Not All Visibility is Created Equal

Advisory: discussion of pornography

Eisner’s book, Bi: Notes for a bisexual revolution, talks a lot about bisexual invisibility as one of the ways to maintain the power structure. She also writes about the ways that female bisexuality, specifically, is used within mainstream pornography and ultimately the general media to devalue any deviation from the single standard of masculinity.

“Instead of erasing female bisexuality per say…media representations – and society in general – neutralize the “sting” that it carries by appropriating it into the heterosexual cis male gaze. From being a potential threat, female bisexuality is converted and rewritten into something else, something that’s both palatable and convenient to patriarchy and the hetero cis male gaze, and which caters to its needs.”

I know that is a lot to read but basically the idea is that we take something that could threaten the power structure and use it to instead reinforce these ideas. Eisner uses mainstream pornography as a typifying example, but I’ll make sure to be less graphic here.  The gist of it is that “lesbian” is a sub-category under “straight’ since these videos are for a straight male audience. The scenes, moreover, involve women “preparing” one another for the man to enter the scene and thus, the real sex to occur.

 The other way female bisexuality is made to be less threatening is with the phrase, “everyone is bisexual.” Of course there is a spectrum of sexuality and in many ways this may help to break down the binary, but more so it devalues bisexuality as part of one’s identity.  Freud used bisexuality (and clitoral orgasms) as a means of trivializing women and women’s pleasure. If everyone is bisexual, then it is easy to use the immaturity argument and wait for someone to “grow out of it,” or “make a decision,” instead of accepting it as a real identity.  This argument is a way that bisexuality is devalued while making it visible only insofar as it’s used to promote straight men.Screen Shot 2013-10-08 at 10.42.50 AM

Eisner argues that bisexually threatens the fabric of the traditional male power role, because the existence of bisexuality makes it more difficult (for men, mostly) to “prove” one’s straightness.  Additionally, male bisexuality is pushed to the margins and made invisible because of the assumption that if someone has sex, or thinks about having sex with a man, they are no longer attracted to women. It is for men as well as women that our identities are so often decided by our relation to a penis. This presumption means that bisexual men are really gay, and bisexual women are really straight. Eisner describes these presumptions: “…Everyone is really into men – a phallocentric notion testifying to this stereotype’s basic reliance on sexism.”bisexual men

We need to break down these assumptions and stereotypes in order to move towards true visibility.  As I talked about in my last post, bisexual people are viewed as unreliable and traitorous, and therefore cannot fit into the mainstream without being marginalized and/or fetishized. We need to rethink the way we understand and normalize sexuality.

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