Overcoming hurdles to bisexuality research

If you are finding it challenging to understand bisexuality, you are not alone. Until recently, scientists often overlooked bisexuality—most LGBTQ+ research has been with lesbian and gay populations.

The focus has begun to change in the past two decades, with an outpouring of new research. In the US, this research has benefitted from funding provided by the American Institute of Bisexuality (A.I.B.), which was founded in 1998 to support research and education about bisexuality.

Highlighted in this section is a 2014 New York Times Magazine article by Benoit Denizet-Lewis titled, “The Scientific Quest to Prove Bisexuality Exists.” Although not a researcher, the author provides an engaging exploration of the many facets of bisexuality and has compiled an overview of findings from relevant research.

Denizet-Lewis examines the drivers that have made bisexuality invisible in both the gay and the straight communities, sometimes called “bisexual erasure.” This invisibility adds a complicating layer to conducting bisexuality research.

He also highlights the many complexities facing those who identify as bisexual, including the concept of “biphobia”--where both the gay and the straight communities tend to reject the existence of bisexuality. And he gives some insights as to why many experiencing bisexual attraction prefer to identify as gay or straight.

Some of the research looking at how men and women are sexually stimulated or aroused is also discussed in the article. This is referred to as arousal research. Denizet-Lewis actually participated in some of the arousal research and he shares his experiences. The research is interesting but also raises more questions about the ability to even conduct this type of research. Sexual arousal is very personal and generated by a complex combination of emotional, physical, and sensory perceptions that are different for each of us.

Denizet-Lewis quotes Robyn Ochs, educator and activist on bisexuality:

“I call myself bisexual because I acknowledge that I have in myself 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 (Denizet-Lewis, 2014, para. 89).”

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Check out the full NY Times Magazine article for an overview of key issues and the scope of bisexuality research.

The Scientific Quest to Prove Bisexuality Exists

References:

Denizet-Lewis, B. (2014, March 23). The scientific quest to prove bisexuality exists. New York Times Magazine. https://www.nytimes.com/2014/03/23/magazine/the-scientific-quest-to-prove-bisexuality-exists.html

Gender Identity Gender identity icon Our core sense of who we are as a man, a woman, a mixture of both, or neither.

Gender Expression Gender expression icon How we show up in the world through choices like clothing, hair style, mannerisms or tone of voice.

Attraction attraction icon How we feel toward others sexually, romantically and/or emotionally.

Biological Sex Biological sex icon Physical attributes such as reproductive organs and genitalia, chromosomes, genes and hormone levels.