The Weird and Troubling History of Bisexuality Studies

Roundup
tags: Bisexuality Studies



Today marks the 15th annual Celebrate Bisexuality Day — a day dedicated to bringing respect, visibility, and awareness to all people who identify as having fluid identities. Since more than half of the LGBT community is comprised of bisexuals (1.8% of the total American population), it’s important to give recognition to a group that includes people of all gender identities from cis to trans and sexual orientations from queer to pansexual. We’re talking everyone from Anna Paquin, to Cynthia Nixon, Chirlane McCray, Tom Daley, Angelina Jolie, Billie Joe Armstrong, Megan Fox, Clive Davis, Megan Mullally, Andy Dick, David Bowie, and Lady Gaga.

Bisexuality can sometimes feel like a largely invisible orientation because of its historic neglect and ridicule in both the media and sciences. Often times, bisexuality can be portrayed as “greedy,” “a bridging mechanism,” to homosexuality, or worse, “imaginary.” All of which, of course, are inaccurate. In honor of bisexual visibility, Nerve took a look back at landmark scientific investigations which discussed both the validity and invalidity of bisexuality through the decades. This is how we got from Alfred Kinsey to Tom Daley.

1886 — THE BISEXUAL PRESSURE POINT

The early case studies of Richard von Krafft-Ebing, author of the seminal work Psychopathia Sexualis, found that most bisexual-identifying men have sex with women due to societal pressures, but in truth have sexual attraction primarily to men. While his theories proved to be problematic, Krafft-Ebing’s findings would be utilized in research on homosexuality and bisexuality throughout the 20th century.

1940S — INTRODUCING THE KINSEY SCALE

Alfred Kinsey, 20th century sex researcher, declared in his 1948 work Sexual Behavior in the Human Male 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.” As for women, Kinsey found between 6 and 14% of women have homosexual experiences in their past. The results were groundbreaking. Kinsey had developed his own scale to accommodate his belief in sexual fluidity — ranging from 0 (heterosexual) to 6 (homosexual) and found many landed somewhere in between. Kinsey brought forth the notion of sexuality lying on a continuum. Bisexuality, instead of being directly in the middle of homosexuality and heterosexuality, could identify those with varying degrees of sexual attraction over time. “Males do not represent two discrete populations, heterosexual and homosexual,” he wrote. “The world is not to be divided into sheep and goats.” ...




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