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There are at least four different meanings associated with the term bisexuality. Firstly, in early sexology bisexuality was conceived of as a primordial state of hermaphroditism prior to sexual differentiation. Secondly, bisexuality has been invoked to describe the co-presence of ”feminine and ”masculine psychological traits in a human being. Thirdly, bisexuality has provided the concept to account for people s propensity to be sexually attracted to both men and women. This is currently the most common understanding of bi-sexuality. Fourthly, bisexuality is frequently seen as a pervasive ”middle ground (of merged gender, sex or sexuality). This representation of bisexuality includes the notion that ”we re all bisexual, really, which may imply either an essential androgyny or a universal ”latent bisexuality in the sense of an abstracted potential to love people of both genders (or irrespective of gender) (see Hemmings 2002).
Bisexuality plays a rather paradoxical role in the history of sexuality. Although it has been integral, if not central, to most modern theories of sexuality, it has rarely been acknowledged or taken seriously in or for itself. Steven Angelides (2000) shows that notions of bisexuality have been foundational elements of an emerging economy of (hetero) sexuality in various scientific discourses throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, ranging from (evolutionary) biology and medical sexology to Freudian psychoanalysis.
Only the emergence of self-conscious and assertive bisexual social movement networks in many countries since the late 1970s has resulted in the consolidation of a bisexual identity. Bisexuals have been active in a range of social movements around gender and sexuality, in particular the feminist, lesbian and gay, S/M, polyamory, and queer movements. The marginalization of bisexuality in many environments (including gay male and lesbian feminist social and political spaces) has led many bisexuals to campaign around this aspect of their identity. Bisexual activists developed the concept biphobia to account for the specific forms of discrimination faced by bisexuals in various social contexts. Among others, biphobia entails a range of stereotypes such as the beliefs that bisexuals would be shallow, narcissistic, untrustworthy, morally bankrupt, promiscuous, incapable of monogamy, HIV carriers, fence sitters, etc. Biphobic representation intersects with other discriminatory discourses, in particular the ones around sexism, racism, and classism. It overlaps, but at the same time remains distinct from homophobia and lesbophobia.
- Angelides, S. (2000) A History of Bisexuality. University of Chicago Press, Chicago, IL.
- Hemmings, C. (2002) Bisexual Spaces: A Geography of Sexuality and Gender. Routledge, London.
- Atkins, D. (ed.) (2002) Bisexual Women in the Twenty-First Century. Harrington Park Press, New York.
- Klesse, C. (2007) The Spectre of Promiscuity: Gay and Bisexual Non-Monogamies and Polyamories, Ashgate, Aldershot.
- Rodriguez Rust, P. (ed.) (2000) Bisexuality in the United States: A Social Science Reader. Columbia University Press, New York.
- Storr, M. (1999) Bisexuality: A Critical Reader. Routledge, London.
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