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Biphobia is aversion toward bisexuality and bisexual people as a social group or as individuals. People of any sexual orientation can experience such feelings of aversion. Biphobia is a source of discrimination against bisexuals, and may be based on negative bisexual stereotypes or irrational fear.
Etymology and use
Biphobia is a portmanteau word patterned on the term homophobia. It derives from the English neo-classical prefix bi- (meaning "two") from bisexual and the root -phobia (from the Greek: φόβος, phóbos, "fear") found in homophobia. Along with transphobia, homophobia and biphobia are members of the family of terms used when intolerance and discrimination is directed toward LGBT people.
While biphobia and homophobia are distinct phenomena, they do share some traits: attraction to one's own gender being a part of bisexuality, the heterosexist view of heterosexuality as the only “proper” attraction or lifestyle apply to bisexual people as well as to gay people. However, bisexuals are also stigmatized in other ways: two classifications of negative stereotypes about them center on the belief that bisexuality does not exist and the generalization that bisexual people are promiscuous.
The belief that bisexuality does not exist stems from binary views of sexuality, that people are assumed to be exclusively homosexual (gay/lesbian) or heterosexual (straight), with bisexuals either closeted gay people wishing to appear heterosexual, or experimenting with their sexuality, and cannot be bisexual unless they are equally attracted to both sexes. Maxims such as "People are either gay, straight or lying" embody this dichotomous view of sexual orientations.
Resulting negative stereotypes represent bisexuals as confused, undecided, dabblers, insecure, experimenting or "just going through a phase". Attractions toward both sexes are considered fashionable as in "bisexual chic" or gender bending. Relations are dismissed as a substitute for sex with members of the "right" sex or as a more accessible source of sexual gratification. Situational homosexuality due to sex-segregated environments or groups such as the armed forces, schools, sports teams, religious orders, and prisons is another facet of explaining why someone is allegedly temporarily gay. Conversely, heterosexuality and opposite-sex relationships are viewed as "caving in to" society’s pressures, fostering oppressions, condoning discrimination, keeping up appearances, retaining straight privilege, hiding in the closet, being self-hating or in self-denial, suffering from internalized homophobia, etc.
Categorizing bisexual people as being promiscuous is a hasty generalization. Moreover, having more than one sexual partner in one’s lifetime, in addition to being commonplace in the world, is not restricted to bisexuals. The strict association of bisexuality with promiscuity stems from a variety of negative stereotypes targeting bisexuals as mentally or socially unstable people convinced that sexual relations only with men, only with women or only with one person is not enough. As a result bisexuals bear a social stigma from accusations of cheating on or betraying their partners, leading a double life, being "on the down-low", and spreading sexually transmitted diseases such as HIV/AIDS. They are characterized as being "slutty", insatiable, “easy”, indiscriminate, and in the case of women, nymphomaniacs. Furthermore, they are strongly associated with polyamory, swinging, and polygamy, the last being an established heterosexual tradition sanctioned by some religions and legal in several countries. People of any sexual orientation can change partners, practice serial monogamy or have multiple casual sex partners. The fact that bisexuals are potentially sexually attracted to both men and women does not imply that they must simultaneously engage in sexual relationships with both men and women to be satisfied, any more than the ability of a heterosexual or homosexual person to be attracted to multiple persons of their preferred gender means they cannot be satisfied in a monogamous relationship.
Current issues of debate
Apparently validating the above belief and generalization and their related stereotypes are current issues of debate connected to identity and human sexuality in general.
- The nature versus nurture debate over homosexuality complicates matters. Supporting a polar view of sexual orientations, discussion here revolves around possible causes for a homosexual orientation and not a heterosexual or bisexual one. See separate articles on Kinsey scale and Klein Sexual Orientation Grid
- In line with the nurture side of the previous debate is Sigmund Freud’s term for sexual disposition and gratification in the first five years of a child’s development: the polymorphous perverse. This theory is misinterpreted as meaning that all people are (born) bisexual, that socialization is the key factor in determining whether people will be heterosexual or homosexual, or that people eventually choose their sexual orientation toward one or the other sex, but not both.
- People do not always choose to identify themselves strictly according to their sexual orientation. Just as someone can feel pressured not to disclose his or her homosexual orientation and claim heterosexuality, so too can a person claim bisexuality. Mainly out of oppression from negative bisexual stereotypes, the reverse is true for some bisexual people choosing to identify or state that they are straight, gay or lesbian depending on company and the situation.
- The concept of bisexuality may not exist in a given culture or may be encompassed by transgender identities as in some indigenous cultures such as those of Native Americans, Aboriginal peoples in Canada or the Zapotec in Oaxaca, Mexico.
- Having sexual relations with people of the same as well as different genders is perceived as a direct indication of a person’s sexual attractions and, hence, a bisexual orientation. This perception explains how the Kinsey Scale is used to label sexual orientation despite its original design and use to explain a person’s sexual history or past. Moreover, in many parts of the world, gay men and lesbian women still lead so-called straight lifestyles. The reasons cited are discrimination, internalized homophobia, strong personal or religious beliefs about the family, and a lack of information on and visibility of same-sex relations and sexuality.
- Regardless of their actual sexual orientation it is sometimes assumed by those not in the industry that all sex workers or actors/actresses opt to participate in homosexual sex scenes only as part of their jobs. Confusing fantasy and acting with reality, this has been dubbed “gay-for-pay”, this myth has been used to create further confusion and reinforce biphobia.
Bisexual erasure or bisexual invisibility is the tendency to ignore, remove, falsify, or reexplain evidence of bisexuality in history, academia, the news media, and other primary sources. In its most extreme form, bisexual erasure can include denying that bisexuality exists. It is often a manifestation of biphobia, although it does not necessarily involve overt antagonism.
Monosexism is a term used to refer to beliefs, structures, and actions that promote monosexuality (either exclusive heterosexuality or homosexuality) as the only legitimate or right sexual orientation, excluding bisexual or other non-monosexual orientations. The term may be considered analogous to biphobia.
The term is primarily used in discussions of sexual orientation to denote aversion towards all non-monosexual people as a social group or as individuals. It was likely adopted in place of unisexual, which is already used in biology and would produce confusion. It is sometimes considered derogatory by the people to whom it is applied,.
The proportion of people who fit into the category depends on how one uses the word. If the term is used to mean exclusively monosexual in behavior, then according to Alfred Kinsey's studies, 63% of men and 87% of women are what may now be termed "monosexual" as determined by experiences leading to orgasm. Freud thought that no one was born monosexual and that it had to be taught by parents or society though most people appear to believe that monosexuals are in fact the majority and identify as such.
A 2002 study said that a sample of men self-identifying as bisexual did not respond equally to pornographic material involving only men, and to pornography involving only women, but instead showed four times more arousal to one than the other. However, bisexuality does not imply equal attraction towards both genders. In addition, opponents state that genital arousal to homosexual pornographic material is not a good indicator of orientation both because the material is chosen by the researchers, ignoring the study participants' preferences (i.e. body types, looks, scenarios, particular fetishes, presentation of relationships, etc.), and because tumescence is problematic as an indicator of arousal (some tumescence may be caused or prevented by anxiety, and erectile dysfunction should be considered before such studies commence). They also state that the study showed a third of men had no arousal, and ask why this does not mean that one third of men are really asexual. This is likely to suggest a heavy bias to the sample, especially as the men were recruited via "advertisements in gay and alternative newspapers". The study, and The New York Times article which reported it in 2005, were subsequently criticized as flawed and biphobic. Lynn Conway criticized the author of the study, J. Michael Bailey, citing his controversial history and stating that the study has not been scientifically repeated and confirmed by any independent researchers.
In 2011, a new article published in The New York Times, mentioned a new study elaborated by Jerome Cerny and Erick Janssen showing evidence of bisexuality in men and therefore contradicting Bailey's study. While both studies have been criticized for the aforementioned flaws in their methodology, this study attempts to resolve the sampling bias, by finding subjects from bisexual-specific communities who had experience with sex and relationships involving both sexes.
- Bisexual community
- Duclod Man
- Bisexual American history
- List of media portrayals of bisexuality
- List of phobias
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