Questioning your sexuality and not entirely sure if you're straight? If you're a man who currently identifies as heterosexual but have found yourself wondering 'Am I bisexual?' you are not alone. But questioning your sexuality can be a confusing and difficult time to navigate; largely because there is still a lot of misunderstanding and stigma around bisexuality in men.
There are many common but harmful myths about bisexuality, including that bisexuals are greedy, promiscuous, more likely to cheat on a partner, confused, or just going through a phase.
Bisexual erasure (where people believe bisexual men don't exist, and that any man who claims to be bi is actually gay and lying about their sexuality) also contributes to the taboo surrounding bisexuality in men, as does biphobia.
So if you're a man and think you may be bisexual or you want to explore your sexuality a little more, we look at what it means to be a bisexual man, how to work out where you sit on the sexuality scale, and what to do if you're keen to experiment:
One of the biggest misconceptions about bisexuality is that it means being attracted to men and women. This is a very outdated definition of what it means to be bisexual and based on a misunderstanding of gender as binary (ie 'male' and 'female').
We now understand gender is on a spectrum and includes various gender identities from cisgender to non-binary and transgender. So, bi people are in fact, attracted to people of more than one gender. And 'bi' means simply 'more than one'.
Some bisexual people may say they are attracted to men and women, others may only date men and trans people, or women and non-binary people. Some bisexuals may be open to dating people of all genders.
There is no one way to be bisexual or to identify with bisexuality.
There is also a common misconception that in order to truly identify as bisexual, you have to have had sex with, or date, more than one gender. This is a harmful heteronormative myth. Heterosexual people who haven't had sex are rarely questioned about how they really know they're straight, so why do bisexuals have to prove their sexuality?
You know who you are attracted to, whether that's sexually or romantically. You don't need to sleep with someone of that gender to prove it to yourself or anyone.
You may also believe bisexuals' attraction is split 50/50 between two genders. But bisexuality exists on a spectrum and some people would say they are more attracted to one gender than another. They may also be romantically attracted to one gender, but not sexually attracted to that gender.
Dr Alfred Kinsey proposed in 1948 that in reality there is a spectrum or continuum of sexuality, and this is known as The Kinsey Scale. He pointed out that we are far too keen to divide people into just two groups –straight and gay.
He suggested that in fact people are on a sort of scale, with 'very' heterosexual people being at one end, and 'very' gay people at the other.
Exclusively heterosexual1 - Predominantly heterosexual 2 - Mainly heterosexual but sometimes homosexual 3 - Bisexual 4 - Mainly homosexual but sometimes heterosexual 5 - Predominantly homosexual 6 - Exclusively homosexual
Some sexuality experts would say Kinsey's categories 2, 3 and 4 qualify for the description bisexual. Nowadays,
many psychologists would broadly agree with Kinsey's idea of a sexual range, though many of them say that none of us are totally straight or totally gay.
Due to the stigma attached to being bisexual and very little research into the UK's sexuality, it's hard to say exactly how many men identify as bisexual.
The closest we can get to an answer is in research undertaken by Office for National Statistics (ONS) in 2017. The ONS' look at how the UK population identify found an estimated 2 per cent (1.1 million people) identified themselves as lesbian, gay or bisexual.
Of those 1.1 million people, 0.7 per cent identified as bisexual (0.6 per cent of which were cisgender men).
As there is still so much miseducation around bisexuality, it's very possible that there are many more bisexual men out there.
Coming out is an often talked about part of being LGBTQ+, but for bisexual men, it's not always easy. ‘Coming out as bi can be extremely difficult. Stonewall research shows that just one in seven bi men (14 per cent) are open to everyone in their family, while three in ten (32 per cent) say they can’t be open about their sexual orientation with any of their friends,' says George Alabaster, co-chair of Stonewall’s Bi Staff Network Group.
'Part of what prevents bi men from coming out is stereotypical assumptions about masculinity, where same-sex male attraction can be seen as making someone "less of a man". Another factor is that depictions of bi identities, particularly men, are still extremely rare in the media and even when they do crop up, they usually portray negative stereotypes.'
Stonewall research has found bi people experience higher levels of anxiety and lower levels of happiness and life satisfaction than gay and lesbian people. And there's still a long way to go before bisexual people are accepted by society as a whole, and by the LGBTQ+ community.
Know that questioning your sexuality is common and normal. Sexuality isn't fixed and can change over the course of our lives. For any men thinking they may be bisexual but don't know how to be sure, sexuality experts often suggest engaging with same-sex erotica or pornography as a starting point.
If you find yourself aroused by these, you may then want to consider dating or having sexual experiences with people of the same sex or people of various gender identities.
Sex education in the UK is notoriously heteronormative, so don't feel embarrassed if you don't know what safe sex with other men involves - you're not alone.
First things first, practising safe sex is essential. Men who have sex with men (gay and bisexual men) and black African people are disproportionately affected by HIV. According to research by Terrence Higgins Trust, in the UK in 2018, 51 per cent of people diagnosed with HIV were gay and bisexual men.
97 per cent of those diagnosed were on HIV treatment, with 97 per cent of them having an undetectable viral load. This means they are taking medication which means they can have unprotected sex without passing HIV on to a partner.
'We all have the same feelings and anxieties about sex. Deciding when you're ready to have sex is a big step, whatever your sexuality and whoever your potential partner might be,' says Annabelle Knight, sex and relationship expert with Lovehoney. 'Being ready happens at different times for everyone.
And remember, it's always OK to say no. If you think the time is right, talk to your partner about needing to use contraception, having safer sex, picking the right time, and how you would both like the experience to be.'
Here are Annabelle's tips on how to explore your sexuality at your own pace:
This is important because your partner needs to know that you need a little more warm up. Let them know that they need to take it easy and be gentle.
You have a lot to discover. Turn your foreplay into a fun game. Have your partner search the terrain of your body with their hands, tongue, and lips. The goal is for them (but mainly you) to find what turns you on. Tell them when they get to the spot(s) that you enjoy the most. Have them spend some time there. Switch. Now you explore their body. Be honest and vocal about what you like and don't like.
Get in the slow lane and let your body and senses warm up. You're not riding solo here, take your time. Set the scene to where there is nothing but you, your partner and all of the time you need.
Sex is oftentimes awkward and sometimes funny as you gain complete confidence in yourself and your partner. Go with the flow. Try not to get anxious. There is no one right way to do it.
And it's too early to get bogged down in labels (Am I a top or bottom?) or to think that you have to be or act or perform in a certain way. You don't even have to go "all the way" if you don't want. Just be you and let your body show you where to go
M I Ro