Bisexual women experience hypersexual stigma

Media portrayals enforce the idea that bisexual women are promiscous and infidelitous.


Women who come out as bisexual face judgments from both the male and female sexes. 

Both heterosexual men and women evaluated bisexual men and women as more promiscuous than others, according to a 2018 study by the Journal of Sex Research. Lesbian women see bisexuals as uninterested in monogamous relationships, the same study reported.

Biphobia derives from both “heterosexist reaction to sexual expression that is not heteronormative [and] monosexist reaction to sexual expression that is not monosexual,” according to a 2016 study by the Public Library of Science. This term is used in scientific literature about the idea that both gay and straight people may feel prejudiced toward bisexuals because they are not exclusively attracted to one gender.

The same study researched whether or not non-bisexuals equated bisexuality with non-monogamy and if bisexual people were considered “inherently incapable of maintaining monogamous relationships.” 

The study revealed a shift from more negative views of bisexuality to more neutral, with a high number of participants surveyed “neither agreeing nor disagreeing” with the assumptions of bisexuality. The study notes that while this is encouraging, it could be an indication of a cultural shift for people to silence discriminatory or negative views of others, but that unconscious bias may still exist.

Some Temple students and faculty said these ideas exist and exacerbated by unfair portrayals of bisexuality in the media.

“I have been in a relationship for eight months, but he thinks I’m going to cheat on him with a woman to explore my sexuality,” said Claire Mullen, a freshman childhood education major who identifies as bisexual.

This feeds into the belief that bisexuals are inherently more sexual than other individuals and cannot remain in a committed relationship because of their sexuality.

“[This] goes back to the stereotype that bisexuals ‘haven’t made up their mind yet’ and that because they’re bisexual they are more likely to cheat or be ‘pulled by heterosexuality’ when in a homosexual relationship and vice versa,” said Brad Windhauser, a gender, sexuality and women’s studies and English professor. 

“It’s not respecting that you can just be in love with the person and that is enough,” he added. “Like any person, they’re just as likely to cheat or not cheat.”

While all genders of bisexual-identifying people are subject to varying degrees of this stereotype, bisexual women face a greater stigma, according to a study by Christian Klesse, a British sociology professor at Manchester Metropolitan University. 

Windhauser added the trope of a bisexual woman being extremely sexual was largely popularized by Sharon Stone’s character in “Basic Instinct,” a 1992 film that framed bisexuality as intended for the male gaze. 

“Sharon Stone’s character…was hypersexualized and always ready for a sexual encounter,” Windhauser said. “And that sort of stuck. People think that bisexual women always need to have sexual encounters because they’re attracted to a wider array of people.”

Gabbi Tapper, an undeclared freshman in the College of Liberal Arts, said that modern media portrayals of bisexual women can influence the public’s perception of what it means to be bisexual. 

Tapper said the Canadian drama “Lost Girl,” a show in which the main character is a bisexual woman who discovers that she is a succubus who feeds off of sexual encounters with humans, is an example of the media’s hypersexualization of bisexual women. 

“‘Lost Girl’ is one of the only shows I’ve seen with a bisexual woman openly identifying as bisexual,” Tapper said. “But, she’s oversexualized and the whole show’s premise is her sexuality. It takes away from viewers who just want representation, and it just feeds into the stereotypes. Bisexual women are seen as doing it for guys’ pleasure.”

For students like Mullen, these misconceptions can complicate their romantic relationships.

“Generally, you always hear about people wanting to have threesomes with bisexual women and not with bisexual men,” Mullen said. She added that she has no desire to cheat in her current relationship.

“I am very committed to that relationship,” Mullen said. “He just has different insecurities based on what he’s heard in the media.”

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