Ethos

Battle of the (bi)sexes

By Kelsey Jacobs

Guy: “So what’s the score?”

Rachel: “I beg your pardon?”

Guy: “How many girls have you been with and how many guys have you been with?”

Rachel tells him, and it just so happens that it’s the same number on both sides.

Guy: “Oh, so I’m the make it or break it number then?”

Sound like a weird twist on an awkward conversation? It’s not to Rachel Johnson who has dealt with all sorts of difficulties that come along with dating both men and women. Just to be clear, she’s bisexual. And she canned the guy above as soon as he said that.

“It completely turned me off,” says Johnson. “I didn’t want anything to do with him after that because I am not a statistic. He was using me to prove a point – that guys are better.”

The conversation Johnson had with the guy above is just one example of the many reactions she gets when people find out she is bisexual. This guy was feeling threatened because he thought he had to compete with not only other men, but with women as well. This type of response to Johnson’s sexual orientation can be the knife in the blender to her dating life.

Johnson has loved and admired both sexes since she was very young. She finds herself in a minority in the United States, as according to the Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender and Reproduction, only around four percent of Americans identify as bisexual.

Whether a minority or not, Johnson embraces her sexual orientation as a natural part of her life. However, at 21-years-old she has only had one successful relationship. It was with another bisexual girl when she was in high school. Since then she has just been dating but has had nothing exclusive. This is partly due to her being a self-admitted commitment phobe in addition to the stereotypes potential partners of both sexes apply to her bisexuality.

When straight guys find out about Johnson’s sexual orientation, they often have several common responses. A lot of times they assume that her bisexuality is code for “easy” and that she has been around the block. Some guys expect to get some girl-on-girl action out of the deal.

“It makes dating extremely difficult because they do assume that you are kind of that slut,” Johnson says. “Like you wouldn’t be down for a monogamous relationship but that you’re that girl they can just fool around with and have threesomes with, like you’re kind of a sex toy in a weird way.”

She has to explain to them that this isn’t the case, but some guys just don’t get it.

Victor Raymond, who has a Ph.D. from Iowa State and is a longtime bi activist, explains that bisexual dating can be like a minefield because finding people to relate to is difficult when you have to continually explain your orientation.

“Even when people seem to get it, sometimes you still run into things where you have to say, ‘No I’m not interested in a threesome, thank you.’ And, ‘Yes I can make a commitment to one person,’ which is probably the biggest one people have trouble with,” says Raymond.

Sometimes Johnson meets a guy she is really attracted to and wants a relationship with, but when they find out she is bisexual their whole attitude towards her changes.

“It’s kind of like realizing that the girl you went on two dates with is a hooker or a stripper,” Johnson says. “It’s like, ‘Oh, she’s that kind of girl, so I don’t need a relationship with her because I can just fool around with her.’ They kind of lose respect for you which does make it very difficult to date men.”

Some guys don’t even believe Johnson is actually bisexual. She explains that there are two types of bisexual people – the kind that make out with other girls as a party trick to get attention from guys, and the kind that are actually attracted to and date both sexes. She describes herself as the latter, but she is most often lumped into what she refers to as the “road show” category by guys – they think she isn’t serious.

“With straight people, like with some relationships I’ve had with men, they’ve had problems with me actually genuinely being attracted to girls,” Johnson explains. “They thought it was just some kinky sex thing I was into. They didn’t think it was an actual emotional attraction.”

The genuine attraction Johnson feels for women can often get her in trouble when she is with a guy, most often when she is doing something she says guys also do: girl watch.

“I’ve actually had guys get mad at me doing it because they start to feel like they’re being challenged,” Johnson says. “It’s like it’s their territory and they could get left for a girl, which is their worst nightmare. They can’t compete with girls either because they’re also attracted to girls and they don’t know how to fight for attention from a girl.”

Raymond explains that to a man, the idea of a bisexual woman being attracted to a woman while neither of them is attracted to him can be very stressful. He says this is because the guy gets knocked out from being the center of the universe and he suddenly has to compete with women.

“That sense of competition can be very daunting,” Raymond says. “Never mind the fact that straight guys are in competition with each other all the time.”

It isn’t as easy for Johnson to meet women compared to men. This is simply because lesbian and bisexual women are more of a minority than straight or bisexual males.

“It’s more difficult for me to meet women,” Johnson says. “Usually it has to be in a gay setting like at the drag shows, or at gay bars, or if you’re around someone who you know is gay. Usually girls who I date, my friends bring them because they know they are gay and want to introduce them to me. I am one of the very few single people in the group I hang out with and they do like to push that a little bit.”

Lesbians have also stereotyped Johnson’s. Many of the gay women Johnson has met disapprove of the fact that she is truly still attracted to men.

“Especially with dating gay women, they don’t like the fact that you are attracted to both sexes,” Johnson says. “Rarely would they say it to your face but you can kind of get the feeling that they think you’re being a traitor from the cause. Like you’re dating a girl but you would date a guy, so that means you’re a traitor.”

Raymond says that the gay and lesbian community often judges bisexual women when they date males because it appears to be a heterosexual relationship to the public. As Johnson mentioned, this makes lesbians wary because they see dating males as a betrayal of the community.

“It’s okay if [a bisexual person] is involved with someone of the same gender, you know, a same-sex relationship,” Raymond says. “That’s okay; then they’re being ‘good.’ But if you’re a woman and you’re involved with a man but you say you’re bi, how does that work? It leads to a different kind of discrimination.”

Johnson says this discrimination exists also because lesbians have rejected all attraction to men, but they may find themselves competing for a partner with men.

“Lesbian women, God love them, are always afraid you’re going leave them for a guy.” Johnson says. “That terrifies them. I can’t lump them all together, but in my experience it makes them very uncomfortable.”

The Sex
As mentioned before Johnson has had sexual experiences with relatively the same amount of guys and girls. This doesn’t mean, however, she has been with a lot of people.

“There’s also that assumption with bisexual women and men that we’re experienced, that we’ve been around the block a couple times, that we’ve been with a lot of people, which isn’t the case for everyone,” Johnson says. “I don’t like to think that I’ve been with a lot of people. I haven’t been with very few people but I’m a natural 21-year-old sexual person. I’m not a slut and I’m not a prude – it’s an average amount of people that I’ve been with.”

Beyond assumptions about the number of her sexual experiences, sometimes Johnson’s partners feel more pressure because they are competing with her past sexual encounters with both
men and women.

“When you get down to the actual sex, guys are afraid they can’t compete and girls are afraid they can’t compete,” Johnson says. “But it is two completely experiences to be with a guy and to be with a girl. Obviously, you’ve got two different parts you’re working with.”

Raymond says it is useful for bisexual people to not buy into the game of competition between the sexes when it comes to sex. He says worrying about competing in the bedroom gets at the idea that there is only one way to do something and guys want to be better at it.

“Actually, bi people have discovered that there are lots of ways to do things and they’re all okay,” Raymond says. “If that means that a bunch of people suddenly discover that the world is more than black and white but a whole range of colors, that’s okay, I’m good with that. I’d rather have that and have these people think these things out for themselves than to reinforce some guy’s idea of being a Pro Magnum addition to the bedroom.”

Though competitive feelings arise and Johnson gets the awkward questions about how many guys and how many girls she has been with, she thinks it stems from a worry that both sexes feel about measuring up.

“It’s got nothing to do with ‘men are better at sex or women are better at sex,’” Johnson states. “It just varies from person to person. I’ve been with girls who are really good and I’ve been with girls who suck. And I’ve been with guys who suck and I’ve been with guys who are really good. It doesn’t matter what gender, it’s more what type of person they are. You’d be surprised how many shy people I meet who are just fiery in the sack, and they’ve got this enthusiasm that’s just unmatched by people who have a lot of confidence.”

The Bottom Line
Although the world of dating both guys and girls can be fraught with all sorts of difficulties, it isn’t necessarily a huge problem for Johnson.

“It doesn’t make my life very complicated because dating isn’t the center of my universe,” Johnson says. “You know some people come to college for an MRS degree. They want to put a ring on their finger. That’s not the case with me.”

Dating isn’t the main focus Johnson has in college because she is stable and has a well-rounded life that includes other interests.

“I have a lot of hobbies,” Johnson says. “I’m a DJ at the radio station and I’m a building manager at the library. I’m also a Lit student so I love to read and I live and breathe music. All of those are priorities for me; dating isn’t so much one.”

If dating was a top priority though, Johnson says it would make her life a lot more difficult. She finds it easier to not actively look for something and just let things happen since she isn’t looking for anything serious at the moment.

In the future though she sees herself ending up in a committed relationship and would love to have children. However, she feels no rush because her future is not set in stone.
For now she has a running joke with her friends about one of her favorite musicians, Emiliana Torrini, an Icelandic-Italian singer and songwriter. Johnson jokes and claims Torrini is her one true love and they are very happy together.

“If I could meet someone who makes me feel like Emiliana Torrini does – she’s got this song ‘Beggars Prayer’ – if I ever meet someone who makes me feel like that song makes me feel, I know I’ve found someone I know I can really love,” Johnson says. “Whether it’s a guy or a girl or a rock.”

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