Bisexuality & Sexual Experience

BCN cover image

This originally appeared in BCN issue 120

Lately I’ve been thinking about the pressures and prejudices bisexuals can face from others and other bis regarding sexual experience.

I’m sure many people have had feelings of not being a “proper bisexual” at some point. This could stem from a variety of different reasons, including if they haven’t had sex with a man and a woman and/or they’re not sexually experienced in general. Some people feel like they don’t fit in with the bi scene as a result or feel like frauds at events like BiCon. Seeing so many sex related workshops in the BiCon programme or seeing an entire table full of safer sex supplies there can be an incredibly daunting and depressing sight. For some it can feel like a lot of attendees are having sex or talking about their sexual experiences. This is a great thing – but upsetting when people assume you’ve been having sex too or can contribute to the conversation. Some people feel ashamed and afraid to tell anyone about their sexual history and this can be an incredibly isolating experience. There is also the fear of being found out. So much of the prejudice bisexuals face is based on how much sex we are supposedly having with everyone, so when you’ve had little to no sexual experience with men and/or women this prejudice can be especially painful. It can also make it harder to face the “Well if you’ve never had sex with a man/woman then how do you know you’re bisexual?” questions. Asexuality and the fact that gender isn’t neatly divided into two categories anyway also clash with these kinds of binary gendered based prejudices in our society.

Depending on what you would define as sex I have experienced it “only” twice in the quarter of a century I’ve been alive; once with a man and once with a woman. (I’m female, so here I’m classifying it as vaginal sex with a penis or a strap on for the sake of simplicity and because it’s what society seems to count as “proper sex”. Though looking at what people would or would not classify as sex or virginity is a whole other complicated topic in itself!)

It wasn’t until I was in my mid 20s that both of the above experiences happened so I definitely had my moments of not feeling like I fit in with other bisexuals and not feeling like a real bi woman. A lot of bisexuals seemed to be having a lot of sex, and I wasn’t one of them. For years I felt really embarrassed and ashamed. I didn’t have a clue about sex except for what I’d read in books on seen in TV shows or movies. At times I was terrified because it felt like something that was never going to happen for me. Thankfully this year I’ve been able to mostly come to terms with my sexual experience (or lack of) and this was partly helped by an increase in self-esteem and partly helped by talking to others at BiCon who have been in a similar position (unintended pun) or who have felt a similar way.

The first thing I realised was that I need to stop worrying about it. That way of thinking only leads to feeling worse. It will happen. It just might take a bit longer for some of us, and that is assuming we want it in the first place. I also realised that I’ve stuck to my own values of not having sex until I’m ready and I want to and that’s nothing to look down on. Learning that there are a lot of other people out there who feel the same also helps. We may feel like we’re the only ones but we’re not! Many bisexuals have not had sex with more than one gender – and that’s normal and natural and OK! You don’t have to! Many bisexuals have more experience with members of the opposite sex and many find it incredibly difficult to meet and have relationships with members of the same sex. That’s normal and natural and OK too!

Of course the main thing here is that it doesn’t matter who you’ve had sex with or what the genders of the person you’ve had sex with are anyway. It doesn’t matter how much or how little sex you’ve had. More or less isn’t automatically better. When I feel negative about my lack of sexual experience I know it’s only because of what we’ve been brought up to think and believe. Once you start thinking about it, the labels and values that surround sex in our society are absolutely ridiculous anyway. We feel pressured to lose our virginity at a young age and judge people by when they first had sex. We’re all supposed to be having a lot of sex otherwise we’re considered frigid losers. Yet if we have too much or sleep with too many people then we’re bad sluts and whores and can never completely redeem ourselves. Who decides what is too much or too little anyway? Why does sex matter so much in our society?

So apart from not worrying about it and knowing that others feel the same, is there anything else we can do? Well I would ask people not to make assumptions about people’s sexual history. When someone has done this it’s been very damaging for me. For example one lesbian told me I should come to a strap on workshop and share my tips because I know a lot about cock. I may have been in my mid 20s but I’d never had sex with a man at the time. I felt humiliated. I didn’t know what to say to her. These kinds of assumptions also make it harder to have sex when you want to because people think that as a bisexual you’re so experienced and assume that you’re great at sex as a result. That immense pressure makes you panic and avoid having sex with them completely in case they think you’re rubbish, find out your terrible secret and laugh at you. Plus what if they went on to tell everyone else!? Also the older you get the harder it becomes to tell people, because others assume you first had sex when you were a teenager rather than a few months ago or that you’ve never had sex.

There so many different reasons for lack of sexual experience that include past abuse, health problems, mental illness, disability, celibacy, asexuality, scars or skin diseases, finding intimacy difficult, waiting for the right person or simply not having the opportunity to.  Yet all of these things are virtually impossible to talk to anyone about. If  people didn’t assume anything and accepted people as they are then it gives people like me the space to relax, be themselves and have fun having sex if they’re ready and they want to. (cont, ocer the page below BiCon piece)(cont from previous right-hand page) It would be OK if we’ve not had a lot of sex before. Or if we’re painfully shy. Or if we’re covered head to toe in psoriasis. Or if… oh, you get the idea. The key thing is we would be able to tell other people and know we wouldn’t be judged because of it.

So whilst I have not yet found the confidence to publish this with my name attached, I hope that talking about my experiences in public has helped other people who’ve felt the same. I also hope it has made people who haven’t a bit more aware of the problems we go through.

If you’d like to send me any messages or any feedback then please do so via the editor. Thank you.