Necessary scientific study proves existence of bisexual men

Captain Jack Harkness kisses Rose and The Doctor from Dr WhoThis headline from the New York Times is full of win: “No Surprise for Bisexual Men: Report Indicates They Exist.” Thank you science!

A study released in 2005 suggested that male bisexuality didn’t exist – men who claimed to be bi were actually gay. I’m sure the fact the study authors advertised for participants in gay-oriented publications had nothing to do with that result. This time, researchers actually looked for bi guys. Radical idea, right?

And whaddaya know? The results were different!

In both studies, men watched videos of male and female same-sex intimacy while genital sensors monitored their erectile responses. While the first study reported that the bisexuals generally resembled homosexuals in their responses, the new one finds that bisexual men responded to both the male and female videos, while gay and straight men in the study did not.

Both studies also found that bisexuals reported subjective arousal to both sexes, notwithstanding their genital responses. “Someone who is bisexual might say, ‘Well, duh!’” said Allen Rosenthal, the lead author of the new Northwestern study and a doctoral student in psychology at the university. “But this will be validating to a lot of bisexual men who had heard about the earlier work and felt that scientists weren’t getting them.”

As Jim Larsen of the Bisexual Organizing Project and Ellyn Ruthstrom of the Bisexual Resource Center point out to the NY Times, the need to prove bisexuality exists through science is damn insulting, and the notion that sexual desire can be reduced to genital arousal is a super reductionist approach to the complicated reality.

Human sexuality doesn’t fit into tiny little boxes. In reality it’s complicated and messy and can’t be reduced to just the categories gay, straight, and bi. Which can be shown through the earth-shattering scientific evidence of real life human experience. As long as scientists keep trying to force people into their pre-assumed boxes we’re going to get messed up studies that fail to explore the actual fascinating world of human sexual diversity.

(Yes, fellow nerds, I know Captain Jack’s sexuality goes way beyond bi. I just think he’s pretty.)

Boston, MA

Jos Truitt is Executive Director of Development at Feministing. She joined the team in July 2009, became an Editor in August 2011, and Executive Director in September 2013. She writes about a range of topics including transgender issues, abortion access, and media representation. Jos first got involved with organizing when she led a walk out against the Iraq war at her high school, the Boston Arts Academy. She was introduced to the reproductive justice movement while at Hampshire College, where she organized the Civil Liberties and Public Policy Program’s annual reproductive justice conference. She has worked on the National Abortion Federation’s hotline, was a Field Organizer at Choice USA, and has volunteered as a Pro-Choice Clinic Escort. Jos has written for publications including The Guardian, Bilerico, RH Reality Check, Metro Weekly, and the Columbia Journalism Review. She has spoken and trained at numerous national conferences and college campuses about trans issues, reproductive justice, blogging, feminism, and grassroots organizing. Jos completed her MFA in Printmaking at the San Francisco Art Institute in Spring 2013. In her "spare time" she likes to bake and work on projects about mermaids.

Jos Truitt is an Executive Director of Feministing in charge of Development.

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  • Sam

    I freaked out a little when I realized that was, in fact, Captain Jack. Feminism + geekery = lovely.

  • emmie

    You know, to be honest I’m a little shocked about this. I thought male bisexuality was a known fact for literally as long as people have known about bisexual females. And why are they only singling out men? They might as well have been saying that female bisexuality doesn’t exist either, and that we are all really lesbians too. I never understood this idea to believe a woman when she says she’s bi, and yet they can’t do the same for men. That is why I’m very glad they did this study. An accurate study that is. And I hope LOT’S of people read it, especially people in the LGBT groups.
    Another reason why I’m surprised is because males in pop culture have been coming out as bisexual for years. Such males as David Bowie, Kurt Cobain, Alan Cumming, Anthony Rapp, etc. just to name a few, are all openly Bisexual.

    • lilia

      Unfortunately it happens to women too. When Jillian Michaels said she was bisexual everyone started calling her a lesbian and talking about why she didn’t come out sooner because as a LESBIAN she had an obligation to. Even on Jezebel they all called her a lesbian and those few that tried to correct them were ignored. Googling Jillian Michaels the second search suggestion that comes up is “Jillian Michaels gay”. One former Jez user said she would never date a woman who identified as bisexual because they’re just experimenting. Like women men who come out as bisexual are called gay (or sometimes straight depending on the situation) rarely ever bisexual. It doesn’t matter how many bi men or women come out if everyone calls them gay. This study won’t change anything, it seems like the official policy of the world is “bis don’t exist”. Biphobia and bi erasure are everywhere, and no one except bisexuals are working against it, but who’s going to listen to people who don’t exist? LGBT should just be called LGT since that’s all people mean when they say that.

    • Laury Rafsanjani

      Historically, there has been a lot of pressure on men: to suppress expression of emotion and happiness, to put on a tough façade, to not cry in public, etc. Men have been trained to NOT express happiness (or to not express “gayness”, a synonym for happiness). That’s the origin of the term “gay”; men have been killed, maimed, and tortured throughout human history for exhibiting happiness or gayness in their demeanors. They are considered womanly for being “gay” or happy, and then physically abused or killed. Throughout history, in many cultures, to this day. So, that’s what’s behind this stereotype that considered it impossible for men to be bisexual. When the rare man DOES express happiness, he is immediately labeled feminine and pigeon-holed into the gay label. Of course, this study shows how absurd that stereo-type is. It’s all part of the liberation of men; the allowance of men to express happiness. And it’s particularly related to men more than to women, because it is the men generally who have been punished for expressing traditionally-female traits (expressing happiness) more so than women being punished for expressing traditionally-male traits (i.e. suppressing expressions of happiness). Each gender has its historical travesties to climb out of. Happily, we are making progress for both genders finally.

  • anyadnight

    I don’t think this study had as much to do with “discovering” bisexuality as understanding it. I’ve studied human sexuality in the field of psychology and these studies are done on heterosexuals as well and the conclusion is not that women are into bestiality (one study found hetero cis women had measurable genital response to videos of chimp sex), but to understand arousal, human sexuality, and how it looks on a physical level when a person of any sexuality is aroused or excited by certain material– not (necessarily) because anyone doubted that different sexual identities exist. Bisexual women looked like a mix of hetero and straight women and it was surprising to researchers that bi men resembled gay men in their reactions to sexual material. How that data was interpreted was up to the news papers and individuals. I’m relieved that this follow up study has helped validate bisexual men where the previous study failed to due to selection bias.

  • felipesegundo

    Yay, I exist!