanted without feeling like I had to have same-sex experiences just to keep up my bisexual credibility, like lending a book you don’t want just to keep your library card.

    Obviously then the millennium rolled round and it became obvious that there were gay people who were very happy thinking in stereotypes. Who, having got up the ladder of respectability, wanted to kick the rungs away for anybody else. A target the video strikes very well.

    I’d always identified as bisexual despite always being open to finding trans people attractive. At first this was just through ignorance of other gender identities – I thought, for example, that people who identified as pan- or omnisexual were just trying to find a word for “bisexual” that wouldn’t scare people. I know what this means now, but I still consider myself bisexual.

    Why? Well, it’s a sentimental attachment to something I felt strongly about in my adolescence, and I do just think the word sounds better than pansexual or omnisexual. Which is shallow, but as you outline above, what isn’t shallow about the idea of drawing up categories to identify sexual tastes?

    I can sort of see where gay purism comes from, because for much of recent history gays have been assumed to be pretending or looking for attention or in denial about their heterosexuality. (In many parts of the world they still are) So you get this “just one drop” attitude which, interestingly, doesn’t exist in heterosexuality. Nobody would say, for example, that the Aerosmith song ‘Dude (Looks Like a Lady)’ is Steven Tyler’s way of coming out as pansexual, because heterosexuality is a sturdy enough thing to accomodate the odd ‘dabble’. (This is even more true if you’re a woman, obviously) But a politically-minded gay person might recognise a moment of opposite-sex desire as a weakness which could lead to being attacked, to having your sexuality denied by the world at large. So I can see where it comes from, but at the same time it’s about time they grew the fuck up.

    • you’re right GDW there is an origin to gay purism, but you are also right they should grow the fuck up!

      I know what you mean about ‘pan-sexual’ it sounds like you’d have to be a goth or a hippie to be ‘pansexual’. Can’t we just be ourselves?

  2. Gus Ww says:

    Excellent post. I have never liked the binary divide; in the rare moments when I still bother to have this conversation I always say IMHO and experience it’s a continuum & not just about straight/gay male/female. This comes as a shock to (say) colleagues who have me pegged as a lesbian due to their interpretation of my living arrangements. And mostly I can’t be arsed to let my colleagues know that level of detail about my life. It’s none of their business. 

    The purity myth is still prevalent in some lesbian circles. My partner has nonplussed many by saying she would “never say never” even though everything in her near 50 years suggests she never will get off with a man. 

    Most of my close friends are either other bis (in a variety of domestic set-ups) or non-binary-insistent self-identified straights / gays. 

    I also heartily recommend Mister Sharp’s videos on “the perils of lesbianity” and “know the workplace.” 

    • Thanks GusWw I will check out ‘the perils of lesbianity’! I think ‘never say never’ is a good and honourable motto for most sexual experiences. Who knows what life will bring?


  3. Excellent post.

    I agree with you that this is a damned good film with a necessary message. However, I also agree with the second point you make about bisexuallity not existing, in the same way that heterosexuality and homosexuality also don’t exist.

    Sometimes it seems as if there is a kind of group jealousy – that nasty little green eyed demon – exhibited within social groups, whereby a person is viewed as being owned by the group – in much the same way that a woman is seen to be owned by her husband in the traditionalist view of marriage – and that if a group member has a sexual interest in a person outside the group that they are somehow “cheating” on the group. Folk can be weird!

    For myself, I feel that sexuality is something that is far to complex to be neatly packaged and put in a box. I know that my own tastes and preferences have changed greatly over the last 35 or so years since I first began thinking about sex, they have evolved considerably over the last 12 years since I got married to the woman with whom I share a life. Her preferences have changed too; both of us have become far more exploratory in our sexual relationships, more ready and willing to consider the unexpected, and – here I can only speak for myself you understand – I certainly feel that my life is happier and more fulfilled as a result.

    For us, life has become a lot more interesting being happy hump doublers – however, it might be even more interesting being hump treblers.

  4. you’re just being greedy now OneMan… some of us are lucky to get to watch the odd video now and again!

  5. Mark says:

    Excellent post. If I may do a twirl here before handing you the saw: Yes, bisexuality is the dustbin exception to the rule that proves the rule. The clue is in the word ‘bisexual’. It’s not an escape from the discourse of ‘sexuality’ – it’s TWO sexualities!

    As you suggest, bisexuality HAS to exist – at the very same time that its existence causes intense resentment, from both ‘sexualities’. But it also in the end DOESN’T really exist, precisely because it’s required to. It’s an illusion – caused by the refraction of desire.

  6. QRG

    you’re just being greedy now OneMan…

    Yep… do you think it might be some kind of latent Thatcherite thing – greed is good and all that?

    some of us are lucky to get to watch the odd video now and again!

    You write some very interesting things QRG. Many find intelligence a turn on – me for example. 😉

    Hi Mark, I sort of agree with what you’re saying… but, at the same time I don’t.

    Now I may be tying myself in knots here – and I don’t mean the fun kind – but the way I see it, is that when it comes to attraction, sexuality and recreational sex (as opposed to simply fucking for the purposes of procreation) we are dealing with gender rather “sex” in the biological sense. To my way of thinking gender is a much more fluid thing that isn’t determined simply by the absence or presence of a particular chromosome, or of particular genitalia. Gender is a spectrum, and as such has an infinite number of points existing along it. Attraction can take place between any two (or more) points along this spectrum.

    What name do we give to a sexual relationship between two intersex people? Homosexual? Bisexual? Heterosexual? What about between an intersex person and a very masculine man? Or an intersex person and a feminine woman? Or a feminine man? Or a masculine woman? When we look at it this way, are there still two sexualities – homosexuality and heterosexuality? If there are more than that, isn’t the concept of bisexuality as you describe it, just another limitation?

    This is why I feel that the three simple terms Heterosexual, homosexual and bisexual are both inadequate and restrictive.

    Some folk add the terms “heteroflexible” and “homoflexible” to the spectrum on either side of “bisexual” – an improvement, but they are still boxes.

    I’d like to smash all the boxes up!

  7. I think Mark was criticising the idea that there are ‘two sexualities’ within the concept of bisexuality, ONeMan. I expect he’d agree with your analysis largely.

    I find ‘heteroflexible’ and ‘homoflexible’ very funny phrases tbh, like they are wobbly rubber dolls or something. And I find it extra funny when a man emphasises the ‘hetero’ in his ‘hetero-flexible’ identity, just to be sure you don’t think he is a dirty homo.

    Intelligence is attractive, until it starts arguing the toss with you in the middle of the night when you just want some sleep, don’t you find?

  8. It’s so true that bis get heat from both gays and straights. I guess people view them as being in some kind of sexual purgatory.

  9. Hi QRG… reading Mark’s comment again I think that I agree with your interpretation. I suspect that my brain still hadn’t properly recovered from the sybaritic excesses of the previous few days.

    I also take your point about the emphasising of the “hetero” bit in order not to be confused with “them”.

    “Intelligence is attractive, until it starts arguing the toss with you in the middle of the night when you just want some sleep, don’t you find?”

    Well you have a point there too QRG, but then again, you’ve got to take the rough with the smooth so to speak… the arguing can also be a good excuse for making up too.

  10. Steph says:

    I’m bi and confused. Am I a pretend straight person therefore more socially acceptable than gay people, or a traitor never truly accepted by either the straight or gay community without pledging allegiance to one or the other? I can’t decide. Damn this inherent indecisiveness.

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