The thing about bisexuality

While flicking through Andrew Sullivan’s blog ‘The Dish‘ the other day I came across an article under the heading ‘Keeper Archives’ titled ‘What’s A Bisexual Anyway?‘ Being someone who generally identifies as bisexual I was rather intrigued. The article is a collection of comments on a previous article Sullivan had written about a Pew Research poll that showed 40% of the LGBT population identified as bisexual, which he felt was unusually high. What is also interesting is, according to the poll, only 28 per cent of bisexuals have ‘come out’ in comparison to over 70 per cent of gays and lesbians.

Sullivan’s question was; is there a hidden gay population that doesn’t interact with the rest of the gay and lesbian community?

The responses were overwhelming, with many questioning what it is to be bisexual and why so many are still in the closet.

The Merriam Webster definition of bisexual is;

of, relating to, or characterized by a tendency to direct sexual desire toward both sexes

This is also the definition I use. Bisexuality is not about whether you’ve experimented with a person of the same sex and enjoyed it, it’s when you’re physically attracted to someone of the same sex.

Some people have questioned whether bisexuality actually exists. As Dan Savage has pointed out in his response to being called biphobic, the reason he has questioned the existence of bisexuality is because many homosexuals use it as a stepping stone to coming out. Celebrities such as Elton John and Freddie Mercury have first referred to themselves as bisexual before entering into same sex relationships.

The problem with bisexuality is that, at the end of the day if you fall in love and enter a monogamous relationship with someone it will be either a hetrosexual or homosexual relationship. Although bisexuals do exist, bisexual relationships do not and that is the downfall of bisexuality. Anna Paquin and Evan Rachel Wood have both come out as bisexual and have married men, which has led to their sexuality being questioned, with one person asking Evan Rachel Wood after her marriage to Jaime Bell, “Honestly not trying to be an ass. Just trying to understand. Does this mean you are not bi anymore? How does that work?” To which Wood replied “No, it just means I am not single anymore. ;)”

One father whose daughter is bisexual felt that his daughter was ostracised by both the straight and gay communities. He suspected the gay community felt threatened by bisexuals because they contradict the theory that homosexuality is not a choice because they can choose, but this is not true. In fact this is not true for anyone bisexual, gay or straight. We don’t choose who we fall in love with or who we’re attracted to, that’s why we fall for people we know we shouldn’t. That’s why sometimes we just can’t love that person who seems perfect.

My sexuality has been questioned many times with people asking why I call myself bisexual when I was in a nearly 7 year relationship with a man. When I told another friend her response was, “but you’ll probably end up married to man so it doesn’t really matter.”

That’s why I felt the need to write this. It does matter. My sexuality is a big part of who I am and no matter who I end up marrying it will always be part of who I am.

There’s no logic in love nor is there choice but there should always be acceptance.

 

Chivalry Shouldn’t be Dead

I was reading Cosmo and I came across a short but interesting article written from a male perspective about chivalry (Cosmopolitan August 2013, pg 181.) The author, Sean Powers (@powersoz on Twitter if you’re interested) was told by his female friends that it was sexist to offer to help a woman carry her bag, to open a door for her or to pay for the bill.

I’ve had this discussion with friends before. When I was in Boston a few years ago I was quite shocked when men stood up and offered me their seat on the train. Some of my friends rolled their eyes and accused me of playing the poor damsel in distress, but I didn’t see it that way, he was just being polite. 

It’s the same with opening doors and offering to help me with my bags, I know when someone does things they’re not doing it because they think my femininity makes me incompetent but because it’s polite.

It’s the same concept as when I offer my seat on a train to an elderly person, I’m not being ageist, I’m being polite and respectful. 

However, just because I believe in chivalry does not mean I expect a man to pay for everything or to always carry my things, it’s just nice for them to offer sometimes.

Feminism vs Pornography

(Or why feminists need to stop worrying and learn to accept the adult industry.)

We’ve come a long way since the “sexual revolution” of the 1960’s and it was only a matter of time before the evolution of female sexuality led to the creation of pornography made with female viewers in mind. This type of pornography is often referred to as “female friendly” or feminist porn. But can any type of pornography truly be feminist? Many feminists see any form of pornography as the epitome of misogyny due to objectification of women it presents. They assume that the women depicted in the films are failed actresses who are only doing it for the money, but what if they want to do it? (*GASP*) What if they enjoy it or find it empowering? (*Double gasp*) How can feminists hate a life a woman has chose? Especially when it’s in one of the very few industries where women consistently earn more than men?

There are many conflicting ideas about what constitutes feminist pornography, feminist pornographer Tristan Taormino describes her version as pornography made “under fair, ethical working conditions…that does not demean women or men.”[1] To be eligible for a Feminist Porn Award the production must meet at least one of the following three criteria;

  1. Women and/or traditionally marginalized people were involved in the direction, production and/or conception of the work.

  2. The work depicts genuine pleasure, agency and desire for all performers, especially women and traditionally marginalized people.

  3. The work expands the boundaries of sexual representation on film, challenges stereotypes and presents a vision that sets the content apart from most mainstream pornography.  This may include depicting a diversity of desires, types of people, bodies, sexual practices, and/or an anti-racist or anti-oppression framework throughout the production.[2]

For me any pornography that is fully consensual can be feminist.

However many women feel they can’t watch mainstream pornography because it makes them feel “alienated.” [3] Majority of the female stars are what we imagine to be the stereotypical  porn star – young, long blonde hair, thin but with large breasts and mainly white.[4]  They wear make-up that looks like it’s been applied by trowel and teeter around precariously in ridiculously high heels and ridiculously short skirts. They are coy yet overtly sexual at the same time, giving an innocent doe-eyed look through a thick set of false lashes before engaging sexual activity. The slightest touch cause them to writhe and scream out in pleasure. Feminist porn tries to break down these stereotypes by employing women who “look like the average woman walking down the street”[5] and portraying sex that is “authentic.”[6]

Many feminists will argue that any porn, regardless of consent, production and pleasure is misogynist. Anti-porn activist Gail Dines argues that “anyone willing to feed off women’s bodies and use them as raw materials to make a profit has no right to call themselves feminists.”[7] This includes women involved in any part of the production of pornography. But if we were to follow that logic, pornography is basically misanthropic because human beings of both genders are being used as props to make money.

My main issue is how can feminists be so staunchly against the one of the very few industries where women consistently earn more than men? The gender pay gap in Australia across all industries currently stands at 17.5 per cent. For every one dollar a man earns, women are earning 82.3 cents.[8] In the United States it’s even worse with women only earning 77 cents for every dollar a man earns in 2011.[9] Of the top 20 highest earning porn stars an incredible 75 per cent are women.[10] Compare this to the 20 richest bankers, where all are white men.[11] Porn star and one of the only five men in the 20 richest porn stars list, Ron Jeremy estimates that men will earn around $300 per scene and make an average of $40 000 a year in the porn business whereas women will earn $500 to $1500 per scene and can earn anywhere from $100 000 to $250 000 per year.[12]

If you’re like me, you probably assumed that most women in pornography were naive, failed actresses who have hit rock bottom and would do anything to make a living. While this was true back in the 1970’s when Linda Boreman (better known as Linda Lovelace) was forced to perform in Deep Throat at gunpoint by her husband  Chuck Traynor[13], many women today actually choose a career in the adult industry. Current contract star for Digital Playground, Kayden Kross told documentary film maker Deborah Anderson;

“I didn’t get into [porn] because I was desperate. I got into it because I was bored. I had an education, and nothing else appealed to me like this. I’m not going to lie or be ashamed. I like the money. I like perks. I like … sex! I was always a very sexual person, and this offered me an opportunity to make a pretty good living using that. What I wanted to do far outweighed any worries I might have had about what people thought.”[14]

Fellow Digital Playground contract girl Stoya is a regular contributor for Vice where she offers her thoughts on the industry. She says that the adult industry offers you a choice of what roles you want to do and no one can force you to do a scene you’re not comfortable with.[15]

Most of the feminist stances against pornography can be described as anti-feminist themselves. Shouldn’t the basis of feminism be choice? Women have the choice to work in whatever industry appeals to them and they shouldn’t be judged for those choices by other women. We assume these women are unintelligent and victims of society but they’re not and it’s unfair to stereotype them that way. They have more of a choice over their work lives than most of us. It takes a lot of confidence to do what they do, how many of us would be willing to strip down to nothing day in and day out? As Madeline Albright, the first female Secretary of State said, “There is a special place in hell for women who don’t help other women,” and it shouldn’t matter if we approve of their profession or not.


[1] Tristan Taormino, “What is Feminist Porn?” http://puckerup.com/feminist-porn/what-is-fp/, accessed 29th June 2013.

[2] Good for Her, “Feminist Porn Awards,” http://goodforher.com/feminist_porn_awards, accessed 29th June 2013.

[3] Dylan Ryan, “How I Became a Feminist Porn Star,” on Jezebel, http://jezebel.com/5984021/how-i-became-a-feminist-porn-star, 23rd February 2013, accessed 29th June 2013.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Maura Kelly, “Can Porn be Feminist?” on The Daily Beast, http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2012/04/21/can-porn-be-feminist.html, 21st April 2012, accessed 28th June 2013.

[6] Ryan, “How I Became a Feminist Porn Star,” http://jezebel.com/5984021/how-i-became-a-feminist-porn-star

[8] Rosie Squires, “Ditch the Pay Gap,” in Cleo July 2013, pg 55.

[9] Mike Burns and Olivia Willis, “As Equal Pay Act Turns 50 Conservative Media Continue Crusade Against Closing Gender Wage Gap,” on Media Matters, http://mediamatters.org/research/2013/06/10/as-equal-pay-act-turns-50-conservative-media-co/194405, 10th June 2013, accessed 30th June 2013.

[10] Brian Warner, “20 Richest Porn Stars,” on Celebrity Net Worth, http://www.celebritynetworth.com/articles/entertainment-articles/20-richest-porn-stars/, 1st February 2013, accessed 28th June 2013

[11] Lisa Du, “The 22 Richest Bankers in the World,” on Business Insider Australia, http://au.businessinsider.com/the-richest-bankers-in-the-world-2012-3?op=1#alfredo-harp-helu-and-family-1, 13th March 2012, accessed 30th June 2013.

[12] Hariharan, “20 Most Richest Porn Stars on Earth,” on World of Female, http://www.worldoffemale.com/20-most-richest-porn-stars-on-earth-sfw/, 8th June 2013, accessed 30th June 2013.

[13] Tom Leonard, “Abused by the porn industry AND her feminist saviours: How Deep Throat star Linda Lovelace’s tragic life was a very modern morality tale,” on The Daily Mail, http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-2120823/How-Deep-Throat-star-Linda-Lovelaces-tragic-life-modern-morality-tale.html, 26th March 2012, accessed 1st July 2013.

[14] Mike Hammer, “Deborah Anderson’s book and film ‘Aroused’ looks at the people behind the porn industry,” on New York Daily News, http://www.nydailynews.com/life-style/update-nudes-aroused-eyes-porn-stars-article-1.1333286?localLinksEnabled=false, 3rd May 2013, accessed 29th June 2013.

[15] Stoya, “So You Want to Perform in Porn,” on Vice, http://www.vice.com/read/so-you-want-to-perform-in-porn, 8th June 2013, accessed 28th June 2013.