Bi-gnorance: America’s Misconceptions About Bisexuality
Pure surveyed 2,000 Americans on their thoughts and understanding of bisexuality, and the results show there’s still a long way to go.
In many US states, engaging in a same-sex relationship was considered illegal up until 2003. Just imagine, doing what you want with your body and a consenting partner of your choice… a crime punishable by up to 15 years in prison.
Thankfully, society has — for the most part — stopped forcing the LGBTQ+ community to stay in the closet. Embracing America’s sexual awakening, some 7.2% of US adults are now proudly LGBTQ+ with nearly three-fifths of those identifying as bisexual. However, while 71% are now accepting of non-heterosexual relationships, misconceptions remain when it comes to those who like it both ways.
- Some 36% of American adults find bisexuality attractive, while 20% would be open to experimenting with a friend of the same sex if the opportunity arises.
- However, negative beliefs regarding bisexuality persist. Some 13% of Americans feel bisexual people are incapable of monogamy, while 19% believe they are more likely to cheat on a partner.
- These harmful misconceptions are likely to impact bisexual people in the workplace, with a quarter having considered hiding their sexuality to protect their career prospects.
A bisexual awakening: America’s growing attraction
America has finally whipped off its modest attire and dropped its prudish attitudes toward sex. Bisexuality is no longer taboo. Rather, for 36% of adults, it’s a turn-on.
Likewise, while some would still feel uncomfortable were a friend of the same sex to express attraction towards them, the majority of Americans would feel flattered — and 20% would even be open to trying something new. This suggests that, while just over 5% of the American population identifies as bisexual, attraction towards the same gender may be more common than we think.
Beyond binary: America's harmful perspective on bisexuality
America is much more open in its attitudes towards bisexuality than it once was. Yet, no matter how many scientists and experts say otherwise, the idea that sexual preference is a choice refuses to go away. While the majority now accept that same-sex attraction is totally natural, nearly 40% of Americans still believe that bisexual people actively decide to be that way. In fact, 3% don’t believe bisexuality exists at all — despite the mountain of evidence suggesting otherwise.
Likewise, 20% feel that it is simply a stepping stone for those attracted to the same sex. That’s simply not true. In fact, researchers recently reviewed 19 years and eight studies worth of data from four different prestigious universities. Their conclusion? Bisexuality exists just like any other sexual orientation. Sure, figuring out who we are and what we’re into can be tricky, but bisexuality isn’t simply a state of confusion.
This misconception also shows in attitudes towards older members of the bisexuality community, with one in ten Americans believing that those aged over 40 cannot be bisexual… because surely they have had enough time and experiences by then to decide which they prefer.
As with most things that are in our nature, sexual orientation isn’t binary. Studies have also shown that our genetics can influence what foods we like — and just because you like oranges, does that mean you can’t like apples too?
Choosing bisexuality (and the societal scorn that comes with it)
If bisexuality is a choice, it begs the question: Why would anyone choose to be part of a community that faces constant abuse and aggression? And not only in public, with threats of violence against the LGBTQ+ community rising, but also in the political sphere, with the Supreme Court’s recent ruling that businesses can refuse service on the grounds of sexuality.
Well, according to 26% of Americans, it’s because being bisexual offers those who identify as such perks that the rest of the population cannot enjoy.
It’s not entirely clear what bisexual people can do that others cannot, but one such perk could be the ability to have a one-night stand without repercussions. While the vast majority believe that sleeping with someone of the same gender while in a relationship is cheating, almost a fifth of Americans disagree.
Harmful misconceptions: Questioning the bi community’s commitment
While the majority of Americans have come to accept the LGBTQ+ community, negative beliefs surrounding bisexuality persist.
For instance, 13% believe that bisexual people are incapable of monogamy. If you’re attracted to both sexes, how could you possibly commit yourself to one? Only, you could ask that same question to somebody of any sexual orientation regarding any preference… How could you commit to somebody with brown hair if you also like blondes?
The fact is, no matter who we are and what we like, commitment will always involve sacrifice — That’s not exclusive to bisexuality.
Getting into a monogamous relationship is one thing, staying in it is another matter. Some 19% of Americans think that bisexuals in exclusive relationships are more likely to cheat on their partner than those of other sexual orientations.
This misconception likely stems from the belief that bisexual people are more promiscuous when it comes to sex. For decades, the idea of the sexually liberated homosexual — sleeping with anyone and everyone — has been hammered into us by producers and politicians. With this view in mind, it’s understandable that some may conclude that the sexual appetite of bisexual people, carefree in their attractions, must be out of control.
Only, studies have shown that sexual orientation has little impact on the number of sexual partners the average person tends to have. Monogamy isn’t for everyone, and that’s totally fine, but there’s zero indication that bisexuality makes somebody incapable of commitment.
Back in the closet: The unjust choice between career or community
Sexual orientation has no impact on work performance either. Yet, 25% of bisexual people have felt the need to pretend they’re straight in order to succeed in their professional lives. Why? Because despite all the progress made, discrimination remains rife in the workplace. In fact, studies have shown half of LGBTG+ workers have faced bias at some stage in their careers.
Gay, straight, bi, pan, asexual, or other… Sexual orientation should have no impact on how people are seen or treated. But, evidently, there’s still work to do.
Methodology: To create this study, researchers from Pure surveyed 2,000 Americans aged over 18 years old. To capture a clear representation of the general public, participants were selected at random and with no focus on particular genders, ethnicities, sexualities or social backgrounds.