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Voices

Bisexual Women Aren't Defined by Men

Bisexual Women Aren't Defined by Men

Why are male voices -- and appendages -- always telling our stories? 

"She has a girlfriend now
She has a girlfriend now
She has a girlfriend now she said
guys don't do no more for me"

The strange 1996 Reel Big Fish punk anthem echoes through the back of my stepdad's sedan. I'm around 14 -- old enough to know I may be in the cult who likes this song or at least to understand the reasons behind my strange enjoyment of a tune starring a rebellious bisexual girl. They are not the sort of reasons you spill to your parental figure on the way to a speech tournament.

Nearly eight years later, the speech I'm giving would likely be about how much I would like a girlfriend (right) now. I'm also desperate for more bisexual stories, particularly those about bisexual women. Not that they don't exist, but it seems that the narrative of what it means to be a bi woman has always been told from the backseat of my pop's car.

The iconic stories of queer, particularly bi-identifying women are rarely authored by someone who would walk into a ladies' room. Often they are by male songwriters, directors, and writers who get hot and not so bothered by the fantasies of what two ladies might do in there. "She Has a Girlfriend Now" showcases a bisexual woman through a man's eyes and only through how her relationship affects him. It's a small edition in a long library of tales of bi girls by the boys. Purchase the queer girl starter set, and you will find a collection of DVDs directed by men through their gaze, such as Black Swan, Blue Is The Warmest Color, Chasing Amy, and even Carol.

"She said she found someone who's gonna hold her hand
She said she found someone who's gonna understand
She don't need nobody to be her man
She don't need nobody to be her man"

Our fascination with bisexual women begins and ends with how their "kink" changes how they interact with men. How does Kevin Smith's bisexual Amy rip Ben Affleck's heartstrings apart? How can Natalie Portman's obsession with proving her ballet perfection to a casting couch male company director force her to obsess and undress with another ballerina? Even Blue, which has the least male-dominated screen time, reflects an obsession with liking women for men, drenched with sex scenes choreographed like a "lez" labeled clip off Pornhub.

Bisexual representation may have changed its lyrics, but we're still singing the same old tune.

Why can't we recognize bisexual women's sex outside of a Y-chromosome-framed looking glass? Because we've never recognized it as sex in the first place. While anal penetration between two men is frequently deemed as sex in hetero society, intimacy between two women is often disregarded as illegitimate. In a world where everything is run by men's thought processes -- but more frequently by those of their penises -- the absence of a dick in the equation has left endless bisexual women unable to compute their own experiences.

My first experience was with another girl, but to everyone I knew, men and women alike, it didn't count as "my first time." It was an experiment, not the achievement or at least the obsessive milestone we've made the usually climax-less climax of romantic coming of age. The virgin name tag was stapled into my skin. The remover only a man could provide. To be validated as an adult, I had to be validated sexually, and the only validation could come from a member of the other gender.

From the flings who wanted to call my sexuality "hot," begging to hear about what I'd do with ladies in bed, to the girlfriends on dating apps who invite me into their bedrooms as a gift for their man, my story, like those of many bisexual women before me, had always been told for and by the boys. Just like on screen or on the radio, once again it was compromised.

"I never thought it would end like this
Just because I've got no tits
I'll shave my legs, I'll wear a bra
I'll even cut my penis off for you"

It's time bisexual women renegotiated this ordeal -- no penis chopping involved. We are not straight girls with a kink. We must establish our sex as more than that. That begins with redefining virginity. Yes, it's complex -- a complex problem it will take time to figure out. Like Americans figuring out how many gallons we need in liters, LGBT people need to stop measuring our sexual experiences in heteronormative standards.

Maybe virginity should be defined when an orgasm is achieved -- maybe it'll force our male partners to step up a step. Maybe virginity shouldn't be measured at all. However it is, we need to step behind the microphone.

ARIEL SOBEL is an editorial assistant at The Advocate.

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Ariel Sobel