Monday, August 29, 2011

Bi-Sexual Men DO Exist - What a Relief . . . .

In the recent issue of Biological Psychology, researchers discovered that there are men who are sexually aroused by both men and women, contrary to an earlier study (2005) that suggested there was no such creature. When I read that early study I was alarmed - it implied that I do not exist, or that my experience is somehow not real.

The new study, as you will read below, was a lot more intellectually honest in how it recruited subjects than the original study.

Here is a little bit of the New York Times article:
No Surprise for Bisexual Men: Report Indicates They Exist

Published: August 22, 2011

In an unusual scientific about-face, researchers at Northwestern University have found evidence that at least some men who identify themselves as bisexual are, in fact, sexually aroused by both women and men.

The finding is not likely to surprise bisexuals, who have long asserted that attraction often is not limited to one sex. But for many years the question of bisexuality has bedeviled scientists. A widely publicized study published in 2005, also by researchers at Northwestern, reported that “with respect to sexual arousal and attraction, it remains to be shown that male bisexuality exists.”

That conclusion outraged bisexual men and women, who said it appeared to support a stereotype of bisexual men as closeted homosexuals.

In the new study, published online in the journal Biological Psychology, the researchers relied on more stringent criteria for selecting participants. To improve their chances of finding men aroused by women as well as men, the researchers recruited subjects from online venues specifically catering to bisexuals.

They also required participants to have had sexual experiences with at least two people of each sex and a romantic relationship of at least three months with at least one person of each sex.

 Men in the 2005 study, on the other hand, were recruited through advertisements in gay-oriented and alternative publications and were identified as heterosexual, bisexual or homosexual based on responses to a standard questionnaire.
Read the whole article.

Salon then ran it's own story on this topic. They looked more closely at the cultural binary, gay or straight. Bi men do not fit into this little box (nor do bi women for that matter, but everyone seems to be okay with that, especially straight men). Because of this limited perspective, bi men become invisible.

In my own experience, gay men tend to think bi men are not fully out or are straight guys exploring a fetish. Likewise, straight men tend to pretend we are normal heterosexual men, possibly as a defense against having to deal with the ambiguity of bisexuality and what it might mean about them (just a guess).
The invisible bisexual man

Science has proven that they do exist, but bi guys say we're a long way from seeing sexuality in shades of gray

By Tracy Clark-Flory 

The big sex news of the week was that bisexual men exist.

OK, so a new study proving that bisexual men are aroused by both men and women didn't come as "news" to bi men, but most are nonetheless relieved by the results, because it will help to legitimize their identity in others' eyes. (This is especially true since prior research controversially reported that there was no evidence of male bisexuality.) Still, the more than dozen bisexual men that I interviewed about the study say it serves as a reminder of just how far they still have to go toward acceptance and understanding. Despite enormous strides made in the past decade for LGBT rights, male bisexuality remains a challenging idea and a unique taboo, even within sexually progressive circles.

A large part of that is because, culturally, we tend to think in terms of black-and-white, not shades of gray -- and that's especially true when it comes to the subject of sex. Rarely does a bisexual come out without fielding questions about which sex they like more -- the assumption being that they must lean one way or the other. It's true that many do: As Ryan from Vancouver wrote in an email, he puts an "emphasis on the 'preference' in 'sexual preference.'" He might be attracted to women more often than men, but believes he "could be attracted to pretty much anybody in the right circumstances, sexuality be damned." But there are also many bi men who describe their sexual attraction in much more fluid terms. The 27-year-old says: "To me, I look for and fall in love with the personality and the intelligence, and then the overall style of the person, never giving any thought to if they are 'male or female.'"

Romantic as it may be, that is a concept not so easily grasped by the general public -- which can make bisexual men feel invisible. Simon, a 26-year-old living in Brooklyn, N.Y., tells me, "Whenever, say, some prominent heterosexually married male public figure has a same-sex affair, literally everyone rolls their eyes at the 'closeted homosexual,'" he says. "I'm not sure I remember ever hearing someone seriously entertain the possibility that the philanderer was bisexual." Bisexuals are more visible than ever, but our cultural default, the shortcut we take to understand a person, is still: gay or straight?
Read the whole article.

If you would like to read this new study, it's been made available online in Google Docs by the good folks at The Stranger in Seattle.

Rosenthal, AM, Sylva, D. Safron, A, & Bailey, JM. (2011). Sexual arousal patterns of bisexual men revisited. Biological Psychology, doi:10.1016/j.biopsycho.2011.06.015

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