New research published in the Archives of Sexual Behavior suggests that conservatives tend to be less willing to engage in romantic or sexual activities with those who identify as bisexual.
The study of 438 individuals found a robust link between conservative beliefs and negative attitudes towards bisexuality. Individuals who endorsed more conservative beliefs were less likely to say they would have sex, go on a date or be in a committed relationship with a bisexual partner.
PsyPost interviewed the study’s corresponding author, Dr. Brian Feinstein of Northwestern University’s Institute for Sexual and Gender Minority Health and Wellbeing. Read his explanation of the research below:
PsyPost: Why were you interested in this topic?
Feinstein: I was interested in this topic because bisexual people are at increased risk for mental health problems (e.g., depression, anxiety) compared to both heterosexual and gay/lesbian people. One of the main reasons for these differences in mental health is that many people hold negative attitudes toward bisexuality and these attitudes can affect how bisexual people are treated. There are ideas that bisexual people are confused, experimenting, or in denial about their true sexual orientation, and that bisexual people are promiscuous or unable to have monogamous relationships. However, these ideas are not true. They are just myths.
In my previous research, my colleagues and I found that both heterosexual and gay/lesbian people were less willing than bisexual people to date a bisexual partner. We also found that people were less willing to be in a relationship with a bisexual partner than they were to date or have sex with one. These findings suggest that negative attitudes toward bisexuality may manifest as people not wanting to date a bisexual partner, especially when it comes to long-term relationships. The current study was designed to continue this line of research and to understand why some people are unwilling to date a bisexual partner.
What should the average person take away from your study?
The main take-home message is that people who are more conservative in their beliefs (e.g., about politics or about the equality of different groups of people) tend to hold more negative attitudes about bisexual people and, consequently, are less likely to want to date them. A person’s unwillingness to date a bisexual partner may be a form of discrimination, especially if it is due to negative attitudes toward bisexuality. Given that stigma and discrimination contribute to mental health problems experienced by some bisexual people, it is critical that people be provided with accurate information about bisexuality.
This is particularly important for more conservative people, given that they were more likely to hold negative attitudes toward bisexuality. People need to know that bisexuality is a legitimate sexual orientation and that being bisexual does not mean that someone is promiscuous or unable to have a monogamous relationship. Debunking myths about bisexuality has the potential to improve attitudes toward bisexuality, decrease discrimination, and improve bisexual people’s health and well-being.
Are there any major caveats? What questions still need to be addressed?
Although it is possible that a person’s unwillingness to date a bisexual partner reflects a form of discrimination, it is also possible that it reflects a person’s preference to date someone who is similar to them. Some people may prefer to date someone who shares the same sexual orientation, because they may assume that they will also share other qualities. It will be important for future research to consider different reasons why some people may be unwilling to date a bisexual partner, including reasons that reflect bias as well as preference for similar partners.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
It is important to note that these findings do not mean that all conservative people hold negative attitudes toward bisexuality. Instead, these findings mean that people who are more conservative are, on average, more likely to hold negative attitudes toward bisexuality. That said, it is possible to be both conservative and accepting of bisexuality.
In addition to Feinstein, the study “Conservative Beliefs, Attitudes Toward Bisexuality, and Willingness to Engage in Romantic and Sexual Activities With a Bisexual Partner” was co-authored by Christina Dyar, Vickie Bhatia, Jessica A. Latack and Joanne Davila.