The myth that men who claim to be bisexual are really just gay guys unable to come to terms with their sexuality has been given new life, thanks to a scientific study which questions the existence of male bisexuality.
The joint US and Canadian study measured the genital arousal patterns in men when shown images of men and women. The researchers found that men who identified as bisexual were exclusively aroused by only one sex or the other -“ usually by other men.
The news was reported in the international media last week, with some experts suggesting the study proved bisexuality didn’t really exist.
But Les Davidson, spokesperson for Bi Pride Australia, said the study failed to recognise there are many factors which define a person’s sexual orientation, not just arousal.
Social and emotional attraction are also essential ingredients that contribute to appeal, Davidson said. The claim that arousal defines men’s orientation and attraction suggests men are incapable of an emotional connection with another human being.
Jen Van-Achteren, also from Bi Pride, said it was dangerous to question our very existence and labelled the research crude and questionable.
Many bisexuals struggle to find their place in the world, where they find themselves rendered invisible most of the time by a society that seeks to define our sexuality by the gender of our partner, she said.
There is plenty of research, conducted by people such as Dr Alfred Kinsey and Dr Fritz Klein, which supports the existence and legitimacy of bisexuality as a valid orientation.
The recent study in question was carried out by a team of psychologists in Chicago and Toronto. The researchers recruited 101 young adult men, 33 of whom identified as bisexual, 30 as straight and 38 as homosexual, The New York Times reported.
Seated alone in a laboratory room, the men watched a series of erotic movies, some involving only women, others involving only men. Using a sensor to monitor sexual arousal, the researchers found what they expected: gay men showed arousal to images of men and little arousal to images of women, and heterosexual men showed arousal to women but not to men.
However, the men in the study who described themselves as bisexual did not have patterns of arousal consistent with their stated attraction to men and to women. Instead, three-quarters of the group had arousal patterns identical to those of gay men. The rest were indistinguishable from heterosexuals.
Regardless of whether the men were gay, straight or bisexual, they showed about four times more arousal to one sex or the other, according to Gerulf Rieger, the study’s lead author.
I’m not denying that bisexual behavior exists, the study’s senior author, Dr J Michael Bailey, said, but I am saying that in men there’s no hint that true bisexual arousal exists, and that for men arousal is orientation.
A number of other researchers said the study would need to be repeated with larger numbers of bisexual men before any clear conclusions could be drawn.