Well, fellow bisexuals, it appears we’re either nowhere or we’re everywhere. We either don’t exist or we’re all that exists. It never bisexual rains but it bisexual pours.
After suffering from biphobia (often coming in the form of people believing we’ve simply not made up our minds yet) and bi-erasure all over our culture for our whole lives, we’re suddenly very much the in thing.
A new study, released this month, suggests that there are, in fact, no straight women. Instead, there are a fair few lesbians - though we already knew about that, sorry lesbians, you’re old news - and many, many bisexual women. Way more than we thought.
The study, carried out by the University of Essex, involved showing erotic videos to 345 women who identified variously as heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual or somewhere in between. The videos featuring a variety of genders and their physical responses were monitored for signs of arousal.
So, is there no such thing as straight women after all? Were Katy Perry and cheerleader-focused pornographers right all along?
Researchers found that those who identified as lesbians responded much more to images of women - so far, so unsurprising. However, subjects identifying as heterosexual responded with equal levels of arousal to images of men and women. So, is there no such thing as straight women after all? Were Katy Perry and cheerleader-focused pornographers right all along?
As sexy as the “STRAIGHT WOMEN DON’T EXIST! QUIT LYING TO YOURSELF LADIES! GET OUT THERE AND LEAVE YOUR HUSBAND, THERE’S NOT MUCH TIME!” headlines are, the study doesn’t actually prove that. For starters, sexuality is about so much more than arousal. Being physically turned on by someone doesn’t mean you want to get naked with them. It doesn’t mean you want to fall in love with them. It doesn’t mean you want to grow old with them and die hand-in-hand with them surrounded by your grandchildren/cats/AFL memorabilia.
Still, that didn’t stop me from gleefully sending the study to all the gay, bisexual or sexually-fluid women in my life in a series of “We were right all along!” WhatApps that could be at best described as triumphant and, at worst, gloating.
But that was harmless and, I hope, understandable. When you’re bisexual, the prevailing cultural response you get is that you’re faking it, attempting to dupe society into letting you double dip when everyone else is happy to stay in their designated boxes. When something that comes naturally to you is usually treated as a joke or a lie, it’s nice to have science tell you that you’re real every so often.
However, my next response was much less cool. I sent the article to a straight female friend, who consistently dates men who are objectively not good enough for her (yes, I said objectively - I promise I’m using empirical evidence like “I love her” and “I don’t love these men”).
She knew why I’d sent it. We’ve talked before about how baffling I find it when people have extremely binary understandings of their own sexualities because it’s not a feeling I can relate to at all.
Her response was “I know, I know, I’m such a disappointment” and I felt immediately guilty. Sure, it was just a light-hearted exchange between friends but wasn’t I doing to her exactly what had been done to me for so many years? Telling her she was wrong about her own desires? Telling her to try a little harder to be something that she wasn’t?
It’s easy to misstep when trying to put labels on someone else’s sexuality so my advice is: just don’t. Does this study prove that there are no women anywhere who are only attracted to men? Well, no, probably not. Does it suggest that we should all try to be a little more relaxed and open-minded about sexuality generally? Yeah, I think it does, and it’s valuable for that reason, even if it’s not the open and shut case a lot of the news stories on the findings would have us believe.
Anyway, if the media reaction to this seemed a little overblown, just wait until they do a similar study on men. Trying to convince straight men to reconsider their sexuality is a pointless joy like no other, with or without an assist from science.
Brydie Lee-Kennedy is a comedian. You can follow her on Twitter.