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As a young woman who engages in bisexual behavior, I have yet to experience a stigma or any form of discrimination surrounding my sexual identity.
Based on the opinions of other people, I am a straight woman who experiments sexually with other woman. Because I prefer to date men, I am allowed to maintain being straight.
This same concession is not made for men. A man participating in a sexual act with another man is immediately identified as gay by cultural standards. There is a taboo surrounding male bisexuality. It is the forgotten sexual identity.
Strides have been made to create a culture of tolerance for lesbians and gays, but male bisexuality breaks down the dichotomy of straight versus gay, and this gray area makes people uncomfortable.
Bisexual women are able to exist easily in our society because their identity is either sexualized or marginalized. The erotic benefits of their sexual choices outweigh their deviation from the normative path.
A bisexual woman, or simply two women kissing, is often regarded as attractive and therefore offers these particular women an exemption from regular cultural expectations. An example of the eroticization of bisexual and lesbian women is the lesbian kiss poster that hangs on the walls of young men across the country.
It is common, accepted, and even expected that young men relish in lesbian sex. There is little eroticization of gay or bisexual men.
The visual imagery of two men kissing often incites fear and discomfort, and the reaction bares little resemblance to the reaction of two women interacting sexually. From the other standpoint, bisexual women are sometimes labeled as straight women seeking attention or simply experimenting, and their existence is refuted.
Male bisexuality corrupts the concept of the standards of masculinity. Based on the power dynamics of sex in America, the man is supposed to serve as the penetrating and dominating force. By submitting to penetration (or any same-sex act), these power dynamics are shifted.
In the article “Understanding Patriarchy and Men’s Power” Joseph Pleck explains how power is associated with the heterosexual male and how it is revoked when a different sexual orientation is claimed.
“Our society uses the male heterosexual-homosexual dichotomy as a central symbol for all the rankings of masculinity, for the division on any grounds between males who are ‘real men’ and have power, and males who are not,” Pleck said. “Any kind of powerlessness or refusal to compete becomes imbued with imagery of homosexuality.”
This supports the concept that masculinity and power are rooted in heterosexuality. It is important for men to suppress and dominate others, whether they are women or gay men, according to Pleck.
This narrow-minded view of masculinity creates a stigma that prevents men from exploring their sexual and emotional desires in their entirety. An iron-clad code of silence has been prescribed to all who witness or partake in an act of male bisexuality. Some men consider a widespread knowledge of their bisexuality to be social and sexual suicide.
Josh, a student who wished to remain anonymous, is a 20-year-old junior psychology major who offers a perspective on male bisexuality from a straight male’s perspective.
“I think the stigma exists because there have been hundreds of years of sexual negativity,” Josh said. “Men are expected, in this society, to be masculine and this [male bisexual behavior] threatens it.”
Negative attitudes towards male bisexuality and stereotypical notions of what define masculinity contribute to unfair attitudes towards men who identify as bisexual. Without conversation, these attitudes will never change.
According to the National Survey of Sexual Health and Behavior, only 6.6 percent of men surveyed identify themselves as gay or bisexual, but approximately 15 percent of men ages 50-59 say they have received oral sex from a man.
Although these 8.4 percent of men may identify as straight, culturally, they would be considered gay if their sexual experiences with men were exposed.
A man in American culture is not allowed to choose his sexuality. Instead, his actions and preferences identify him.
While male bisexuality and male bisexual behavior most certainly exist, both of these concepts are marginalized to the point of near invisibility in terms of cultural consciousness.
An open discussion between communities will begin the process of changing stagnated, archaic values.
Male bisexuality, along with all other forms of sexual expression or identities, must not bare a stigma. Every individual is entitled to explore their sexuality, and men interested in exploring bisexuality, or simply sexual acts with men, should not be discouraged.
An informed conversation and the passage of time are the realistic solutions to the stigmatization of male bisexuality, and that is a solution worthy of the effort.
Contact CU Independent Staff Writer Devon Boen at Devon.Boen@colorado.edu