Social Psychology

Many heterosexuals view bisexual women as promiscuous and confused, study suggests

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Bisexual women are stereotyped by heterosexuals as more confused, promiscuous, and neurotic, according to new research published in The Journal of Sex Research.

“Bisexual people (who are attracted to more than one gender) live in a constant conflict. But unlike what is commonly assumed, this conflict is external rather than internal, caused by society’s negative attitudes towards bisexuality,” said study author Alon Zivony of Tel Aviv University.

“On the one hand, society habitually ignores bisexuality. Whenever a person professes any bisexual tendencies, they are automatically categorized as ‘gay, straight, or lying’. On the other hand, bisexuality is associated with immaturity and inability to maintain a relationship. My hope is that shedding light on this prejudice can help reduce it and the heavy toll it takes on bisexual individuals.”

In the study, 261 heterosexual participants (154 men and 107 women) provided descriptions of heterosexual women, lesbians, and bisexual women. They also read a description of two 24-year-old college students on a date, and evaluated the romantic potential of one of them.

The researchers found that bisexual women, compared to lesbians and heterosexual women, were evaluated as more confused, promiscuous, non-monogamous, neurotic, extraverted, and open to experiences. Bisexuals were also evaluated as less agreeable and less conscientious.

This was particularly true among participants who displayed a low level of knowledge about common social attitudes towards bisexuality.

“Bisexual stereotypes seem to be deduced based on the idea that men and women are opposites: if one holds two opposing attractions, then it stand to reason that this person will be confused. However, it is becoming clearer and clearer that gender should not be viewed two dichotomous and opposing categories. Once we let go of the idea that gender is binary, it’s easier to see why bisexuality cannot determine a person’s personality,” Zivony told PsyPost.

The study has some limitations.

“The idea that some stereotypes can be deduced, rather than learned, is new and therefore still tenuous. More research needs to be done before we can understand the mechanism behind such stereotypes and how they maintained,” Zivony explained.

“In addition, even though the field has been booming in the last several years, there are still many unanswered questions about bisexuality. For example, from this study alone, it is not clear how would bisexual stereotypes intersect with other negative attitudes, such as stereotypes about race.”

The study also indicates that educating individuals about bisexuality could reduce stereotyping.

“We found that individuals who lacked knowledge about bisexuality were more likely to evaluate bisexual women as confused and promiscuous. This means that society’s tendency to ignore bisexuality is harmful to bisexuals,” Zivony added.

“But this finding is also encouraging to some degree: it means that educating the public about bisexuality can help reduce prejudice and therefore improve the lives of bisexual individuals. As a society, we need to talk more about bisexuality.”

The study, “Stereotype Deduction About Bisexual Women“, was authored by Alon Zivony and Tamar Saguy.