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Bisexuality refers to sexual behavior with [1] or attraction to people of multiple genders, or to a bisexual orientation. People who have a bisexual orientation "can experience sexual, emotional, and affectional attraction to both their own sex and the opposite sex"; "it also refers to an individual’s sense of personal and social identity based on those attractions, behaviors expressing them, and membership in a community of others who share them."[2] It is one of the three main classifications of sexual orientation, along with a heterosexual and a homosexual orientation. Individuals who do not experience sexual attraction to either sex are known as asexual.

According to Alfred Kinsey's research into human sexuality in the mid-20th century, many humans do not fall exclusively into heterosexual or homosexual classifications but somewhere between.[3] The Kinsey scale measures sexual attraction and behavior on a seven-point scale ranging from 0 (exclusively heterosexual) to 6 (exclusively homosexual). According to Kinsey's study, a substantial number of people fall within the range of 1 to 5 (between heterosexual and homosexual). Although Kinsey's methodology has been criticized, the scale is still widely used in describing the continuum of human sexuality.

Bisexuality has been observed in various human societies[1] and elsewhere in the animal kingdom[2][4]


Despite common misconceptions, bisexuality does not require that a person be attracted equally to both sexes. In fact, people who have a distinct but not exclusive preference for one sex over the other may still identify themselves as bisexual. A recent study by researchers Gerulf Rieger, Meredith L. Chivers, and J. Michael Bailey,[3] which attracted media attention in 2005, purported to find that bisexuality is extremely rare, and perhaps nonexistent, 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 person is only truly bisexual if he or she exhibits virtually equal arousal responses to both opposite-sex and same-sex stimuli, and have consequently dismissed the self-identification of people whose arousal patterns showed even a mild preference for one sex. Some researchers say 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.[5] The study, and The New York Times article which reported it, were subsequently criticized as flawed and biphobic.

Because bisexuality is often an ambiguous position between homosexuality and heterosexuality, bisexuals form a heterogeneous group and the relations between their behaviors, feelings, and identities are not always consistent. Some who might be classified by others as bisexual on the basis of their sexual behavior self-identify primarily as homosexual. Equally, otherwise heterosexual people who engage in occasional homosexual behavior could be considered bisexual, but may not identify as such. For people who believe that sexuality is a distinctly defined aspect of the character, this ambiguity is problematic. On the other hand, some believe that the majority of people contain aspects of homosexuality and heterosexuality, but that the intensities of these can vary from person to person. Some people who engage in bisexual behavior may be supportive of homosexual people, but still self-identify as heterosexual; others may consider any labels irrelevant to their positions and situations. In 1995, Harvard Shakespeare professor Marjorie Garber made the academic case for bisexuality with her 600 page, Vice Versa: Bisexuality and the Eroticism of Everyday Life in which she argued that most people would be bisexual if not for "repression, religion, repugnance, denial" and "premature specialization."[4]

Bisexuality is often misunderstood as a form of adultery or polyamory, and a popular misconception is that bisexuals must always be in relationships with men and women simultaneously. Rather, individuals attracted to both males and females, like people of any other orientation, may live a variety of sexual lifestyles. These include lifelong monogamy, serial monogamy, polyamory, polyfidelity, promiscuity, group sex, and celibacy. For those with more than one sexual partner, these may, or may not, all be of the same gender.

Sexual orientation, identity, behaviourEdit

American Psychological Association states that sexual orientation "describes the pattern of sexual attraction, behavior and identity e.g. homosexual (aka gay, lesbian), bisexual and heterosexual (aka straight)." "Sexual attraction, behavior and identity may be incongruent. For example, sexual attraction and/or behavior may not necessarily be consistent with identity. Some individuals may identify themselves as 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. Further, 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."[16]

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 leam 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." [17]

In a longitudinal study about sexual identity development among lesbian, gay, and bisexual (LGB) youths, its authors "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 identify as bisexual, while approximately 30-40% assumed a gay/lesbian identity over time. Authors 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."[17]

Bisexuals commonly start to identify as bisexuals in their early to mid twenties.[18] [19] Bisexual women more often have their first heterosexual experience before their first homosexual experience, whereas bisexual men will have their first homosexual experience first.[20]


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".[6] The Janus Report on Sexual Behavior, published in 1993, showed that 5 percent of men and 3 percent of women consider themselves bisexual and 4 percent of men and 2 percent of women considered themselves homosexual. The 'Health' section of The New York Times has stated that "1.5 percent of American women identify themselves [as] bisexual.

Dr. 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".Research Summary The Kinsey Institute has stated that "Kinsey said in both the Male and Female volumes that it was impossible to determine the number of persons who are "homosexual" or "heterosexual". It was only possible to determine behavior at any given time".[5] Kinsey's book, and its companion Sexual Behavior in the Human Female, have received vocal criticism for their findings and methodology.[7][8] [9] [10][11] Professor Martin Duberman called it "skillful" and "a monumental endeavor".[12] [13]

Dr. Fritz Klein believed that social and emotional attraction are very important elements in bisexual attraction. For example, a bisexual might be attracted to both feminine women and feminine men, but have little interest in masculine individuals. This individual, while they might be highly attracted to certain members of both sexes, would be unlikely to be attracted to most males in modern western society (who tend to be masculine). As this study employed 2-minute clips of standard heterosexual and homosexual pornography, the study would be blind to the this type of bisexual. One third of the men in each group showed no significant arousal. The study did not claim them to be asexual, and Rieger stated that their lack of response did not change the overall findings.


Sigmund Freud theorized that every person has the ability to become bisexual at some time in his or her life.[6][7] He based this on the idea that enjoyable experiences of sexuality with the same sex, whether sought or unsought, acting on it or being fantasized, become an attachment to his or her needs and desires in social upbringing. Prominent psychoanalyst Dr. Joseph Merlino, Senior Editor of the book, Freud at 150: 21st Century Essays on a Man of Genius stated in an interview:

Freud maintained that bisexuality was a normal part of development. That all of us went through a period of bisexuality and that, in the end, most of us came out heterosexual but that the bisexual phase we traversed remained on some unconscious level, and was dealt with in other ways....He did not consider it something that should be criminalized, or penalized.... Freud felt there were a number of homosexuals he encountered who did not have a variety of complex problems that homosexuality was a part of. He found people who were totally normal in every other regard except in terms of their sexual preference. In fact, he saw many of them as having higher intellects, higher aesthetic sensibilities, higher morals; those kinds of things. He did not see it as something to criminalize or penalize, or to keep from psychoanalytic training. A lot of the psychoanalytic institutes felt if you were homosexual you should not be accepted; that was not Freud's position.[14]

Human bisexuality has mainly been studied alongside with homosexuality. Van Wyk & Geist (1995) 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 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.[8]

There is currently a debate on the importance of biological influences on sexual orientation. Biological explanations have been put to question 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 as men are 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.

Most of the few available scientific studies on bisexuality date from before the 1990s. Interest in bisexuality has generally grown, but research focus has lately been on sociology and gender studies as well as on bisexuals with HIV and AIDS.

Social factorsEdit

There is a consensus among scholars of different faculties that cultural and social factors have an effect on human sexual behaviour. As bisexual people come from all social classes and familial backgrounds, such factors cannot independently explain why some people are bisexual.

Krafft-Ebing was the first to suggest that bisexuality is the original state of human sexuality. Freud has famously summarized on the basis of clinical observations: "[W]e have come to know that all human beings are bisexual - - and that their libido is distributed between objects of both sexes, either in a manifest or a latent form." According to Freud, people remain bisexual all their lives in a repression to monosexuality of fantasy and behaviour. This idea was taken up in the 1940s by the zoologist Alfred Kinsey who 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 anthropolocial 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.

Even though only a small percentage of people have bisexual traits, this does not outrule the possibility of bisexual behaviour of the majority in different circumstances. Similarly, although evolutionary psychologists consider most males as promiscuous by nature, the majority of American men are faithful to their wives, appearing essentially monogamous. These traits can be explained as the result of culture constraints on evolutionary predispositions.[9]

Sex driveEdit

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 heterosexual 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 less happy marriages than heterosexuals. Bressler and Lavender (1986) found that bisexual women had more orgasms per week and they described them as stronger than did hetero or homosexual women. Goode and Haber (1977) found bisexual women to sexually mature earlier, masturbate and enjoy masturbation more and to be more experienced in different types of heterosexual contact.[8]

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[10]

More recent research, however, associates high sex drive and increased attraction to both sexes only in women. Bisexual men's pattern has been more similar to heterosexuals with a stronger correlation with high sex drive and other-sex attraction. [9]


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 lesbian women. Bisexuals were consistently more masculine than other subjects.[8]

Women usually have a better hearing sensitivity than males, but homosexual and bisexual women have been found to have weaker sensitivity than heterosexual women while homosexual and bisexual men have hypermasculinized hearing. [11]

Prenatal hormonesEdit

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. Studies to provide evidence for the masculinization of the brain have however not been conducted to date. Research on special conditions such as Homosexuality and Christianity and 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.[12]

There is research evidence that the 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 oestrogen. 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 oestrogen concentrations is one cause of homosexuality whereas exposure to very high testosterone levels may be associated with bisexuality. Because testosterone in genereal is important for sexual differentiation, this view offers an alternative to the suggestion that male homosexuality is genetic.[13]

The prenatal homonal 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 unbinded 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 bould be over-masculinized. [9]

Brain structureEdit

LaVey'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 the 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.[8]


There is some evidence to support 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.[8]

Evolutionary theoryEdit

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.[9]


People may not express their sexual orientation in their sexual behavior.[14] People with a bisexual orientation may be celibate, have sexual relationships with the same sex, the opposite sex, or both. In some places, same-sex relationships may be illegal, while other places officially recognize these relationships. Bisexual people may also enter into a mixed-orientation marriage with a member of the opposite sex.

Bisexuality in HistoryEdit

In some cultures, historical and literary records from most literate societies indicate that male bisexuality was common and indeed expected. These relationships were generally age-structured as in pederasty[15] or shudo. or gender-structured as in the Two-Spirit or bacchá practices. Most of the commonly cited examples of male "homosexuality" in previous cultures would more properly be categorized as bisexuality. Determining the history of female bisexuality is more problematic, in that women in most of the studied societies were under the domination of the males, and on one hand had less self-determination and freedom of movement and expression, and on the other were not the ones writing or keeping the literary record. Sappho, however, is a notable exception.

In 124 CE 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 Rome, Arab countries up to and including the present, China, and Japan, all exhibit patterns of analogous bisexual behavior. In Japan in particular, due to its practice of shudo and the extensive art and literature associated with it, the record of a primarily bisexual lifestyle is both detailed and quite recent, dating back as recently as the 19th century. Bisexual behavior was also common among Roman and Chinese emperors, the shoguns of Japan, and others.

Ancient GreeceEdit

Ancient Greek religious texts, reflecting cultural practices, incorporated bisexual themes. The subtexts varied, from the mystical to the didactic.[16]

Ancestral law in ancient Sparta mandated same-sex relationships with youths who were coming of age for all adult men, so long as the men eventually took wives and produced children. The 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.[15] For example, Aristophanes calls them euryprôktoi, meaning "wide arses", and depicts them like women.[16]

In Ancient Greece it is believed that males generally went through a homosexual stage in adolescence, followed by a bisexual stage characterized by pederastic relationships in young adulthood, followed by a (mostly) heterosexual stage later in life, when they married and had children. Alexander the Great, the Macedonian king, is thought to have been bisexual, and to have had a male lover named Hephaestion.[16]

Social statusEdit

Historically, bisexuality has largely been free of the social stigma associated with homosexuality, prevalent even where bisexuality was the norm. In Ancient Greece pederasty was not problematic as long as the men involved eventually married and had children. In many world cultures, homosexual affairs have been quietly accepted among upper-class men of good social standing (particularly if married), and heterosexual marriage has often been used successfully as a defense against accusations of homosexuality. On the other hand, there are bisexuals who marry or live with a heterosexual partner because they prefer the complementarity of different sexes in cohabiting and co-parenting but have felt greatly enriched by homosexual relationships alongside the marriage in both monogamous and "open" relationships.

Since the 1970s, there have been waves of bisexual chic, in which celebrities and other persons of some notoriety have embraced and advocated bisexuality. This has led to more acceptance of bisexuals in some regards; however, some have latched onto bisexual chic for publicity's sake, with varying degrees of sincerity and permanency. Such celebrities as David Bowie, Dave Navarro, Anne Heche and others have claimed bisexuality only to later renounce the idea.

The term "flex sex" developed in the late 2000s, regarding women that generally regard themselves as heterosexual, but who occasionally have sex with other women.[17][18]

Some in the homosexual community accuse those who self-identify as bisexual of duplicity, believing they are really homosexuals who engage in heterosexual activity merely to remain socially acceptable. They may be accused of "not doing their part" in gaining acceptance of "true" homosexuality. Some homosexual people may also suspect that a self-described bisexual is merely a homosexual in the initial stage of questioning their presumed heterosexuality, and will eventually accept that they are homosexual; this is expressed by a glib saying in gay culture: "Bi now, gay later." These situations can and do take place, but do not appear to be true of the majority of self-described bisexuals. Nonetheless, bisexuals do sometimes experience lesser acceptance from homosexual people, because of their declared orientation. Biphobia can sometimes be the results of repressed bisexual desire in homosexual people. [17]

Bisexuals are often associated with men who engage in same-sex activity while closeted or heterosexually married. The majority of such men—said to be living on the down-low—do not self-identify as bisexual.[19]

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. However, since "Bisexual orientation can fall anywhere between the two extremes of homosexuality and heterosexuality", 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 also tend to internalize social tensions related to their choice of partners.[18] Firestein suggests bisexuals may feel pressured to label themselves as homosexuals instead of occupying a difficult middle ground in a culture that has it that if bisexuals are attracted to people of both sexes, they must have more than one partner, thus defying society's value on monogamy.[20] These social tensions and pressure may and do affect bisexuals' mental health.[19] Specific therapy methods have been developed for bisexuals to address this concern.[20]

Relatively few supportive bisexual communities exist, therefore there is not as much support from people who have gone through similar experiences. This effectively can make it more difficult for bisexuals to "come out" as such.

Pride symbolsEdit

450px-Bi flag.svg

The Bisexual Flag

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.[20]

Another symbol that uses the color scheme of the bisexual pride flag 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.[21]

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 used to tag homosexuals (similar to the yellow Star of David that is constituted of two opposed, overlapping triangles). Because pink triangles were used in the persecution of homosexuals in the Nazi regime, a double moon symbol was devised specifically to avoid the use of triangles.[url=] This bisexual symbol is a double moon that is formed when the sex-specific attributes of the astrological symbol of Mars & Venus (representing heterosexual union) are reduced to the two circles open on both ends, thus symbolizing that bisexuals are open to either-sex unions. The color of the bisexual double moon symbol varies. The symbol is most often displayed with rainbow colors, signifying that bisexuals belong to the gay community. It also may appear with the pink-purple-blue colors of the bisexual pride flag. The double moon symbol is common in Germany and surrounding countries.

See alsoEdit


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  6. Freud, Sigmund (translated by A.A. Brill), Three Contributions to the Theory of Sex, Dover Publications, 128 pages, ISBN 0486416038
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  10. Lippa, R. A., 2006. Psychological Science," 17, 46-52
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  14. APA Help Center
  15. Peter James, Nick Thorpe. Ancient Inventions. Ballantine Books; New edition, 1995, p. 164 ISBN 0345401026
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  17. Regarding the "National Morning Show"'s invitation of flex sex women, the National Morning Show is the morning show of the Fox Television Network.
  18. Flex Sex! - Bisexual / Bicurious Chat
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Further readingEdit


Ancient GreeceEdit

  • Kenneth J. Dover. Greek Homosexuality, New York; Vintage Books, 1978. ISBN 0-394-74224-9
  • Thomas K. Hubbard. Homosexuality in Greece and Rome, U. of California Press, 2003. ISBN 0-520-23430-8
  • Herald Patzer. Die Griechische Knabenliebe [Greek Pederasty], Wiesbaden: Franz Steiner Verlag, 1982. In: Sitzungsberichte der Wissenschaftlichen Gesellschaft an der Johann Wolfgang Goethe-Universität Frankfurt am Main, Vol. 19 No. 1.
  • W. A. Percy III. Pederasty and Pedagogy in Archaic Greece, University of Illinois Press, 1996. ISBN 0-252-02209-2

By countryEdit

Modern WesternEdit


  • Bryant, Wayne M.. Bisexual Characters in Film: From Anais to Zee. Haworth Gay & Lesbian Studies, 1997. ISBN 1-56023-894-1

External linksEdit

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