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Bisexuality is romantic attraction, sexual attraction or sexual behavior toward both males and females, and may also encompass romantic or sexual attraction to people of any gender identity or to a person irrespective of that person's biological sex or gender, which is sometimes termed pansexuality.
The term bisexuality is mainly used in the context of human attraction to denote romantic or sexual feelings toward both men and women, and the concept is one of the three main classifications of sexual orientation along with heterosexuality and homosexuality, which are each parts of the heterosexual–homosexual continuum. A bisexual identity does not necessarily equate to equal sexual attraction to both sexes; commonly, people who have a distinct but not exclusive sexual preference for one sex over the other also identify themselves as bisexual.
Bisexuality has been observed in various human societies and elsewhere in the animal kingdom throughout recorded history. The term bisexuality, however, like the terms hetero- and homosexuality, was coined in the 19th century.
Bisexuality is the romantic or sexual attraction to males and females. The American Psychological Association states that "sexual orientation falls along a continuum. In other words, someone does not have to be exclusively homosexual or heterosexual, but can feel varying degrees of both. Sexual orientation develops across a person's lifetime–different people realize at different points in their lives that they are heterosexual, bisexual or homosexual."
Sexual attraction, behavior and identity may also be incongruent, as sexual attraction or behavior may not necessarily be consistent with identity. Some individuals identify themselves as heterosexual, homosexual or bisexual without having had any sexual experience. Others have had homosexual experiences but do not consider themselves to be gay, lesbian, or bisexual. Likewise, self-identified gay or lesbian individuals may occasionally sexually interact with members of the opposite sex but do not identify as bisexual. The terms queer, polysexual, heteroflexible, homoflexible, men who have sex with men and women who have sex with women may also be used to describe sexual identity or identify sexual behavior.
Pansexuality may or may not be subsumed under bisexuality, with some sources stating that bisexuality encompasses romantic or sexual attraction to all gender identities or that it is romantic or sexual attraction to a person irrespective of that person's biological sex or gender. In this sense, the term pansexuality is used interchangeably with bisexuality. The concept of pansexuality deliberately rejects the gender binary, the "notion of two genders and indeed of specific sexual orientations", as pansexual people are open to relationships with people who do not identify as strictly men or women.
Bisexual activist Robyn Ochs defines bisexuality as "the potential to be attracted—romantically and/or sexually—to people of more than one sex and/or gender, not necessarily at the same time, not necessarily in the same way, and not necessarily to the same degree."
According to Rosario, Schrimshaw, Hunter, Braun (2006):
...the development of a lesbian, gay, or bisexual (LGB) sexual identity is a complex and often difficult process. Unlike members of other minority groups (e.g., ethnic and racial minorities), most LGB individuals are not raised in a community of similar others from whom they learn about their identity and who reinforce and support that identity. Rather, LGB individuals are often raised in communities that are either ignorant of or openly hostile toward homosexuality.
Bisexuality as a transitional identity has also been examined. In a longitudinal study about sexual identity development among lesbian, gay, and bisexual (LGB) youths, Rosario et al. "found evidence of both considerable consistency and change in LGB sexual identity over time". Youths who had identified as both gay/lesbian and bisexual prior to baseline were approximately three times more likely to identify as gay/lesbian than as bisexual at subsequent assessments. Of youths who had identified only as bisexual at earlier assessments, 60–70% continued to thus identify, while approximately 30–40% assumed a gay/lesbian identity over time. Rosario et al. suggested that "although there were youths who consistently self-identified as bisexual throughout the study, for other youths, a bisexual identity served as a transitional identity to a subsequent gay/lesbian identity." By contrast, a longitudinal study by Lisa M. Diamond, which followed women identifying as lesbian, bisexual, or unlabeled, found that "more women adopted bisexual/unlabeled identities than relinquished these identities," over a ten-year period. The study also found that "bisexual/unlabeled women had stable overall distributions of same-sex/other-sex attractions." Diamond has also studied male bisexuality, noting that survey research found "...almost as many men transitioned at some point from a gay identity to a bisexual, queer or unlabeled one, as did from a bisexual identity to a gay identity."
Like people of other LGBT sexualities, bisexuals often face discrimination. In addition to the discrimination associated with homophobia, bisexuals must frequently contend with discrimination from gays, lesbians, and straight society around the word bisexual and bisexual identity itself. The belief that bisexuality does not exist is common, and stems from two views. In the heterosexist view, people are presumed to be attracted to the opposite sex and it is sometimes reasoned that only heterosexuality truly exists. In the monosexist view, it is believed that people cannot be bisexual unless they are equally sexually attracted to both sexes. In this view, people are either exclusively homosexual (gay/lesbian) or exclusively heterosexual (straight), closeted homosexual people who wish to appear heterosexual, or heterosexuals who are experimenting with their sexuality.
The belief that one cannot be bisexual unless equally sexually attracted to both sexes is disputed by various researchers, who have reported bisexuality to fall on a continuum, like sexuality in general. In 2005, the belief that bisexuality must involve equal sexual/romantic attraction was further perpetuated by researchers Gerulf Rieger, Meredith L. Chivers, and J. Michael Bailey, who concluded that bisexuality is extremely rare in men. This was based on results of controversial penile plethysmograph testing when viewing pornographic material involving only men and pornography involving only women. Critics state that this study works from the assumption that a man is only truly bisexual if he exhibits virtually equal genital arousal responses to pornography featuring only women and pornography featuring only men. Moreover, the assertion of Bailey that "for men arousal is orientation" was criticized by Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR) as a simplification which neglects to account for behavior and self-identification. Bailey's study also recruited men via advertisements in "gay oriented magazines" and an alternative paper in Chicago, using no vetting process other than a person's choice to call themselves bi in response to an ad for a paid study. Further, some researchers hold that the technique used in the study to measure genital arousal is too crude to capture the richness (erotic sensations, affection, admiration) that constitutes sexual attraction. The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force called the study and The New York Times coverage of it flawed and biphobic.
It was reported that Bailey's study was misinterpreted and misreported. In 2008, in a new study with the same technology but different recruiting criteria and stimuli, Bailey said he found bisexual genital arousal patterns in men. In 2011, he and other researchers reported that specifically among men with a history of several romantic and sexual relationships with members of both sexes, high levels of sexual arousal were found in response to both male and female sexual imagery. The authors noted this change in recruitment strategy was an important difference, but there was not enough data to establish a protocol to attain a representative sample of bisexual-identified men. Noting these factors, they concluded, "Bisexual-identified men with bisexual arousal patterns do indeed exist, however, and they present an interesting opportunity to illuminate the development and expression of male sexual orientation." A further study found a stronger bisexual arousal pattern in bisexual-identified men, compared to heterosexual and homosexual men, but that not all such identified men exhibited such arousal patterns.
The Kinsey scale is used to describe a person's sexual experience or response at a given time. It ranges from 0, meaning exclusively heterosexual, to 6, meaning exclusively homosexual. People who rank anywhere from 2 to 4 are often considered bisexual; they are often not fully one extreme or the other. In principle, people who rank anywhere from 1 to 5 could be considered bisexual.
Alfred Kinsey's 1948 work Sexual Behavior in the Human Male found that "46% of the male population had engaged in both heterosexual and homosexual activities, or 'reacted to' persons of both sexes, in the course of their adult lives". Kinsey himself disliked the use of the term bisexual to describe individuals who engage in sexual activity with both males and females, preferring to use bisexual in its original, biological sense as hermaphroditic, stating, "Until it is demonstrated [that] taste in a sexual relation is dependent upon the individual containing within his anatomy both male and female structures, or male and female physiological capacities, it is unfortunate to call such individuals bisexual."
The Janus Report on Sexual Behavior, published in 1993, showed that 5 percent of men and 3 percent of women considered themselves bisexual and 4 percent of men and 2 percent of women considered themselves homosexual.
A 2002 survey in the United States by National Center for Health Statistics found that 1.8 percent of men ages 18–44 considered themselves bisexual, 2.3 percent homosexual, and 3.9 percent as "something else". The same study found that 2.8 percent of women ages 18–44 considered themselves bisexual, 1.3 percent homosexual, and 3.8 percent as "something else".
In 2007, an article in the 'Health' section of The New York Times stated that "1.5 percent of American women and 1.7 percent of American men identify themselves [as] bisexual." Also in 2007, it was reported that 14.4% of young US women identified themselves as "not strictly heterosexual", with 5.6% of the men identifying as gay or bisexual.
There is no consensus among scientists about the exact reasons that an individual develops a heterosexual, bisexual or homosexual orientation. Proposed reasons include a combination of genetic factors and environmental factors (including fraternal birth order, where the number of older brothers a boy has increases the chances of homosexuality; specific prenatal hormone exposure, where hormones play a role in determining sexual orientation as they do with sex differentiation; and prenatal stress on the mother).
The American Academy of Pediatrics has stated that "sexual orientation probably is not determined by any one factor but by a combination of genetic, hormonal, and environmental influences." The American Psychological Association has stated that "there are probably many reasons for a person's sexual orientation and the reasons may be different for different people". It further stated that, for most people, sexual orientation is determined at an early age. The American Psychiatric Association stated: "To date there are no replicated scientific studies supporting any specific biological etiology for homosexuality. Similarly, no specific psychosocial or family dynamic cause for homosexuality has been identified, including histories of childhood sexual abuse." Research into how sexual orientation may be determined by genetic or other prenatal factors plays a role in political and social debates about homosexuality, and also raises fears about genetic profiling and prenatal testing.
Sigmund Freud believed that every human being is bisexual in a very broad sense of the term, that of incorporating general aspects of both sexes. In his view, this was true anatomically and therefore also psychologically, with sexual attraction to both sexes being one part of this psychological bisexuality. Freud believed that in the course of sexual development the masculine side would normally become dominant in men and the feminine side in women, but that as adults everyone still has desires derived from both the masculine and the feminine sides of their natures. Freud did not claim that everyone is bisexual in the sense of feeling the same level of sexual attraction to both genders. Freud's belief in innate bisexuality was rejected by Sándor Radó and, following Rado, by many later psychoanalysts.
Human bisexuality has mainly been studied alongside homosexuality. Van Wyk and Geist argue that this is a problem for sexuality research because the few studies that have observed bisexuals separately have found that bisexuals are often different from both heterosexuals and homosexuals. Furthermore, bisexuality does not always represent a halfway point between the dichotomy. Research indicates that bisexuality is influenced by biological, cognitive and cultural variables in interaction, and this leads to different types of bisexuality.
In the current debate around influences on sexual orientation, biological explanations have been questioned by social scientists, particularly by feminists who encourage women to make conscious decisions about their life and sexuality. A difference in attitude between homosexual men and women has also been reported, with men more likely to regard their sexuality as biological, "reflecting the universal male experience in this culture, not the complexities of the lesbian world." There is also evidence that women's sexuality may be more strongly affected by cultural and contextual factors.
Camille Paglia has promoted bisexuality as an ideal. Harvard Shakespeare professor Marjorie Garber made an academic case for bisexuality with her 1995 book Vice Versa: Bisexuality and the Eroticism of Everyday Life, which argued that most people would be bisexual if not for repression and other factors such as lack of sexual opportunity.
In the 1940s, zoologist Alfred Kinsey was the first to create a scale to measure the continuum of sexual orientation from hetero to homosexuality. Kinsey studied human sexuality and argued that people have the capability of being hetero or homosexual even if this trait does not present itself in the current circumstances.
From an anthropological perspective, there is large variation in the prevalence of bisexuality between different cultures. Among some tribes it appears to be non-existent while in others a universal, including the Sambia of New Guinea and other similar Melanesian cultures.
Several studies comparing bisexuals with hetero- or homosexuals have indicated that bisexuals have higher rates of sexual activity, fantasy or erotic interest. Van Wyk and Geist (1984) found that male and female bisexuals had more sexual fantasy than heterosexuals. Dixon (1985) found that bisexual men had more sexual activities with women than did heterosexual men. Bisexual men masturbated more but had fewer happy marriages than heterosexuals. Bressler and Lavender (1986) found that bisexual women had more orgasms per week and they described them as stronger than those of hetero- or homosexual women. They also found that marriages with a bisexual female were happier than heterosexual unions, observed less instance of hidden infidelity, and ended in divorce less frequently. Goode and Haber (1977) found bisexual women to be sexually mature earlier, masturbate and enjoy masturbation more and to be more experienced in different types of heterosexual contact.
Recent research suggests that, for most women, high sex drive is associated with increased sexual attraction to both women and men. For men, however, high sex drive is associated with increased attraction to one sex or the other, but not to both, depending on sexual orientation. Similarly for most bisexual women, high sex drive is associated with increased sexual attraction to both women and men; while for bisexual men, high sex drive is associated with increased attraction to one sex, and weakened attraction to the other.
Masculinization of women and hypermasculinization of men has been a central theme in sexual orientation research. There are several studies suggesting that bisexuals have a high degree of masculinization. LaTorre and Wendenberg (1983) found differing personality characteristics for bisexual, heterosexual and homosexual women. Bisexuals were found to have fewer personal insecurities than heterosexuals and homosexuals. This finding defined bisexuals as self-assured and less likely to suffer from mental instabilities. The confidence of a secure identity consistently translated to more masculinity than other subjects. This study did not explore societal norms, prejudices, or the feminization of homosexual males.
In a research comparison, published in the Journal of the Association for Research in Otolaryngology, women usually have a better hearing sensitivity than males, assumed by researchers as a genetic disposition connected to child bearing. Homosexual and bisexual women have been found to have a hypersensitivity to sound in comparison to heterosexual women, suggesting a genetic disposition to not tolerate high pitched tones. While heterosexual, homosexual and bisexual men have been found to exhibit similar patterns of hearing, there was a notable differential within a sub-group of males identified as hyperfeminized homosexual males who exhibited test results similar to heterosexual women.
The prenatal hormonal theory of sexual orientation suggests that people who are exposed to excess levels of sex hormones have masculinized brains and show increased homosexuality or bisexuality. Studies providing evidence for the masculinization of the brain have, however, not been conducted to date. Research on special conditions such as congenital adrenal hyperplasia (CAH) and exposure to diethylstilbestrol (DES) indicate that prenatal exposure to, respectively, excess testosterone and estrogens are associated with female–female sex fantasies in adults. Both effects are associated with bisexuality rather than homosexuality.
There is research evidence that the digit ratio of the length of the 2nd and 4th digits (index finger and ring finger) is somewhat negatively related to prenatal testosterone and positively to estrogen. Studies measuring the fingers found a statistically significant skew in the 2D:4D ratio (long ring finger) towards homosexuality with an even lower ratio in bisexuals. It is suggested that exposure to high prenatal testosterone and low prenatal estrogen concentrations is one cause of homosexuality whereas exposure to very high testosterone levels may be associated with bisexuality. Because testosterone in general is important for sexual differentiation, this view offers an alternative to the suggestion that male homosexuality is genetic.
The prenatal hormonal theory suggests that a homosexual orientation results from exposure to excessive testosterone causing an over-masculinized brain. This is contradictory to another hypothesis that homosexual preferences may be due to a feminized brain in males. However, it has also been suggested that homosexuality may be due to high prenatal levels of unbound testosterone that results from a lack of receptors at particular brain sites. Therefore the brain could be feminized while other features, such as the 2D:4D ratio could be over-masculinized.
Simon LeVay's (1991) examination at autopsy of 18 homosexual men, 1 bisexual man, 16 presumably heterosexual men and 6 presumably heterosexual women found that the INAH 3 nucleus of the anterior hypothalamus of homosexual men was smaller than that of heterosexual men and closer in size of heterosexual women. Although grouped with homosexuals, the INAH 3 size of the one bisexual subject was similar to that of the heterosexual men.
Some evidence supports the concept of biological precursors of bisexual orientation in genetic males. According to Money (1988), men with an extra Y chromosome are more likely to be bisexual, paraphilic and impulsive.
Some evolutionary psychologists have argued that same-sex attraction does not have adaptive value because it has no association with potential reproductive success. Instead, bisexuality can be due to normal variation in brain plasticity. More recently, it has been suggested that same-sex alliances may have helped males climb the social hierarchy giving access to females and reproductive opportunities. Same-sex allies could have helped females to move to the safer and resource richer center of the group, which increased their chances of raising their offspring successfully.
Brendan Zietsch of the Queensland Institute of Medical Research proposes the alternative theory that men exhibiting female traits become more attractive to females and are thus more likely to mate, provided the genes involved do not drive them to complete rejection of heterosexuality.
Also, in a 2008 study, its authors stated that "There is considerable evidence that human sexual orientation is genetically influenced, so it is not known how homosexuality, which tends to lower reproductive success, is maintained in the population at a relatively high frequency." They hypothesized that "while genes predisposing to homosexuality reduce homosexuals' reproductive success, they may confer some advantage in heterosexuals who carry them." and their results suggested that "genes predisposing to homosexuality may confer a mating advantage in heterosexuals, which could help explain the evolution and maintenance of homosexuality in the population."
In Scientific American Mind, scientist Emily V. Driscoll stated that homosexual and bisexual behavior is quite common in several species and that it fosters bonding: "The more homosexuality, the more peaceful the species". The article also stated: "Unlike most humans, however, individual animals generally cannot be classified as gay or straight: an animal that engages in a same-sex flirtation or partnership does not necessarily shun heterosexual encounters. Rather, many species seem to have ingrained homosexual tendencies that are a regular part of their society. That is, there are probably no strictly gay critters, just bisexual ones. Animals don't do sexual identity. They just do sex."
Ancient Greeks did not associate sexual relations with binary labels, as modern Western society does. Men who had male lovers were not identified as homosexual, and may have had wives or other female lovers. Ancient Greek religious texts, reflecting cultural practices, incorporated bisexual themes. The subtexts varied, from the mystical to the didactic.
Spartans thought that love and erotic relationships between experienced and novice soldiers would solidify combat loyalty and unit cohesion, and encourage heroic tactics as men vied to impress their lovers. Once the younger soldiers reached maturity, the relationship was supposed to become non-sexual, but it is not clear how strictly this was followed. There was some stigma attached to young men who continued their relationships with their mentors into adulthood. For example, Aristophanes calls them euryprôktoi, meaning "wide arses", and depicts them like women.
It was expected and socially acceptable for a freeborn Roman man to want sex with both female and male partners, as long as he took the penetrative role. The morality of the behavior depended on the social standing of the partner, not gender per se. Both women and young men were considered normal objects of desire, but outside marriage a man was supposed to act on his desires only with slaves, prostitutes (who were often slaves), and the infames. Gender did not determine whether a sexual partner was acceptable, as long as a man's enjoyment did not encroach on another's man integrity. It was immoral to have sex with another freeborn man's wife, his marriageable daughter, his underage son, or with the man himself; sexual use of another man's slave was subject to the owner's permission. Lack of self-control, including in managing one's sex life, indicated that a man was incapable of governing others; too much indulgence in "low sensual pleasure" threatened to erode the elite male's identity as a cultured person.
Because some bisexual people do not feel that they fit into either the homosexual or the heterosexual world, and because they have a tendency to be "invisible" in public, some bisexual persons are committed to forming their own communities, culture, and political movements. Some who identify as bisexual may merge themselves into either homosexual or heterosexual society. Still, other bisexual people see this merging as enforced rather than voluntary; bisexual people can face exclusion from both homosexual and heterosexual society on coming out. Psychologist Beth Firestein states that bisexuals tend to internalize social tensions related to their choice of partners and feel pressured to label themselves as homosexuals instead of occupying the difficult middle ground where attraction to people of both sexes would defy society's value on monogamy. These social tensions and pressure may affect bisexuals' mental health, and specific therapy methods have been developed for bisexuals to address this concern.
Bisexual behaviors are also associated in popular culture with men who engage in same-sex activity while otherwise presenting as heterosexual. The majority of such men — said to be living on the down-low — do not self-identify as bisexual. However, this may be a cultural misperception closely related to that of other LGBT individuals who hide their actual orientation due to societal pressures, a phenomenon colloquially called "being closeted".
A common symbol of the bisexual community is the bisexual pride flag, which has a deep pink stripe at the top for homosexuality, a blue one on the bottom for heterosexuality, and a purple one, blended from the pink and blue, in the middle to represent bisexuality.
Another symbol with the same color scheme is a pair of overlapping pink and blue triangles, the pink triangle being a well-known symbol for the homosexual community, forming purple where they intersect.
Many homosexual and bisexual individuals have a problem with the use of the pink triangle symbol, as it was the symbol that Hitler's regime use to tag and persecute homosexuals (similar to the yellow Star of David constituted of two opposed, overlapping triangles). Therefore, a double moon symbol was devised specifically to avoid the use of triangles. The double moon symbol is common in Germany and surrounding countries. Another symbol used for bisexuality is a purple diamond, conceptually derived from the intersection of two triangles, pink and blue (respectively), placed overlapping.
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Notable portrayals of bisexuality can be found throughout mainstream media in movies such as: Black Swan, Frida, Showgirls, The Pillow Book, Alexander, The Rocky Horror Picture Show, Henry and June, Chasing Amy, Velvet Goldmine, Kissing Jessica Stein, The Fourth Man, Basic Instinct, Sunday Bloody Sunday, Something for Everyone, The Rules of Attraction, and Brokeback Mountain.
The FOX television series House features a bisexual female doctor, Remy "Thirteen" Hadley, played by Olivia Wilde, from season four onwards. The same network had earlier aired the television series The O.C., which for a time featured bisexual Alex Kelly (also played by Olivia Wilde), the local rebellious hangout spot's manager, as a love interest of Marissa Cooper.
The Showcase supernatural crime drama, Lost Girl, about creatures called Fae who live secretly among humans, features a bisexual protagonist, Bo, played by Anna Silk. In the story arc she is involved in a love triangle between Dyson, a wolf-shapeshifter (played by Kris Holden-Ried), and Lauren Lewis, a human doctor (played by Zoie Palmer) in servitude to the leader of the Light Fae clan.
In the BBC TV science fiction show Torchwood, several of the main characters appear to have fluid sexuality. Most prominent among these is Captain Jack Harkness, a pansexual who is the lead character and an otherwise conventional science fiction action hero. Within the logic of the show, where characters can also interact with alien species, producers sometimes use the term "omnisexual" to describe him. Jack's ex, Captain John Hart is also bisexual. Of his female exes, significantly at least one ex-wife and at least one woman with whom he has had a child have been indicated. Some critics draw the conclusion that the series more often shows Jack with men than women. Creator Russell T Davies says one of pitfalls of writing a bisexual character is you "fall into the trap" of "only having them sleep with men" He describes of the show's fourth series, "You'll see the full range of his appetites, in a really properly done way." The preoccupation with bisexuality has been seen by critics as complementary to other aspects of the show's themes. For heterosexual character Gwen Cooper, for whom Jack harbors romantic feelings, the new experiences she confronts at Torchwood, in the form of "affairs and homosexuality and the threat of death", connote not only the Other but a "missing side" to the Self. Under the influence of an alien pheromone, Gwen kisses a woman in Episode 2 of the series. In Episode 1, heterosexual Owen Harper kisses a man to escape a fight when he is about to take the man's girlfriend. Quiet Toshiko Sato is in love with Owen, but has also has brief romantic relationships with a female alien and a male human. British newspaper The Sun ran the headline "Dr Ooh gets four gay pals" prior to the first series, describing all of Torchwood's cast as being bisexual.
Rock musician David Bowie famously declared himself bisexual in an interview with Melody Maker in January 1972, a move coinciding with the first shots in his campaign for stardom as Ziggy Stardust. In a September 1976 interview with Playboy, Bowie said, "It's true—I am a bisexual. But I can't deny that I've used that fact very well. I suppose it's the best thing that ever happened to me." In a 1983 interview, he said it was "the biggest mistake I ever made", elaborating in 2002 he explained "I don’t think it was a mistake in Europe, but it was a lot tougher in America. I had no problem with people knowing I was bisexual. But I had no inclination to hold any banners or be a representative of any group of people. I knew what I wanted to be, which was a songwriter and a performer [...] America is a very puritanical place, and I think it stood in the way of so much I wanted to do. In 1995, Jill Sobule sang about bi-curiosity in her song "I Kissed a Girl", with a video that alternated images of Sobule and a boyfriend along with images of her with a girlfriend. Another song with the same name by Katy Perry also hints at the same theme. Some activists suggest the song merely reinforces the stereotype of bisexuals experimenting and of bisexuality not being a real sexual preference. Lady Gaga has stated that she is bisexual, and has stated that her song "Poker Face" is about fantasizing about a woman while being with a man.
Ric Ocasek of The Cars said that he was bisexual in an interview in 1986, stating, "I like beautiful women. Tall, thin, beautiful women. Fat little ugly women. I like all kinds of women. I'm always attracted to the opposite sex. I'm attracted to both sexes, actually. But not only beautiful men -- I think I like weird men." Brian Molko, lead singer of Placebo is openly bisexual. In 1994, with questions still swirling about his sexuality, Michael Stipe of REM described himself as "an equal opportunity lech", and said he did not define himself as gay, straight, or bisexual, but that he was attracted to, and had relationships with, both men and women. Freddie Mercury, lead singer of the band Queen, was an also acknowledged bisexual. He had a long-term relationship with Mary Austin, but also a male partner Jim Hutton, although he distanced himself from Hutton during public events.
Virginia Woolf's Orlando: A Biography (1928) is an early example of bisexuality in literature. The story, of a man who changes into a woman without a second thought, was based on the life of Woolf's lover Vita Sackville-West. Woolf used the gender switch to avoid the book being banned for homosexual content. The pronouns switch from male to female as Orlando's gender changes. Woolf's lack of definite pronouns allows for ambiguity and lack of emphasis on gender labels. Her 1925 book Mrs Dalloway focused on a bisexual man and a bisexual woman in sexually unfulfilled heterosexual marriages in later life. Following Sackille-West's death, her son Nigel Nicolson published Portrait of a Marriage, one of her diaries recounting her affair with a woman during her marriage to Harold Nicolson. Other early examples include works of D.H. Lawrence, such as Women in Love (1920), and Colette's Claudine (1900–1903) series.
The main character in Patrick White's novel, The Twyborn Affair (1979), is bisexual. Contemporary novelist Bret Easton Ellis' novels, such as Less Than Zero (1985) and The Rules of Attraction (1987) frequently feature bisexual male characters; this "casual approach" to bisexual characters recurs throughout Ellis' work.
In October 2009, "A Rose By Any Other Name" was released as a "webisode" series on YouTube. Directed by bisexual rights advocate Kyle Schickner, the plot centers around a lesbian-identified woman who falls in love with a straight man and discovers she is actually bisexual.
There tend to be negative media portrayals; references are sometimes made to stereotypes or mental disorders. In an article regarding the 2005 film Brokeback Mountain, sex educator Amy Andre argued that in films, bisexuals are often depicted negatively:
I like movies where bisexuals come out to each other together and fall in love, because these tend to be so few and far between; the most recent example would be 2002's lovely romantic comedy, Kissing Jessica Stein. Most movies with bi characters paint a stereotypical picture.... The bi love interest is usually deceptive (Mulholland Drive), over-sexed (Sex Monster), unfaithful (High Art), and fickle (Three of Hearts), and might even be a serial killer, like Sharon Stone in Basic Instinct. In other words, the bisexual is always the cause of the conflict in the film.—Amy Andre, American Sexuality Magazine
Using a content analysis of more than 170 articles written between 2001 and 2006, sociologist Richard N. Pitt, Jr. concluded that the media pathologized black bisexual men’s behavior while either ignoring or sympathizing with white bisexual men’s similar actions. He argued that the black bisexual is often described as a duplicitous heterosexual man spreading the HIV/AIDS virus. Alternatively, the "Brokeback" white bisexual (when seen as bisexual at all) is often described in pitying language as a victimized homosexual man forced into the closet by the heterosexist society around him.
In the HBO drama Oz, Chris Keller was a bisexual serial killer who tortured and raped various men and women. Other films in which bisexual characters conceal murderous neuroses include Black Widow, Blue Velvet, Cruising, Single White Female, and Girl, Interrupted.
Many non-human animal species exhibit bisexual behavior. Examples of mammals that display such behavior include the bonobo (formerly known as the pygmy chimpanzee), orca, and the bottlenose dolphin. Examples of birds include some species of gulls and Humboldt Penguins. Other examples of bisexual behavior occur among fish and flatworms.
Many species of animals are involved in the acts of forming sexual and non-sexual relationship bonds between the same sex; even when offered the opportunity to breed with members of the opposite sex, they pick the same sex. Some of these species are gazelles, antelope, bison, and sage grouse.
In some cases, animals will choose to engage in sexual activity with different sexes at different times in their lives, and will sometimes engage in sexual activity with different sexes at random. Same-sex sexual activity can also be seasonal in some animals, like male walruses who often engage in same-sex sexual activity with each other outside of the breeding season and will revert to heterosexual sexual activity during breeding season.
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