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Rust’s “Bisexuality: The State of the Union” Essay

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Updated: Jan 14th, 2022

In most conversations on sexual orientation, there is usually underlying assumption that there are only two dimensions towards sexuality namely homosexuality and heterosexuality. These assumptions largely overlook the concept of bisexuality in the sense that even if recognized, it may still be grossly misunderstood. Rust (2002) in his article “Bisexuality: the state of the union” attempts to shed light on the paradox of bisexuality by tracing historical and cultural processes that have contributed towards misconception of the concept. In addition, the author discusses cultural attitudes arising from this misconception. Additionally, he explores the role of previous scientific researches in shaping those cultural attitudes. He concludes his discussion by re-conceptualizing the concept, a task he deems to be relevant for political and scientific purposes.

Rust (2002) asserts that historical developments of the concept that view heterosexuality and homosexuality as distinct and are based on perception that men and women are of opposite genders, is what has led to the contemporary denial that a single individual can posses the two sexual orientations. The varied misconceptions that can be traced since occidental societies have continued to gain popularity since the contemporary scientific researches are founded on the same ancient paradoxes about bisexuality. The paradoxical view of bisexuality as inconceivable both in the ancient and contemporary societies is founded in the cultural belief that sexual attraction must be directed to an individual of the opposite sex, but cannot be directed to both men or women (Rust, 2002). He adds that the contemporary society perceives bisexuality as nonexistent and those who confess to such sexual orientation are accused of being in denial of their true sexuality either as gays or lesbians, either for fear of being prejudiced by society or for any related reason.

The popular contemporary attitudes on sexuality that have been greatly shaped by the media have found their way in recent scientific researches (Rust, 2002). He explains that cultural belief on bisexuality as nonexistent has hindered the interest of researchers towards the concept. In addition, whenever it is mentioned in research, bisexuals are grouped together with gay and lesbians since they are viewed as homosexuals at the initial stages of development (Rust, 2004). However, with the emergence of HIV epidemic and prevalence among homosexuals, researches in the late 1980s focused on bisexuality concept, some of which shed light on the characteristics that distinguish bisexuals from homosexuals.

As exemplified above, researches on bisexuality were lacking in the earlier centuries, and it was not until late 20th century when social scientists began conceptualizing bisexuality to pave way for research that is focused on bisexuality (Rust, 2002). He expounds that most recent researches adapts the Kinsey scale to represent the various dimensions of sexual orientation, while some expand the scale to include sexual behavior, sexual attraction, sexual fantasy and sexual identity. However, he laments that though the developed models of sexual orientation to some extent challenges prior misconceptions that pave the way for bisexuality discourse, they fail miserably since they are predicated on the assumptions that are informed by traditional sex/gender system.

The article is very insightful and I can relate with it both from a personal and professional perspective. At the professional level, the article is very informative for stakeholders in healthcare and it can act as a guideline in formulating HIV related policies. The fact that society has failed to recognize this group of people has increased the HIV prevalence among bisexuality and by extension to heterosexuality since most of the bisexuals hide their orientation. In addition, the historical as well as contemporary paradox of bisexuality makes me empathize with these individuals that society has chosen to stereotypically condemn. Therefore, bisexuality should be viewed as an independent form of sexuality that calls for further research in order to gain better understanding of sexuality.

References

Rust, P. (2002). Bisexuality: The State of the Union. Annual Review of Sex Research, 13: 180-240.

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