Study: Straight Men Less Likely to See Bisexuality as ‘Legitimate Sexual Orientation’

Bisexuals are often given short shrift when it comes to awareness and advocacy about LGBT issues, subject to prejudice and a general lack of visibility.  According to a new study from the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health, there are notable differences in attitudes towards bisexuality along gender, racial and sexuality lines.  From a press release today announcing the study's results:

500px-University_of_Pittsburgh_Seal_(official).svgMen who identify themselves as heterosexual are three times more likely to categorize bisexuality as "not a legitimate sexual orientation," an attitude that can encourage negative health outcomes in people who identify as bisexual, according to an analysis led by University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health researcher Mackey Friedman, Ph.D., M.P.H.

"Bisexual men and women face prejudice, stigma and discrimination from both heterosexual and homosexual people," said Dr. Friedman, director of Project Silk, an HIV prevention initiative. "This can cause feelings of isolation and marginalization, which prior research has shown leads to higher substance use, depression and risky sexual behavior. It also can result in lower rates of HIV testing and treatment."

Dr. Friedman and his colleagues asked hundreds of college students for words they associated with bisexual people, getting responses such as 'confused,' 'different' and 'experimental.' They then wrote a 33-question survey which was administered to an online sample of 1,500 adults.  The results were illuminating, if disappointing:

Overall, respondents were generally negative in terms of their attitudes toward bisexual men and women, with almost 15 percent of the sample in disagreement that bisexuality is a legitimate sexual orientation. However, women, white people and people who identified themselves as lesbian, gay or bisexual had less bias and prejudice against bisexual people. Of note, respondents who identified as gay or lesbian responded significantly less positively toward bisexuality than those identifying as bisexual, indicating that even within the sexual minority community, bisexuals face profound stigma. In addition, these findings indicate that male bisexuals likely suffer more stigma than female bisexuals.

As the University of Pittsburgh study shows, not only does our country have a ways to go towards greater tolerance and visibility for bisexual issues–it seems the LGBT community itself has some soul-searching to do on the issue.


  1. FFS says

    What does this have to do with being gay?

    Oh, wait. Sorry, I got confused and thought I was Rick, there for a second.

  2. ASam says

    The problem with the word ‘bisexual’ is two-fold. Firstly, there is no such thing as a bisexual sex act. There are only heterosexual sex acts and homosexual sex acts. Secondly, describing the full range of proclivities with one word ‘bisexual’ is flawed. It fails to recognize the completely different dynamic that exists in men who are predominantly attracted to women as compared to men who are predominantly attracted to men..

    There is a VAST difference in dynamic between these two groups of ‘bisexual’ men which a word like ‘bisexual’ simply doesn’t do justice to.

  3. steve says

    I want to meet more bisexual men…. but I definitely have…. I definitely knew a guy that would hook up with men and women…. but it’s a complete mystery to me and not something I fully understand. I wish more bisexual men would come out, or have “panels” where they discuss it publicly and take questions and tell their story… even on youtube I can’t find bisexual men…(or at least last time I checked)

  4. jsb says

    It is not surprising that many Gay Men are some of the least tolerant people out there, which is kind of sad really. I’m in my 50s and this has been true since I was out at 18 years old.

    If we want equality, shouldn’t we treat others a equals too?

  5. garryo says

    I think Asam (above) must be absolutely right: there’s as big a spectrum of bisexual males as there are gay and straight males.
    And my own experience(30+ years) has left me a bit befuddled by them. Lots of bi-identifying guys have been interested in me, and I’ve felt the same, but the actual experiences have been mostly unsatisfying (in contrast to sex with gay guys.) No gay man has ever seemed to harbor thinly-veiled contempt for me after we get together, but bi guys often have. In addition, the bi guys I’ve dated are rarely ever playful partners–but that might be because they’re on the down low from girlfriends/spouses.

    I don’t judge bisexual men or women for their two-spirited selves; it’s the way so many bi men treat gay guys that engenders our social distance and issues about respect and trust.

  6. GregV says

    “It is not surprising that many Gay Men are some of the least tolerant people out there…”
    I think that statement is too broad to mean anything. It’s like saying that the clothes in a mega-store are “from $5 and up.” That could be true if there’s one pair of socks in the whole store that costs $5 and everything else is priced in the hundreds.
    Likewise, it’s unfortunate to see any prejudice in ANY community anywhere. But it’s not realistic to expect the lack of even one rotten apple in the orchard. if you could somehow magically line up all 7 billion people in the world in order from most tolerant to least, I have no doubt that the VAST majority of gay-identifying males would be on the “good” guys” side.

    As for this survey, the statement in the press release saying that a prejudiced statement about bisexuality was agreed to by “significantly less than 15%” of gay people “but still higher” than it was agreed to by bisexuals themselves is also so broad a statement that it’s not even useful (and is potentially misleading).
    “Significantly less than 15%” could mean 11 % and it could mean 0.001%. (And either way, it would mean that the VAST majority of gay people DON’T feel thst way. And more gay people are prejudiced against bisexusls than bisexuals are prejudiced against themselves? Again, that could be one gay person in 10 or it could be 1 in a thousand who is prejudiced, but the bordering-on-nonsensical statement could be said referring to conceivably ANY group of people relative to any other group. Without more compelling evidence, it doesn’t really suggest there is a sizable portion of the “other” group (in this case gays) that has any problem with the issue.

  7. Francis #1 says

    Honestly, only 15% of respondents saying they don’t view bisexuality as a legitimate orientation, should be seen as a positive number. Obviously, it should be zero, but I would have believed it’s way more than 15%.

    I honestly agree with Dan Savage…more bi people need to come out, especially men, to break down walls and stereotypes. Statistically, for bisexual men, it actually isn’t gay men who are their biggest issue, not even close. Gay men aren’t the cause of the majority of stigma bisexual men face although many gay men can be biphobic and that is disgraceful. Heterosexuals, male and female, are, and general societal pressures and homophobia.

    Bisexuals have to deal with homophobia like we do PLUS confusion on bisexuality. Straight men are way less likely to view bisexuality as legitimate the same way they’re way less likely than straight women to accept male homosexuality. So they have to deal with the same buffer on the straight male-gay male relationship many gay men suffer from. On top of that, large percentages of straight women will never date a bisexual man. Bisexual men, unlike women, are pigeonholed as gay, even though they aren’t, which has a damaging affect on them.

    Asam is also right…the more, for lack of a better way of putting it, gay leaning, a bisexual person is, the more likely they’ll acclimate themselves within the community. You see the same thing with trans persons who identify as heterosexual. They often feel totally left out of place.

    I’ve met a good 10 homophobic bisexuals guys, though. So it’s not just gay men, gay people. I don’t judge all bisexuals based on those few, though. And that’s a problem that some gay men have that they need to adjust.

  8. ASam says

    Women’s hostility towards male bisexuality is well known. It stems from a fear of the power of male sexuality overall. This hostile attitude of women often forces men to deny their bisexuality.

    Women use their sexuality as a powerplay to obtain rewards from men. Male bisexuality represents something they don’t have any power over. That’s why they fear it. It would have been interesting if this study had broken down attitudes to male bisexuality versus female bisexuality.

  9. says

    Frankly,I don’t give a dam about survey’s. All I care about is my own sexuality and whoever I share it with. I’m well into my 70s and never been asked by any survey what so ever. Yet their survey answers tell you where you fit in like a jigsaw puzzle. All survey’s are a waste of time. I almost wished there was a “Don’t Ask? Don’t Tell!” law for them only.

  10. suckerpunch says

    I’m a bi woman and I’d say some men are afriad of bisexual woman cuz they’re attractdd to other woman and men can’t control that.

  11. Ben B says

    The study tells you that 15% of this group of college students feels this way about bisexuality. So…a bunch of 18-22 college guys are meant to stand in for the entire category of “straight men.”

    MANY guys (including me) identify as “bisexual” first, especially when they’re younger, and then switch their identity to gay. Being “bi” first can ease the social stigma / internal homophobia of being gay.

    So…in some (many?) cases, people who are “bi” are just on their way to gaytown…and in fact are confused / conflicted, as the study notes.

  12. John Carmina Pirhana says

    I’m bisexual.

    But if you look at my OkCupid profile, it says I’m gay. When it said “bisexual,” no one would go past three messages with me. Far more often than not, the exchanges went like this:

    The first message was something like, “Hey, great profile!” The second message was “oh, I hadn’t realized you’re bisexual. So what do you like more?” and the third message was “you seem like an awesome guy, but I guess I’m only interested in gay guys.”

    Kinda shoots the famous Woody Allen quote in the foot, doesn’t it. The one about how we have double the chances of getting a date on a Saturday night?

    I’ve had plenty of robust conversations with gay friends — who socially presume I’m gay, simply because they’ve never asked — about bisexuals. We’ve all heard the classic “bi now, gay later” memes, and most bi people I know understand where they come from. When you’re 22, it’s one thing. People need some time to figure themselves out. But when you’re 35, it’s pretty insulting if someone thinks you honestly don’t know your deal.

    We all know lots of bi guys who are closeted. But what you may NOT realize is how many men who you presume are gay are actually bi. We may not mention that we still hook up with girls — or even date them — but just because you met me at B-Bar on a Tuesday in 2004 doesn’t mean I wasn’t flirting that night with both men and women.

    We DO need more bi guys to come out, both to the straight world and to our gay friends who presume we’re gay. We ought to develop more visible gay meeting places — why are there no bi bars? And gay men, you’ve got to stop insulting us. It doesn’t help the cause; the Williams Institute estimates that there are more bisexuals in America than gay men and lesbians combined.

  13. arch says

    my black friends tell me that there is no such thing as “a bit black”, maybe the same is true of “gay”.

  14. Patrick8200 says

    I too am bisexual, as is my wife. First and foremost, I think it’s a given that we’d all be better off in terms of acceptance if more of us came out. As it was, I didn’t come out, or fully accept myself until my late 30’s. Before that the societal stigma attached was too great.
    When I finally did come out though, I for some reason thought I would be openly welcomed into the ranks of gays and lesbians. What I found was just the opposite. I had no idea that bisexuals were viewed with such disdain and loathing in the gay community. Even one of my lesbian friends told me to my face one day that she didn’t believe bisexuals truly existed, that we were just gay and couldn’t face coming out “all the way”. We were beat up in the hetero community for being freaks, and beat up in the gay community for appearing to be traitors, being gay but still hanging on to the hetero privileges.
    What I came to realize is that sexuality in some is very fluid. It can change and evolve over time. These days you have as many different labels as there are colors in the rainbow, but ultimately, it just boils down to straight up hetero on one end and full on gay on the other with tons of variations in between.
    Personally, I only know one bi guy personally, who everyone thinks is gay because he’s married to another man.
    Personally, I think if every single bisexual were to somehow come out over night, this country would freak at the sheer number.

  15. Jack M says

    Why are we even using the word “legitimate” here? Who has the right to say what is or is not legitimate? It’s just a code word for “acceptable to me.” Nonsense!

  16. The Real Truth says

    Well as a Straight Man trying to really meet a Good Woman to settle down with which is the Real Reason why I am having such a Very Difficult Time since many women are Certainly Gay And Bi Today, and since i do come across many women that have been Very Nasty to me when i will try to start a Conversation with the one that I would Really like to meet really makes me Wonder Why. Women today are so much more mean to us men since there are many of us men looking for a Relationship, and it is Without A doubt how women have really Changed over the years which is Not for the good at all.

  17. The Real Truth says

    I didn’t expect for a woman to Curse at me when i really wanted to meet the one that i was Very Attracted too, and i never ever expected that at all. I know other men that had this happened to them as well which makes me wonder why are there so many women that hate us men today, and now there are certainly much more Straight Women that are Bi as well like i just mentioned with my last comment. I guess that many of the women out there have been Very Badly Abused by the men that they were with at one time, or their Parents must had Abused them as well which it is Very Sad.

  18. Rowan says

    Patrick and John. Great contributions and of course Francis as always. Of course a few trolls which is a pity because this is such an interesting subject. I def think people would be shocked by the sheer number of bisexuals.

  19. GregV says

    Those of you who are bisexual: I wish you would stand up loud and proud as bisexuals; a big part of the reason for all the misunderstanding about bisexuals or anout you personally is thst you are NOT doing so.

    If you are a woman who told everyone in college the truth that you were bisexual and then got married to a man and decided it would be easier to say (the lie) that you are heterosexual, then OF COURSE people think not only bisexuals but YOU personally are confused. It looks like you’ve spent much of your adulthood not knowing who you are.

    And if I were looking on-line for a date and I saw one profile of a man saying that he is bisexual and another six months later saying (the lie) that he is gay, then of course it will legitimately look to me like you are confused and don’t know who or what you are. In fact, I probably wouldn’t want to date someone who doesn’t seem to know who he is, though I’d gladly date a confident bi guy without blinking an eye.

    I’m gay but I don’t have confusion over the issue of bisexuality. Just because I might think you are confused or unconfident does not mean that. I think ever bisexusl petson is a fraud — far from it.

    But some people out there don’t get it yet. If the first bi woman one of your “prejudiced” friends met says she’s gay on one on-line profile, then that she’s bisexual on another, and then in a group conversation mentions that she’s “straight,” then of course she does look confused and “fraudulent.”
    And if the second “bi” person your friend met was a gay guy who admitted two weeks later that “I was just afraid to say the word gay,” then of course his so-called “bisexuality” looks like nothing but a gay guy’s confusion.

    So if you’re the third bi person they meet, you need ti be that example that makes them (one would hope) forever understand the issue better. The only way you can do that is to LIVE YOUR TRUTH.

    If you are not living your own truth, then you really can’t blame anyone else for thinking that something seems fraudulent about your sexuality.

  20. Hass says

    ASAM makes a good point. The term bisexual covers such a wide range of orientations.

    I’m bisexual but have a strong leaning for guys and generally just “round up” to gay. Sometimes I’ll use the term “mostly gay” but it often leaves people confused. If a woman is looking at me as a potential mate “gay” is going to give her a better indication of her chances with me even though “bisexual” is technically more accurate.

    It’s funny how language can free or limit how we think about things.

    Generally speaking there are homo bisexuals (who prefer their own sex), hetro bisexuals (who prefer the opposite sex) and neutral bisexuals (who have no significant leaning either way). And then there are all the variations in between as well. But if we had well-understood words for these three strands of bisexuality it would help clear things up a lot.

  21. jamal49 says

    It may very well be that people are bisexual. It may very well be that some people-gay or straight-have bias against bisexuals. The problem with bisexuals is their duality which, in my experience, has shown bisexuals as unable to commit, sometimes causing great heartache to someone-gay or straight-who might acquire romantic feelings for the bisexual person. I imagine that in the end what must happen is that we dismiss with such rigid categorizations of our sexualities altogether.

  22. crispy says

    Oh dear, you know you’ve reached the depths of utter lunacy when you start saying things like “ASAM (he of Jason/Adam/Adrenan fame) makes a good point.”

    Was it his rampant misogyny or self-loathing homophobia you were agreeing with?

  23. says

    @ Asam. Your remark about ” This hostile attitude of women often forces men to deny their bisexuality.” as well as the rest of your comment is misogynistic. Women and men aren’t the same creatures. The majority of women don’t feel safe hooking up online or going home with a guy they just met in a bar. I would hope my fellow gay men could understand that just because heterosexual women and gay men both like men that their way of how they relate to men will be different. Thank goodness heterosexual women have a natural self defense mechanism that would lead them to be leary of bisexual males. If women were as promiscuous as gay males, and it included bisexual males then the AIDS crisis would be worse.

  24. says

    @ Ankerich. Wouldn’t you say “hate” is a strong word? I’ve been in situations at a bar where one of the people in a group introduces himself as bisexual but he wasn’t attacked or maligned. Because we weren’t fawning all over him is that considered hatred? Is not willing to date someone bisexual the same thing as hate? At gay bars I’ve met bar tenders, dancers and DJs who have girlfriends at home. We don’t really know (for the most part) if they’re bisexual but they claimed to be in order to get their jobs. Wouldn’t that be the opposite of biphobia among gays? Outside of potential employment discrimination I’m not sure why charges of biphobia are hurled at gay men. If a gay male won’t date a bi male that’s based on obvious reasons. Calling us bigots is more a form of hatred of gay men. No bi person or anyone pushing the biphobia narrative has actually given me a straight answer [no pun intended πŸ˜‰ ]

  25. says

    No surprise here.

    Many straight men like gay men sucking them off, its a known fact.

    But does that make them bisexual? They say no. I tend to agree for the most part.

    This is nothing personal against “true” bisexuals, mostly women, – its just that men see sexuality different from women in many respects. For the most part men see sexuality based on gender roles (submissive fem and dominant masculine).

    Bisexuality, in general, like the other two sexual orientations, is more separated from gender roles and more in tune with sexual attraction, romance, and marriage.

  26. Hass says

    Crispy. I don’t have to agree with everything someone says to agree they have a point on something.

    ASAM wrote:
    “Secondly, describing the full range of proclivities with one word ‘bisexual’ is flawed. It fails to recognize the completely different dynamic that exists in men who are predominantly attracted to women as compared to men who are predominantly attracted to men.”

    Well, I agree with that. The word bisexual is a very inexact word. A male bisexual with a strong bias for guys will have more in common with gay men than another male bisexual who has a strong bias for women.

    For the record I totally disagree with ASAM’s second post in this thread (about women’s attitudes to bisexuals).

    But I treat every comment on its merits rather than dimissing a valid point just because it is made by someone who is usually objectionable.

  27. says

    How ironic! Most men in the ancient world had sex with other men (and women, of course). So it’s not at all shocking that women like other women too. Unfortunately, culture has suppressed most people’s bisexual potential. See for the free book/audiobook.

  28. Vel Santic says

    I’m a gay boy and have always been and will always be (albeit have been UNwantedly lonely i.e. UNwantedly celibate and abstinent due to the unfavorable living circumstances to create relationships the way I want them and I want them only in mutually respectful and dignified ways)who admire and love dignified, confident and serious bisexual men. But, yes, very much more and more bisexual men need to come OUT in American society and/or any other society in the world as such i.e. bisexual and quit pretending they’re just heterosexual!
    I especially liked posts of PATRICK8200, JOHN CARMINA PIRHANA, HASS and similar!

    @THE REAL TRUTH, please, stop trolling here with your heterosexistic nonsense!

  29. Dc says

    LA men are 80% bi, 20% gay. Similar in nyc, but there are some straight men there. The Bay Area has no straight men either, 60% bi, 40% gay maybe. No use denying it.