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As if we needed a study…

Researchers at Northwestern University have announced the results of a study that proves that bisexuality is real. While lots of you will find it quite amusing that anyone bothered to conduct such a study, this particular study is the first highly structured and scientific study of bisexuality. There were a handful of studies in the past, but they lacked proper controls and produced questionable results. On one hand, one could consider this study revolutionary and in the same vein as Kinsey’s research. On the other hand – did they really need to conduct a study?

The researchers used a group of about 90 men of which one third self identified as bisexual, one third as gay and one third as heterosexual. Not only did they have to self identify, but the bisexual males were required to have had relationships of at least three months with both sexes and to have had at least two sexual partners of each sex. Each test subject was shown two different sets of videos. One set portrayed exclusively lesbian sex while the other set portrayed sex between two men. Previous studies used videos portraying heterosexual sex and this was considered problematic because it’s impossible to determine which gender is arousing the viewer. As each male watched the videos, a device measured and recorded penile response. They were also interviewed after the videos to report their subjective arousal to the videos.

The study found objectively through measurement of penile girth, that heterosexual males were not aroused by male on male sex acts and gay men were not aroused by girl on girl sex. Bisexual men, however, were aroused by watching both. The study also found that individual bisexual test subjects tended to get more aroused by one sex or the other – showing a slight or even defined preference based on penile girth.

What value does the study have? Researchers hope to dispel public confusion over bisexuality. Even in liberal circles, bisexuals are often misunderstood and viewed with disdain. How many times have we heard a woman say that she could handle her man cheating with another woman but not with another man? Or how many times have we seen men or women choose not to date someone solely because that someone identifies as bisexual? Our society functions by being able to categorize people and being able to put them into boxes, making everything as black and white as possible. People, like bisexuals, who defy this systemic categorization are in for a rough ride. After all… if you are a bisexual male, what social niche do you belong to? Bisexual women fit nicely into the swinger’s community, and gay men have their own subculture – not to mention heterosexual culture.

While the study has good intentions, our social problems run deeper. While studies like this may work to dispel the notion that bisexuals are simply confused, they won’t change the behavior of people who don’t doubt that bisexuality exists, but still choose to discriminate against bisexuals and perpetuate societal categorization.