Ask Page: Helping Bisexual Women Open Up

the bisexual pride flag - 3 horizontal stripes. top stripe is pink, middle stripe is purple, bottom stripe blue
Image by Peter Salanki / CC BY

Hi Page,

My wife and I opened our marriage a while ago. Well, opened it at least in theory. We haven’t found anybody yet. Maybe it’s because we live in a conservative area with a lot of religious people, but it’s really been hard finding a woman to date us both (I’m straight, my wife is bisexual). I get that they call it “unicorn hunting” for a reason and that poly women can be tough to find, but I keep running into something when looking for partners that frustrates me. 

It isn’t just that bisexual women are kind of rare. The ones I do meet are so guarded and defensive about their bisexuality. Why is this? Any thoughts? 

And how can I help bisexual women that I meet open up about their sexuality? It’s sad that they feel so bad about it. 

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First Things First: People Get a Right to Be As Open (or as Closed) About Their Sexuality as They Want to Be

So first off? I want to make one thing crystal clear: People get a right as to whether or not they want to open up about their sexuality, bisexual or not. If a bisexual women wants to be guarded about her sexuality, that’s 100% her right. Whether you or anyone else finds her decision “sad” does not change the reality that she gets to decide how open (or not) she would like to be.

People Who Are Safe (and Really Safe, Not “Safe”) Are the Ones Confided In

That said, if you want to increase your chances that people will open up to you about things (and this isn’t limited to just bisexual women and their sexuality, but pretty much everything), then the best tactic? Is to make yourself safe to confide in. Y’know, worthy of people’s trust.

“Nice” Guys Need Not Apply

And when I say that you need to make yourself safe to talk to, I fucking mean it. Practice listening without judgement. Be kind, opening, and accepting. Don’t pretend  to be safe or trustworthy just to get something out of it. Fake nice is really just selfish with a (thin) coat of paint slapped over it. Unfortunately for you? “Nice Guys” have become a sort of meme. Very common to find guys pretending to be “nice” in order to get laid. Guys who also lash out when they don’t immediately get their way.

I’ll admit, when I first saw this letter? I reflexively groaned. Because while you may not mean it that way, it’s very easy to read your question as “How can I get bisexual women to drop their inconvenient baggage and get to the hot screwing already?”

I decided to give you the benefit of the doubt and answer as though that’s not what you meant (and if you did, cut that shit out, please and thank you).

Instead, I offer the advice I just gave. And will attempt to give a brief overview of some very common things that bisexual women deal with that make them defensive.  Please note: This is not an exhaustive list. If you’re interested in getting a more comprehensive background on biphobia and other issues affecting bisexual people (and I hope you are), I recommend this blog at bisexual.org for further reading.

But here’s a quick and dirty rundown from me.

Playing for Both Teams? Means You Have Haters on Both Sides

One of the most difficult things about being bisexual is that you are criticized by pretty much everybody who isn’t bisexual.

There are many reasons for this. Some gay and lesbian folks feel that the existence of bisexuality invites criticism from homophobes that sexual orientation is a “choice,” as bisexual people seemingly “choose” the gender of their romantic partners (never mind that we can’t necessarily help who we fall in love, or lust, with).

Bisexual men are often stigmatized and threatened with (and/or subjected to) violence, targets of a lot of the homophobia that plagues queer men.

Bisexual women are told that they aren’t actually bisexual. They’re confused. And oversexed and dirty.

Some Assume You Can’t Commit, Others Exploit You

Monosexuals (i.e., people attracted to one gender, a term which includes gay and straight both) in general can be quite leery of bisexual folks’ attraction to people of another gender. I’ve had boyfriends basically in agony from this kind of jealousy. Worried I was going to leave them for a woman eventually. This fear ties into one of the core tenets of toxic monogamy: That our romantic partner must meet every emotional, social, and certainly sexual need that we have. So because they couldn’t be a man and a woman, they were going to lose me eventually (so not true).

And men who viewed my bisexuality as a positive? Often sought me out primarily for it. Wanna-be harem builders. Concerned more with the potential quantity of romantic partners than the quality of them. Plus, being liked for just one thing isn’t great. Reduced to a superficial accessory ripped from porn. Powerless, exploited — and not in a fun way. The lazy kind of objectification that’s yawn inducing and boner wilting.

And it was quite difficult for me to find queer women even willing to date me. Some viewed bisexuality a phase, the mark of the confused, and the concept of sexual fluidity terrifying. These women didn’t want to be there when I inevitably snapped out of it and opted for the 9-inch cock, schools in a good suburb, and picket fence.  Disappointing but understandable — I, too, had bisexual women leave me for men.

Like Most Double Agents, Bisexuals Are Often Invisible

Bi erasure is also a big problem. It’s tied into that sort of essentialism that I just talked about — the idea that people can really only be attracted to one gender and the attraction to another? Well, it’s something else. Not true attraction (whatever the heck that means). And unless someone has multiple romantic partners at the same time (hellloooo polyamory), people will look at the gender of your current partner for the clue regarding what you “really” are: gay or straight.

Seriously. When I married a man, the event was met with a lot of “Oh, you’re straight now!”

As if that simply Ctrl-Z-ed all of my previous same-sex relationships. (I’m a Kinsey 5, which means I’m bi but lean heavily towards the lesbian end of the things.)

And actually, that was one of the biggest upsides for me when I started having polyamorous relationships: I could be visibly bisexual. People stopped assuming I was either straight or gay (depending on who I was dating at time).

Light Illuminates and Chases Away Shadows, But It Can Also Be Blinding

Now, that’s not to say that there wasn’t stress involved with that change. The last time I had been visibly bisexual was when casually dating and having fun as a very young woman. It was exciting to return to a feeling of sexual authenticity, of wholeness. But it also was intense to reconcile something I had relegated to my “Wild Youth” with my status as a professional, a person with responsibilities.

While it can be liberating to “step into the light” and let your bi flag fly, it’s a little overwhelming. Like sunlight hitting your eyes after a long night.

I find a lot of folks need time to acclimate and adjust to a shift like that.

So what I guess I’m saying is maybe think of it less as a “sad” situation and more like exercising caution. Like bi women are wearing sunglasses while they adjust.

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2 Comments

  1. Recently when I decided to give OKCupid another go, I made the decision to take bisexual off as a descriptor (while maintaining queer and pansexual as labels). That is, despite the fact that I identify as bisexual. Why? Because unicorn hunters use it as a term to search for women they want to date, and I don’t want anything to do with them. As a result of removing that label of bisexual (and also making myself invisible to straight people), I’ve had a lot fewer couples checking out my profile and contacting me about “joining” their relationship.

    So no, I don’t want to be known as bisexual because then unicorn hunting couples feel like my bisexuality means that I’d automatically be interested in them. And no, letter writer, the first time you say, “My wife and I are looking for a woman to date us both,” any sensible bisexual woman is going to bolt. There’s no reason for them to do anything but get the hell out of your way because then they know that you want something from them.

    The other problem that didn’t get mentioned is that frequently it’s the men driving these desires to have a triad. As in, it’s often painfully obvious that the woman is just going along with the triad because the man really wants it, rather than because she wants it. Performative lesbianism(the idea of being sexual with a woman for the purpose of the male gaze) is also a thing, and a lot of queers get really really squicked out by it. So bisexual women are going to be extra cautious of the male half of the couple, no matter what.

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