Over the last year, XUP Jr. and I have had quite a few discussions about bisexuality. As I’ve mentioned before, she goes to an arts high school. The kids have to audition to get into one of the five arts streams – visual art, drama, dance, music or literary arts – and the competition to get accepted into the program can be tough. So, the school is a little different from most high schools. The kids are very motivated to be there and the whole school is a more open-minded, warmer and accepting environment than perhaps the average high school.
Now, whether the arts attracts people with a greater variety of sexual orientations because people with artistic inclinations are more liberal and tolerant or whether people with different sexual orientations are more artistically inclined, I don’t know.
I do know that at XUP Jr.’s school a huge percentage of the boys (who are outnumbered 2 to 1 by the girls) identify as gay or bisexual and many of the girls identify as lesbian. The rest of the girls either fight over the 5 boys in the school who still claim to be heterosexual or spend a lot of time considering their options.
XUP Jr. has been interested in some of the “bisexual” boys, but has found that they seem to only hang around girls when they’re between boyfriends. And this, among other things, has lead to the bisexuality discussions.
“Can someone actually be bisexual,” she asks? “What do you think I am?” she asks. “I like boys, but they’re all gay and I have a lot more fun with my girlfriends, but half of them say their lesbians or bisexual. Can I just be asexual for now? Why did you let me go to this school, anyway?”
I think all mammals have the potential to respond sexually on some level to some members of both sexes. I think all humans feel some emotional and/or sexual attraction to both men and women.
According to some research at the Harvard School of Public Health, in 1994, 20.8% of men and 17.8% of women admit to same-sex sexual attraction/behaviour at some time in their lives.
The famous Dr. Alfred Kinsey, whose research determined that 10% of the American population was homosexual, also determined that sexuality wasn’t a static idea, but rather a somewhat fluid notion where people could be rated on a scale of zero to six, depending on their level of sexual/emotional orientation:
- 0: Entirely heterosexual.
- 1: Predominantly heterosexual, only incidentally homosexual.
- 2: Predominantly heterosexual, but with a distinct homosexual history.
- 3: Equally heterosexual and homosexual
- 4: Predominantly homosexual, but with a distinct heterosexual history
- 5: Predominantly homosexual, only incidentally heterosexual
- 6: Entirely homosexual
- He later added a 7 for “asexual”
I don’t even think we need a label or a “definition” of bisexuality. I think most people have a preference for one gender over another, but some do not deny their attraction for the other gender and some act on that attraction sometimes.
I also think that time and experience can shift attraction levels toward one gender over another. I also think that attraction, for people open to relationships with both genders, is often more dependant upon the person’s personality or other attributes rather than on the person’s gender.
A study published in the August 2005 Psychological Science journal explores bisexuality in men:
In experiments, they measured genital and self-reported sexual arousal to male and female stimuli, and found self-identified bisexual men did not have a strong genital arousal to both male and female sexual stimuli. Instead, they had strong genital arousal to one sex or the other, but not to both. Most of the time, bisexual men had a genital arousal pattern similar to that of gay men, with stronger genital arousal to male stimuli.
I’m not aware of a similar study done on self-identified bisexual females, but I expect the results would be very similar — to the extent that I think, bisexual females would also display a stronger genital arousal to male stimuli.
I could be wrong. What do you think?
In any case, as confusing and often frustrating as all these questions and uncertainties might be for XUP Jr. and her peers right now, I think the teen years are perfect time to explore these questions and uncertainties. Much better, for instance, than finally being able to really think about your own sexuality when you’re 40 and have a couple of unhappy marriages behind you.
I think it’s great that teenagers are able to be this open with their peer group and discuss these things and not feel like they’re being channeled into some lifestyle that may not feel right for them. Or that they have to hide and agonize about their non-mainstream thoughts, ideas and feelings.
So I’m glad I let XUP Jr. to go to this school, despite the dating challenges. I don’t think that spending her teenage years not being pawed by jocks is necessarily a bad thing.