So I’m enrolled in a class which is designed to teach you how to run a workshop for others using the SAR (Sexual Attitude Readjustment) Guide for a better sex life: A self-help program for personal sexual enrichment / education designed by The National Sex Forum. This guide was written in 1975 so there’s a lot in it that I find problematic but generally try to take a with a grain of salt (mind you people are still using the 1975 version to run workshops all over the country). But while reading the following chapter I just about had a stroke (and used up a lot of ink underlining problematic statements and writing in the margins). I was going to write about what I found most problematic but I realized I’d be dissecting the thing line by line, so instead let’s play a game: Everyone try to narrow it down to your favorite line and tell us why. I’ll give an example below, feel free to use the same line if you’re so inclined (but there are PLENTY to choose from!)
My favorite line is “But bisexuality is a very real option available to all human beings. Perhaps it is the most enriching and fulfilling – the most human – option of all.” …Because there’s nothing like implying that people who identify as a different sexual orientation are somehow LESS HUMAN than bisexuals.
There are a lot more really great (read: TERRIBLE) statements in this chapter. Below is exactly how it appears in the book, the bolds and italics included. I was going to try and underline everything I thought was problematic but then I would have been underlining pretty much the whole thing….
(And yes, while this was written in 1975 and is somewhat outdated I have heard several professors and presenters assert that “all people are really bisexual.” The sentiments expressed in the following text are very much alive.)
Bisexuality: Self-Definition and Adrogyny
At this point we can begin to consider the options in lifestyle available to every human being seeking to enrich his or her own sexuality. We start by exploring bisexuality because it is all-embracing. For the hetero- or homo- sexual, bisexuality represents an expansion, rather than a shift, in consciousness.
Sexual lifestyles are a matter of choice. A heter-, homo-, or bisexual person defines him- or herself as such. Many people define their sexuality by default; that is, they submit to society’s pressure and make no choice at all. But with the crippling Victorian morality finally giving way to the individual’s right to decide, these people are discovering that all forms of sexuality are available to everyone. They are starting to understand that the choice to explore other modes of sexual expression is open to them at any point in their lives. Bisexuality, then, is not an objective “condition”; it is a subjective experience. It is a self-defined place.
Loving ourselves is the most fundamental and basic sexual love affair we can have. By being truly turned on to ourselves we can feel free to respond to tohers. Second only to loving ourselves is sexually loving anyone we care for, regardless of their sex. It may be that if we were truly unafraid of our own and other people’s bodies, and not intimidated by our prior conditioning, we would al be naturally bisexual. Were this the case, it is easy to imagine some people choosing to be homosexual and some choosing to be heterosexual on the basis of individual preference developed through experience rather than through conditioning.
Who is bisexual? Anyone who informs you that she or he is. Any other definition won’t work. One theory holds that fantasies are the measure by which to judge. Thus, if a person is sexual with men but fantasizes about women and men, that person may be considered bisexual. But this theory does not allow for the crucial element of self-definition. In our terms, then, a bisexual is a person who consciously defines her- or himself as a bisexual.
Many people find peace and resolution in their sexual conflicts by expressing themselves bisexually. They often find that their sense of security cannot be induced by outside determinants: “I can’t rely on anyone else to define my world; none of the homo- or hetero- role models fit; my sense of home is something I must generate for myself.” The expanded range of possible sexual identities and actions that the bisexual embrases is often a welcome relief from stereotypic roles for people who have felt restricted or unsatisfied. Often, since anyone cared about is a potential partner, they no longer feel the need to compete for sexual attention or act out their sexual insecurities through possessiveness and jealousy.
Being bisexual may not be for everyone, but those who have grown or would like to grow into it, whether they come from a straight or gay orientation, believe that bisexuality is the fullest expression of human sexuality because it is not an either/or orientation, but a living out of both/and. It is a state in which people can live and grow, reaching out with warmth and openness to all individuals they care about, regardless of the structure of their genitals. It means feeling comfortable with both men and women, not only sexually, but also sensually, emotionally, and intellectually.
Some people feel that the bisexual is a perverse polygamist, and that bisexuality engenders possessiveness, jealousy, and envy. Bi people are sometimes urged to “come out,” to make a choice. We feel that much of the prejudice against bisexuality results from people’s fear of each other sexually, fear of their bodies, and that this fear creates great anger and more fear, violence, and so on. The fear of one’s own body is one of the most crippling forms of self-hatred endured by human sexuals.
The women’s and gay liberation movements have done much to encourage and enable a large number of people to “come out.” But these movements have dichotomized the possibilities. They imply that the only choice is between gay or straight modes of sexual expression. But bisexuality is a very real option available to all human beings. Perhaps it is the most enriching and fulfilling – the most human – option of all.
There is no law that says a person must remain loyal to her or his first-tried mode of sexual expression. Bisexuality can represent a balance between the polarization of gay and straight ways of life. Sometimes this balance can be found in a primary relationship that is honest and open and accepts other partners for either or both persons in the primary. In this way, for example, a heterosexual primary relationship can be maintained while both partners enjoy other forms of sexual expression.
The needs for security and permanence are very real, but they are not necessarily met by monogamy and possessiveness. A person who is unwillingly involved in a monogamous relationship can feel that his or her true self is being dissolved. Bisexuals are attracted to people, not necessarily to penises or clitorises; their style of life implies that people can love and enjoy other people without owning and imprisoning them.
[a section on androgyny which, for some reason, is under the Bisexual heading, and then a section on who children are naturally bisexual are also here but they are less interesting]
Let’s Get Beyond Labels
We are learning to fit spontaneously into situations with people without worrying about what our “label” “should” be. The new androgyny means more than coming out of the closet and into the street; it also means coming out of our antiquated attic fantasies and into the world of real people and their sexuality.
Wherever we may end up, for the time being we can view bisexuality as an oasis, a resting place from restrictive definitions. Or perhaps we should see it as a path towards more open, freely expressed human sexuality based on personal preference resulting from experience. Bisexuals are not copping out; they are copping in. They want to have their cake and eat it too, and why not? They have chosen to keep all options open to explore all possibilities. The bisexual attitude towards sex is an attitude toward life: having freed themselves from restrictive definitions, bisexuals want to live as much as possible in freedom and fulfillment.
Bisexuals are not paragons. They are not necessarily free of conflict, sexually or otherwise, but they are struggling to integrate their lives. We hope that the liberation movement will free all of us from the need to cling to labels. Labels are an easy target for repressive forces. Let’s call ourselves human beings.