From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
"Only in this way can one visualize the vibrancy of original Platonism. [...] One must have seen Mediterranean men dancing together—those auspicious moments of a naive and clear bisexuality."--Critique of Cynical Reason (1983) by Peter Sloterdijk
Bisexuality is a sexual orientation which refers to the romantic and/or sexual attraction of individuals to other individuals of both their own and the opposite gender (socially) or sex (biologically). Most bisexuals are not equally attracted to men and women and may even shift between states of finding either gender or sex exclusively attractive over the course of time.
In 124 AD the bisexual Roman emperor Hadrian met Antinous, a 13- or 14-year-old boy from Bithynia, and they began their pederastic relationship. Antinous was deified by Hadrian when he died six years later. Many statues, busts, coins and reliefs display Hadrian's deep affections for him.
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 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.
Bisexuality in culture
Notable portrayals of bisexuality can be found throughout mainstream media. In movies such as: The Pillow Book (film); Alexander (film); The Rocky Horror Picture Show; Henry and June; Chasing Amy; Kissing Jessica Stein, The Fourth Man, Basic Instinct and Brokeback Mountain.
A recent documentary called "Bi the Way" aired on the LGBT Network Logo (TV channel), on August 1, 2009 and again August 3, 2009. The movie followed the lives of five young bisexual Americans ages 28 to 11, and talked about bisexuality in general, as well showing scientific studies, interviews with many leaders in the bisexual community, and media portrayals, While some in the bi/pan/fluid community felt the movie stereotyped them, overall it was well received by the community for being a mostly positive portrayal of bi/pan/fluid people, and for bringing their struggles to media attention.
In popular music, many of the songs of The Smiths are commonly citedTemplate:Citation needed as classic examples. In 1995, Jill Sobule sung about bi-curiosity in her song "I Kissed a Girl". The video for the song was slightly less subtle alternating images of Jill Sobule and her boyfriend (played by Fabio) with images of her with her girlfriend. The recently popular song "I Kissed a Girl" by Katy Perry also hints at bisexuality, or at least bi-curiosity, with lyrics such as "I kissed a girl just to try it/I hope my boyfriend don't mind it" and "You're my experimental game/Just human nature". Some bisexualsTemplate:Citation needed find this song offensive however, as it reinforces the stereotype of bisexuals simply experimenting and bisexuality not being a real sexual preference. Another, considered, offensive lyric is "not the way good girls should behave." Lady Gaga has also admitted to being bisexual, and her song "Poker Face" is about bisexuality.
Virginia Woolf's Orlando: A Biography (1928) is one of the earliest examples of bisexuality in literature. The story about a man who changes into a woman without a second thought, was based on the life of Woolf's then bisexual lover Vita Sackville-West. Woolf used the gender switch to avoid the book being banned for homosexual content, and was successful for it. Prior to Orlando, Woolf's Mrs Dalloway (1925) 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 would publish 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.
As of October 2009, there is a bisexual "webisode" series known as "A Rose By Any Other Name" being released on YouTube that was directed by Independent film director and bisexual rights advocate Kyle Schickner of Fencesitter Films. The plot of the series centers around a lesbian identified woman who falls in love with a straight man, and goes on to realize she is actually bisexual, and the reaction of both her friends and her boyfriend's friends.
There tend to be negative media portrayals; references 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 unlucky, unsuspecting, hetero or gay person falls for the bisexual bon vivant, and all hell breaks loose. 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 "Down Low" black bisexual is often described negatively as a duplicitous heterosexual man whose behaviors threaten the black community by spreading the HIV/AIDS virus in the same community. Alternately, the "Brokeback" white bisexual (when seen as bisexual at all) is often described in pitying language as a victimized homosexual man who is forced into the closet by the heterosexist society around him.
- Bisexual Community
- Bisexual chic
- Journal of Bisexuality
- Bisexual erasure
- List of bisexual people
- List of gay, lesbian or bisexual people
- List of LGBT-related organizations
- List of media portrayals of bisexuality
- Media portrayal of bisexuality
- Mixed-orientation marriage
- Non-westernized concepts of male sexuality
- Societal attitudes towards homosexuality