I AM KATIE BASKERVILLE
You're reading: How The Sexualisation Of Bisexuality Closeted Me
From shaming to celebrating my bisexuality
Let me let you in on a not so well kept secret – I am bi as heck. Throughout my life I have loved and slept with men and women and you know what? That feels damn good to say out loud. It hasn’t always been that way though. I had always been painfully private about my bisexuality, only being honest with people if they asked me about my preference, or to my closest friends who I knew would be open and non judgmental. I kept it under wraps from boyfriends and from flings because I hate being objectified.
This privacy started when I was around 12 or 13, around the time things start to sprout and change, although admittedly those changes had begun to happen a little earlier for me. I was getting lumpy, hairy, hip-y, boob-y and ever so slightly taller. Everything was uncomfortable and embarrassing and to top it all off I had braces, bushy hair and a questionable floor length denim coat with a fur lining. So fashion. Truth is I already felt like I stuck out like a sore thumb in a bad way, so hiding, staying away from the limelight and generally staying under the radar is how I coped. The anxiety of being found out however, shaped my adolescent years.
I knew I liked girls the moment I knew I liked boys and that to me was problematic. Bisexuality was something I knew little or nothing about and was widely discounted as a “phase”. You know, testing the water and such. For some perhaps it is just that, but for me I knew it wasn’t.
There was a strange environment that surrounded sexuality when I was at school. I’m sure this has played a part defining my position as a feminist and sex positive advocate. There was no education on bisexuality during sex-ed and there was certainly no concern for the spectrum of what sexuality could look like. School for me was a breeding ground of misinformation and ignorance. The truth is I didn’t want to put myself in the firing line if I didn’t have to be there, so I didn’t.
I didn’t want to be open about my sexuality if I knew that people would not believe me, or worse threaten to ‘turn me straight’. I couldn’t bear the thought of my peers asking me to ‘prove it’ or saying that I was “doing it for attention”, asking me for threesomes, suggesting that I was in fact straight, or worse that I was some sort of 15-year-old-horny-mega-slut looking to hoop all the boys. Safe to say that I learnt from a young age that the sexualisation of women loving women is so heavily ingrained as a misogynistic objectification that it terrified me into silence.
The few occasions I broke this silence to previous boyfriends had found me looped into the same old, tired rhetoric. One boyfriend would poke the matter so often, asking for threesomes and extra partners that honestly, I shut down. When we broke up I would often hear from him in one way or another and it almost always had something to do with whether or not I had slept with a woman or if I was dating a girl. I felt fetishised, dirty and coveted. That experience alone made me climb way back into my shell and put me off the idea of owning my bisexuality.
This experience and my new found silence in some ways did ‘turn me straight’ by default because I knew that I would have an easier life if I publicly only dated men, which is what I have done my whole life. Even now I have chosen to pursue a relationship with a straight man despite the recent acceptance of my bisexuality. Let me just caveat that with a “don’t get me wrong”. I’m living with no regrets on my now choice because I love him dearly and wouldn’t swap him for anything in the world. Glad we ironed that out.
Although I recognise that I have been privileged in some ways by being able to make this choice. I have been able to disguise my sexualiy as hetero and as a result have had little or no issue being discriminated against for who I’m loving. But that has come at a personal cost.
There lies a little sadness, a residual melancholia of some sorts, as I’ve denied this part of myself for such a long time. When I was dating and as I’ve grown older I’ve felt like my public track record of only dating men wouldn’t make me viable as a bisexual woman. I was worried that people wouldn’t believe me. I was worried that women wouldn’t want me. I was scared I’d be no good at being with women. I was also scared of being overtly sexualised by men who I might like to get to know as well.
So, although I’ve come out of this fairly unscathed and have no issue openly discussing things now, I’ve almost definitely felt an internal rejection to a part of myself I’ve never fully explored and embraced.
There are so many myths surrounding bisexuality that are wrongly enforced by mainstream media. These add to an existing catalogue of misinformation. Here, let me list a few;
- Bisexual men are actually gay
- Bisexual women are actually straight
- Bisexual people are promiscuous. (Often represented as greedy or slutty)
- Bisexual people want to have a threesome with you
- Bisexual people are more likely to cheat
- Bisexual people are ‘easy’
- Bisexual people have more sexual partners/ multiple sexual partners
- Bisexual people are unmarriable or are commitment phobes
Having these myths reinforced time and time again has honestly made arguing about it feel like banging my head against a brick wall. The constant link to a sexual deviance shame inducing guilt is grating and soul destroying. Willfully ignorant people who refuse to acknowledge that any of the points made above are not based in fact and are damaging to people wanting to be who they openly are, make my blood boil.
Although, for a long time I half believed these representations. No doubt they have contributed to my orientational denial. It’s been impossible to come to terms with. That is until one emotional trip to Bristol Pride in 2017. It was my first ever experience of Pride. Before then I had felt like an imposter. Like I didn’t really belong.
Nevertheless, I went with close friends to celebrate, support and dance in the Harbourside sunshine. Coming to the end of the day we reconnected with the wider group. They were carrying a Bisexual Pride Flag and were waving it boldly in the air. A little apple cider drunk and surrounded by so much rejoicing our spirits were sky-high. My friend wrapped the flag around my little sunburnt body and I remember feeling so overwhelmed at this invitation to tell people who I was.
I’d like to say that I gracefully outed myself to the group, but it was more of a splutter. I was a deer caught in the headlights for a second. What followed was so intensely lovely that it has stayed with me ever since, despite my cider infused haze. I hadn’t anticipated the outpouring of love and support that followed. The most heartbreaking thing was that I hadn’t expected people to care. Never had I thought they would believe me and when they did without question I am not ashamed to say that I cried. Quite a lot.
This acceptance and total belief in my bisexuality sent a wave of relief through my body because I knew that I could finally be totally unashamed of this part of myself. I could live without the fear of not being believed. Even if it was questioned I felt validated enough to be strong in my resolve. I had been accepted and of course I would have been. It’s not like I’m the only bisexual woman to ever walk the Earth. That’s when it really hit home because I accepted the normalisation, and have done ever since.
Navigating the dating scene since then I have been braver and perhaps a little bold on my journey to finding someone to fall in love with. When I finally met my boyfriend I was honest from the get go about my bisexuality and he has done nothing but accept and celebrate it with me. What more could I ask for?
What experiences have you had? Do you know anyone who’s had a similar experience or who is looking for a way to come out? Leave me your coming out story in the comments.
Pleasure is an act of rebellion, so on this International Orgasm Day I invite you to rebel and discover female led brands who are looking out for you.
I am looking at you, fellow perfectionists. It’s time to call out the behaviours holding you back and see how you can put a stop to your perfectionist standing in your way.
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Copyright. Katie Baskerville 2020.