We have a problem – one that nobody seems to be talking about.
For better or for worse, our culture has long oversexualized bi women. Pop culture loves the sanitized version of a bi babe. We feast on it in porn and mainstream movies featuring perfectly waxed women kissing for the man’s viewing pleasure. Even though this way of viewing bisexuality is problematic, you could argue that, at the very least, we’re enjoying some representation.
That screen time has given us at least one good thing: by and large, when a woman says they’re bisexual, folks believe them.
If we could call such a hypersexualized misrepresentation of sexuality luck, then bi women have it in buckets. Unfortunately, there’s one group that loses, time and again, when it comes to visibility: bi+ men.
Even if it’s a miserable way to be represented, bi+ women and people assumed to be women at least get seen by modern culture. We pop up in TV shows like Jane the Virgin, or have big names like Keira Knightley portraying us in movies. As frustrating and dangerous as it can be to get so wrongly characterized as oversexual cheaters, at least we’re seen as a community that actually exists.
Men don’t have that luxury. The idea of a bisexual man puts people on edge, raises eyebrows, and sometimes brings into question a man’s very identity or masculinity. Some people, despite it being 2020, still don’t believe that a bisexual man exists. It could be because of buried homophobia or may have roots in some cultural disbelief that men’s sexuality is as complex as women’s.
Regardless of why this myth exists, the truth remains: bisexual, pansexual, and queer men have been here since the dawn of humanity – and they aren’t going anywhere.
When it comes to romance and hooking up, we’re pretty lucky to be alive in these times. The internet and our constant access to social media makes it easier for people to state their case and show their colors. I mean, you are reading this blogpost on a site for buying used panties, right? The internet connects us to our desires, and because of that, more people have license to pursue their true sexuality.
Before the internet, it was a lot more complicated, especially for coming out. Instead of private instagrams, you would have to trust each individual you revealed yourself to, and come out over and over again.
The LGBTQ community has a wealth of avenues for communication nowadays that help us queer folks find each other. And the more we find each other, the more we are starting to realize just how many of us there truly are out there.
Millennials and Gen Z are increasingly coming out of the closet as we learn to love ourselves in the in-between spaces of identity. In fact, a 2016 study found that nearly one in two people between the ages of 18 and 24 identified as not entirely straight. Fast forward four years, and that means people between 22 and 28 years old have a 50-50 likelihood of identifying as something other than one-hundred percent straight. Maybe I’m bi-ased, but as someone under the bi+ umbrella, it’s thrilling to realize how many of us are out there.
So why are bi+ people, and men in particular still so unseen? It could have to do with the things they call themselves.
When you look at the way bi men are ostracized by both sides of the aisle, it’s no surprise that men shun their claim on the term bisexual, or any other word under the umbrella. Instead, men are clinging to a new middle ground of sexuality, one that maybe sounds safer from the outside: identifying as mostly straight. This kind of identity is becoming so popular that the term “heteroflexible” is now a sexuality you can put on your dating apps to describe exactly where you land on the spectrum.
Interestingly, although bisexual is a blanket term that holds all levels of bisexuality, men who feel the ability to be attracted to other men (even if it’s only once in a blue moon) don’t often identify as bisexual. This inability to call themselves bi+ feels a little bit like internalized homophobia when you consider that women pretty readily call themselves bi or pansexual when they’re mostly attracted to men.
Bi-phobic statements pepper most people’s idea of sexuality, and it makes this choice many men make unsurprising.
But no matter what people have to say, male bisexuality exists. And although people try to argue that men’s sexuality is fixed to biological or evolutionary psychology, recent studies have come forward showing that men’s sexuality is just as fluid as everyone else’s – and are just as likely to be bi+ as other genders, too.
Sexuality is increasingly difficult to talk about as we become less defined by gender. Bi-ness is defined as attraction to your own gender and other genders (not just a binary), so the issue at hand isn’t bisexuality versus pansexuality. Instead, what makes talking about orientation more difficult is the idea of attraction to nonbinary cuties when you previously have identified as straight. A man dating a nonbinary person, regardless of their lover’s assigned gender at birth, is no longer a functionally straight or gay man. Loving (or just lovin’ on) someone who exists outside the binary places your sexual identity outside the lines of gay or straight, and depending on who you’re asking, may even put you beyond the realm of “bi.” (link to my article on bisexuality vs. pansexuality).
Many cisgender men with no experience in the LGBTQ world may feel surprised by their evolving identity, making it harder to figure out which label, if any, is best for them.
Regardless of all the semantics that keep the bi+ community apart, no matter if you call it pansexual, heteroflexible, or just “mostly straight,” bi+ men have been and remain a cornerstone of the queer community.
Don't believe me? Ask the many prominent men in our history and pop culture who are under the sweet bisexual umbrella. There are, of course, the beloved icons of our community like David Bowie and Freddie Mercury, but some vital figures in history were also bi men. Most notably, Malcolm X had intense and meaningful relationships with other men. These three are just a handful, but it’s undeniable that these bisexual men have shaped our culture in wonderful and vital ways. Their sexuality, you can argue, gave them a window into greater empathy and connection.
The problem is, these and other iconic bi+ men have also said that their sexuality negatively impacted their creative and professional lives. In 1983, David Bowie called his coming out a “mistake,” because he found that American audiences weren’t ready. He even said it hindered his creative career and kept him from things he wanted to do.
Likewise, Billie Joe Armstrong of Green Day has long been open about his bisexuality – at a cost. Over the years, people were phobic towards him and, he says, weren’t ready for what he had to say.
This problem isn’t just something celebs face. Bisexual men are either confronted with people who don’t trust them, people who think they’re natural cheaters, or people who don’t believe that bisexuality is even a thing. To make matters worse, when people hear that a man is bisexual, one study shows that they’re considered less physically attractive than straight or gay men.
It’s because homophobia runs deep. Don’t believe me? When Cornell came out with a study saying nobody’s fully straight, the internet went wild with outrage. Just check these comments that people left at the suggestion of them even possibly having a dash of the gay in their blood. Hatred of bisexuality and attraction to bodies that look like your own runs real deep.
That’s why stereotypes about us are some of the nastiest: bisexual folks, bi+ men included, are seen as untrustworthy, promiscuous, and unable to resist the “doubled” opportunities to cheat. Men in particular are always assumed to be closeted gay, pretending to love women for their own security.
That belief is such a pervasive one that many straight women worry or feel insecure about it. Sometimes, straight women will go on dates with men, and once they say learn the guy’s bisexual, the calls dry up and the men get ghosted. It doesn’t help that we grew up around major newspapers like The New York Times sharing shocking headlines like this one, calling bisexual folks “liars.”
The trouble doesn’t end there. Bisexual men will say it themselves that they get the short end of the stick in the bi+ world. Not only do men have to uphold standards of masculinity that are valued in their ability to “get some,” but they have to be seen as decisive.
Bisexual folks, unfortunately, have a bad reputation for being unable to “pick a team.” When toxic visions of what it means to be a man come into play, that open-hearted desire is twisted from something beautiful to something less “manly,” or somehow “weak.”
Nearly half of bi+ men are still closeted at work, and it’s easy to see why. When the hetero world holds men to such rigid expectations, it’s much easier to just keep your head down and go through the motions until it’s time to clock out.
There’s no escape from this bi-phobia in binge-watching TV, either. Bi boy representation is basically nonexistent, and when it is, they’re villains – just look at reality TV shows or Bree’s boyfriend that slept with her son in Desperate Housewives. All around us, the queer or bisexual man is the bad guy, the deceiver, if he exists at all.
Of course only 19% of bisexual folks are out to all the important people in their lives. Who wants to be the villain all the time?
I could lie and say that this is all the straight community’s fault, that they’re the ones who deserve this boutonniere of blame, but I’ll give you the painful truth: the queer community is just as guilty of shaming bi+ folks.
That biphobic sword cuts both ways. Remember how Billie Joe Armstrong identifies as bisexual? Well, now that he’s happily married to his wife, he faces a lot of questions from the LGBTQ community, and many people doubt whether he was ever actually bi. Some accuse him of going through the hardship of being uncloseted just for attention.
To make things worse, straight women aren’t the only ones who have issues with dating queer, bisexual, and pansxual men. In fact, bisexual model and personality Amber Rose came under fire recently for saying she wouldn’t date a bisexual man. She couldn’t put her finger on why, but said she’d have trust issues with it – even though she’s not hetero herself.
You can watch this biphobia against men rear its head time and again when you’re at queer events or interacting with cisgender gay or lesbian people at a party. They act like their identity puts them on some higher moral ground, and a bisexual man is only good for sneering at.
It stings when you see that the queer community recgonizes how shafted bisexual men get. A 2013 survey from Pew Research Center found queer folks all agreed that bisexual men were less socially accepted than bisexual women, gay men, and lesbians. Only 8% of the community believes there’s “a lot of social acceptance of bisexual men, while nearly half said there was virtually “no social acceptance” for them.
These stigmas do more than just make bi+ guys sad. According to The Advocate, it’s "literally killing us." One out of ever three bi+ men have contemplated or attempted suicide, and about half suffer from mood disorders. They’re also more likely to live in poverty than their gay counterparts, and more likely to be raped or experience domestic violence.
Shaming bi+ men has very real consequences, and the more disconnected they are from care, the more they’ll continue to be at risk.
It matters because we’re social animals, and we deserve and long for connection and visibility. We thrive when people see us – and the fact is, nobody is seeing bi+ men. When they do, it’s littered with nasty stereotypes and negative opinions.
Fighting for men to be as bi+ as they want is important as we fight ideas of masculinity that keep everyone under the traditional man’s thumb. Bi+ women are often written off as straight girls doing things to please their fellas. Likewise, bi+ men are dismissed as gay men who aren’t entirely out of the closet.
Regardless of how you cut it, the cultural assumption is that everyone is more attracted to men than they are to women – and in so doing, bi+ people are erased in either direction. But just because bi+ men are assumed by straight folks to be gay, they don’t have an easy time finding gay beaus. Instead, gay men (and lesbians) tend to assume bi+ folks are straight people in disguise. This could be part of why bi+ people tend to have straight-assumed relationships.
Bisexual men in particular are left with a lonely choice: date someone and stay closeted about your true in-between nature, or be public about your sexuality and risk losing partners and friends due to their own ignorance.
Dating aside, because bisexual men are seen as inherently “less” masculine (whatever that means), they’re facing a crisis of identity. They may love hot wings and chest bumps and play football, and otherwise have all these traditionally masculine interests, but the simple existence of attraction to someone who looks similar to them makes them forever on the outside looking in. Likewise, gay friends may keep bi+ people on the outside, considering them not quite one of the group.
This constant stigmatization causes depression and low self-worth, which ripples out into every facet of their day-to-day lives.
Spoiler alert about male sexuality: dating a bi or panexual guy is just like dating a straight person, only better. When you find yourself on a date with a cute bi+ boy, treat the date the exact same way you’d treat a date with a straight guy. That means you probably don’t ask about their intimate sex history right off the bat, right?
If you’re naturally nosy, then as a relationship progresses, it’s fine to ask about previous partners, but don’t ask explicit or rude questions about positions, sex acts, or any dirty deets that you’d squirm while answering about your own sex life.
I love this quick read from Cosmopolitan featurin ten women who were dating bisexual men. These women offered their two cents about what it was like. And overwhelmingly, they had the same thing to say: dating their bi+ boyf was normal, blissfully nothing to write home about, and just about as important as their opinions on olives.
Unsurprisingly, the article showed that bi+ women tended to enjoy dating bi+ men more than straight ones – something I personally can attest to as a queer person married to a fellow queer AMAB hunk. I think it’s because we get to be our full selves – although as that Amber Rose interview shows, bi+ folks can be just as problematic towards each other as straight people. One of the perks of bi+ babes dating each other? You get to comment on celeb crushes and cuties of all genders when they pass you by.
Personally? I get it. Being able to point to Adam Driver in one movie and Rachel Weisz in another and have nothing bad happen to my relationship other than an “I see it” or “I don’t,” is a lot of fun, and helps me feel my most authentic.
Interestingly, despite all the hangups and gross stigmas against bi+ men, there is actually a lot to say about bisexual men being preferable partners. The science is in, and word on he street is that bisexual men make better lovers than straight men, and are typically better long-term partners and fathers, as well.
This bi man says it could be because he’s dated men before, so he’s had a taste of receiving aggressive male behaviors that women have to face in almost every relationship with a man. Instead of playing up gender roles, bi+ men are more likely to know how to treat their partners like a true equal, playing into one another’s strengths instead and loving each other as is. And, he says, when he’s been impressed by men in bed himself, he’s even better at knowing how to impress someone else in the sack himself.
With facts like this, it’s a wonder there aren’t (virtual) lines around the block to slide into bi+ boys’ DMs.
If you’re dating or are friends with a guy who’s under the blessed bisexual umbrella, the best thing you can do is treat them like anyone else you know. If you want to talk about sexuality though, tell them you’re doing work to understand their perspective – reading this article and the links in it is a fabulous place to start.
The best thing though? Listen. Offer yourself up to hold space for them, and ask your bi+ men what they need from you as they process their own feelings. When you’re getting close to a bi+ guy, don’t expect them to be something you’re not. If you’re dating, a bi+ guy won’t treat you the way your straight or gay partners have in the past. Likewise, if you’re a straight woman, a bi+ guy isn’t some mythical gay bestie that loves to go down on you.
The best thing about bi+ people is that we exist in our own space, and are different
Don’t expect them to be something they’re not. Straight men are takers, and not all bi men are angels for sure, but they’re more complicated. Likewise, they’re not suddenly your gay BFF that loves to eat you out. They’re their own, complex individuals worthy of your love and attention.
And if you’re in any kind of position that promotes visibility, it’s on you to talk about it more. Share aritcles, YouTube videos, tweets, and Insta posts about the topic. If you’re a writer or storyteller, write more queer male characters hat are bi+, and push past stereotypes. TV shows, movies, and novels are powerful avenues of storytelling, and creating a bisexual man or nonbinary AMAB person in a story is a powerful way to uplift bi+ men from all corners of the world.
Let’s hear it for the bi+ boys in our life. The time for stigmas is up. One good conversation at a time, we can bring the bi+ babes we love into the limelight.