My Experience of Bisexuality

I wanted to follow up Kyle’s excellent recent post on the complexity of sexual identity with my own account of bisexuality. I’m certainly not trying to characterize Tom Daley or anyone else, but I wanted to give some picture of what it could mean for a man to have a bisexual orientation.

There’s a fairly widespread belief that bisexuality doesn’t really exist in men. From what I can tell, there are a variety of reasons for this belief. I think one of the more common reasons is that it is quite common for gay men to initially identify as bisexual. That leads to the suspicion that any man claiming to be bisexual simply hasn’t been able to accept himself as gay yet. Some skepticism stems from a 2005 study titled “Sexual Arousal Patterns of Bisexual Men” that failed to find evidence that male bisexuality actually existed, although a 2011 study titled “Sexual Arousal Patterns of Bisexual Men Revisited” using the same methodology showed a different result. I was always puzzled by the 2005 study, given that my experience contradicts the conclusion many people were drawing from it. There is also need for caution in interpreting the results of both studies, because the methodology used simply involved measuring genital arousal in response to certain forms of pornography. Thus, it only measured one part of attraction under artificial laboratory conditions and may not be reflective of someone’s full experience of sexual orientation. Given that I’ve never used porn, I’m actually not certain what results I would have gotten under the studied conditions.

Perhaps in part due to all that suspicion, I’ve often questioned my own sexuality, wondering whether I was gay or straight. (For a lot of that time, I wouldn’t have actually been comfortable using the word “gay,” but I’ll use it here since it’s a convenient shorthand.) Not only do I not remember who my first crush was, I don’t even remember which gender. For as long as I can remember having anything resembling romantic or sexual attraction, I’ve had some degree of attraction to people of each sex. By this I don’t mean that I am particularly attracted to everyone by any means, but rather that some of the people I find myself particularly attracted to are men and some are women. Although I’ve never actually had sex or even looked at porn, significant aspects of my experience set me apart from most gay and straight people.

I was initially quite bothered (to put it lightly) to discover my feelings for other guys, especially given what I had always heard about gay people. I knew that there was something I felt that wasn’t normal. Sure, there was always the desire for friendship and bonding, but this was more than that. Guys didn’t usually find themselves tempted to stare at attractive men, for instance. Or aside from the physical, they didn’t seem to have the same kind of intense draw towards particular guys, especially not to a degree that rivaled any feelings for the opposite sex. However, those were all things I was going through even pretty early in puberty. I also did have many times when I had distinctly sexual desires, especially when I was really crushing on a particular guy. I knew that describing myself as “straight” wouldn’t be honest. So did that mean that I was “gay?”

Here’s the thing: I eventually realized that “gay” wouldn’t be accurate, either. Though I won’t go into too many details, when it comes to desire for actual sexual activity and sexual aspects of the human body, my desires tend to be more straight than gay. I have a desire to be married to a woman, a desire which includes a drive to have a sexual relationship. If I do get married to a woman, consummating the marriage is something I really look forward to, not something I have any worries about being able to do. In that respect, my experience is markedly different than that of most gay guys. And the heterosexual side of my experience is certainly not just about sex. Experiencing significant attraction to a particular woman is something that is also pretty common for me, and always has been. Sometimes it’s a she that I’m really crushing on. When people have asked me who I liked, I wasn’t being dishonest by naming females (though I was often omitting significant facts).

I’ll close with a couple of observations that often seem to be missing from discussions of bisexuality. One is that bisexuality is often a stable orientation. It’s not as though I really have a choice about who I find attractive, although like anyone else I have choices about how I respond. Even in my late twenties, my desires for other men have not lessened in intensity. I still notice attractive guys all the time and can have intense feelings for them. It is also still a common occurrence for me to have significant feelings for women, or to notice attractive women. I experience this less as fluidity than as the simple pattern of how attraction happens for me.

Another is that sexuality is more complicated than a single spectrum. Sexuality is sometimes characterized using the “Kinsey Scale,” ranging from 0 (completely straight) to 6 (completely gay). Sometimes when I mention that I’m bisexual, I’m asked where I fall on the scale. My answer always boils down to the fact that it matters what you’re measuring. As I alluded to above, there are different aspects of attraction: the desires for companionship, for romance, for sexual partnership, and many other things. One can experience attraction based on some combination of a person’s looks, personality, and other attributes. For me, these things don’t all line up the same way they do for a straight person or for a gay person. For example, I tend to notice guys more and to have more frequent male crushes, but a lot of my more overtly sexual desires are towards women. But in neither case is it 100% one way or the other; depending on what you’re measuring, I’d generally be in the 2-4 range on the Kinsey scale. As Kyle mentioned in his recent post, sexuality is complicated and doesn’t all reduce to a label. I find “bisexual” to be the most convenient label for my experience, but it doesn’t say everything.

Jeremy EricksonJeremy Erickson is a Ph.D. student in Computer Science at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He previously studied Mathematics and Computer Science at Taylor University in Upland, IN.

15 thoughts on “My Experience of Bisexuality

  1. Or consider the multiple scales of Fritz Klein here. I also find using two scales, 0 .. 6 on homosexuality and a parallel 0 .. 6 on heterosexuality helpful. In that way, (0,0) (3,3) and (6,6) are all a kind of unambiguous bisexuality, even though one might call (0,0) asexual.

    But in any case, humans aren’t scales. Thanks for your posts. As a Math & CS prof at a Christian school and as the leader of a ministry formerly with Exodus, I love clear thinking. My experience comports with yours with this difference: I’ve been married 39+ years. It’s been great. The best is yet ahead for you.

  2. Thanks for sharing so honestly, Jeremy. Your insights are illuminating, as always, and get me thinking (also, as always.)

  3. Thanks for being so open in describing your experience. I always wonder if there are a lot more bisexual people out there than we think. One of the issues I have with labels is that once you place them on yourself you start becoming that, or really, your idea of that. It’s how, I believe, so many gay men act and talk alike. Somehow the speech patterns and cardigans come with the label. I bet if we’re willing to really reflect on our sexuality more of us would fall more in a bisexual continuum with varying degrees of attraction to this or that sex. In my case I can see that attraction to other guys comes easier and more naturally to me. However, I have had crushes on girls but they’re usually not as spontaneous as they are with other guys. I think it would be disingenuous of me to identify as bisexual but we shouldn’t be so enamored with labels that we put our sexuality and feelings in a box. Thanks again for your post!

  4. Given all I believe as a Catholic about homosexuality, I hope you will fall in love with a woman who will marry you and that you and she will have a truly happy married life. I hope you will see your attractions to men — if they continue, as I suspect they will — as a mere fact of life which you need not act on nor feel guilty about.

    God bless you.

  5. I’m a Catholic Christian, but I am attracted to men and women. There are definitely differences between men and women, but there are qualities about a person in general that I find I’m attracted to. In Pope John Paul II’s “Theology of the Body” he discusses the innate design of the complimentary union of a man and a woman. Aside from the physicality, I find that men compliment me the most temperamentally and spiritually. However, I’ve found women have provided emotionally and intellectually in ways men lack to give. Overall, I find that I’m most attracted to a person who is humble, self-giving, compassionate and seeking fullness of life in Christ. There is nothing more beautiful to me than a person who gives of themselves for the goodness of others and inspires me to love more fully.
    With this being said, I still find that there are factors that hinder me from fully entrusting myself to either gender. A strong intellectual, spiritual, and emotional bond is what lays the foundation for me to feel comfortable with someone physically. I’m hesitant to be physically affectionate with men in an exclusive context due to my fears of being abandoned, rejected, taken advantage or lusted after. At the same time, I’m hesitant to entrust in women emotionally due to my fears of being invalidated, manipulated, abandoned, rejected, excluded and unhealthy dependency. My fears can often times be irrational due to perceptions I’ve become accustom to from past experiences, but they still affect my ability to maintain and establish close friendships. I’m continually mindful of this.
    Psychologists continue to discuss the origins or factors that affect one’s sexuality. Over the years, I’ve reflected upon the factors that have led to my sexuality manifesting itself in the way it has. I find that it is often difficult to be a devout Catholic women who is attracted to men and women. For men, I’m attracted to their complimentary temperaments, personalities and spirituality, but find that I lack a strong connection with them emotionally affecting my ability to feel comfortable physically. For women, I find that I connect with them on all four levels, but know I could never seek marriage or a family with them. Therefore, with both genders something is missing. Pope John Paul II’s “Theology of the Body” and Sacred Scripture discuss the intended reasons for our sexuality: to procreate and bond. To love is to give of ourselves as a gift to another. Through the mutual giving of ourselves life is intended to be brought forth: this takes place in the marital covenant of man and women through intercourse (child bearing). This design or intention of my sexuality resonates through my desire for children and marriage. I know this to be God’s ideal and true intent for our physicality within our sexuality. However, I also have seen how through mutual giving of myself in an intimate friendship with a woman, we can bring forth life in Christ. We can improve the quality of life through leading by the example of giving, compassion, virtue and faith. Thus, I find my relations with both men and women to meaningful.

    • Hi Briann thanks for your insight – truly honest insight – I often meet non-spiritual undisclosed bisexual women (who later turn out to be bi).

      Most are looking out for themselves.

      How I hope to meet someone with the depth of understanding you have about your own self.

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