August 25, 2008

IconUnderstanding bisexual attraction

Friendship, love, sexual desire – the laws of attraction are complicated and confusing. How do you know what feelings to trust, and which to ignore? Kia Momtazi looks at the issue from a bi perspective…

Being bisexual is both a blessing and a curse. Because we’re perceived as being able to plunge back and forth between gay and straight dating pools at our convenience, bi-girls are often resented for having it all too easy. Yes, having a wider range of potential partners can be considered a gift. But being attracted to such different kinds of people quite often feels more like conflict than abundance.

Attraction is complicated; it can come in other, subtler forms than an obvious throbbing in the loins. Plus, there are those other parts of the body—our hearts and minds—that weigh in pretty heavily when choosing potential partners.

So what’s a girl to do? Who to do it with? When and how should those lines be crossed, and how often? Experimentation can be healthy and necessary, but when bisexuals are compelled to engage in it, it tends to make people uneasy.

Still, exploring our attractions is one thing, being sloppy in the process is another. If we’re striving for wider acceptance from the communities we’re stuck between, we could do ourselves a favor by being a little more careful with our romantic entanglements.

We might first try getting a little clearer on the different kinds of attractions we experience. Meanwhile, no matter what they are, we need to accept them fully. (If we don’t, how can we expect others to be able to?)

Ultimately, it’s how we act on our desires that matters, and we should do so with care, consideration, and honesty.

Love, lust and chemistry

I’m not sure if any sex-research gurus have officially broken things down this way, but my experience is that physical, emotional and mental attractions are distinctly different – though often overlapping – entities.

When I’m physically attracted to someone, I usually feel it right away. My body is triggered by their body, which makes them appear ripe and inviting. At the mere sight or smell of them, I’m overcome by visuals of us coupling. I generally just want to eat their face.

When I’m emotionally drawn to someone, it’s a different sensation. It’s not an instantaneous lust generating from the pelvic region; it’s the feeling of caring for someone in my heart. I hurt when they hurt, I’m happy when they’re happy, and I feel an ache of tenderness when I see them sleeping or in an otherwise vulnerable state.

Mental attraction is the real doozy for me. It’s the kind that builds after a number of great conversations, e-mails, or even a series of titillating text messages—when I feel like this other person totally gets it, gets me, makes me laugh and inspires me to be a better person. This passion is ignited in my brain, in direct response to the thoughts, words and tastes in life that they express.

Quick shag, good friend, or future partner?

Some bisexuals may find they’re physically drawn to both men and women, but have stronger mental or emotional chemistry with only one of the two. Others might feel equally attracted to both sexes in all three areas. I also think it’s possible for someone to identify as straight or gay all their lives until they meet that one special person – woman, man, trans, whatever – for whom the trio of attraction is so strong that labels take a backseat to love.

Sadly, that magic combination can be pretty darn elusive. Ever gotten it on with someone you didn’t even like that much? Pure physical chemistry can make for some hot hookups, but can’t sustain a relationship on it’s own. On the other hand, you may feel deep emotional and mental connections with your best friends, but still have zero interest in going to bed with them.

It’s trickier when our mental or emotional attractions segue into physical ones. When you spend all your time together, make each other laugh and know each other so well, it’s easy to get curious about what it would be like to kiss and connect physically as well.

Think about it, talk about it

Unfortunately, there are no hard and fast rules for acting on our desires; confusion and curiosity are inevitable to some degree. But imagine what could happen if bisexuals could be clearer with ourselves and our lovers about what we’re feeling. More dignity could be maintained for all parties, and people eventually might not feel as threatened by our sexuality.

A little introspection and communication will go a long way. If you realize that all you want from someone is sex, fine – just don’t lead them to think you’re looking for a relationship. Conversely, no matter how wonderful you might think someone is – or how wonderful they think you are – if you don’t feel any physical spark, there’s precious little to be gained by trying to force the friendship into erogenous zones.

Of course, if you meet someone that puts a hurricane in your pants, a song in your heart and a fire in your mind, don’t worry about what gender they are – just don’t let them get away.

Everybody breaks down bisexuality a little differently. Check out the Klein Grid or the Kinsey Scale to see where you fit in.

Related Lesbilicious stories:
Why do lesbians hate bisexuals?
‘Sex is the easy part!’ Interview with Tristan Taormino, open relationships expert

12 Responses to Understanding bisexual attraction

  1. Lisa says:

    Well said!

  2. edwin decker says:

    Your story was so good, it made me want to eat your face.

  3. chandra says:

    wow… insightful

  4. eileen says:

    damn the last line really got me… you are good my friend, and i cant wait to hear more!!!

  5. Strega says:

    Beautifully written. You are the voice of our generation. Smart, witty and brave.

  6. Charles says:

    That was a treat to read.

  7. James! says:

    Being, as I am, one of the fortunate few to have engaged and been engaged by you on topics of sexuality, gender, and social stigma I am delighted to see your intellect applied to a more public forum. I very much look forward to your future articles!

  8. Jen says:

    This is a nice personal account of attraction that I think a lot of people will be able to relate to – bi or not – it applies to straight and gay people too.

  9. jessica says:

    What a lovely treat of truthful insight, and such a pleasure to read!

  10. E says:

    This article appears to be laboriously explaining the obvious, but then I suppose there are clearly people who need to have the obvious pointed out to them, and I gather that it’s doing a good job there. And apart from that, it’s fine until I got to:

    “But imagine what could happen if bisexuals could be clearer with ourselves and our lovers about what we’re feeling. More dignity could be maintained for all parties, and people eventually might not feel as threatened by our sexuality.”

    I’m sorry, are you saying that it’s bisexuals’ faults for not knowing what we want or feel? Because that is complete nonsense and buying into the myths spread by people who are prejudiced against bisexuals. To suggest that it’s our fault if people are threatened by our sexuality, that it would be better if we’d just improve our behaviour, is like blaming black people for experiencing racism. If you want to talk about how social pressure against bisexuality can cause people to doubt themselves unnecessarily, fair enough, but you didn’t, and besides it’s not that different from resisting social pressure when coming out as gay.

    My very basic version of what bisexual attraction is like, since it seems to be such a mystery: I pick my partners as people, not based on their gender. Gender does affect a few things, it’s probably affecting pheromones (I find the chemistry’s there more often with men, although that could just be because there are more men-who-are-attracted-to-women around than women-who-are-attracted-to-women), and there’s a lot of learned behaviour (e.g. I more often find women physically attractive than I do men, but then I live in a culture where women are sexually objectified more than men, are more likely to dress revealingly and so on, so it’s complicated), but that’s really not the main point. The main thing I remember about getting together with my (male) partner was talking excitedly about books. Actually, that’s one of the main topics that drew me to my ex-girlfriend too.

  11. Gabbyliciouz says:

    =) totally TruE

  12. Rory says:

    Good column!
    E; there is more to it than that. I was at a recent lesbian meeting at a local coffee shop & a bi member started checking out the boys & chatted one up.

    From my lesbian pov that was so disrespectful. At least bad form. But it is stuff like that; simple etiquette that needs to be addressed.

Milly Shaw


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