Hot Bisexuals, the Safety of Sexiness, and the Fetishization of Queer Women
“Wow. That’s hot.”
Would you like to know how many times I have heard someone say that to me when they find out I’m bisexual? I would love to tell you, but, at this point, I’ve lost count.
You ask pretty much any non-straight woman – I’m certain LGBTQ men deal with similar issues, too, but I can only talk from my own experience and it does not include that – and they’ll tell you the same thing. If you’re a woman who’s attracted to other women, someone is waiting to spring out from behind a couch and tell you that it gives them a boner.
And, you know, I’ve been thinking about this recently, what with it being Pride Month and all (hey, while you’re here and we’re on the topic of Pride, please consider donating to Akt, a UK charity that helps young LGBTQ people without homes find safety!). Because, as a bi woman myself, it’s something that I see brought up in conversations around queer women, especially bisexual and pansexual ones; that our sexuality is acceptable to certain people because they find it sexy.
For a long time, I really thought that was the best kind of acceptance that I could hope for. The “sex” in bisexuality always seemed to be at the front of the minds of most of the people I spoke to about it: so, you’d fuck her, right? And her? And her? What about her? She’s hot, right? Right? The acceptability of my attraction to women seemed to hinge on my ability to objectify them in a similarly misogynistic way as pop culture tells straight men to.
I was a fetish object, a perfect combination of “willing to fuck men” and “willing to indulge men’s fantasies about women having sex with women”. But, I reasoned with myself, people weren’t outrightly cruel to me about it. Being aroused by something is pretty much the same thing as acceptance, right? I spent so long being terrified to admit to my real feelings that even this specific level of acceptance seemed like a relief.
I’ve written before about my issues actually connecting with women in a meaningful way in a platonic sense, but it took even longer for me to let myself believe that I could fall in love with them. The thought of loving a woman, loving someone who wasn’t a man, of anything more than the Barbie Doll-inspired scissoring while a penis lurked ominously in the background felt like a threat to this tenuous acceptance that I had found in the culture around me. I had these intense crushes on women and other non-men that I almost resented for being more than just about sex; if I loved them, to the exclusion of men, did that mean that I was giving up any hope of being believed for who I was? Accepted for who I was? Being sexy was safe. Being in love was not.
It’s taken me a long, long time to come to terms with the fact that I am capable of being in love with people who aren’t men. Compulsory heterosexuality centered maleness at the core of all my romantic relationships, and anything outside of that was basically a game to be played in the meantime, until I could find a man who wanted me. It’s a safety measure queer women take to protect ourselves against hurt, to deny that we can love other genders just as well as we can love men, to turn ourselves into the fetish that we can be accepted as, because the reality isn’t nearly as clean-cut and sexy. But it doesn’t protect us against anything but the truth of the way we feel. And protecting against that doesn’t feel like much a protection at all.
When we treat bisexuality and other non-straightness as a kink, we’re telling people that their identities revolve around sex, first and foremost – and especially, sex for the male gaze, not for our own selves. And to put that first is to deny our capacity for deep and meaningful romantic relationships outside of heterosexuality. I’m not bisexual because I have the capacity to enjoy fucking people of various genders; I’m bisexual because I have the capacity to love them.
And maybe that isn’t as sexy as a couple of conventionally hot chicks snogging in a bra and panties – maybe it’s harder to accept as something beyond a kink, beyond a fetish. But it’s the truth.
If you’d like to read more of my writing on sexuality, take a gander at the links below, and please consider supporting me on Patreon!
Through a Glee, Darkly: Transphobia, Biphobia, and the LGBT Community
In and Out of the Closet: Bisexuality and Me
TV’s problem with the word “bisexual”
Inhumanity, Bisexuality, and American Horror Story: Hotel
Greey, Lying, or Slutty: Straight-Passing and Bi-Erasure