All the latest Bi Thinking

The Journal of Bisexuality was unveiled at the sixth International BiCon in Manchester in 2000.  Since then it has presented bi research from all around the world as a respected academic journal.  

On the eve of BiReCon 2012, Tracey Plowman here summarises some of the articles from the twelve year anniversary special issue of the journal of bi research.

Experiences of a sexual surrogate partner in sex therapy.
Linda Poelzl provides the role of surrogate partner in three-way therapeutic set-ups of a client, a surrogate partner and a therapist. Poelzl takes part in affectionate and sexual activities with the client as they work through their feelings, as well as supporting them in exploring their sexuality in their community. This includes, for example, visiting LGBT book shops or trying out holding hands in public with a same-gender surrogate partner. Poelzl describes a client who is unhappy in her marriage with a man. The client gradually explores her feelings towards women and towards her own body, eventually reaching a bisexual understanding of her own sexuality and embarking on a relationship with a woman.

Online support for bisexual and gay men married to women.
This paper by Larry Peterson is a follow up to one he wrote on the same topic in the first volume of the journal.

Peterson ran an online group for men attracted to men while being married to women. The group aimed to provide a place where they could talk safely about their experiences and gain support from each other. He describes how some of the men in the group had found it difficult in their offline lives to build friendships with other men because of unhappiness or uncertainty about their own sexualities. He suggests that films like Brokeback Mountain, a mainstream film released since his original article, show an increased willingness to talk about the subject.

Masculinities and the invisibility of male bisexuality.
Erich Steinman begins by suggesting that bisexuality has the potential to challenge mainstream ideas about gender and sexuality. Steinman puts forward the argument that what he calls ‘behaviourally bisexual’ people should be the focus of research, rather than limiting participants to those who identify as bisexual. By behaviourally bisexual he means people who have sex and/or relationships with people of more than one gender. According to Steinman, this is the key to learning more about male bisexuality, because current ideas about masculinity mean men are less likely to identify themselves as bisexual compared with women.

A look at the last decade for British bi women and the role of the internet.
Sue George discusses the research that she has conducted and written about in this journal over the last ten years, beginning with a paper written about personal ads looking for bi sex. George says that the rise of the internet has changed personal ads completely, so that most people seeking bi sex will now look primarily online. This has had a knock-on effect of speeding up the process of finding a new sexual partner a lot; people can exchange several photos instantly, chat online, view many profiles of potential partners – all this took much longer before.

George then goes on to talk about two main ways that female bisexuality has gained exposure: in performing bisexuality publicly, for example two women kissing apparently for male enjoyment; and the growing idea that women are somehow ‘naturally’ bisexual (at the same time as the belief grows that men cannot be bisexual). Whether these forms of exposure reflect, or are experienced positively by, bisexual women as a whole is another question.

Bisexualities from a South African perspective.
Cheryl Stobie wrote her original article on this subject in response to the lack of discussion of bisexuality in South Africa, in particular the text Boy-Wives and Female Husbands which focuses on homosexuality in African cultures. Stobie highlights homophobia in several African countries, citing legal cases against individuals and examples of how (like elsewhere in the world) homophobia in those cultures puts people under pressure to conceal their sexualities.

South Africa’s constitution protects LGBT people, but there is still homophobia in the culture, and the government does not always condemn homophobic legislation or acts in fellow African countries because of a wish to maintain good relations with those countries. South Africa signed a United Nations amendment in December 2010 committing to protect vulnerable groups including those targeted due to their ‘sexual orientation’ for unlawful killing. The Lesbian and Gay Equality project has called on the government to ask fellow African Union member states to do more to protect LGBTI people.

Stobie goes on to discuss characters who appear bisexual in novels published since the shift to democracy in 1994. Although the depictions of these characters are in some cases very negative and stereotypical, she points to the complexity of the depictions and the publication of these novels at all as a form of progress. Stobie discusses how stereotypes of particular characteristics are used to suggest characters possess apparently contradictory qualities such as blackness vs. whiteness, femininity vs. masculinity, relationships with men vs. relationships with women.

See listings inside back cover for info on getting hold of the Journal.