Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Another Big On-Line Lie: "I'm bisexual"

My last post began with a reference to an OkTrends article from a year ago entitled, "The Big Lies People Tell in Online Dating." The article uses data from more than 3 million OkCupid users to show that a significant minority of men lie about their height and income on their dating profiles.

I also wrote about other lies that I expect to encounter, including penis size, age and relationship status, but I made no mention of the real "shocker" of the same OkTrends article. That "lie" deserves a post of its own.

Here's what OkTrends says about on-line dating claims of bisexuality:
OkCupid is a gay- and bi-friendly place and it's not our intention here to call into question anyone's sexual identity. But when we looked into messaging trends by sexuality, we were very surprised at what we found. People who describe themselves as bisexual overwhelmingly message either one sex or the other, not both as you might expect. Site-wide, here's how it breaks out:

+ 41% of bisexuals ONLY send messages to men
+ 36% of bisexuals ONLY send messages to women
+ 23% of bisexuals send messages to both men and women

This suggests that bisexuality is often either a hedge for gay people or a label adopted by straights to appear more sexually adventurous to their (straight) matches.
To document their assertion that "bisexuality is often a hedge for gay people" OkTrends shares this graph and text:
In this chart, throughout the teens and twenties, the male bisexual population is mostly observably gay men. By the mid-thirties, it seems, most of these men are more comfortable self-identifying as gay and have left the bi population. By the end of our chart, 3 of every 4 bi males on OkCupid are observably straight. Meanwhile, the proportion of men who message both women and other men holds fairly steady.

Please note, everybody, that we don’t assume that bis should be “into both genders equally.” We only assume that they should be into both genders at all. The swaths of red and blue that you see in these sexuality charts represent people who message only one gender. The purple areas are people who send any messages, in whatever proportion, to both men and women.

Female bisexuals, it turns out, are more consistent. There's a slight uptrend in the late teens and early 20s to message both men and women, but after that, roughly one-third of bisexual women message only men, one-third message only women and the remaining third message both.

The OkTrends blog where this article appeared has a comment section - and wow! - did they get comments about this bisexuality data. Many wanted to explain why the above analysis is wrong. The most convincing argument I saw was that many bisexuals already had a connection with one gender and THAT'S why the data is skewed. That makes sense to me. But it's still impossible to know if that is the major reason "bisexual" appears to mean "I want a man" for such a large portion of male OkCupid users.

Had this article been more widely read, I expect many non-bisexuals would have trumpeted the results as proof that "bisexual" is nothing more than "a stop on the road to Gaytown" as the TV character Carrie Bradshaw so famously said. You poor bisexuals...not many straights or gays believe you're genuinely into both genders.

So what does this post have to do with the super sexy hero of this blog (aka me)? Absolutely nothing.

I guess I'm like everyone else and I can't resist the opportunity to have a little fun at the expense of you fence-sitting bisexuals.


  1. I've known a few true bisexuals, interested equally in both men and women. Could it be that these bi guys are more comfortable finding females to date in the "real world" but need the web to find a guy? Without the imput from these men as to why they are only messaging one sex its hard to tell.

    But yes, I do know several bi's who are truly gay, but dress down their gayness with the bi label. And often its not for themselves, but for friends and family, hoping for more acceptance.

    Great post!

  2. Is it possible that the bisexual men on dating sites are married to or in a relationship with a woman and are only seeking men on the dating site because they already have the other side covered?

  3. Maybe I'm on the fence just for the pickets.

  4. Is it possible that the bisexual men on dating sites are married to or in a relationship with a woman and are only seeking men on the dating site because they already have the other side covered?.

    Indeed. Much like Two Lives himself?

  5. Interesting data, but attempting to interpret it is like reading tea leaves in the bottom of a cup.

    If the OK team were to ask each of these people (that they snooped upon) why they seek who they seek, the answers may be as varied as the number of people asked.

    To make assumptions about other peoples feeling and motives is making as ass out of yourself. To declare that bisexuals don't exist based on your own feelings or some nebulous data collected about a population at large is as silly as the statements about gay marriage hurting straight marriages.

    For example, I am married to a woman and have and enjoy straight sex regularly. I also admire a nice female form when I see one. However, I get annoyed with my wife and her femaleness/bitchiness and her lack of attention to her physique. So, if I look on-line for something, it will be something different, something taboo, exciting. Guys don't go looking on-line for what they already have (I'm annoyed with it remember). They look for something new and different or they look to reacquire something that was lost (living in the past) or they are just looking for adventure - and exploring one's gay side is an adventure for a guy that has repressed these feeling for most of his life.

    Being a married bisexual also means that a guy is getting part of his needs satisfied, but not the other. He justifies looking as not being unfaithful since he is looking for something his wife cannot provide and has nothing to do with. For many married bi-guys, looking for a female would be breaking their vows, while looking for a guy is not (I didn't say this was logical, it's just an emotional rationale used).

    Finally, there is ample evidence through history for "two-spirits" and guys that have a good time with the guys and then go home to there wife's.

    So, if you are gay and say disparaging things against bisexuals, please consider how you feel when a straight person makes assumptions about your feelings or questions your validity. Or, for that matter, how you feel when you here any person of one group say baseless things about another group. This is how wars start.

  6. It has often been said there are lies, damn lies and statistics. Everyone knows that statistics can be made to say whatever it is the one gathering the statistics wants them to say.

    In other instances those gathering the statistics simply fail to understand a variable. I think this is the case in the quoted stats about who supposed bisexual message on the internet.

    Many men who use the internet to message other men are married. The heterosexual part of their lives are well established and their heterosexual needs are met. They are not looking for a woman, they have one. They are looking for a man and thus they message men.

    This is not to say there are not homosexual men who mistakenly or purposefully label themselves as bisexual. There are such men. But to reach a conclusion that bisexuality itself is a lie because some people mislabel themselves or on the basis of who bisexual message on line is itself to perpetrate a lie.

    Jack Scott

  7. JFBreak, WillBeBi Fred and Jack - You are making the same argument that many other commenters did on the OkTrends blog. Your points are valid - there IS a population of bi men who have a satisfactory female relationship and that's why they're only messaging men.

    But I think you're all missing a key misrepresentation from OkTrends. The "lie" they're talking about largely exists among younger men. The "only messages one gender" phenomenon significantly fades by the mid-30s and, in fact, by the mid-50s 75% of bisexual men are "observably straight." OkTrends would have been much more clear if they placed greater emphasis on these facts. YOUNG bisexuals might be one-sided but that's a temporary situation. And actually, that's sad. It means that although homosexuality now has greater societal acceptance then ever before, a significant number of young men still prefer to think of themselves as bi and not gay, even when they're only pursuing other men.

    Will - This post was not intended to be disparaging of bisexuals. In fact, it was intended to be very tongue in cheek. I'm fully aware that bisexuals take a lot of abuse. But how can you defend yourselves against vague charges? This is something specific, and largely, easy to refute.

    Anonymous - Thanks for the big laugh. I'm not sure that I'll ever be able to think about pickets in the same way again.

    Biki - I'm glad you enjoyed the post. OkTrends has lots of interesting tidbits. But as Jack Scott has said, you have to be very skeptical about any assumptions made when using statistics.

  8. your blog is interesting. i think i might follow it. :)

  9. What rubbish.

    Of course bisexual men really do exist. The New York Times just published an article about a Harvard study on the topic. The article says:

    "In an unusual scientific about-face, researchers at Northwestern University have found evidence that at least some men who" identify themselves as bisexual are, in fact, sexually aroused by both women and men....

    "Jim Larsen, 53, a chairman of the Bisexual Organizing Project, a Minnesota-based advocacy group, said the findings could help bisexuals still struggling to accept themselves.

    "'It’s great that they’ve come out with affirmation that bisexuality exists,' he said. 'Having said that, they’re proving what we in the community already know. It’s insulting. I think it’s unfortunate that anyone doubts an individual who says, 'This is what I am and who I am.'"

    Discuss. :)

  10. A-12:52, thanks for the link. I think this study is useful,important even. It says that there are some men whose response to men and women is different from that of gay and straight men. I'd be fascinated to see a longitudinal study on whether and how response to stimuli changes as one ages. As for the whole subject, I'm with Shakespeare: "There are more things in heaven and earth...than are dream'd of in your philosophies."