You may not think you’ve known a lot of bisexual women, but chances are, you have. Surveys from 2014 and 2015 conclude that as much as 4% of the U.S. population identifies as bisexual, and as women make up half the world’s population, it’s not unreasonable to assume that 2% of all Americans are bisexual women. That means roughly 6,481,879.1 Americans are bisexual women–and chances are, you know at least some of them, even if you don’t think you do. A lot of LGBT people are closeted or don’t feel comfortable openly discussing their sexuality, and with good reason. Equality has come a long way, but there’s still a lot of stigma attached to Polysexuality. People who are attracted to more than one gender face discrimination from both straight and gay communities, and are usually ascribed personality traits that are simply not true. Straight and gay people alike often think that bisexuals “need to make up their mind” and are only in a transitional phase from straight to gay. People also tend to believe that bisexuals are “partiers” who have a lot of sex and are more likely to cheat on their partners. None of these stereotypes are true of the bisexual community, but oftentimes people let their preconceived notions take control.
When you interact with bisexual women, you may be unaware of your own preconceived notions about bisexuality directing the conversation. While you certainly don’t mean to offend or upset these women, your unknowing microaggressions can discourage and repel them. Because not all bisexual women are comfortable talking about it, and because you don’t want to upset the bisexual women in your life, here is a list of 20 things bisexual women want you to know.
20. They Don’t Want To Have A Threesome
This is one of the most common–and most problematic–stereotypes about bisexual women. Just because they are attracted to more than one gender does not mean they want to have threesomes all the time, or even at all. Women in general very rarely want to have threesomes, and bi women are no different. Bisexual women dread getting on dating apps because it’s only a matter of time before a couple propositions them. Bi women are hesitant to be open about their sexuality even in person because many of them can, and will be, propositioned by their own friends. What’s upsetting is that this is especially prevalent with women; bisexual men are not propositioned for threesomes nearly as often.
And sure, there are plenty of bisexuals out there who enjoy threesomes, but there are many more who would never even consider it. So please, if you and your girlfriend decide you want to get freaky, do not proposition your “Token Bi Friend.” She will not appreciate it.
19. It Isn’t Just A Phase
LGBT people are often told that their sexuality or gender identity is just a phase they will grow out of. This is especially true while in college; women are expected to have their “slutty college years” where they “get it out of their system.” While it’s true that a lot of women do experiment and explore their sexuality during college, and that many of them only become romantically involved with men after they graduate, it’s not just a phase. Some women experiment and find that dating women just isn’t their thing, or that they aren’t as attracted to women as they thought they were. This doesn’t make them temporarily bi, it just means they’re questioning. A lot of women also find that while they are definitely attracted to more than one gender, they are put under limitations in the adult world that they did not have in college; it’s one thing to date girls in college, but it’s quite another to date a woman when you work for a conservative but highly regarded company that will make or break your future.
18. Bisexual Is Not A Gateway Sexuality
Just as bisexuality isn’t a temporary phase, it also isn’t a transition from straight to gay. Some people say that bisexuals have one foot in the closet and one out, or that they can’t make up their mind. This is because a lot of people view sexuality as a black and white concept; you’re either attracted to men, or you’re attracted to women, and if you’re bi, it’s because you’re transitioning from one to the other. The problem is that sexuality is not black and white. There’s no rule that says you “have” to only be attracted to one gender, just like there isn’t a rule that says you “have” to only be attracted to the opposite gender. Bisexuals are attracted to more than one gender because they find more than one gender attractive.
And sure, a lot of gay people do temporarily identify as bi while they try to sort out their feelings, and that’s fine. That doesn’t mean that’s the case for every single bisexual person, or even most bisexual people. For most of them, it’s a permanent part of their lives.
17. Bisexuals Are Not More Likely To Cheat
This stereotype is old and tired. Bisexuals are no more likely to cheat than any other orientation; there has never been any evidence of it, yet hundreds of people labor under the delusion that if they date a bisexual, that person will inevitably cheat on them, but specifically with another gender. Straight men and lesbians alike say that they would never date a bisexual because they’re afraid they’ll cheat on them with, well, a lesbian or a straight man. Straight men rarely voice the concern that a bisexual partner would cheat on them with another man, nor do lesbians seem convinced that a bisexual partner would cheat on them with another lesbian. Just because bisexuals find men and women attractive does not mean they need to be with both at the same time; bisexual is not synonymous with polyamorous, but we’ll get into that later. Straight men and lesbians rarely use “I’m afraid she’ll cheat on me” as justification for not dating straight or lesbian women, and it’s unfair that they do it to bisexual women. Bisexuals are only as likely to cheat as any other sexuality.
16. Bisexual Women Are More Likely To Be Assaulted
A 2010 survey funded by the CDC shows that bisexual women have a 46.1% chance of being forcibly raped, which is 2.6 times higher than straight women and 3.5 times higher than lesbian women. Additionally, bisexual women have a 74.9% chance of being coercively raped or assaulted, which is 1.7 times higher than straight women and 1.6 times higher than lesbian women. 49.3% of bisexual women report intimate partner violence, and 61.1% of bisexual women have been raped, assaulted, and/or stalked.
Why does this happen? Partly because bisexual women are hypersexualized and because their partner or rapist may feel that they are entitled to hypersexuality that isn’t there. A lot of these assaults are also corrective rape, meaning the assailant believes the victim to have something wrong with her that can only be fixed by forcing her to have sex with them. People like the ones in entry #17, who feel that their bisexual partner is more likely to cheat on them, are usually the ones assaulting bisexual women because they want to ensure total dominance.
15. Everyone Has Different Preferences
Some bi women prefer men to women, some prefer women to men. Some prefer cis to trans, trans to cis, other bisexuals to straight men, etc., etc. Some bisexuals love everyone equally, which is rare but does happen. The point is that everyone is different. Just because one bi woman only dates women doesn’t mean all bi women only date women. Some bi women don’t even know what their preferences are and they’re still figuring it out. In any case, it’s rude to ask “so do you only date girls or what?” Some bi women are very open about their preferences but a lot are not and will get annoyed if you ask them. If you are sexually or romantically interested in a bisexual woman but she hasn’t told you her preferences, the best thing to do is be honest and tell her how you feel and let things progress from there. This is a pretty good rule of thumb with straight women, too, by the way.
14. Bisexual Is Not Synonymous With Polyamorous
Being bisexual does not mean someone is polyamorous and vice-versa. Bisexuality is the attraction to more than one gender; polyamory is being in a relationship with more than one person. While some bisexuals can be polyamorous and some polyamorous people can be bisexual, one does not necessarily preclude the other. Many bisexuals want to be in monogamous relationships- a concept that seems to confuse non-bisexuals. The attraction to more than one gender does not mean bisexuals have to date more than one gender at all times. Look at it this way: a guy can like blondes and brunettes, but that doesn’t mean he has to date both of them at the same time. He’s dating a blonde right now, and maybe later he’ll date a brunette, but just because he’s attracted to blondes and brunettes doesn’t mean he has to date them simultaneously.
13. Stop Asking If Their Partners Are “Okay”
When bisexuals enter a monogamous relationship, one of the first questions they get is, “Is your partner okay with your sexuality?” Conversely, when people in monogamous relationships out themselves as bisexual, a lot of people ask, “And your boyfriend is okay with that?”
Here’s the thing: if a bisexual person feels comfortable telling you, chances are they have already told their partner. It’s not like bisexuals are all polyamorous and are planning to surprise their partner by throwing another person into the equation. Presumably, their partner knows this, and they also know that their partner is not likely to cheat just because of their sexuality. When people ask, “Is your boyfriend okay with that?” What they are really asking is, “Why are you in a committed, monogamous relationship and not sleeping with other people?”
Here’s another way to look at it: if you are straight, you are always going to be straight. If you start dating someone of the opposite gender, no one would ask you, “Is your girlfriend okay with you being straight?” You’re not going to cheat on your girlfriend just because you find women attractive.
12. Bisexuals Do Not Lose Their Orientation Based On Who They’re Dating
One of the biggest questions bisexuals get is, “Oh, so you’re straight now?” A person’s sexuality does not change when they enter a relationship. A straight man is always straight even when he’s dating a woman. A gay man is always gay even when he’s dating a man. Bisexuals are always bisexual even when they are dating, well, anyone. A bisexual woman dating a straight man does not make her straight, just like dating a lesbian does not make her a lesbian; it just means that she’s dating one of the people who falls into the spectrum of her attraction. People seem to expect that bisexuals want to constantly date multiple genders at the same time, but no one expects straight men and lesbians to date multiple women at the same time just because they’re attracted to women.
11. There Are Other Kinds of Polysexuality
Polysexual is simply defined as attraction to more than one gender. Bisexuality falls under the polysexual umbrella because it is an attraction to more than one gender. All bisexuals are polysexual but not all polysexuals are bisexual. Some polysexuals identify as pansexual. The term bisexual was created to refer to the two points on the gender binary–male and female. But as time has passed and our understanding of gender and sexuality has evolved, some people felt that bisexuality was exclusive to non-binary or genderfluid folks. They came up with the word “pansexual,” which means attraction to all genders. Recently, however, the bisexual community has argued that bisexuality does not only mean attraction to men and women; it can mean attraction to more than one gender. As we will cover in entry #9, not every bisexual has a standard definition of what their sexuality means to them; it’s different for each person. Some bisexuals feel that their sexuality is the same as pansexuality; some bisexuals feel that it is limited to cis men and cis women.
10. Stop Asking What Percent Gay They Are
A lot of people tend to look at bisexual as being part gay and part straight, when really bisexual is neither of those things. The very essence of bisexuality is that it isn’t gay or straight; it’s its own thing. Straight people like to ask “how gay are you and how straight are you?” Or “are you 50% gay and 50% straight, or is it a 60-40 deal?” Bisexuals are 100% bisexual. What people really mean when they ask “what percent gay are you?” is “what are your preferences?” And as we’ve covered already, that is just rude to ask. When you ask what percentage gay a bisexual is, it’s diminutive and shows that you can only think in black and white terms of gay or straight. Sexuality is fluid and can’t be reduced to something as simple as 50% one thing and 50% another. Bisexuals are not part of a sexuality- they are a whole sexuality.
9. Some Bisexuals Have Different Definitions of Bisexual
The definition of bisexual is actually more fluid than you think. Traditionally, bisexuals were people who were attracted to cis men and cis women, but as our understanding of gender and sexuality evolve, so do our definitions. While some people believe bisexual only means attraction to cis men and cis women, many more are starting to believe that bisexual means attraction to more than one gender, not necessarily cis and not necessarily two genders. Some bisexuals claim that they are only attracted to women and genderfluid/non-binary people and not attracted to men. Some bisexuals claim that they are only attracted to cisgender people, and some claim that they are attracted to everyone regardless of gender. Every definition is valid; there is no “right” or “wrong” way to be bisexual. If a bisexual tells you they are only attracted to genderfluid people, they are still a valid bisexual because this is how they experience attraction and this is the identity they feel comfortable using.
8. They Are Not Doing It For Attention
One of the things bisexuals, particularly bisexual youths, hear most often is, “You’re just doing it for attention.” People, particularly parents, think a young person who has come out as bisexual is only doing it to upset their parents. While there have probably been some teenagers who chose rebellious ways to come out, bisexuality is not a goth phase; it is not something the person will grow out of when they’ve grown up or “calmed down.” People prefer to see bisexuality as something that temporary because they have preconceived notions of what bisexuality really is; many people see it as being attention-seeking and sexually promiscuous and, most importantly, not a real sexuality. It’s easier for people to dismiss bisexuality as a rebellious phase than to consider that their loved one may actually be bisexual. No matter what that person may be going through, if someone comes out to you as bi, it is very, very unlikely that they are lying.
7. They Don’t Care If You Find It Sexy
Coming out or even just mentioning sexuality is not easy for most women. They never know what people are going to say or how they’re going to react. It’s always nice to reassure these women that you aren’t biphobic, but for a lot of men, that means fetishizing and hypersexualizing their orientation. A lot of bi women get told, “Wow, you’re bi? That’s so hot.”
While this may sound like a compliment, the truth is that it is one of the last things bi women want to hear. Bi women are fetishized and hypersexualized constantly, and when they tell someone about their sexuality it’s probably because they trust them or want to keep them in their life. Don’t betray that trust by sexualizing them. If a woman comes out to you as bi, don’t make it about how hot you find it; let her know that you support her.
6. Queer and When To Use It
Many bisexual women refer to themselves as queer. Initially intended as a homophobic slur, much of the LGBTQ+ community has taken back the term to mean anyone who isn’t straight. Not only is this a matter of pride (ba-dum-chee) for many members of the community, but this is also a good, general term for folks who haven’t fully figured out their sexuality yet.
Here’s the thing: it’s not okay for straight people to use the word queer. Straight people have historically used the word “queer” as a slur and it will be perceived that way for a long time. So just because a woman says that she’s queer does not make it okay for a straight person to also call her queer. Even if some of the non-straight people you know say they don’t mind you using the word, many more will be offended if you do.
5. No, You May Not Watch
Please, please, please, please do not ask a woman if you can watch her have sex with another woman.
Just because you are used to girl-on-girl adult entertainment (which, for the record, is nothing close to what actual girl-on-girl looks like) does not mean women are okay with you watching them. Sure, there are some ladies who may be into the idea, but they are statistical outliers; if you ask any given woman if you can watch her have sex with another woman, it is very, very unlikely that she is going to say “sure, why not?” Whether this is a one-night stand or a couple in a committed relationship, they do not want you watching them get it on, so don’t even ask.
4. Gay, Not Gay
Much of the LGB community has been grouped into one big heterogeneous group referred to simply as “gay”. Not unlike the queer label, much of the community has embraced the term because it’s less complicated (sort of) than saying “I’m bisexual” or “I’m asexual” or “I find everyone attractive and I don’t know what to do about it”. And just like with the word “queer”, not every gay person is okay with straight people calling them gay. Not because gay is a slur, but the media tends to call all non-straight characters “gay” whether or not they really are. The word “bisexual” is almost never used, and when it is, it’s hypersexualized or diminished. Take, for example, Piper Chapman on Orange is the New Black. Even when it was pretty obvious to fans that Piper was bi, other characters would say that she didn’t want to label herself or was “confused”.
3. Bisexuals Aren’t Exotic
Straight people love to say that bisexuals are “exotic”; bi women have heard this word way too many times for it to be a compliment anymore. While it’s true that bisexuals are a minority group and not as easy to find as, say, heterosexuals, it’s not as if bisexuals are impossible to find, either. You probably know more bisexuals than you think you do, so when a woman comes out as bi, it’s frankly a little ignorant to say “you’re bi? That’s so exotic!” because it shows you don’t know how many bisexuals are actually in your life.
The word “exotic” also has sexual undertones; people often use it to ask if bi women are kinky or want to have threesomes. When a straight man says “you’re bi? That’s so exotic,” bi women usually anticipate some kind of question about sex. So please, if a woman comes out to you as bi, don’t tell her you find it exotic.
2. Coming Out Is Hard
For reasons you’ve probably figured out by now, coming out is hard for bi women. There are so many misconceptions and stereotypes about bisexuality that it’s not only annoying to come out, but it can also be dangerous. It’s for this reason that some bi women avoid coming out or hide their sexuality so that they won’t have to deal with the possible backlash. Coming out is not just saying “Just so you know, I’m into men and women,” it’s saying “Hey, I’m into men and women (or whoever) and because of it people treat me differently. I trust you not to treat me differently, and that’s why I’m telling you.” This is something that takes courage and as such, it should be shown some respect. Instead of telling her you think it’s exotic or sexy or asking if you can watch a threesome, you should let her know that you deserve the trust she placed in you.
1. Talk it Out
If after reading this and doing your own research you’re still not sure what to say or how to act around bi women, just talk to her/them. They are still people and just because they’re bi doesn’t mean they’re unapproachable. Bi women don’t expect their non-bi friends to understand everything about them, and some may be grateful for the opportunity to talk–within reason, of course. While it’s all well and good to ask “do you ever see yourself getting married and having kids?”, it’s obviously offensive to ask “do you like to have threesomes?” Bi women often have their voices silenced, so getting a chance to talk about their sexuality can be really nice. Though it should go without saying, just remember to be respectful of their boundaries and not get too invasive. If you’re worried your question is offensive, it’s probably offensive and you may want to rethink it. Otherwise, be kind and supportive!