Bisexual Fetishisation and Me.
Note to the reader: all opinions expressed here purely derived from my own experience, I understand that 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 all genders opens those who identify as bisexual up to a lot of suspiction and misunderstanding from both society as a whole but also from within the LGBTQ+ community. The general public perceive us as either a threat to relationships or a sexual object, and oftentimes nothing more than that. Fetishisation can come from within the dating scene, from friends, from strangers or even from within and 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 most lonely lives in existence.
You’d think that online dating apps like Tinder would solve a lot of these issues of 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 as a bisexual womxn. Tinder for me started as a laugh among my friends at college, it was the first time I’d been single for about three years and out as Bi among friends as bisexual for one year, so it was about time I got myself out there apparently. It was a very forgein feeling at first, having never actively pursued a womxn I didn’t already know I wasn’t sure how to go about it, but as it turns out them 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 and eventually the big question would come up: ‘I know this girl, shes 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’d care to count these guys turned nasty. A slew of bi-phobic insults would fill my inbox, accusations of being a ‘tease’ and they knew they would be able to ‘turn me straight. This would lead to a swift blocking on my behalf and I’d 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 don’t tend to bring up sex during a first conversation, yet I was still a ‘tease’ despite not initating the topic? Was my sexuality an invitiation to see me as a sexual object? Apparently, just because I like all genders 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 if I was being too friendly to anyone, I changed the way I dress 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 didn’t 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 who simply have the misfortune of being bisexual. I think for me, these couples didn’t 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 a term thrown 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 couldn’t explain. I had the desire to make these genuine romantic connections, and yes maybe Tinder wasn’t the best place to try, but I felt like at every turn I was being sexualised to a point that I could no longer handle. I didn’t 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 couple 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 in itself, 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 womxn, was like finding a needle in a pile of needles. There were a few exceptions, but on the whole womxn didn’t like the fact I was still attracted to mxn. Other bisexual womxn wanted me to be more attracted to womxn than mxn, lesbain womxn didn’t want me to be attracted to mxn at all, but the common denominator is that my interest in mxn meant they didn’t trust me. I was circling back to the same stereotype, bisexual people are greedy, bisexualy people just want sex, bisexual people don’t make good partners, they just make good hook-up candidates. In the one place I thought I’d find acceptance I was still met with resistance and loneliness.
Tinder was, for a long time, an unmitgated disater for my journey on accepting my sexuality. I did find the genuine connection I’d been looking for and met a lovely guy who I now live with and have a very adorable fur-baby and I’m happier than I ever thought possible. I’ve been able to accept my sexuality for what it is and live with the stigmas 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 shouldn’t impact my ability to love and be committed to someone yet the world around won’t let it go, won’t let me succeed in love unless I ‘pick a side’.