The “Bisexual Umbrella”
A recent Yahoo article, “Bella Thorne reveals she’s pansexual: What does it mean,” raises an interesting issue about sexuality. It has changed during the past few years into a palette of choices, and it seems additional possibilities are cropping up all the time.
What parades around under the “bisexual umbrella” can be a bit confusing, especially for older people. Real old people were accustomed to two sexualities, straight and perverse (meaning homosexuality). Lesbians were scarcely visible, at one time. Myriad choices were unimaginable.
How Sexuality Branched Out
Then, in the 1970s a great breakout occurred. People now who are merely old will recall a post-Stonewall “coming out of the closet,” and men and women daring to affirm homosexual identities. But this, too, was soon overtaken by events.
In the 1990s, we began to discover that there were as many homosexualities as the sparks fly upwards: twinks, bears, daddies, jocks. They had separate porn sites, annual meetings, and lunch clubs. A similar differentiation took place within lesbianism: Where once we had just butches and femmes, now a showering of lesbian identities occurred.
All this happened, as I said, in the 1990s. Since then, the great wheel has rolled further. The very notion of there being two sexualities has given way to the concept of there being many. Some people call this “pansexuality,” but the term doesn’t do justice to what is, essentially, the refusal to define your sexual world in gender terms. Gender gives way to, say, personality as a way of making choices. Or gender gives way to mood, feeling one evening like penetration, on another evening that this is too much work and let’s try a bit of fetish: You as a dominant woman steer your boyfriend’s mouth into your ex-boyfriend’s member.
Is This Good or Bad?
Sex is a mixture of subjective psychological choice and social conditioning. In my view, the closer we get to the psychological end of the spectrum, the better. It’s none of society’s business what thrills us (as long as it doesn’t involve children or animals, and it is fully consensual). That’s the subjectivity part, and it should really be our sexual lodestar, not what the Presbyterian — or any other — church thinks. That’s the good part.
The bad part is that the bisexual umbrella can be terribly destabilizing. Subjectivity can change like the flavours of gelato on a summer evening. But if we are trying to build institutions, such as the family or childrearing, on the marital bed, every shift in the sexual wind will bring in new tastes, new partners, and new body images.
You can’t build institutions on such shifting sands. Why do you think that, until recently, vibrators were outlawed in Alabama? Just a bunch of prudes? No, those very religious people realized they were playing with dynamite if they let people stay home on Sunday morning dressing up in fetish outfits and putting the nipples clamps on each other. In Alabama, you belong in church on Sunday morning — or we’re looking at social chaos. Social chaos may be your or my idea of the “bisexual umbrella,” but they don’t want it in Alabama.
It’s going to be interesting to see how this plays out. The great wheel is going to continue to roll. And maybe it will roll towards more pansexuality. Or maybe it will roll in reverse. Put the nipple clamps away, and get out the hymn books. It could go either way.
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