Concepts of Bisexuality

Ulrich Gooß. Journal of Bisexuality. Volume 8, Issue 1-2, 2008.

I am 36 years old, I’ve been married for ten years and have two children aged five and four. About two years ago I discovered the gay scene. In the last few weeks I have also begun to kiss men—which I had never done before. Now I don’t know what is supposed to come out of this. Am I gay? Is this business with men only something temporary or could I be bisexual? Bisexuality—is there such a thing?

~ Mr. B.

With these words, Mr. B, who had sought me out for a first interview, began our discussion. This manifestly bisexual patient is looking for some perspective on his sexual orientation. In other words, he is asking himself if there is only a monosexual option, that is, either heterosexuality or homosexuality, or whether, through the very coexistence of same- and opposite-gender sexual contact, there may be a bisexual option. I do not want to explain here in which direction Mr. B will go. Rather, I would like to provide an overview of the development of scientific thinking and concepts regarding bisexuality to articulate the initial rationale that would be essential if one wanted to give Mr. B an answer to his question from a scientific perspective on sexuality.

Although bisexuality in fact involves men and women, in what follows, only the scientific discourse regarding bisexual men is discussed. This is not only because there is empirical evidence that bisexual men and women differ with respect to their patterns of sexual behavior, but also because there are indications that they also differ in the psychological basis of their bisexuality as well. Above all, it can be assumed that given the social and psychological consequences of gender differences, bisexuality has a different significance for men and women, as do homosexuality and heterosexuality, and therefore are different phenomena. However, bisexual men and women do have in common that, for a long time, their sexuality received little or no attention in research on sexuality and sexual orientation.

Modern theories about bisexuality are primarily a result of the move away from a societal approach to sexuality characteristic of the 19th century, which, among other things, led to the establishment of the science of human sexuality. The period from the middle of the 19th century to the early years of the 20th century was one of the most important phases of the ongoing process which Michel Foucault (1977) characterized as “bringing sexus into discourse.” It was during these years that all the important terms were formulated that, to this day, determine the ongoing discussion regarding sexual desire, including in particular, the term bisexuality. A central theme in the developing discipline of sexual science, as well as in the beginnings of psychoanalysis, was the assumption of a constitutional bisexuality, which influenced theories about differences between the sexes and about the choice of sexual object. These intellectually related theories have led to some conceptual difficulties, which have resulted in a lack of clarity and issues that persist today in current research on bisexuality.

At the center of the early sexual science discourse about sexual deviance, however, was homosexuality, and specifically male homosexuality. Theories about bisexuality were, at that time, above all, theories for explaining the so-called puzzle of homosexuality, whereas manifest bisexuality was either not discussed, was mentioned only in passing, or was attributed to homosexuality. Thus a highly charged proximity developed between homosexuality and bisexuality, which has followed research on bisexuality right into the sexual science of today.

The same applies to psychoanalytic research. Although Freud introduced the term psychological bisexuality, which was central to the development of psychoanalytic theory on homosexuality, here too, manifest bisexuality was subsumed under the category of homosexuality. In empirical sexual science as well, which has developed especially in the United States since the publication of the Kinsey reports, bisexuality was not initially discussed. Although Kinsey had shown that dividing men into heterosexuals and homosexuals did not do justice to the actual range of sexual relationships, the sexual histories of those who have had sexual contact with men and women received hardly any scientific recognition.

It was only after bisexual men and women, first in the United States, and in recent years, in Germany, made the effort to organize themselves, and, above all, since the appearance of acquired immune disease syndrome (AIDS), which turned public and scientific attention towards bisexual men as a so-called risk group, that sexual researchers began to perceive and to study manifest bisexuality as an independent form of sexuality.

As a result, although nearly a century had passed since the theoretical construction of bisexuality, the American author Fritz Klein could state in 1978—not without a certain legitimacy—that up until that point, bisexuals had largely been ascribed the status of “non-existence,” and he demanded that the “deep silence” about bisexuality be broken (p. 11) With this, Klein launched a topic that is, even today, repeatedly found in the bisexual emancipation literature: the never-ending complaint about the lack of recognition, or even the invisibility, of bisexuality and bisexuals.

Klein’s 1978 book, The Bisexual Option, is an expression and a component of the process, begun in the 1970s, of establishing actual bisexuality as a sexual category. The current discourse about bisexuality thus represents a new version of the bisexuality debate that began with the origins of the science of sexuality, in that it is greatly influenced by the social movements involving women and gay men and lesbians, without which it very likely would not have come about.

A central topic of newer research on homosexuality is the concept of a “homosexual” or “gay” identity. The construct of a gay identity, which grows out of active cooperation with gay research participants, is the paradigmatic case for the derivation of identities from sexual forms. Significant for the question of bisexuality is, above all, that the concept of a “gay” identity was developed as one of the boundaries between homosexuality and heterosexuality and thus initially appeared to reinforce the dichotomous division of sexual orientation into monosexualities. However, the successful development and societal anchoring of homosexuality necessarily produced pressure on everyone else living a form of sexuality that departs from the normative heterosexuality to develop and to anchor their sexuality in society in a way analogous to how gay men and lesbians have anchored their sexuality. Particularly for those bisexual men and women involved in gay or lesbian movements, or at least not untouched by them, the need for such a self-construction is virtually mandatory because they cannot be visible experiencing themselves in a world only divided into homosexuality and heterosexuality.

Nevertheless, the self-organization of bisexual men and women and their attempt to start an emancipation movement were initially ignored by society. With the appearance of AIDS, however, bisexual men at least moved to the center of public attention and in medical and social science research. In the AIDS debate, they were assigned an enormous significance for the course of the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) epidemic. Looking more closely however, the conclusion that bisexuals contributed to such a dramatic extent to the transmission of the HIV virus in the so-called “general population” has since been shown to have little empirical substance. This incorrect assessment was associated with completely overstated figures on the incidence of bisexuality, which were repeatedly—and occasionally still are—presented both by spokespersons for bisexuals as well as within the framework of the AIDS debate.

The source for this is mostly the data from the Kinsey reports, on the basis of which it was estimated that up to half of all men are bisexual. These numbers are problematic because they are based on a cumulative count of all sexual contacts. That is, they include all those men who, sometime in their lives, have had sexual contacts with or sexual attractions to men and women. It would be more appropriate in this respect to use current bisexual behavior as a starting point or adult sexual behavior. This would result, as new studies indicate, in lower estimates of the incidence of bisexual behavior.

There is often a tactical motive in using overstated figures—to emphasize the special significance of bisexuality. However, bisexual people are done a disservice as a result of this approach because the special nature of their sexuality again disappears as a result of the use of excessively high numbers regarding bisexual behavior.

Despite continual complaints about the lack of awareness of bisexuality, it appears that the bisexual movement has been quite successful since the founding of the first bisexual centers in the United States in the mid 1970s. Meanwhile, there are also many bisexual groups in other Western countries, and in 2001, the Journal of Bisexuality was first published. Where earlier, references to “gay” and “lesbian-gay” were made, today it is politically correct to speak of “lesbian, gay, and bisexual.” The ICD-10 divides sexual orientation into homosexuality, heterosexuality, and bisexuality, and this tripartite division has also been taken over by Kernberg (2001), and thereby by official psychoanalysis. Thus bisexuality seems to be accepted as a form of sexuality. However, this acceptance is limited to the mere use of the term, without close consideration of the accompanying lack of clarity and associated problems.

Thus the task of scientific research on bisexuality remains to identify and describe the special characteristics of bisexuality. This requires, first of all, clarification of the different dimensions of terminology related to bisexuality, specifically sexual behavior, sexual orientation, and sexual identity.

Only the dimension of sexual behavior is relatively noncontroversial. So, for example, using the chronological occurrence of homosexual and heterosexual contacts as a starting point, there is the suggestion repeatedly found in the literature to differentiate between serial or sequential bisexuality, concurrent, and simultaneous bisexuality. Alternating between male and female partners is described as serial or sequential bisexuality, during which longer monogamous or at least monosexual relationship phases may occur. Concurrent bisexuality, on the other hand, is used for the coexistence of same-sex and opposite-sex sexual contacts within a certain period of time. Finally, simultaneous bisexuality refers to those sexual situations in which at least one partner each of the same and the opposite sex, that is, at least three persons, are involved.

The problem with a bisexual classification based only on sexual behavior lies in the fact that it combines completely different sexual behaviors, or at least those behaviors involving genital contact, under the same term bisexuality. In addition, the mere fact that a man has or has had in the past sexual contact with men and women says little about his sexual history and about his sexual orientation or even his sexual identity. The term sexual orientation is often limited in empirical studies to an individual’s self-identification as bisexual, homosexual, or heterosexual. Thus, though it is clear, it is not very convincing. However, to the degree that assumptions about the origin of sexual orientation influence the conceptualization of the term, theoretical problems arise, which are the subject of discussion in research on homosexuality and bisexuality, particularly in the controversy regarding constructionism and essentialism. From the essentialist perspective, the bisexual or monosexual orientation of a human being is interpreted as the result of an individual’s, early and durable commitment in a deterministic sense, or as a predisposition. This commitment is explained in terms of biological and/or psychological theories. The sexual researcher, Money (1988), postulated:

The only scientifically sustainable position that one can take with respect to the question of the origin of hetero-, homo- and bisexuality is that with all three, prenatal and postnatal factors come into play, which do not cancel each other out, but rather influence each other. If they work together at a critical period of early development there results, not particular behaviors, but rather a durable orientation which, as a rule, is persistent and unchangeable. (p. 129)

The psychoanalytic theories about the origin of sexual orientation that were disseminated by Morgenthaler (1980), Friedman (1993), and also by Reiche (1997, 2000), and, if somewhat half-heartedly, by Kernberg (2001), are compatible with this intellectual model.

Richard Friedman (1993) explicitly assumed a critical period in psychosexual development during which sexual fantasy is differentiated and permanently anchored structurally as homosexual, heterosexual, or bisexual. Independent of the weight given to biological and psychological factors, from this perspective, an individual “has” a sexual orientation, and though this might not be enacted as such as an adult, it cannot change fundamentally.

The constructionst viewpoint on bisexuality, homosexuality, and heterosexuality assumes a social construct caused by social pressures and defining processes. With respect to the choice of sexual object, this starts with an initially undifferentiated and, undirected, experience, which is only shaped by social processes with or after the beginning of sexual activity. Whether one becomes monosexual or bisexual does not appear here to be an expression of a previous internal differentiation and thus also as an inner compulsion, but rather exclusively as a result of a societal attribution and shaping process, as a compulsive structure imposed on the individual from outside. This view frequently accompanies that which Dannecker (1989) called the “latent promise” of constructionism (p. 124), that is, the view that these compulsive forms could be set aside with more or less effort. Sexual orientations in this perspective are thus not early and durably determined predispositions, but, on the contrary, changeable sexual preferences about which the individual himself can, in the final analysis, decide.

If the essentialist and the constructionist positions are not reduced to their one-sided extreme variants, a connection seems possible that does not treat the two ways of viewing this as separate, competing models, but rather understands them as different perspectives, related to different approaches. Formulated in this way, the two perspectives complement each other. The essentialist aspect relates to the development of sexual orientation, while the constructionist aspect relates to the origins of sexual identity and one’s view of oneself. Such a synthesis also accepts the findings of research that indicates that a person’s sexual orientation as homosexual, heterosexual, or bisexual is predetermined in early childhood. Furthermore, only a person who is bisexually predisposed, can, as constructionism maintains, be “made into” a bisexual. However, that a man is bisexually differentiated does not mean that he will also engage in bisexual behavior or have a bisexual self-definition, or, in this sense, “find himself.” Bisexuality that also includes self-identification as bisexual can develop at the earliest in adolescence, that is, with the start of sexual contact, and is, to a significant degree, dependent upon those social pressures and defining processes, which the constructionist perspective emphasizes and examines. With respect to the dawning awareness of sexual orientation in monosexuals, Dannecker (1990) reflected as follows: “during adolescence at the earliest, an individual—whether homo- or heterosexual—acquires an awareness of the sexual object connected with his sexual organization” (p. 50). Dannecker (1990) also explained that “the homosexual inclination is discovered, so to speak, via a glance, growing out of the homosexual pre-disposition” which does not turn away from a person of the same gender (p. 50).

Although this description seems plausible for homosexually differentiated men, the “object acquisition” for those who are bisexually differentiated should be presented differently because, at least with respect to gender, for them “the inner pictures of an adequate sexual object” are differently predetermined than for monosexuals. A bisexual disposition means that individuals of both genders can potentially be eroticized, that is, in this sense, that they can also attract the attention of persons of both genders. Bisexually and monosexually differentiated adolescents differ above all in that the bisexuals have a double—a homosexual and a heterosexual—option. On the other hand, that means, there is the possibility of becoming sexual, without perceiving both options right from the start.

Considering the socially shaped dichotomization of sexual orientation into monosexualities, and the related lack of possibilities for bisexual self-identification, the assumption is justified, that initially, bisexually differentiated adolescents, just as learning theory describes it, develop a monosexual self-image, which can make it harder for them to become aware of their bisexual potential. Given the difficulties attached to the homosexual option, due to societal marginalization of homosexuality, the tendency to develop a heterosexual self-image can be expected to be overwhelming. On the other hand, the experience of homosexual attractions can, in the absence of the possibility of bisexual self-identification, lead to an exclusively homosexual self-identification, which only develops into a bisexual identity at a later stage of development. These processes can contribute to the fact that bisexuals only become aware of their bisexual potential in adulthood after a sometimes longer monosexual phase. This means that “coming-out bisexual” takes place, so to speak, in two phases, though there are indications that younger bisexuals less often take this “detour” (e.g., Altendorf & Feldhorst, 1992).

Furthermore, empirical research conducted by Blumstein and Schwartz (1976) show that married men who had anonymous homosexual contact for years only questioned their monosexual self-identification after they had contact with male partners that was not only exclusively sexual, but also had an emotional component, even when these experiences were limited to spending only a few hours or affectionate moments with each other.

For bisexually differentiated men, there is a generally “normal” strand of their sexuality in the sense of societal normality, and this can also lead to compartmentalizing their sexual contacts with other men. If, however, a homosexual experience leads to falling in love, or at least to a feeling of confusion emotionally, the monosexual self-image becomes less secure, and bisexuality can, in some circumstances, be integrated into emotional relationships with men in a comprehensive way. Afterwards, such a bisexual man will not only say “I love my wife,” but perhaps also “I love my boyfriend.”

Mr. B, described above, found himself in just this situation. Despite his bisexual behavior, in this case, the coexistence of his marriage and occasional isolated homosexual contacts, he succeeded for many years in maintaining a fragile heterosexual self-image. But once he began to kiss men, he was no longer able to deny the possibility that he could fall in love with a man, and his previous self-image, and the living arrangement connected with it, broke down—and Mr. B asked himself how he was going to adjust to the fact of his bisexuality.

In the scientific literature on human sexuality, there are basically four points of view on this question: bisexual behavior is seen as transitory, that is as temporary; it is seen as a transitional phenomenon; it is classified as defensive bisexuality; or it is connected to a fundamental bisexual orientation in the sense of the process of bisexual differentiation described above.

Included under transitory bisexual behavior are, above all, the passing same-gender contacts of adolescents, which for the most part precede their first opposite gender sexual contact and, as a rule, do not lead to later homosexual or bisexual experiences. Also transitory are those bisexual behavioral patterns, which are occasionally characterized as secondary homosexuality, for instance, homosexual contacts in prisons, boarding schools, and similar institutions. In these instances, as a general rule, the heterosexual self-image of the men involved is not called into question by their homosexual contacts. Finally, male prostitution can also be considered an example of transitory bisexuality, at least insofar as it involves the homosexual behavior of men who self-identify as heterosexual.

If bisexual behavior and/or a bisexual self-image/definition is interpreted as an expression of a transitional phase—within the framework of coming-out gay, for example—a bisexual self-identification is considered as an attempt to integrate the temporary coexistence of homosexual and heterosexual contacts into a coherent self-image. This attempt at interpretation has achieved its aim when the “actual” sexual orientation has been achieved and stabilized.

Not very far from this viewpoint is the interpretation that men who call themselves bisexual are mostly or always “defensive bisexuals” (Reiche, 1990). Reimut Reiche (1990), in particular, classifies all the “bisexuals” he has seen in a clinical context this way:

They employ manifest bisexual behavior consciously or unconsciously as camouflage in an unconscious conflict. This conflict relates to accepting one’s own biological gender or one’s own homosexual or perverse instinctual vicissitude. Those actual manifest bisexuals were, so to speak, a collective in “coming-out”—wherever it was that they came. (p. 64)

If bisexuality is classified as temporary, or as a transitional phenomenon, or as a defensive type of sexuality, all patterns of bisexual behavior appear attributable to heterosexuality or homosexuality or to perverse developments. From this perspective, there are no bisexuals, but only “pseudo-bisexuals” that is, monosexuals or perverse men, who, temporarily or for a longer period, behave bisexually.

However, neither the assumption of a homosexual/heterosexual dichotomy in sexual orientation nor the generalization of the defensive bisexuality hypothesis seems justified empirically. Thus, what gives the clinical impression of defensive bisexuality can actually be the expression of a conflict about homosexuality. At least for some of the men with this experience, the conflict is about accepting the homosexual side of their bisexual makeup. A hasty diagnosis of “defensive bisexuality” would, in these cases, shift the focus away from the bisexual differentiation of these men. At least on heuristic grounds, it would make sense, at this time, to understand and to study bisexuality as an independent form of sexuality not derived from heterosexuality or homosexuality. This also has direct clinical implications, because if a man such as Mr. B goes into therapy, whatever preconceptions his psychotherapist has about bisexuality would be of enormous significance for the course of the therapeutic process. Thus he may be convinced that Mr. B is monosexual, that is, either a heterosexual man with a homosexual disturbance or a gay man in a late coming-out phase, but he could also consider and allow for the possibility of a bisexual orientation without committing Mr. B to it.

There is also an argument from the constructionist perspective against the categorization of sexual orientation into homosexuality, heterosexuality, and bisexuality. This is seen as essentially a biological concept because it assumes that the anatomic differences between a man and a woman are the most important criteria for sexual orientation. This viewpoint is rooted in a way of thinking that is “based on the belief that people’s sex is the brute reality before which all human relationships must bow” (DeCecco & Shiveley, 1983/1984, p. 12). Thus, the suggestion is that it is not the sexual orientation of the individual, but rather the structures of sexual relationships, and here particularly those factors not bound to gender, that should be the subject of research. However, the anatomical differences between a man and a woman are not in themselves significant. They assume significance through the social and psychic meanings that are attached to gender differences. Gender dimorphism is therefore not merely a biological fact. It is, above all, a sociocultural construction, and as such, it is indeed a “brute reality” that a scientific analysis of human sexuality should not ignore.

According to Reiche (1990), the relation between biology and sexual object choice is reduced to the fact that is has to be accepted that phylogenetically there emerged only two genders. Furthermore, it can be assumed—at least as a working hypothesis—that the attempt to come to terms with gender dimorphisms presents itself from very early on, and that it presents differently for the proto-bisexual boy than for the proto-monosexual boy, which leads to different inner anchoring of the perception of gender and gender differences and thus to different mental structures. This process, which predetermines the later development to monosexuality or bisexuality, can be understood using the terminology of Friedman (1993) as a differentiation of erotic fantasy, which, as a result, leads to a structural anchoring of sexual fantasies as homosexual, bisexual, or heterosexual.

This point of view is, in principle, also compatible with Reiche’s (2000) concept of synchronous development of gender identity and object choice, at least, if one assumes, in contrast to Reiche, that the creation of “proto-gender identity” and “proto-object choice” can lead not only to a monosexual but also to a bisexual result (p. 188). However, if the establishment of object choice is to be understood from a psychoanalytical perspective, it can be assumed that sexual orientation becomes an autonomous element of the psychic organization after the process of differentiation is complete, and that it determines whether an individual will have a heterosexual, homosexual, or bisexual option. Furthermore, it can be assumed that bisexual differentiation will necessarily also find expression in an individual’s central masturbation fantasy, which gives it a bisexual character.

Bisexually differentiated men thus enter puberty differently from those men who are monosexually differentiated, particularly in relation to the erotic cathexis of gender differences. In the context of bisexual research, therefore, it would not make sense to shift the focus away from biological gender or to consider the gender of the partners as merely one of the many independent variables that are important for sexual relationships. Rather, it would make sense to acknowledge as a central focus the distinctive characteristic of bisexually differentiated men that they can eroticize and be attracted to persons of both genders. That means that what should be studied is whether and in what way the specific eroticization of gender differences by the actors involved influences, structures, or even constitutes sexual relationships.

The commonly held view—spoken or unspoken—that bisexuals are indifferent with respect to the gender of their partner, although it is a conceivable hypothesis, is not the assumption to which bisexuality research should be reduced. Along with this, there are additional hypotheses about the significance of gender differences for bisexually differentiated men, which underlie various theoretical constructs about bisexuality. These could be attributed to a “conflict model” or a “flexibility model” of bisexuality (Zinik, 1985). Furthermore, connections between bisexuality and androgyny should also be considered.

The conflict hypothesis assumes an incompatibility between same- and opposite-gender eroticization. From this point of view, it is not imaginable that a sexual attraction to persons of both genders can possibly be relatively conflict free. As we have seen, manifest bisexuality, in accordance with this point of view, is understood as a transitional phenomenon, or as a “defensive” sexuality, or as a symptom of an identity conflict. Comments frequently found in the bisexuality literature such as “I love people, not their gender” would be understood, in this interpretation, as a denial of the gender differences, and manifest bisexuality would generally be interpreted as an attempt to deny gender differences in a sexually active way.

The indifference hypothesis is understood to mean that bisexuals attach no or only subordinate significance to the gender of the partner and that therefore other factors are decisive for entering into sexual relationships. Thus, bisexuals frequently report that they are more attracted to “the qualities of a particular person than by the gender aspect as such.” The indifference hypothesis would also apply to that group which Masters and Johnson (1979) characterized as “ambisexuals.” These are, to some extent, the prototype of gender-indifferent bisexuals insofar as “the gender of the current partner at any given time seemed completely unimportant” to them (Masters & Johnson, 1979, p. 138).

From the androgynous perspective, bisexuals do not seem indifferent to gender differences, but rather bisexuality is attributed to a tendency to abolish the gender difference. Charlotte Wolff (1979), above all, represented this interpretation in a very pronounced way: bisexuality levels out the gender differences and allows the androgynous nature of the person to emerge. Wolff’s interpretation is connected with a utopian concept popular in the emancipation literature of the 1970s, that in a sexually freer society, the differences between the genders, and thus also the differences between sexual orientations, would have a tendency to disappear. However, the changes that have accompanied so-called sexual liberation and emancipation movements of women and homosexuals have not led to a decline in the differences based on gender and sexual orientation. On the contrary, this has led to diversification, which is visible in the public articulation of various sexual forms and is discussed in the literature in the science of human sexuality (Sigusch, 1998). This can be seen, not least of all, in the appearance of bisexuals as an independent social group.

If a particular flexibility is attributed to bisexuals, this means that homosexual and heterosexual desire are not mutually exclusive, but also can be connected to each other in the form of bisexual eroticization. Bisexuals would be something like “chameleons” who can move back and forth between the heterosexual and homosexual worlds and thus are able to experience and live “the best of both worlds” (Zinik, 1985, p. 9) From this perspective, the distinctive characteristic of bisexuals is the ability to move between a homosexual and heterosexual position. According to this then, “bisexual” would mean being homosexual and heterosexual. But this interpretation too, derives bisexuality from monosexuality instead of attempting to understand it in itself.

However, bisexual eroticization can also be understood as that bisexuals eroticize the genders and gender differences in a particular way, which differs from the respective forms of eroticization in monosexually differentiated men. Bisexual eroticization would then not be a mere addition of homosexuality and heterosexuality, but an expression in this sense, of the different structure of bisexuals. This, in turn, leads to a speculative reflection on the ideal sexual objects of bisexually differentiated men.

Apparently, it is valid for at least some bisexuals that they do not eroticize men and women as such, but that, as a result of their bisexual structure, they feel attracted to men and women who do not have one of the corresponding monosexual structures, but rather, who—like themselves—they eroticize the genders bisexually. This would mean that bisexuals mutually attract one another. In that case, bisexuality would establish a connection beyond gender boundaries. If these reflections are applicable, then it can be assumed that bisexuals, when they are in places designed to meet the needs of homosexual or heterosexual desire and eroticism, do not find, or find only in a limited way, the situational sexualization appropriate to them, or, in other words, bisexual sexual tension.

Bisexuals would then have not two worlds between which they could go back and forth to get the best of both, but rather no world at all which reflected their sexual state. That would also make the continual complaint of bisexuals about their not being perceived more understandable. This would also have to be one of the decisive driving forces prompting bisexual men and women to organize themselves and to arrange for “bisexual places,” that is places where, unlike in heterosexual or homosexual relations, they do not always have to deal with meeting partners who want to nail them down to the appropriate monosexuality. In such places, moreover, a more specific bisexual eroticization comes into being, and those sexual situations are more likely to develop, which, due to their sexual tension and dynamic, independent of the number and the gender of the actors involved, could be characterized as bisexual contact.

The view that bisexuals are distinguished by a particular flexibility frequently goes along with the short-sighted thesis that bisexuality is a freely chosen preference. This impression can occur because bisexuals—viewed from the outside—actually do have a larger range of possibilities in shaping their sexual relationships than do monosexuals. This is true, at least under the premise that they are not only aware of their bisexuality, but also put it into practice. If they then have satisfactory sexual contact with men and with women, they are flexible in the sense that they can decide for periods of time to live monosexually without giving up their bisexual option. But that does not mean that the bisexual orientation as such was freely chosen. It is not a preference, but rather fate.

To be aware of this and to accept this fate is, for those who discover themselves to be bisexuals, connected with a not-negligible effort in light of the hegemony of monosexuality. By their very existence, they challenge the monosexual order. The negative and defensive reactions of monosexuals on both sides to this challenge have, for some time, been summarized in the term biphobia, whereby there are indications that biphobia hits bisexuals much harder than homophobia does homosexuals, who at least do not question monosexual certainties. To become bisexual thus demands chipping away at or, if you will, deconstructing monosexual perspectives. This also explains the popularity of constructionist theoretical concepts in the bisexual emancipation literature. Here it is all about struggling with sexual self-definition. However, this relates not only to sexual attraction, that is, sexual orientation; this is also always the result of a reconstruction of one’s own life history, and at the same time a draft for the future, insofar as those who identify themselves as bi, gay, or lesbian not only struggle to develop a consciousness of their sexual constitution, but also some idea of what it could mean to live as bi, gay, or lesbian, and perhaps also how this could be achieved, given the current monosexual-heterocentric societal situation.

While the monosexual structures of gay men and lesbian women have developed and increasingly differentiated and consolidated in the course of the changes since the 1960s, bisexuality as a sexual form and way of life has only just now emerged. Just as Michel Foucault (1981) once said about homosexuality, that it was “not a form of desire, but something desirable” and that “thus we must work towards becoming homosexual and must not be stubbornly insistent that we already are” (p. 86), so should the title of a flyer from the Initiative gruppe bisexueller Männer und Frauen [Bisexual Initiative Group] (1987) that said “Don’t dream it—bi it,” be understood as an imperative to first create a bisexual reality. From this perspective, bisexuality, or the current form of bisexuality, is the product of a social construction process entirely in the sense that constructionism maintains. Bisexuality then appears to be, at least at the present moment, determined to a larger degree by the constructive activity of the individuals involved than the already established forms of homosexuality, and above all, as that broad rest of sexual reality, defined through the criterion of nondeviation from the so-called normal, which has not risen to differentiated sexual constructs, and which, for the time being, will continue to be included under the residual category of heterosexuality.