Boys and girls come out to play (The Independent, 1997)

The research on behaviourally bisexual men commissioned by Health Education Authority in 1994, completed in 1995, and eventually published in 1996, was largely ignored.

In part, that's because the HEA leaked the findings – there are a lot of bisexual men! – months earlier, so by the time it was properly published, it was no longer 'news'.

But at least one paper noticed enough to refer to it a year later…

.. even if they didn't read it properly. The estimate of 12% of men being behaviourally bisexual – that is, being sexual with more than one gender – is informed largely by a 1982 survey of Playboy readers in the US* and..

While exact rates are impossible accurately to quantify it seems reasonable to assert that the lifetime figure lies somewhere in the region of 5-15%. Our best guess would be closer to the 12% of Lever et al. (1989; 1992) than the 3-7% of Johnson et al. (1994). However, with little direct evidence, estimates of the proportion of adult men that have had sex with both males and females in the last five years are too hazardous to even attempt.

The "in the last five years" came from the predictions of the person who commissioned it that they'd find hardly any bisexual men and so they needed to make the criteria for being included fairly broad. In fact, it turned out that the average number of partners was three men and three women per year.

The article was prompted by an episode on bisexuality that was part of Channel 4's Seven Sins series, entitled 'Greed', sigh.


'Greedy' is the latest slang for bisexual. Hester Lacey reports from a scene which pities 'monosexuals' and revels in cake and eatism

28th September 1997

BISEXUALS have always been a notoriously discreet group; but not the exuberantly voluptuous Felicity Diamond, all long dark hair, flashing eyes and throaty voice. Felicity considers herself a bisexual "greedy". She fronts the episode on greed in Channel Four's Seven Sins series, talking not about gluttony, but about bisexuality, in a programme that mixes the imagery of food with that of sex.

Greedies, says Felicity, are hungry for sensuality. "It's not about greed for a number of partners. I want the best, not the most – I'm very, very selective. It's a lust for life rather than a generalised lusting – an intelligent form of greed. I have lots of friendships and good relationships and sometimes they may become sexual. When I like people I don't care what genitals they have."

Felicity, 33, is a professional cook and masseuse. The Islington flat she shares with kittens Special Baby Doll, Squeaky Tiger and Precious Minx Bear, smells wonderfully of chicken breasts stuffed with pesto in the oven. "I really like people and I really like food. Pleasure and lusciousness and luxury are what I do."

Heterosexual sex, she says, has become "tired". "Since the advent of HIV, people have had to become much more explorative, and now sex is not just about penetration. Bisexualism is increasing among women simply because of dissatisfaction with men. The new man thing never really happened and when you want to find someone you can live with, talk to and get on with, often men don't always make the grade." Greedies, on the other hand, she says, make better partners. "Monosexuals haven't explored what their sexuality is all about. The bisexuals I know are much more discerning."

Being bisexual is also rather trendy. Roxi Lockwood, 26, an exotic dancer and techno-violinist who also appears in the programme, says, "Bisexuals do seem to be more to the fore at the moment. I'm not greedy in that I wouldn't have partners of both sexes at once: I'm a monogamous bisexual. It is a wider field of experience, though it can be a pain in the neck – your partner thinks you're looking at girls as well as boys."

Bisexuals have not, up to now, been very vocal. They tend to be mistrusted by both heterosexuals and homosexuals (who regard them as "traitors"). But it seems that there are a considerable number of this quiet minority. A 1995 report commissioned by the Health Education Authority, which concentrated solely on men, found that around 12 per cent of men are probably bisexual.

There is no similar data available for women bisexuals and in any case, as a group, bisexuals are difficult to pin down. One of the difficulties that the HEA study found was in deciding what exactly constitutes bisexual (Freud had at least five definitions). The HEA researchers settled on "men who had had sex with both males and females in the preceding five years". It is, however, a grey area. When asked, less than half of the men interviewed identified themselves as "bisexual"; some called themselves straight, others gay, while others used terms like "confused", "broadminded", "horny" and "normal".

In her book Vice Versa,** published last year, Marjorie Garber, professor of English at Harvard University, made an in-depth study of bisexuality, and identifies a growing trend among American college students to define themselves as bisexual (aka "switch-hitters" or "AC-DC"). Another new book is to be published shortly by Cassell. The Bisexual Imaginary: Representation, Identity and Desire is a collection of essays edited by members of Bi Academic Intervention, a network of teachers, publishers and researchers working on the subject. Merl Storr, lecturer in sociology at the University of East London and one of the book's editors, agrees that bisexuals have become more high-profile. She believes that this is partly because of the HIV epidemic. "Bisexual men were demonised as carriers of the disease to the general population," she says. "Lots of people felt targeted and felt they had to fight back and become active. Also, lesbian and gay communities have come of age, and there is now more space for people to explore the contradictions of bisexuality." She is ambivalent about the use of the term "greedy" to describe bisexuals.

Acknowledged bisexuals include Sandra Bernhardt, REM's frontman Michael "I'm an equal opportunities lech" Stipe, Rachel Williams, the "supermodel" former presenter of The Girlie Show and the actor Alexis Arquette, while James Dean and Marlene Dietrich are two great bisexual Hollywood icons.

But while greed is all very well for the glamorous and famous, others can find they are less well catered for. "You can talk about bisexual greediness if you like, but in that case I'm practically anorexic," says David, 29, a teacher from Birmingham. "Greed is fine if you live in London and have places to go and similar people to meet. There is still a lot of prejudice about and people seem to find it even harder to come to terms with bisexuality than with homosexuality."

Kate, 33, who works in publishing, also dislikes the term "greedy". "It comes from a heterosexist position that bisexuals are promiscuous," she says. "We get that reaction from gays as well – that we want the best of both worlds and are letting the side down. Bisexuality still tends to be hidden. When I have a relationship with a woman, I seem to have to come out all over again." She adds a belief that many bisexuals share: "Everyone has the potential to explore their sexuality in terms of the same sex – it's a shame more people don't feel they can."

Freud's theory, too, was that everyone is positioned on a sliding scale between heterosexuality and homosexuality. Greedy or not, perhaps there are a lot more like Brett Anderson of Suede, who said, "I'm a bisexual man who has never had a homosexual experience."

`Greed', Channel 4, Monday, 10.55pm.


The List's preview of the programme:

Preview of 'Greedy' on bisexuality from The List 1997

The Independent's review of the programme said:

[Part of another programme] raised the hair on the back of your neck.

As did Felicity Diamond, the central character in Greed (C4), though "hackles" might be a better term. The third of a series of films on the theme of the seven deadly sins, this was actually about bisexuality (on the rather tenuous basis that "greedy" is a slang term for a bisexual. Several of the bisexuals interviewed didn't seem to know this, which made you suspect the whole thing might be a fit up). Felicity was the star attraction, a voluptuous Australian with a very self-congratulatory line in sexual liberty ("most people aren't intelligent enough to be bisexual"). Many of those who appeared, but Felicity in particular, seemed terrified of being "boxed in", "categorised", "straight-jacketed" or "programmed". Indeed, they went on about this so much that they began to sound rather neurotic, as though their sense of themselves were so fragile that it wouldn't withstand the impact of a casual preconception. Relax, you thought after a while, nobody cares what you do in bed remotely as much as you do. "Mutual respect" is apparently important to Felicity, but only for those who wear the same extravagant uniform as she does. "I'd cull about 90 per cent of the population," she said at one point, "and I'd eradicate genetic problems like idiocy, racism and lack of understanding". This final solution would seem to include those debased souls who quite like getting dressed in suits and are perfectly happy in "monosexual" affairs. Lack of understanding is the only kind of response those weirdos deserve.

The Times review said: "Last night's sinner was Felicity Diamond, who purred at us for half an hour about how much she enjoyed bring greedy. As it happens. Diamond — who is a caterer and a masseuse — is just the sort of woman who might well request an extra pillow: she believes in enjoying all that life has to offer. But she still resents the assumption that all bisexuals are promiscuous, explaining that "that's one of the reasons they call us greedy".


* Unlike most other large surveys done for magazines, it looks like all of the over 60,000 responses from men were actually analysed!

** An excellent 200 page book.. but it's just over 600 pages long…

AIDS Spectre for Women: The Bisexual Man (New York Times 1987)

A three line history of bisexual men in the news:

1987 – There are "7 to 10 million" bisexual men in the USA

2005 – "Straight, Gay or Lying? Bisexuality Revisited"

2020 – .. we've looked again at that study, and bisexual men do exist!

What's particularly interesting about the first one is that at least three of the men quoted – Richard Isay, Bruce Voeller, and Laud Humphreys – were all married to women for years, with all having children with their wives. Clearly, they were all bisexual by behaviour and to at least some degree by attraction, before deciding to identify as gay.

What won't be surprising to anyone who was a bisexual man in the 1980s is the 'bisexual men give women Aids' angle…


3rd April 1987

AIDS SPECTER FOR WOMEN: THE BISEXUAL MAN

Some Think They Can Tell
Truth After 16 Years
7 to 10 Million Men
Several Categories of Behavior
Reluctance to Reveal the Past
A Few Are Changing Their Ways

By JON NORDHEIMER, SPECIAL TO THE NEW YORK TIMES

Seven years ago a Miami office worker had an affair with a bisexual man. She recalls that his confusion about sexual orientation was one of the things that made her feel tender toward him.

Now she wonders if she should get a blood test for the AIDS virus.

Women today increasingly find their thoughts turning to past and present lovers, asking themselves if anyone with whom they were intimate might have a bisexual history. Unlike the Miami office worker, many will be unable to say for certain.

It is a new anxiety, some of it unfounded, slipping into the lives of women as they measure the degree of risk they face from the deadly acquired immune deficiency syndrome. While bisexuals who are exposed during sexual relations with other men are one bridge on which the AIDS virus can cross from the high-risk homosexual population to infect heterosexual women, the greatest threat comes from intravenous drug users. Only about 4 percent of diagnosed AIDS cases are thought to have been transmitted through heterosexual intercourse, and fewer than one in 10 of those appear to involve bisexual men, according to a New York study.

But numbers offer little consolation to the individual woman who fears that one miscalculation could be fatal, especially a middle-class woman who thinks the chance of contact with a drug addict using contaminated needles is remote. For this kind of woman, experts say, the figure of the male bisexual, cloaked in myth and his own secretiveness, has become the bogyman of the late 1980's, casting a chill on past sexual encounters and prospective ones.

She might also be distressed to learn that bisexuals are often secretive and complex men who, experts say, probably would not acknowledge homosexual activity even if questioned about it. Indeed, some cannot even admit such behavior to themselves.

"Homosexuals have been out of the closet a long time but bisexuals have not," said Dr. Theresa Crenshaw, president of the 5,000-member American Association of Sex Educators, Counselors and Therapists. "Straight women are going to discover some very unpleasant news about some men they have known."

It is a particularly acute worry for women in such areas as New York, Miami and San Francisco, which have high numbers of AIDS cases. In New York, for example, it is estimated that as many as 500,000 people, mostly men, may already be infected with the AIDS virus but as yet free from symptoms of the disease. This contrasts with the 33,000 confirmed AIDS cases in the nation, still overwhelmingly confined to homosexual men and drug abusers.

Some Think They Can Tell

Some experts feel the threat is exaggerated and doubt that male bisexuals will be a vector of widespread infection among women.

Those relatively few bisexuals willing to discuss their private lives now fear they "will become scapegoated as carriers of the plague," according to David Lourea,* executive director of Bisexual Counseling Services of San Francisco, a support group. "The danger is in telling women to avoid bisexual men and give them the impression they are safe with straight guys who may be just as risky now because they are secret IV drug users."

Still, the fear about bisexuals persists, and women are left to their own resources to ferret out a man's sexual history.

"If the guy won't tell me I could only guess," said the Miami office worker. Her solution: no sex with any man until she is confident of her safety. But "even then the guy could be a good liar," she noted.

Some women believe they can recognize bisexual men. "I don't care how much they want to cover it up, their little effeminate ways tip you off," said another Miami woman, Isis Gradaille. This view is disputed, however, and many bisexuals may seem very masculine to women they attract.

Truth After 16 Years

One therapist tells the story of a New Jersey accountant, 16 years married, who for years sought out men in public toilets and truck stops without a clue to his wife and daughter. When his wife discovered the truth five years ago, the therapist recounted, her reaction was: "You're not a man!" Despite a deep sense of humiliation, however, she continued to have sexual relations with him, tolerating the nights he came home late.

But there was something ultimately more devastating than humiliation: Fear of AIDS took hold, and two years ago, according to the therapist, she ordered her husband out. Experts believe that many women married to such men are indeed at great risk of AIDS because of repeated contact with someone who may have many sexual partners in a high-risk population. But there is less agreement on the extent of the AIDS danger that bisexuals pose to women in general.

The uncertainty stems in part from the difficulty in defining bisexuals and their patterns of behavior. Dr. Alfred C. Kinsey, the researcher whose 1948 survey "Sexual Behavior in the Human Male" is still the best broad-based examination of the subject, admitted confusion on 'delimiting' bisexuality.

7 to 10 Million Men

"There are not many bisexual men who can function effectively with a wide number of female partners," said Richard A. Isay, a clinical associate professor of psychiatry at Cornell Medical Center in Manhattan. "Most bisexuals are just married men who are gay."

But some other behaviorists and clinicians challenge that contention. "There are many men out there who are very active with both men and women," asserted Dr. Fritz Klein, a California authority on bisexuality.

As for numbers, Dr. Bruce Voeller, president of the Mariposa Foundation, a sexuality research and educational group in Los Angeles, said those men who fall within the range of active bisexuality are more numerous than most people would expect.

While no reliable national survey exists to update the 40-year old Kinsey data, Dr. Voeller estimated that 7 million to 10 million men today, out of the 96.5 million over the age of 12, could be described as bisexual for some extended period in their lives, about twice the number thought to be exclusively homosexual.

"The numbers on bisexuals have always been a problem," conceded Dr. June Reinisch, director of the Kinsey Institute, part of Indiana University at Bloomington, Ind. "But basically we don't believe that the years of sexual liberation and openness in American society have changed them much. You can't train or influence people on which gender to fall in love with. That's set from early on in life."

Several Categories of Behavior

Contemporary researchers suggest that most bisexuals fit into five categories of behavior. The largest group are married men, like the New Jersey accountant, who lead clandestine homosexual lives and rarely if ever have sexual relations with women other than their wives.

A second group includes openly bisexual men who are promiscuous only in their homosexual orientation and interact with women in a sporadic, serial manner, returning to the company of men when a relationship with a woman ends.

There are those men unsettled by identity confusion who, in the words of one expert, "jump here and there and back again."

Researchers think a fourth group, young men who experiment with homosexuality in college or some other environment where it is tolerated or easy to hide, is shrinking as AIDS fears rise.

Dr. Laud Humphreys, a Los Angeles psychotherapist who wrote "Tearoom Trade," an examination of homosexual and bisexual behavior, describes the fifth category as "ambisexuals," a small but "dangerous" group of men who have very frequent sexual contact with both men and women.

"Basically they don't care if a partner is a man or a woman as long as that person is good-looking and sexually active," Dr. Humphreys said. "I consider this group the most dangerous in the cross-infection of AIDS because these men are likely to be drug-abusers as well, overlapping their high-risk behavior." He includes male prostitutes in this category, though they often express loathing for their clients and may be heterosexual by preference.

Reluctance to Reveal the Past

Stuart, a San Francisco writer, closely fits Dr. Humphreys's description of ambisexual. "As a teenager I considered myself a latent homosexual because I fantasized about men and women as long as I can remember," he said in a telephone interview. "When my first wife and I back in the 1970's decided to have an open marriage, we formed a menage a trois with one of her professors in Philadelphia.

"I was scared my first homosexual experience would turn me off to women but that hasn't happened. I still feel a sexual need for them, although at the moment I live with a man." One point on which all experts agreed, in a series of interviews, was that most bisexuals would be extremely reluctant to reveal their sexual history to someone with whom they did not hold a long and trusting relationship.

"If anything, AIDS will drive bisexual men deeper into the closet," said Pepper Schwartz, an associate professor of sociology at the University of Washington who co-wrote "American Couples," a study of heterosexual and homosexual relationships. These men realize that "even women who consider themselves very liberal will not have sex with a bisexual since she will consider him a greater risk for infection."

Married men who for years have frequented homosexual hangouts may still regard themselves as heterosexual and, if asked by a woman, would vehemently deny high-risk behavior, according to several therapists.

"This is a group most likely to spread AIDS by denying this history to a woman," said James Mahon, a psychologist who co-founded the Center for Identity Development in Upper Montclair, N.J., a counseling service for homosexuals and bisexuals.

"The need they feel to protect their sense of self is so strong," he said, "plus they feel they have so much to lose if their behavior is found out, that they don't even recognize their behavior as homosexual in character, as strange as that may sound. This is carried to a point where they may not practice safe sex because that would be an admission that it is high-risk, homosexual behavior."

Dr. Jane Pitt, a faculty member at Babies Hospital of the Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center in New York, said she had heard of cases in which infants born with AIDS gave the first clue that the mother had been infected through a bisexual husband. "The illness of the baby alerted everyone and gave the death knell to the whole family in the most outrageous way," the physician said.

Therapists report that a few years ago there was a surge in bisexuals seeking professional help to "convert" their sexual orientation to heterosexuality, a highly controversial therapeutic goal that is considered without merit if the patient's basic makeup, consciously or subconsciously, is homosexual. But the trend dropped off by 1986. "Most were driven by the fear of AIDS," said Dr. Crenshaw of San Diego. "Now they see heterosexuals are not free from risk."

A Few Are Changing Their Ways

Still, it is apparent that some bisexual and homosexual men are seeking alternatives. "Gay and bisexual men are settling down with women and marrying them in greater numbers than ever before," said Dr. David McWhirter, a San Diego psychiatrist who is a co-author of "The Male Couple," a study of monogamous homosexuals.

Michael Shernoff, a therapist working with homosexual men in Manhattan, said he has detected the same trend. "It appears to be happening with gay men who have been very comfortable with a gay identity for a long time but gradually discover a strong attraction for women," he said. Dr. Voeller of the Mariposa Foundation reported similar observations. "It's a recent phenomenon of the gay movement," he said. "I see it even among some leaders of the gay movement who are secretive about their relations with women because they believe they will be censured by gays."

He said it was unknown, however, whether such secretiveness extended to obscuring a homosexual background, or whether the men submitted to blood tests to assure that they were free of the AIDS virus and unlikely to pass it on to the women they were taking up with.


* Previously featured in the Bay Area Reporter on first US national bisexual conference article.

Outright #43 article on BiCon 11

Outright was a free community newspaper in the East Midlands – it started life in February 1990 as 'Outright: Gay Freesheet for the East Midlands', and became '.. For Gays and Lesbians in Central England' by November 1992.

By issue 43 in November 1993, it was '.. For Gays Lesbians and Bisexuals in Central England' and in the same issue carried the following story about the recent BiCon 11 in Nottingham:

(HTML version of the text on the BiCon website.)

Outright dropped the '.. in Central England' bit of its subheading September 1995. Its last issue was #89 in October 1997.

Its archive is at The Sparrows Nest.

Bay Area Reporter on first US national bisexual conference

The mention of the Revolting Sexologists from Hell in Bi-Issues #1 got me doing a search for them. Before today, Google knew of one usage, in a Bay Area Reporter* article on the first US 'national bisexual conference' in 1990. (And it should have been the 'Radical Revolting Sexologists from Hell'!)

I didn't go to the conference – too poor, amongst other things – but several people from the UK did. I do have a couple of the brochures from it – one as a result of Robyn bringing some to the 1990 BiCon two months later, and one from being married to someone who did go.

That BiCon is probably where I got one of the event's t-shirts from…


The cover of the Bay Area Reporter newspaper, 5th July 1990

Bay Area Reporter article image 1

Bay Area Reporter article image 2

Conference Marks Bisexuals' Stonewall

by Richard McPherson

Four hundred and fifty men and women were in town last weekend to attend the 1990 National Bisexual Conference held at San Francisco's Mission High School.

Two years in the making, this conference, hosted by Bisexual Political Action Group (BiPOL), is the culmination of a nationwide effort of local bisexual centers to create a bisexual network and draw attention to the bi community.

The primary purpose of the conference for participants and the public at large was to: "Educate, Advocate, Agitate and Celebrate."

To this end the workshop, which ran June 21-23, focused on political, general information and AIDS oriented issues with subgroups and tracks dealing with feminism, people of color, relationships, androgyny, spirituality, sexuality and writing and publishing.

One of the highlights of the conference was the presentation by a representative of Supervisor Hongisto's office of a resolution passed by the S.F. board and signed by Mayor Agnos, declaring Saturday, June 23 "Bisexual Pride Day in San Francisco."

David Lourea, a BiPOL spokesperson, stressed that much of the focus of the conference was directed toward coming out and gaining personal and public support while emphasizing the need "of being out there in straight and gay communities as out-front, vocal bisexuals."

In addition to bisexual registrants, gay and lesbian people attended the conference as well, according to Carol Queen, a BiPOL steering committee member.

"We certainly have gay and lesbian-identified people here who are behaviorally bisexual," said Queen. "Gay and lesbian communities everywhere have a bisexual component to them, whether those folks are out or not.

"There are gay and lesbian people [here] who aren't bisexual behaviorally but who consider the struggles of bisexuals real important to them, who are working on their biphobia and working on understanding 'who are these bi upstarts anyway and what are they talking about?'"

A Part Yet Separate

David Lourea, sees similarities as well as differences between the bisexual and gay and lesbian communities in terms of beliefs and concerns.

"You need to see that bisexuals see themselves as part of the gay and lesbian community," he began. "Apart and separate from the community. So, while we have always been a part of every single gay and lesbian organization anywhere, there have been vast numbers of people who have been bisexual and have not felt comfortable to come out or secure to come out — have been discriminated against, ridiculed and have lived within the gay community in silence."

Lourea feels that even though bisexuals see their situation as very much related to the gay cause, they feel cut off from gays and lesbians due to lack of education and understanding.

Debunking the myth that bi people are confused about their sexual preference, Lourea says: "It is realistic to be confused if you live in a world that says that you do not exist. Confusion is an appropriate response to the gay and lesbian community telling you that your heterosexual feelings are just an indication of your internalized homophobia; of the straight community telling you that 'you're just a little strange and need to get rid of your homosexual feelings.' So people who are bi live with monosexuals [gays, lesbians and straights] telling them that they don't exist. It's appropriate to be confused. It's an appropriate choice not to make a choice; we live in a world that says you have to.

Addressing the opinion of some gays that bisexuals can't be trusted, that they'll go back in the closet and take "heterosexual privilege," Lourea responds: "A great many people who are bi are 'out there,' have always been beaten up, have put their lives on the line all the time. In some ways we risk more because the reality is that we don't want to give up our heterosexual partners, we don't want to give up our heterosexual life — we also don't want to give up our gay life. For many of us acknowledging our gay side does mean alienation of our heterosexual side, and that's very painful. Sometimes more painful than it is for someone who is gay or lesbian."

Exploding Biphobia

Carol Queen, a writer, educator, activist and charter member of Radical Revolting Sexologists from Hell, said that BiPOL exists as a political and educational tool to further the understanding and rights of not only bisexuals, but the gay and lesbian communities as well. "Since most of the projects of the gay and lesbian community are also our projects, anything that helps gay and lesbian visibility and identity and combats homophobia helps [us too]." For example, BiPOL, she said, was out in force in support of Project 10, a program to provide S.F. high schools with gay youth counseling programs.

Queen agrees with Lourea that a major part of BiPOL's agenda is to talk about biphobia to the gay and lesbian community, in addition to the straight community. "We want the lesbian and gay community to know that we're here as a part of their community, that we're moving into a new phase of community building and organizing. We're thinking of this as our non-violent Stonewall. 20 years later, thanks to the gay and lesbian community … Our same sex connections are very powerful and precious to us. You know, that's what makes us bisexual instead of heterosexual. We're not heterosexual people."

The conference weekend culminated on Sunday with a contingent of 250 participants marching in the Gay and Lesbian Freedom Day Parade. ▼

BAY AREA REPORTER JULY 5, 1990 PAGE 20 & 22

Page 20 of the Bay Area Reporter newspaper, 5th July 1990

Page 22 of the Bay Area Reporter newspaper, 5th July 1990


* Founded in 1971, the BAR is the USA's the oldest continually published LGBT newspaper. The article on the conference was just after two pages of obituaries, almost all as a result of Aids:

Obituries in the Bay Area Reporter 5th July 1990 1

Obituries in the Bay Area Reporter 5th July 1990 2