Bisexuality and Domestic Violence
By Emilie Trepanier
Even in 2020, many people still label bisexuality as a “phase” or simply an effort to be cool or fit in, including members of the LGBTQ+ community. Bi-erasure is just a small reason why so many bisexual individuals live in shame and fear. Bisexual people face high rates of various forms of violence. According to the CDC, 61.1% of bisexual women specifically experience forms of violence such as rape, physical violence, and/or stalking by an intimate partner. For bisexual men, the number is 37.3% as opposed to 26% for gay men.
Simply put, biphobia is classified as negative attitudes toward bisexual individuals. However, “negative attitudes” are not limited to hate crimes and hate speech. Negative attitudes include microaggressions such as “But aren’t you in a heterosexual relationship?” as well as not accepting, validating, and supporting bisexual people.
According to an article published on Healthy Place, some bi-phobic statements include:
- “You’ll grow out of it,”
- “You’re just experimenting,”
- “You’re just too chicken to come out as gay,”
- “You have to pick a side eventually,”
- “When you decide on a life partner or settle down, you’ll reveal your true colors.”
The above statements also contribute to bi-erasure, which attempts to eliminate people’s sexuality. Bi-erasure tries to paint bisexual individuals as just hyper-sexual; it’s often slut-shaming, and expects people to “pick a side.” This may come from people’s inability to see outside of their own personal worldview and desire for others’ experiences to fit into tidy boxes.
An article published by Queer Grace points out that when bisexuality is accepted and even celebrated, it is often hypersexualized. The article says, “Much ‘bisexual’ representation in media and culture is actually manufactured for a voyeuristic straight male audience… Treating bisexuality as an event meant for observation rather than a legitimate sexual orientation perpetuates harmful stereotypes and reduces an individual’s identity to only their sexual history.”
The fact is, human sexuality is complicated. An article published by Better Health Channel explains, “Sexuality is diverse, and there are many different types. It can take time to figure out the sexuality that fits you best. And your sexuality can change over time.”
Even though human sexuality is diverse and complicated, because it continues to be simplified on a mass scale, it further isolates LGBTQ+ individuals at large, contributing to the high rates of mental illness in these communities. In fact, according to an article published by Health Partners, 61% of LGBTQ+ individuals have depression, 45% have PTSD and 36% have an anxiety disorder. Another study published in 2016 by The American Journal of Public Health found that 20% of “sexual minority adults” had attempted suicide in their lifetime compared to 4% of the “general public,” and another study published in 2015 in the International Review of Psychiatry found that 98% of gay, bi-sexual, lesbian, and people questioning their sexuality are at an increased rate for committing suicide.
In an article published by Independent, it was cited that according to Pennsylvania-based intimate partner violence researcher, Dr. Nicole Johnson, up to 75% of bisexual women have been raped or sexually assaulted. Dr. Johnson identified three possible reasons why these numbers are so high: substance misuse, hypersexualization and biphobic harassment.
“The media, and pornography in particular, have long depicted women’s bisexuality as less about sexual agency and more about the pleasure of straight men, which may result in the dehumanization and objectification of bisexual women resulting in increased acceptance of violence [against them],” says Dr. Johnson. Dr. Johnson also commented on the common stereotype that bisexual people cannot be trusted, stemming from the hypersexualization and slut-shaming of these individuals. This lack of trust is also linked to partner violence against bisexual people.
According to the CDC, “Nearly half (48%) of bisexual women who are rape survivors experienced their first rape between ages 11 and 17.”
Independent interviewed a bi, disabled survivor they call “Jane” who was assaulted in her sleep by her partner. According to the article, Jane said “People have said that ‘being greedy’ won’t make dating with a disability easier. I think this kind of attitude is not only disgusting, but perpetuates a dangerous, completely inaccurate idea that disabled people are desperate and should feel lucky for any attention we get.” She also said people either view her as “nonsexual” because of her disability, or “promiscuous” because she is bisexual.
The Movement Advancement Project published an article which stated over half of the LGBTQ+ community is comprised of bisexual people, and yet they continue to be the most invisible group. There are no advocacy groups specifically for bisexual people, who must turn to gay and lesbian specific advocacy groups instead. Further, according to the aforementioned Independent article, bi-trans people are even more discriminated against and vulnerable to violence.
By understanding your part in discriminating against bisexual people through language and microaggressions you can in turn be a more prepared advocate. For more information on advocacy groups for the LGBTQ+ community, check out this link.
If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, there is help. You can visit the Break the Silence Against Domestic Violence website at www.breakthesilencedv.org or chat with one of our helpline advocates at 855-287-1777.
Share Your Story
Sharing our stories can be incredibly empowering while also helping others connect with survivors who have similar experiences. If you are inspired to share your story with us, submit here. You can choose to remain anonymous.
You can also donate to BTSADV here.
Photo Credit: Sharon McCutcheon, via Unsplash