By now you’ve probably heard the recent news that male bisexuality is in fact real, in stark contrast with a 2005 study by some of the same scientists that claimed just the opposite. Bloggers and news outlets have unleashed a torrent of witty headlines and snarky remarks about the research, such as CBSNews’ “Study says bisexuality real, but bisexuals say ‘duh.’” Even the Gray Lady herself, The New York Times, got in on the fun with its quip, “No Surprise for Bisexual Men: Report Indicates They Exist.”
Presumably the studies aren’t picking up on a real increase in bisexuality over the past six years, so what’s the deal here—why the sudden change of heart for the Northwestern University researchers?
It all boils down to how the studies found their would-be bisexuals. In the 2005 study, the researchers recruited self-reported bisexuals from newspaper ads. “Last time, they got their guys from an ad in an urban newspaper read by a hipster crowd,” Allen Rosenthal, lead author of the new study, told Life’s Little Mysteries. The researchers chose their participants based on a questionnaire that rated the sexual desires of the men, and then measured the participants’ genital arousal while they watched all-male or all-female porn. The study found that most of the men who claimed to be bisexual were physically aroused only by gay erotica.
This time around, the researchers were more careful to target men who had stronger track records of being into both sexes: “bisexual” participants were only accepted if they had sex with at least two men and two women in the past, and had been in a romantic relationship of at least three months with a member of each sex. The researchers also only recruited the men from online ads where men sought to have sex with heterosexual couples. The results: the bisexual men were aroused by both types of videos used in the previous study (pdf).
Is this it, case closed? Not likely. The study only recruited men from the greater Chicago area, its sample size of 30 bisexual men is relatively small, and over half of them were Caucasian. The researchers hope to expand their study to profile a greater range of bisexual men—presumably there will be more who do exist—but for now the scientific evidence says, “white bisexual men exist in Chicago.”
Image courtesy of Kati Gilbin / Flickr