Straight dude spin on bisexual women leaves much to be desired

By Kaia Arthur

During the past week and a half, Macalester has been flooded with returning upper classmen, first-years, and first-years’ parents lagging behind with armfuls of Ikea furniture. Ah, Ikea. It’s sleek and sexy, if a little cheap and prefab. It’ll last through college, maybe even grad school or the starter job, but it’s not making the move to the first real house with the second story and the deck furniture. Incidentally, that seems to be the prevailing attitude toward bisexuality, that it’s just an attractive, easy to assemble identity for college.

Is that what bisexuality is? Of course not, but I’m writing this op-ed because friends I have at Macalester do talk about bisexuals, especially bisexual women, as if their sexual identity could actually be explained with a flippant metaphor.

At an off campus party attended by a lot of freshmen girls, a straight guy friend who’d been watching a group of them from across the room commented that the best thing about them was that they were straight-“for now.”

While I love a witty dismissal of those inanities with which we accessorize our politics (we’re not afraid to pay the American Apparel price for our beliefs), a sexual identity is not just a style, but a lifestyle. To say that coming out at Macalester is getting into the scene, instead of engaging with the safe space a person has finally found, implies that bisexuality is merely a result of circumstance and is probably reversible in the real world, much to the relief of the homophobic straight dudes who somehow wound up here.

And then there’s the other side of the straight-guys-explain-bi’s coin: sometimes girls, being simple creatures with few goals other than garnering male attention, make out with each other because they know guys like that. This is the plot of Katy Perry’s internationally successful song, “I Kissed a Girl.” As the A.V. Club’s Amelie Gillette put it, “Finally, Girls-Gone-Wild girls have an anthem besides, ‘Woooooo!'”

It’s true that when the Girls Gone Wild bus came to my hometown, University of Georgia women swarmed it like a frat house on Friday, but you’d think that the perception of female sexuality as catering to males wouldn’t really fly here. So would I, but when a friend I knew made out with another girl despite being in an exclusive relationship, this was the sage advice offered by a male friend: “Maybe her boyfriend’s into that.”

Yes, it’s hard to imagine a better way to analyze a non-normative sexual scenario than by reducing it to its most patriarchal, heterosexual terms.

And, really, it is easy to simplify sexuality; it make things so much less challenging. But you can’t do sexuality justice by stripping it of its complexity or its contradictions. Instead you reduce the people: bisexuality becomes a woman’s accessory, or women become accessories through their bisexuality.

And that, really, is what’s cheap and prefab.

Kaia Arthur ’10 can be reached at [email protected]