Note to the reader: all opinions expressed here are derived from personal experience. These issues are not universal.
Many of those who identify as bisexual will be intimately familiar with the stigma and fetishisation that comes hand in hand with our sexual identity. Whether you are out to friends and family or not, the world cannot seem to end its fixation with bisexuality, and specifically bisexual womxn. For many mxn, a bisexual womxn is the gateway to a fantasy land of hypersexuality where anything goes. But how did we end up here?
The nature of being attracted to two sexes opens those who identify as bisexual up to a lot of suspicion and misunderstanding from not only society but also from within the LGBTQ+ community. The public perceive us as either a threat to relationships or a sexual object, and oftentimes nothing more than that. Fetishisation can come from inside the dating scene, friends, strangers or even within, which makes it increasingly harder to make genuine platonic and romantic connections. Despite having ‘double the chances’, being an openly bisexual womxn can be one of the loneliest lives in existence.
You would think that online dating apps like Tinder would put an end to misconceptions and fetishisation. You can remove the awkward-coming-out-conversation from the equation. Instead, you chose your gender preferences and get swiping. Well, in an ideal world that would be the case. In my experience, as a bisexual womxn in the online dating market, Tinder is perhaps the worst place to look for a date. Tinder, for me, started as a laugh among my friends at college. It was the first time I had been single for about three years and I had been out as Bi to my friends for one year, so it was ‘about time I got myself out there’ apparently. It was a very foreign feeling at first. Having never actively pursued a womxn I did not already know, I wasn’t sure how to go about it, but as it turns out the womxn on the app were not what I should have prepared myself for.
While I was certainly no stranger to being fetishised because of my sexuality, dating as a bisexual adult was a different ball game. Apparently, the bi pride flag in my bio made it open season for the “less desirable” blokes of the tinder-sphere. Nine times out of ten, my sexuality would come up within the first ten minutes of talking, which was quickly followed by the big question: “I know this girl, she’s bi too, do you want to have a threesome?”. Most of the time, declining this inappropriate invitation would be met with little resistance, but more times than I would care to count these mxn turned nasty. A slew of bi-phobic insults would fill my inbox, accusations of being a “tease” and that they “knew” that they would be able to “turn me straight”. This would lead to a swift blocking on my behalf and I would move on with my day.
Conversations like this were frequent and exhausting but I couldn’t understand why. Why did my sexuality make me sexual without even trying? As a private person I do not tend to bring up sex during a first conversation, yet I was still a “tease” despite not initiating the topic. Was my sexuality an invitation to see me as a sexual object? Apparently, just because I like both sexes it meant that the sexual side of me was never turned off. If I was attracted to more people, surely that must mean I am simply horny all the time. The constant fetishisation of my sexuality led to a strange sense of paranoia about my appearance and the way I interact with the world. I would incessantly worry about whether I was being too friendly to anyone; I changed the way I dressed to be less ‘sexual’. I was internalising the narrative that somehow, I was ‘greedy’ or ‘slutty’ simply for existing as a bisexual person. But the conversation never changed no matter how much I changed myself. I thought the solution was simple: take my sexuality out of my bio or get better taste in mxn. So, I took my sexuality out of my bio for a while, but the harassment did not stop, it simply changed form.
Any bisexual person who has used an online dating app will know that there are a lot of couples looking for their ‘unicorn’. Naturally, this presents a lot of issues for those not looking for a threesome but are simply bisexual and looking for a sexual partner or a relationship. For me, these couples did not bother me as much as the mxn. Yes, they were a nuisance, but never particularly malicious. Still, the concept of the ‘unicorn’ bothered me for a long time, and still does to this day.
For those unfamiliar with the term, ‘unicorn’ is thrown around a lot in relation to bisexual womxn and is essentially the rarest of all womxn: the bisexual femxle who is open to sleeping with other couples. Maybe I should have been flattered that people saw my sexuality as such a rare thing that I was deemed valuable, but really it just filled me with an intense loneliness that I could not explain. I had the desire to make these genuine romantic connections, and whilst Tinder might not have been the best place to try, I felt like at every turn I was being sexualised to a point that I could no longer handle. I did not want to be a unicorn, I just wanted to be a human. Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with a couple wanting to explore their sex life with a third edition, but from my experience these types of couples were interested in what I looked like and my sexuality, not me as a person, and it hurt.
As a bisexual person whose preference is heterosexual relationships, this comes with a lot of baggage, but it made dating other womxn in the LGBTQ+ community almost impossible. Finding womxn on Tinder when your preference is ‘both’ is like finding a needle in a haystack at the best of times, but finding a womxn in the queer community willing to date a bisexual person who, at this point, had not had a lasting relationship with a womxn was like finding a needle in a pile of needles. There were a few exceptions, but overall womxn did not like the fact that I was still attracted to mxn. Other bisexual womxn wanted me to be more attracted to womxn than mxn; lesbian womxn did not want me to be attracted to mxn at all, but the common denominator was that my interest in mxn meant they did not trust me. I was circling back to the same stereotype: that bisexual people are greedy, just want sex, don’t make good partners, but do make good hook-up candidates. In the one place I thought I would find acceptance, I was still met with resistance and loneliness.
Tinder was, for a long time, an unmitigated disaster for my journey on accepting my sexuality. I did find the genuine connection I had been looking for and met a lovely mxn, who I now live with and have a very adorable fur-baby, and I’m happier than I ever thought possible. I have been able to accept my sexuality for what it is and live with the stigma surrounding it, but even my choice to be in a heterosexual relationship has brought issues. Other people think that my relationship is unstable, that I will leave my partner as soon as a womxn comes around the corner because I am still seen as a sexual object first, and a person second. My sexuality should not impact my ability to love and be committed to someone, yet the world around me won’t let it go and won’t let me succeed in love unless I ‘pick a side’.
– Aimee Fisher
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