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Does science buy male bisexuality?

        Health | Sexuality

Male Bisexuality Exists
Can science completely unravel sexuality?
Can science completely unravel sexuality?
Tim Kitchen/Getty Images

This concluding sentence in the 2005 Northwestern study on bisexual men initially rang out like death knell: "Indeed, with respect to sexual arousal and attraction, it remains to be shown that male bisexuality exists."

The study in question, however, wasn't flawless and underscored the importance of rigorous methodology. In it, the male participants were shown pornographic film clips featuring either two men or two women, which were selected under the assumption that bisexual men would become more aroused by both sets of stimuli compared to their straight and gay counterparts [source: Rieger, Chivers and Bailey]. Instead, the bisexual men became aroused by one or the other.

When a separate pair of studies published in 2011 put more emphasis on controlling for long-term bisexual participants and bisexual-oriented sexual stimuli for study participants to view, the results changed. Once researchers culled a group of men who reported not only bisexual urges, but also bisexual long-term relationships, their orientation better predicted their plethysmograph readings [source: Rosenthal et al]. Specifically, the bisexual participants were more turned on by both heterosexual- and homosexual-oriented pornography, versus the gay and straight participants who showed marked preferences for one or the other. Next, another group of researchers similarly identified the existence of male bisexual arousal patterns by tweaking experimental methodology to include bisexual erotic material in its stimuli, unlike the previously mentioned sexuality studies which involved only heterosexual and homosexual pornography [source: Cerny and Janssen]. That way, the study didn't parse out whether bisexual men show equally gay and straight tendencies but rather their own behavioral hallmark of heightened sexual interest in bisexual scenarios.

With the existence of male bisexuality empirically proven, albeit rare, some wonder whether it's accurate to conflate sexual orientation with sexual arousal. After all, gay and straight women involved in the same studies exhibited sexual fluidity, as they were physiologically piqued by a wider range of material than their male counterparts [source: Bergner]. And for men and women alike, real-world sexual behavior can't be perfectly replicated in a laboratory setting, causing some to argue that ignoring the emotions and social pressures that compel long-term bonding inherently mars the research process [source: Bailey]. The 1.8 percent of the population that self-identifies as bisexual might heartily agree with that strand of scientific theorizing.


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