As it is Pride month, it is important to celebrate all members of the LGBTQ+ society. This includes the “B,” bisexuals. All too often, bisexuality is brushed off as fake or is discredited by being seen solely as a step towards coming out as homosexual. In actuality, bisexuality is a very valid and important part of the LGTBQ+ community.
The way in which bisexuality is portrayed in the media plays a crucial role in the misunderstanding and fetishization of sexuality. Often, bisexuality in men is seen merely as a step towards coming out as gay. Why is it that bisexuality is seen as a more “valid” sexuality for women rather than men? Perhaps this is a result of the representation of women’s sexuality in the media.
Oftentimes, examples of bisexual or bi-curious women are seen in media such as TV and music. On the other hand, it is rare to see the representation of bisexual men on those same platforms. In the same light, it is much more likely to see gay men represented in the media as opposed to lesbians. As a result of the commonality of bisexual women in media, a recurring theme of fetishization is displayed in such media.
In the eyes of straight men, it is common that two women being together sexually is seen as a fantasy, this is proven by the fact that “lesbian” has been PornHub’s most-watched genre since 2015. This provides the perfect explanation as to why people in the media would exploit and fetishize bisexual women for their own personal gain.
Fetishization in Music
An example of this can be seen in a controversy that started back in December with the release of Liam Payne’s new album, “LP1.” In the song “Both Ways,” Payne describes his desire to have a three-way by singing lyrics such as “My girl, she like it both ways. She like the way it all taste / Couple more, we’ll call it foreplay / No, no, I don’t discriminate” and “Flipping that body, go head, I go tails / Sharing that body like it’s our last meal.” The release of these lyrics was followed by outrage among Twitter users, prompting the trending hashtag, #LiamPayneIsOverParty.
Unfortunately, “Both Ways” is a recent release in a long list of songs criticized for containing stereotypical lyrics. Another example is Katy Perry’s 2008 hit song “I Kissed A Girl”. Throughout the song, Perry alludes to the fact that kissing girls isn’t what girls are supposed to do. While singing about experimenting by kissing a girl, she says that she hopes her boyfriend “don’t mind it”. In 2017 Perry admitted her wrongs, criticizing the lyrics by saying “If I had to write that song again, I probably would make an edit on it. Lyrically, it has a couple of stereotypes in it”.
Fetishization in TV
Additionally, in television, storylines of bisexual characters often rely on tropes: evil, untrustworthy, deceitful, easy, and overly sexual. This is seen in the British-American comedy series, “Episodes”, through the character of Carol Rance. A recurring event throughout the show, and the character, is her sleeping with her bosses, both male and female. As well, the famous show, “Empire” received backlash for their character Camilla Marks-Whiteman, whose bisexuality was less an aspect of her character and more a tool she used to undermine and cheat.
The Effects of Fetishizing Bisexuality
So what’s the big deal? Why is it important to make sure bisexual women aren’t fetishized in the media? The answer is simple: the fetishization of bisexuality is molding the minds of young people, especially cis straight males. In June of 2019 two women were attacked by a group of teenage boys after they refused to kiss for the boys’ own enjoyment. Melania Geymonat, 28, reported that she and her partner Chris were provoked by four boys between the ages of 15 and 18 while on a date, traveling on a double-decker bus in London. After Geymonat’s best efforts to try and stop the teasing from the four boys, the situation escalated and the boys started punching Geymonat and her girlfriend. Behavior like this is encouraged and cultivated by the fetishization and misrepresentation of bisexual women in media.
Although the problem of fetishization of bi women in the media is still prominent, that’s not to say there has been no progress. Several TV shows have captured bisexuality in their characters in a very realistic and appropriate way. Examples of these characters are, Grey’s Anatomy’s Callie Torres, Brooklyn Nine-Nine’s Rosa Diaz, and Jane The Virgin’s Petra Solano.
It is important that society continues to call out the inappropriate acts of fetishization done by those in the media and educate themselves and others on the truth about bisexuality. The stigma behind bisexuality can not be lifted until appropriate representation becomes not just common, but the sole representation of bisexuality.