An Introduction to “Bisexuality, Gender and romantic Relationships”

Emma Smith updates us on the findings of her recent research:

As we all know bisexuality is often a neglected, somewhat invisible identity in academic work on sexualities. Although, in recent years, there has been a minimal interest in bisexuality as a sexual identity it has thus far been nowhere near the extent to which research on heterosexuality and homosexuality has been conducted. It is for this reason that my research project entitled “Bisexuality, Gender and Romantic Relationships” explores the lived experiences of five bisexual women and their experiences of love and romantic relationships. This is an area which has been explored in the context of heterosexual relationships (Giddens, 1992), lesbian relationships (Rothblum, 1993) and gay relationships (Katz, 2003) but like in many other fields bisexuality and the relationships of bisexuals have been somewhat overlooked.

Bisexuality as a sexual identity has been a contested issue throughout society for many years; often being perceived as ‘greedy’, ‘indecisive’, ‘half gay’ etc. but this research project aimed to document the real life experiences of bisexual women in order to create and share a better understanding of what it means to be bisexual, the misconceptions surrounding bisexuality and romantic relationships and the issues
this can create in personal relationships as well as societal relationships.

Sexuality is often predominantly defined by the gender of a person’s romantic interests; by its definition identifying as a bisexual rejects this notion and therefore, the bisexual women interviewed choose partners based on individual traits regardless of gender. Although some traits could be stereotypically defined as masculine or feminine, the women involved in this research project agreed that gender is not a defining factor in searching for love and romantic relationships. However, the participants also agreed that their sexuality is often perceived by other people based on the gender of their current partner and this has been a recurrent theme throughout their entire adult life and has resulted in significant impact on both their romantic relationships and relationships between friends and family.

Although many organisations and events promoting the validity of bisexuality as an identity; most recently BiCon, BiFest and BiReCon have all been major contributors to promoting bi-friendly communities, it is clear from the experiences shared by the five self-identifying bisexual women interviewed that there are still many barriers to overcome in order to achieve acceptance of bisexuality as a valid sexual identity. However, it is also apparent that these women feel strongly about their identity and, despite the negative stereotypes that often come with it, are proud to be bisexual.

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