New Book Published: Surya Monro’s Bisexuality: Identities, Politics, and Theories

BiUK trustee and Purple List-er Surya Monro‘s new book Bisexuality: Identities, Politics, and Theories has just come out.

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Bisexuality has been largely erased from studies of sexuality and gender, and people who desire others of more than one gender often remain invisible. This book sets a new agenda for considering sexualities and genders, by focusing on the lives of people who are bisexual or who have other identities that are not heterosexual, lesbian or gay, in an international context. What are bisexual people’s lived experiences? How can these be understood using social and political theories? What are the implications of bisexuality for future theorising and research? In addressing these and other questions, this book maps out under-explored territory. It does so by looking at topical themes, including sex and relationships, community, the commodification of bisexuality, and activism. The book also shows how understandings of bisexuality can usefully inform the social sciences in areas such as identity construction, social inequalities, postcolonial relations, and citizenship.

“Despite the interesting discussion about sexual fluidity that has captured academic attention, sexual identity categories remain the basis of identity construction and politics for most of us in Euro-American nations. For students and professors wanting a wide-ranging and thoughtful overview of bisexuality, one need look no further then Surya Monro’s ambitious and engaging book.” -Steven Seidman, State University of New York, United States

“This is a must-read book for anyone in the field of sexuality. Not only is it the first academic book for years to deal with the woefully invisible topic of bisexuality, but it is also of much broader appeal given that it synthesises and integrates sexuality theories and research in a way that is both sophisticated and engaging. The global perspective of the book also sets it apart, and will provide a strong foundation for future scholarship and activism in this area to build on.” – Meg John Barker, The Open University, United Kingdom

Would you like to buy this book? Or are you able to support research into bisexuality and sexuality more broadly by asking your library to buy one? Please order it here.

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Bisexuality in UK news

This week bisexuality has been in the UK news as conservative MP, Daniel Kawczynski has come out as bisexual. Interestingly, for the first time it seems, Daniel himself came out to his association rather than being outed by the press having previously claimed a different identity. Also, the media reporting – and the response of his political party – have been positive, and have used the word ‘bisexuality’ rather than slipping into assuming this means that he is gay – as in the case of past media reporting of bisexual politicians.

Following the story, Radio 4 interviewed BiUK member, Edward Lord, about his own experience of being a bisexual public and political figure. You can read his blog about this, and follow links to the story and radio interview, here.

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On Monday this week, I accepted an invitation to be interviewed by Eddie Mair on Radio 4′s PM programme (minutes 46-52) to give a response to the decision of Tory MP Daniel Kawczynski to come out as bisexual.

I guess I was asked to appear because I, like Mr Kawczynski, am also an elected public official who happens to be bi, and who was profiled by Stonewall last year along with sixteen other lesbian, gay and bisexual people as a role model (see pages 26 and 27). Read more…

 

 

Sex, Politics, and Stereotypes: BiUK’s response to Julie Bindel, June 2012

In a recent article for the Huffington Post, Julie Bindel asks ‘What makes some of us uncomfortable with bisexual women’? She goes on to answer her own question by rehearsing a series of negative stereotypes about bisexual women, suggesting that they are apolitical, hedonistic, trendily transgressive sexual tourists, testing out their fantasies on unsuspecting lesbians and straight men. Interested only in the pursuit of pleasure, they are not to be trusted personally or politically, and indeed may not exist at all. If bisexual women had ‘an ounce of sexual politics’, she asserts, they would stop having sex with men and make a positive choice to identify as lesbians. Instead of this, they hedonistically pursue their sexual desires at the cost of their political integrity.

We would like to make two points in response to this article. First, a growing body of academic research and bisexual activist literature, both online and in print, and including work by Paula Rodríguez-Rust, cited by Bindel in her article, consistently demonstrates that for many people, identifying as bisexual is as much a matter of politics as it is of desire. As one bi activist told us:

Personally, I have definitely made a positive choice to identify as bisexual. I could easily identify as either lesbian or straight, but it’s politically important to me to identify as bi. My identity as a bi woman is grounded in my feminism, my conviction that gender and sexuality are socially constructed, and my commitment to LGBT equality. It’s deeply political- it’s just a different political position from Julie Bindel’s!

(Claire, bisexual activist)

Clearly, while many women who experience attraction towards people of more than one gender choose to identify as bisexual, many others choose to identify as lesbian or straight. All of these are valid choices, which may be made on the basis of deeply-felt political convictions. Bindel’s polemic, however, dismisses all viewpoints other than her own as apolitical, and swiftly resorts to name-calling. Bindel would most likely object, and rightly so, to a critique of radical feminism that relied for its credence on tired old clichés about cropped hair, boiler suits and man-hating, and dismissed lesbian separatism as an apolitical choice based on a failure to engage with the complexities of twenty-first century gender relations. It’s disappointing, then, that she dismisses political bisexuality in such terms.

Our second point is concerned with the impact on bisexual people of the publication of articles such as Bindel’s, which clearly promote biphobia. As we outlined in our recent publication The Bisexuality Report, research has repeatedly shown that bisexual people are more likely to experience depression, anxiety, self-harm and suicidality than lesbian, gay or heterosexual people, and that this may be linked to the negative stereotypes about bisexuality which circulate in popular culture. These statistics are of great concern to UK bisexual communities and their allies, as well as to mental health practitioners, and for these reasons, bisexuality and mental health is the theme of BiReCon, our biennial conference, in August this year.

By recycling harmful stereotypes about bisexuality in the defence of political lesbianism, Julie Bindel contributes to the biphobic cultural conditions that contribute to high rates of mental distress among bisexuals. By dismissing bisexuals as universally apolitical, she betrays her own ignorance of approaches to contemporary sexual politics other than her own.

Helen Bowes-Catton for BiUK

Read more:

New Statesman response