You should be able to own your sexuality without fear of being told it’s a phase, or that you’re just trying to gain attention from cishet white men. I often feel like my sexuality has been taken from me in that I’m both erased and fetishized for it. My identity is treated as a joke, something that I will grow out of. Through this fetishization, men are able to exert sexual control over bisexual women, which contributes to the larger sexual oppression of women.
Far too many times I’ve been delegitimized by men I’ve been with who ask me invasive questions about my having slept with women: “Were they as good as me?” Well,they were better, but that’s not the answer you were looking for, was it? It feels so trivializing when bisexuality is assumed to be nothing more than a performance for someone else. My sexuality is not for your consumption. I’m not here to amuse your fantasies.
When I’m with a man, my interest in women is not taken seriously. When I’m with a woman, or tell someone that I am bisexual, I’m sexualized by men who assume that my attraction to women has something to do with them. I’m forced to justify my attraction, when I really don’t owe that to anyone – not even the people I’m sleeping with.
The personal attacks on my sexuality don’t stop with the men I’m sexually involved with – strangers at parties and even my supervisor at work have asked me degrading questions about sex and threesomes in regards to my sexuality. There is no end to their ridiculousness. What is it like to feel so entitled? Is nothing off limits to straight men? So much of how women conduct themselves – appearance, behaviours – are assumed to be catered to men. They are interpreted though the male gaze, which Everyday Feminism defines as “the lens through which mostly white, heterosexual men are viewing the world; [it] is a lens of entitlement. It’s entitlement [...] to exploit [women’s] bodies without consequence.”
The male gaze fetishizes the experiences of queer women. For example, consider the common trope of drunk girls making out for the sake of male enjoyment. The problem with this narrative is that society automatically assumes these girls are straight. But why does it matter? Why do they need to justify making out? Further, the assumption of heterosexuality speaks to the injustice that is heteronormativity – maybe the only outlet these girls have to express their interest in other girls is through being drunk. Fluidity is a hard thing to discover about yourself. Sometimes bi women continue to hide their identities in drunken moments like these because it’s the only mildly acceptable (though fetishized) way of expressing themselves under the constraints of a heteronormative society.
Our sexualities are constantly being mediated through social systems that cater specifically to straight cis white men. Men see bisexual women as more sexually available to them than straight women or lesbians because they can project fantasies of promiscuity and performance upon them. From the political to the medical, to misogynist media and the horrific reality of rape culture, men use various tactics to control women and their bodies. These efforts to control women are doomed to fail, and with this failure comes the outward hostility that forms when oppressive fantasies are called out and shattered.
Maybe that’s why men choose to fetishize bisexual women... but mostly they just come across as gross and disrespectful.