Bisexuality in women has gained public attention in recent years. Is that because it’s becoming more common? Or are we simply expressing ourselves more openly now that society is embracing our sexuality?
At the 2003 MTV Video Music Awards, Madonna caused a media frenzy when she kissed Britney and Christina.
People were shocked, and to date it is arguably the most high profile woman-to-woman kiss. In 2008, Katy Perry released the hugely popular “I Kissed a Girl", which sold over 4 million digital copies in the US alone and topped the charts in nearly 20 countries. With such prominence in pop culture over the last decade, female bisexuality is becoming increasingly mainstream.
John Gray, author of Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus, believes that women connect through talking whereas men connect through actions, such as playing sport or going to the pub. It could be that this more intimate connection between women fosters the development of romantic feelings.
The scientific community’s interest in a so-called “gay gene” raises the question: is our sexuality hardwired from birth or do we choose our preferences? The troubling National Association for Research & Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH) suggests its both. Freud, Alfred Kinsey and Tantric practitioners agree that everyone is bisexual to some extent. Dual attraction is significant to understanding sexuality as a whole.
The largest survey of bisexuality to date was conducted in Australia in 2003. Of the nearly 20,000 participants, 15.1% of women reported feelings of attraction to the same gender. Although 97.7% of women surveyed identified as heterosexual, 8.6% reported some same-sex experiences. A like-for-like survey in the USA, conducted by CDC in 2014, showed 17.5% had already had same-sex contact. Again in 2014, the UK Office for National Statistics (ONS) asked approximately 180,000 UK adults what their self-perceived sexual identity was. A remarkably low 0.7% of females answered bisexual. Interestingly, in the younger respondents, the prevalence of lesbian, gay or bisexual self-identification is higher. These results support the theory that society is becoming more accepting of gay, lesbian and bisexual people and, as such, we are more inclined to opening up about a range of sexualities. While the survey asked about lesbian, gay, and bisexual classifications, there was no discussion of bi-curious.
Research by online bisexual magazine Biscuit shows that 26.5% of women identify as bisexual. This figure does not include straight women who have engaged in some form of sexual activity with a same-sex partner and gay women who have engaged sexually with men.
In Marie Claire’s online poll of 4,400 women, over half of respondents admit they would have sex with another woman, but only if no one found out. Society’s growing acceptance of bisexuality, will hopefully encourage more women to be open about their desires.
Sex writer Jasmine Leigh reports that for women over 35 this figure drops. Arguably, this is because when in their twenties, bisexuality wasn’t nearly as accepted by society as it is today. However, it is not uncommon for women of this age who have been married in the past to be open to sex with another woman. They may be seeking a deeper emotional connection, which was lacking in their relationships with men.
The sexual response cycle also plays a part in bisexuality in women. Men and women have different arousal patterns – men usually reach orgasm first, with women taking on average 15 minutes to reach the same state of arousal. For women, sex with another woman is more understanding of this and thus, potentially more enjoyable.
Inspired by popular representations in the media, some women embark on openly bisexual behaviour to attract men. This is perhaps unsurprising since two women engaging sexually is consistently ranked among men’s top fantasy. It could be argued that these girls are not bisexual because they aren’t motivated by sexual pleasure but are rather, ironically, behaving for the opposite sex’s pleasure. However, with strip clubs reporting a 30% rise in female clientele and others claiming that one-quarter of their members are female, there is no doubt that women are now openly airing their admiration of the female form.
Women have always formed close and special friendships. Historically, however, these went on behind closed doors. Homosexuality was decriminalised in 1967 and lesbianism demanded acknowledgement in the 1970s. Official recognition has only come in recent years with the legalisation of same-sex marriage.
In the infamous 18th century novel Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure, the main character, Fanny Hill, is inadvertently drawn into the sex trade. She becomes a protégé to an older whore who provides her with hands-on instruction on how to become sexually aroused. While the book caused considerable scandal at the time of publication, it shows that, even in a more prudish time, sex between women was being eroticised.
Today, we find ourselves in a society that not only accepts but encourages women to be openly sexual with one another. It comes as no surprise that bisexuality in women is on the rise.