June 21, 2013

IconBi-Furious Me: if you didn’t watch Channel 4′s latest show on bisexuality, then lucky you

Bi-Curious Me is a Channel 4 documentary which aired last night (Thursday 20 June 2013). It claimed to ‘explore the stories of three women as they come to terms with changes in their sexuality, and question whether our new-found sexual freedoms make intimate relationships any easier.’ We watched it, so you don’t have to.

Bi-Curious Me opens with burlesque dancers stripping, writes Sarah Evans. One minute in, we hear the interviewer ask “is sex better with a woman or a man?”. That’s when I started yelling at the TV.

My girlfriend and I sat back and discussed how yet another programme which had the opportunity to share positive stories of bisexuality, challenge biphobia and create an interesting and challenging documentary had cascaded in the first minute, with a horrendous ‘bisexual bingo’ of stereotypes.

Bi-Curious Me follows three women who are ‘exploring their sexuality’ by kissing each other, chatting people up in the street (because their ‘free sexuality’ liberates them to do so, apparently) and going to strip clubs because “it’s not just for men”. I felt saddened that, yet again, a programme had failed to depict a bisexual person in a healthy, monogamous relationship, and instead just gone for titillation.

One of the documentary stars, Hayley Quinn, was asked if she thought she could be monogamous now, after she’d invited her ex-boyfriend on holiday with her and her girlfriend in an attempt to try and get back with him. It felt like yet another dig at bisexual people; that we can only be straight, gay, or polyamorous.

Don’t get me wrong, some bisexual people are curious or polyamorous, but not all of us. I have been with my girlfriend for 3 years, and I am constantly identified as gay, with people telling me “Well, if you’re only with her and you don’t want anyone else, then that makes you gay. You can’t have it all”. This programme had the chance to dispel this myth, explore identity and social perceptions, but it didn’t.

I feel like I am always being told by society that the only way I can identify as bisexual is to be single, poly or make sure that every time I sleep with a woman, I have to sleep with a man next, to keep the balance. This programme just fuelled that ridiculous stereotype.

And where were all the bisexual men? I remember once dating a bisexual man. People were so brutal and openly discriminative towards him because “It’s ok for you, you’re a girl, but it’s different with him. Aren’t you freaked out that he’s been with a man?”

Why didn’t Channel 4 use this opportunity to explore society’s perception of bisexual men and women, and why weren’t they more clear about the difference between bicurious and bisexual? There’s a big difference. Channel 4 obviously didn’t care about small things like that, they were too busy ensuring that the sleazy music ran consistently as an undercurrent to the show.

The most interesting part of the documentary lay with ‘Sophie’, who told us she felt like she would never be ‘out and proud’ as bisexual. That feeling is true for a lot of people; some due to their own concerns, others because of the biphobia that still remains in both the heterosexual and LGBT community.

My advice, if you haven’t seen Bi-Curious Me, is don’t bother.

At least one good thing has come out of this: I’ve realised that if you want something doing well, do it yourself. So, I have started to put a team together to create something positive, honest and challenging about the bisexual community. If you would like to be involved, get in touch: @artwith_heart or www.facebook.com/weareartwithheart

Sarah Evans is the founder of ‘Art with Heart’. Her work often explores gender, sexuality, comedy and women’s history, and she works a lot with community and youth groups. Her recent work includes exhibition www.100deeds.co.uk and stage play ‘The Secret Diaries of a Teenage Queer’.

4 Responses to Bi-Furious Me: if you didn’t watch Channel 4′s latest show on bisexuality, then lucky you

  1. Jen says:

    Don’t bother? Yeah, probably not. It put the B word out there and that will have been good for some people, who have an excuse to talk about something with partners or friends, and for others it may be a prompt to put a word to a feeling.

    The majority of the show was ratings-pleasing stuff that made me think they were calling it “bi-curious” not “bisexual” because that would sound more alluring to a straight male audience. There was a couple of minutes of joy toward the end talking about how it’s not just wanting all the chocolates in the box and about the emotional energy it takes to push back against the effects of social biphobia but that so much of the time we do just the same.

    But otherwise – best played as a drinking game, every time they trot out a bi stereotype / telly bi cliche, take a drink… (or go with the bingo cards if you don’t want to have passed out by the second ad break!)

  2. Jo says:

    I love this review! and I find it so accurate. This was a massive opportunity to dispel so many myths about bi-sexuality and they really couldn’t have got it more wrong.

    I think Hayley Quinn was the worst perpetrator of the three. I was left feeling astounded by how obvious it was she was trying to satisfy a void within herself with multiple sexual partners rather than actually promote the positive aspects of having relationships with either gender and it was all the while backed up by the fact she openly admitted to being in love with a man who didn’t return her feelings. So she chose to have a casual relationship with a woman for a year and approach women on the street! Preposterous! What I found most disturbing is that she actually gives advice to people (for a living) who lack the confidence to confront their sexuality or have an inability to approach people, please god someone stop this woman from infecting anyone else with her warped lifestyle choices and lack of morals.

    I did find Sophie quite cute and the most genuine of all three but she was barely given any airtime and there wasn’t much insight given into how women can confront issues of acceptance with family and friends therefore making it pretty pointless but still more insightful than the dross generated from the other two. So, so disappointing.

  3. Sophie says:

    Hi, I’m Sophie – the Sophie in the documentary. If you’re furious about watching it, imagine how I feel being in it! Not just furious but worse, disappointed and hurt. In my interviews I spoke openly about many of the things you said the film was lacking – especially identity and the constant battle (for me) with social pressures/norms – but it was all edited out for reasons I won’t go into here. I found your review comforting, thank you for writing it. It meant I didn’t have to spend even more emotional energy writing something myself. I’m keen to share my experience of making this (s**t) film if you’re interested. Feel free to get in touch.

Video

‘Define Me’ – Ryan Amador (featuring Jo Lampert)

The song DEFINE ME was released exclusively on Ryan Amador’s bandcamp (http://www.ryanamador.bandcamp.com/) in conjunction with Ryan’s live performance at the True Colors LGBT Youth Conference on March 22nd. It was produced by David Baloche for Grove Street Studios. 100% of its proceeds will be donated to organizations actively involved with the LGBT equality campaign. http://www.ryanamador.com/

April 22, 2013