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deletedMay 4, 2023·edited May 4, 2023
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What percentage would we assign long covid as psychosomatic? Is media coverage propagating both bisexuality and long covid to the same people? In that case, does segmenting based on media sources affect incidence?

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Perhaps 7 partners before marriage seems low to you because you don't know enough people who marry the first person they date. If anything, 7 seems too high to me.

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So as someone who is more attracted to women than men, but still attracted to men, I was told to just identify as bi, and this is probably a clearer communication. That said, I honestly wouldn't date a man again; once was enough for me to appreciate why women are concerened about men being predatory. I think that women have to deal with predatory men regardless of their stated attraction, but a man is much likely to if they just go about their life as straight-passing and avoid explicitly stating their preferences. Not that all men are predator obviously, but I think that enough of them are, and men aren't conditioned for the tools to deal with it, that that might be another driver for bi-male-dating trends.

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>And - this is something I’ve heard from all the bisexual women I’ve talked to - getting dates with men is easy, because men are horny and desperate and often ask women out; getting dates with women is hard, for the usual reasons that every heterosexual man already viscerally appreciates.

I have heard people on /r/actuallesbians complain about this constantly

Women just do not ask each other out, ever.

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> My friend explained that the acquaintance was *mostly* lesbian but a little bisexual and it hadn’t come up before. This distinction ended up being very important to me, and I don’t know who it serves to encourage people to hide it.

Well, if people constantly go around claiming that bisexual women are straight women trying to be trendy, and you want to signal that you actually want to date women, and are willing to reduce your chances with the generally-less-attractive-to-you gender, there's an obvious tradeoff to make here. It gets even more salient when you notice that on some parts of the internet, if you say you're a "bi lesbian" lots of people will yell at you, saying you're "gynephilic" makes it sound like you hang out with Blanchardians, and Kinsey numbers require people to actually remember the Kinsey scale to parse.

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Okay, but if 90%+ of women are (latently, subconsciously) bisexual, then isn't the actual dating pool for them pretty much everyone? And as more women recognize/choose a bisexual identity, then the dating pools over time would skew more gender balanced, and therefore the percentage of bisexual women having non-straight relationships would grow over time instead of shrink?

Separately, I think it's possible that people use the term "bisexual" inconsistently. This post uses a definition based on arousal/attraction, but that's not necessarily the driver of partner selection. Suppose we accept 90% of women sometimes experience same-sex attraction, but suppose that of those, 90% exclusively want male partners for reasons unrelated to sexual attraction (child-bearing, non-sexual preferences, etc.). Is this a population with 90% bisexual women, or 9%?

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If I’m honest here I have to say what I’ve taken away from all this discussion is a desire to have another look at Kissing Jessica Stein.


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FYI you mistyped a word as “defintional” twice.

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“Maybe they tune it out because of social conditioning, or because some other arousal system besides the genital one measured here is guiding their emotions.”

I think the latter need to be given serious consideration. For example, I believe I’ve read (could be wrong) that some women experience guilt when raped because they “responded” with, say, vaginal lubrication.

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Doesn't the first graph support the idea that something pretty janky is going on?

If we've gone from 87% of bi-identifying women actually having female partners to just 45% since 2008, then something has definitely happened. I don't think any of your bullet-point reasons why a bisexual might date only men has changed significantly (apart from the stigma around same-sex relationships, which has decreased) so is it fair to say there's been a significant decoupling between "identifying as bisexual" and "acting bisexual"?

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A lot of thoughts here! In no particular order:

--Your definition of bisexual seems to be based on feelings of arousal. I understand it as more action-oriented. That is, it's not just about an abstract attraction to both sexes, but active participation in some kind of sexual activity or at least active attempts. In that way, it's not so much "accusing people of faking bisexuality" as having different understandings of the word. I think your statistics about how it can be hard to find a same-sex opportunity make sense, but it still seems a little too cute to call yourself bisexual if you possibly have never even had any kind of same-sex sexual experience.

--Relatedly, there seems to be a conflation of "dating" and "sex." If you want to have sex within the constraints of a dating relationship, I can imagine that might be hard to arrange, bisexually. But if you're a woman who just wants to scratch your itch to have sex with another woman--that's pretty easy to arrange.

--I don't understand how the bar chart supports your point. As I'm reading it, fifteen years ago (2008-2010), 87% of bisexual women had had sex with women in the previous 5 years. Now the number is less than 50%. And as you point out, we might expect a more flexible dating pool in the modern era, so the number of bisexual women who have had sex with a woman should be increasing.

--The bisexual men I have known were the ones with an absolutely raging sex drive. I never got the sense that they were particularly attracted to men--it seemed more like they welcomed action wherever it might arise. (I am certain this isn't always the case, but I think it sometimes is.)

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I think the topic is poorly framed. I wouldn't accuse anyone of "faking" or "just claiming to be" bisexual (at least, not without quite particular and strong evidence). The question is more subtle than that. It's something like, "Are there sexual preferences that are, in part, learned and/or chosen through social and cultural interactions, such that it may not make sense to talk about them as a crisp, unchanging part of one's identity, like blood type? And if so, could it be that bisexuality has this quality more often than other preferences?"

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"Most of them tune out the opposite-sex arousal and go through life honestly identifying as straight."

I think you mean to say "tune out the same-sex arousal" here - but I could be misreading it.

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Am I misreading the last-5-year-only-male-partners chart? Because it seems to say that your estimate of around 50% was only achieved recently, with prior years having lower numbers. Dramatically so for 2008-2010. Your explanation would have made wildly incorrect predictions back then, but good ones now, yet every reason you provide for predicting a high number should either be unchanged (your reasons 2, 3 and 5), or have applied even more back in the past (reasons 1 and 4 and the impact of total # of partners in a given time period). If you find current numbers unsurprising, you should find past numbers completely befuddling.

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May 4, 2023·edited May 4, 2023

Ironically, I think this post actually demonstrates one reason why we should consider “identifies as bisexual” as potentially socially contagious (or at least “more socially contagious than other queer identities”), which is the more charitable reading of the comments to the last post that set Scott off (the point was “if bisexuality is a social contagion and so is long COVID, that could be an explanation for why self identified long COVID is way more common among self identified bisexuals”).

It’s a relatively low-cost signal, and some of that cost will be borne by well-meaning allies like Scott flying to your defense with long essays because somebody implied that some people who identify as bisexual might have little if any interest in actually pursuing same-sex relationships. If you adopt a bisexual identity, not only do you not have to actually change your behavior, but your newly adopted community will go into attack mode against anyone that implies that you do!

On top of that I think bisexuality could fit the social contagion model Scott laid out pretty well. You’ve got some percentage of people who are “organically” interested in sex with both sexes. Then you’ve got a larger group who maybe have some occasional or mild or ambiguous feelings of attraction to the same sex that they pattern match to the social contagion.

(Caveat before anyone jumps me: as Scott covered, “socially contagious” does not mean “fake”)

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I'm saving this one. It's well-written and packed with good data, perfectly explaining my own orientation and position.

Just to add, I'm also a submissive and generally kinky. I'm not sure what percentage of bi women are subs but from my own experience, it's many. I've had romantic compatibility with women who I'm not sexually compatible with (re: anything longterm or monogamous) for these reasons. My longterm partner is male but I seek female partnership as well. Because polyamory is more taboo than even bisexuality, most people (unless they get to know me on a deeply personal level) will simply assume I'm straight and have no idea what goes on in my house, or in my head.

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Without judging which definition is correct, it is important to notice that the definition has changed. AntimemeticsDivisionDirector asked about Chronic Fatigue among bisexuals. I found two sources, one from 2007 and one from 2020 without opposite effects. Maybe that's because they have different kinds of bisexuals. Moreover, if you want to explain the correlation, you have to have a theory of what bisexuals are, rather than just trusting self-identification. "Psychology Is About Invalidating People's Identities"

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> "self-identified bisexuals don’t really date both sexes, and are just claiming to be bi because it’s trendy"

> Bisexuals themselves hate this

That is also presumptive, I'm also on board with calling the modern trend of 1/2 of teenagers being lbgt bullshit and I have programming socks and prefer flirting with men. I would just want to flatly draw the line capable of getting off from nudes from both.

I would never be offended from someone talking statistics, or definitions. The line should be moral pressure or direct out right denying existence. And I could always talk about porn I enjoy till any religious busy bodies go away and don't feel those links speak for me in the slightest.

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My ex-girlfriend identified as bisexual. She had never had any relationship with a woman despite spending four years at Bryn Mawr (an all-women's college that I'm sure has an above-average proportion of LGBT women). I believe the operative phrase is "target-rich environment."

Color me skeptical.

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I get where you're coming from with the math, but when I see headlines about how 1 in 4 high school students are LGBTQ, my BS detector starts screaming.

Here's the CDC data (from 2021, but recently released): https://www.cdc.gov/healthyyouth/data/yrbs/supplemental-mmwr/students_by_sexual_identity.htm .

The numbers are even more staggering looking at girls. 3.7% calling themselves gay or lesbian, but 20% bisexual? 13.7% calling themselves "questioning" or using some other (non-straight) term? I think large numbers of teen girls "faking bisexuality" (or succumbing to societal pressure or contagion, or looking for "trendiness points," or signaling their politics, or assuaging their white guilt, or whatever else you want to call it) is far more plausible than only 60% of high school girls being straight. (I say that as someone who's been teaching HS for more than a decade and who's seen something like 4000 girls pass through those schools in that time.)

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> Right now I have a pretty good deal where I can self-describe as straight and guys won’t hit on me. If 5% of straight guys would say yes to being hit on by a man, men would hit on us much more often. So it’s in my self-interest for men who might like men to self-ID as bisexual […]

I don't get it; why is it bad for you if a guy hits on you? (I've heard other straight guys express something similar, so I know you're not alone, but I just don't get it.)

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Great post.

My experience and that of my bi friends experience suggests that —unlike, say, enby— identifying as bi is in no way hip, and is rather a costly signal (or was when I was still searching for my social niche in the DC area):

The main thing is many people assume you’re lying. That sucks. Gays find you untrustworthy, and —at least in DC— were uncomfortable with the implicit notion that some people actually do choose to engage in gay relationships voluntarily, as opposed to because they were ‘born that way’ (though I’m an elder millennial and this may have shifted since I cared). I had two friends in queer activism in DC, both were bi, both in the closet, lest they be fired or sidelined at work. Meanwhile, large swaths of the cis-het set assume you’re secretly gay, and bi is taken as a cowardly means of being half-closeted. My own father once held this viewpoint, and did when he noticed I was probably dating men —awkward! I have been told that having dated any men ever and being transparent about this is THE reason a one very large demographic of people conspicuously ghost me, when that has never happened with women of any other demographic.

I did have one minor quibble with the post:

> “I find myself intrigued by Mike’s explanation: if many people are bisexual but just don’t notice it, bisexuality might correlate with increased awareness of one’s own mental state and unwillingness to round it off to socially acceptable alternatives. If lots of people get Long COVID in the sense of some mild fatigue on the threshold of awareness, maybe people who are good at noticing their mental state and not rounding it off to something else are more likely to notice that.”

My intuition is that Mike’s hypothesis is consistent with Scott’s mental illness and state fixation hypothesis:

Noticing subtle problems others miss and becoming fixated on them might plausibly contribute to both mental illness and long COVID. I’m reminded of the famous Krishnamurti line:

‘It is no measure of health to be well-adjusted to a profoundly sick society’

People who are honest and observant enough to notice issues, personally and societally, in my experience, are much more likely to have to do a lot of work to attain reasonable states of wellbeing.

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This is the first time I have seen someone write about scholarly evidence, for what has always seemed like an obvious fact to me: most women are bisexual while men are more likely to be just gay or straight. Even though I was amazed at how stark the difference was.

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Serious question, and if you covered this and I missed it, forgive me, but does being Bi correspond to having high levels of “openness?” Like personality wise?

I feel like all the bi people I know are very high on openness in general.

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Bisexual women have way more lifetime partners than straight women. I don't have a median or a mean, but for having 10+ partners, the RR is 4. Thus they have more than 7 chances to swing both ways.


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FWIW, one reason to say you're lesbian when you're actually bi is that lots of actual lesbians have bad history with women who claim to be bi, but are really more like bi-curious or who think they're bi, but actually aren't. This has led to negative stereotypes of bi women in the lesbian community as unreliable and secretly straight, which bi women sometimes try to avoid by presenting as totally lesbian. This stereotyping is included in the umbrella of things labelled "biphobia".

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This is another lovely post, I just chuckled at the last footnote:

"Also, as a straight person, I want to protect the signaling value of the word “straight”. Right now I have a pretty good deal where I can self-describe as straight and guys won’t hit on me. If 5% of straight guys would say yes to being hit on by a man, men would hit on us much more often."

It's not so horrible being hit on by men. At least, not in my experience. I've only been hit on in gentle ways by nice men, so perhaps I've been very lucky. I just wanted to be a straight man who says in public: it's fine when gay men hit on us (when they're polite and friendly about it).

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The first bar graph shows that bisexual women in 2008-10 were much more likely to have had a female partner in the last five years (90+%). The pool of women identifying as Bi is way bigger now yet the graph showed 50% have not had a female partner in the last five years. How does that make sense

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The results from the genital arousal study are likely to be deceptive about women’s attraction. Women can have a reaction to stimuli that doesn’t line up with their experienced sense of attraction, so bisexual women and straight women genitally aroused by lesbian porn have distinct experiences. I can’t easily find the response articles again, but researchers have theorized that the sexualization of women in media has trained straight women to have a Pavlovian-style response to images of naked women. Someone tested this by repeating a version of the study using images of only vulvas vs images including breasts or whole bodies l. Self-reported straight women tended to experience genital arousal to the porn including breasts but not to just vulvas, unlike lesbian and bisexual women. This may be because TV and movies show or accentuate breasts much more than vulvas.

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FWIW - bi woman. Have been asked out by 3 men (accepted 1), been asked out by 0 women, asked out 5 women (none accepted) and asked out 2 men (both accepted).

Among the women, 4 were interested in women (1 of them exclusively women) and we were just not compatible / bad timing. 1 was asexual. 3 out of the 4 interested in women I met off dating apps specifically filtering for women interested in women, the others I knew socially.

All of the men were straight. There were also bi men in my social circle but I would say they were outnumbered 4 : 1 by straight men.

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Seven only seems low if you remain unmarried indefinitely or are not monogamous.

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Two comments on the math:

"So their potential dating pool is about 90% male. So this “perfectly” bisexual woman could be expected to date about 10x as many men as women, just by numbers alone.... if our bisexual woman samples exactly evenly from her male vs. female dating pool, we would expect about a 50-50 chance (0.90^7 = 0.478) that all seven of her relationships would be with men."

Isn't there a (failure to) double-count / weighting issue here? (I think - 75% confident - the following is correct).

Suppose, for a given relationship, "our bisexual woman" has a 10% chance of it being with another woman and 90% chance of it being with a male. So 90% of her relationships contain 1 male and 1 female (and thus qualify as a same-sex relationship for 0 people), but the other 10% contain 2 females and thus qualify as a same-sex relationship for 2 people. So per relationship she has, about 0.2 "woman in a same sex relationship" events occur, not 0.1. If the representative/average member of this group has 7 relationships, then there are 1.4 "woman in a same sex relationship" events per bisexual woman. This is a bit more complex now - I don't think you can use binomial theorem any more - but the probability that the average bisexual woman is ever in a same-sex relationship should be (substantially) higher due to this mechanism.

Some qualifiers / extra mechanisms to note: If most of the females in the dating pool for the bisexual woman are lesbians (who by presumption only have female partners) then this doesn't matter very much / at all. However if most are similarly bisexual, many of the candidate same-sex relationships are with other bisexual women and thus may also get them from 0 to >0 same-sex relationships. Similarly, if there's one woman who dates a tonne of other women, and provides their only same-sex partner, the number of same-sex relationships and "women ever in a same sex relationship" are closer to 1:1 rather than 2:1.

Second, as others have pointed out, the first graph, where the "among bisexual woman, share who have only dated men in past 5 years" has gone from 10% in 2008-10 to 50% today, really works against the claim of the piece. All of the arguments given in the piece for justifying 50% as being a perfectly reasonable number given the dating pool and social phenomena suggest the number should have been higher, not lower, in the past. Rationalising this by saying "the threshold for identifying as bisexual is much lower today" is basically just a different way of framing the original claim Scott is arguing against.

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I'm surprised you want to preserve the signaling value of heterosexuality. In my experience most straight men with liberal sentiments are delighted by the idea of being (politely) asked out by a gay guy(1) because:

1. It affirms sexual attractiveness

2. It gives them an opportunity to make a display of magnanimous tolerance

(1)- Of course you could always be non-politely asked out by a gay guy, but that usually happens on Grindr.

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Couldn't the Long Covid correlation be mostly explained by garden-variety trauma history acting on a specific type of sensitive personality to produce chaotic, intense relationships (often with a masochistic flavor, as somebody noted upthread), unstable patterns of attraction *and* a tendency toward somatization in whatever form, Covid or otherwise?

That life history is certainly something one sees a lot in the wild, and it doesn't necessarily imply anything offensive about the many trauma-free, stable and thriving bisexual individuals out there--just that there are multiple different ways someone might end up self-consciously feeling a strong attraction to both sexes, where at least one of those routes also entails increased vulnerability to Long Covid. As an account, it's not even all that different from the neurodivergence/state-fixation theory described in the post, but has benefit of suggesting other correlations that should be testable.

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I had the vague impression that some people enjoy porn by imagining themselves _interacting with_ the depicted subject, while other people enjoy porn by imagining themselves _being_ the depicted subject. If true, this seems like it could hugely distort the genital-arousal studies (e.g. by causing actually-100%-straight women to be aroused by porn of women).

Are they controlling for this in some way? Am I wildly wrong here?

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I'm fairly skeptical of genital arousal studies as a measure of *real* sexual orientation, and here's why:

It's pretty common for women to experience physical arousal in these studies while self-reporting no desire or even revulsion. That leads to one of two interpretations—they *are* into it and they're ashamed/lying or the physical reaction reflects *something else.*

Emily Nagoski, the author of the very good Come as You Are (https://amzn.to/3Lybc3H), puts it this way: "sometimes things are sexually relevant, even when they’re not even remotely appealing." [source: https://enagoski.medium.com/unwanted-arousal-it-happens-29679a156b92] Physical arousal can be a way of being *ready* for sex, in case it happens, regardless of whether you *want* sex.

And, in Nagoski's cited sources: "There’s about a 50% overlap between how much blood flows to a male’s genital response and how “turned on” he feels — his “subjective arousal;” and there’s about 10% overlap for women’s genital response and subjective arousal."

This undermines my confidence in genital arousal studies as an orientation measure, and I wish it were covered in middle school health classes generally. It's good for kids to know that getting a little physically aroused does not necessarily mean you have DISCOVERED AN IDENTITY.

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Seems to me that there's a crucial error in your math about bisexuals. Yes, a bi woman has far more potential male than female suitors. But she also has far more rivals for the attention of those male suitors than female suitors. Suppose a population is 92% straight, 4% bi & 4% gay. A bi woman will have 94% of the male population interested in her (counting bi men as half) and only 6% of the female population (again counting bi women as half.) But she is competing with 94% of the women for the attention of 94% of the men and only competes with 6% of the women for the attention of 6% of women. For the bi woman, the female dating pool is much smaller but much more likely to hit on her as opposed to another woman.

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>Most people who notice their bisexual attraction pattern and identify as bisexual will rarely or never date anyone of the same sex, mostly because of the size of the dating pools, but also for reasons of social convenience.

Small note - the social convenience thing applies most strongly to bisexual women, since the part about women being passive and hard to get doesn't apply to bisexual men.

Which would make us expect that bisexual men are more likely than bisexual women to have any/more same-sex relationships (or at least hookups). Which does match my impression from my friend group, at least.

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Thank you for writing this much needed follow-up, the comments section of the last post did get a bit frustrating. I wanted to mention that for bisexual men I think the math on size of potential dating pools can actually be much more skewed in practice than the numbers would suggest, for the simple reason that there's much more pressure to be really sure a guy might be interested before asking him out, since if he's actually straight the reaction can be very negative (potentially even more so if he's closeted). So for a bi man, asking a woman is much less risky, as it's much rarer for someone to be offended that you think they might be straight. So whatever proportion of men are either bi or gay, the pool of guys you could safely ask is much smaller. I realize this is becoming less true, but it was definitely the case pre-2000, so any statistics that include people over 40 are going to be affected by this.

I'm not sure how much of this was covered by your phrase "reasons of social convenience", but thought it might be worth spelling out in a bit more detail.

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May 4, 2023·edited May 4, 2023

These studies where arousal is measured by attaching sensors to someone’s genitalia and then having them watch porn always make me skeptical. It’s such a weirdly unsexy situation and seems rife with confounding factors. Where are these test subjects? Is it someplace comfy? Where is the researcher? What kind of porn do they use? Are the subjects people who watch a lot of porn, or any at all?

I’m sure they make note of some of this, since e.g. you wouldn’t want to show people porn with both genders since you wouldn’t be able to tell who they’re attracted to. I get that these studies are looking at involuntary physiological responses and the apparent strangeness should theoretically not matter. But the whole setup sounds kind of…I dunno, traumatic? Invasive? Not conducive to natural sexual feelings? Granted, I can’t think of a particularly good way to measure arousal, either. Maybe improved technology could at least make the data collection process more subtle.

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This is a mathematically inconsistent argument that leads to the implication that female bisexuality was at 32% in 2008 and has dramatically decreased to 5-10%.

He makes a reasonable argument that a dating pool of 90% male leads to roughly half bisexual females never having female partners because 0.9 ^ 7 = 0.48.

But if that is the rationale then we should do the same for 2008-2010 numbers, which was 0.133 never having a female partner. If we solve for x in x^7 = 0.133 we get x=0.75.

But how do we get 0.75 instead of 0.9? It would indicate that in the time prior to 2008 that 32% of women were identifying as bisexual or lesbian, making their dating pool three quarters male instead of 90% male. This would mean that the number of bisexual females has dropped from 32% in 2008 to 5-10% now.

The other reasons he lists for bisexual females to date more men were all true back then, so I don’t see how these are relevant.

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May 4, 2023·edited May 4, 2023

Oddly, "Bisexual adults more than twice as likely to have asthma as straight adults" – or so a study I haven't scrutinized says. (It seems to comport with other recent studies claiming a higher incidence of lung disease among bisexuals).


As an asthmatic myself, I couldn't tell anyone where to draw the line between post-infectious asthma/atopy flares and a "trendier" label like "long X" for infection X. Since I'd feel silly claiming the label "long X" for multiple Xs, if I did test positive for COVID (something which hasn't happened yet), and then had what's now become my usual exacerbation afterward, I could probably meet the definition of "Long COVID" for non-psychosomatic reasons – but I wouldn't want to.

I believe people's uneven recovery from what are for most people temporary infections is a problem worth taking more seriously, but because I have underlying conditions that would already explain away months if not years of generally-worsened health after pretty much any infection, I doubt attaching a "long X" label to myself would be helpful.

But I'm also generally reluctant to attach "trendy-seeming" labels to myself, including sexual labels. (I only recently found out that one of my oddities is apparently "trendy" now, and I find this somewhat mortifying,)

I'm "cishet by default", I guess, and happy enough that way. I wanted to avoid premarital sex, and did, I had no pressing reasons to make anything other than a conventional marriage, and I don't feel like I've missed out on anything important to me by doing that.

If I had wanted multiple sexual partners, though, sticking to men seems unlikely to scratch such itches as I do have – and I wonder whether having had somewhat abnormal bodily experiences since childhood might contribute to my perception that normality just isn't for me, even if I also find claiming the "trendy" signifiers of "abnormality" for myself rather embarrassing, and therefore something to avoid, if possible. So there is a commonality underlying why I would avoid both identifying as bisexual and as having "long X" even when my post-infectious condition might qualify for "long X".

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Tracks interestingly with the fact that virtually every female porn star performs as at least bisexual.

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I once told a girlfriend I was bi to try to seem cool (and it worked, sort of; teenagers are weird). I am very confident that at least some other human males have tried this before.

While yes, the concept of "fake bisexuals" must annoy bisexual people to no end, claiming that you're bi to gain social cachet when you know damn well you're not is a real thing that real people do.

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"Their male dating pool is all heterosexual and bisexual men (95%+ of men), and their female dating pool is all lesbian and bisexual women (about 5-10% of women). So their potential dating pool is about 90% male."

This seems obviously wrong to me, people select their social circle very strongly, you yourself have written about how this happens even unintentionally. Most of my friends are some flavor of LGBT, most of their friends are some flavor of LGBT, and I do in fact see bisexual people having a large, sometimes above 50% pool of same-sex partners.

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Claiming you were bi was trendy and edgy in 1995, but does anyone honestly care anymore? Old guy here, so maybe there's a new wave of this I'm missing?

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Does this mean I can lower my threshold for accusing people of faking heterosexuality?

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We know that a lot of people will have sex (or do sex-like things) with members of the same sex if you put them in a situation where the opposite sex isn't available (prison, single-sex schools). But I don't know whether these people necessarily "are" bisexual. To a certain extent sex is enjoyable because buttons are being pushed.

I've never made out with another woman, but I bet it would feel nice. And yes, movie scenes of women making out can be kinda sexy. But I've never looked at a woman and been slammed by attraction--that's only happened with men. To me, that's what "sexual attraction" feels like, and it would be silly/not very meaningful to identify as "bisexual."

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Not sure why dating pool size should necessarily matter. Do homosexuals find it harder to find dates than heterosexuals because their dating pool is smaller?

Do people date randomly?

Perhaps the concept of bisexuality has changed a lot recently. I'm reminded of a line from Sex and The City in which one of the women pretends to be a lesbian so she can hang out with a "cool" lesbian crowd. Someone in that crowd sees through her and says: "You either eat cunt or you don't." Certainly the attitude 20 years ago was that your revealed preference meant much more than your stated one.

Perhaps that view is old-fashioned now, but I have an old friend who decided back in the '70s that he wanted to identify as bi because so many trendy rock stars like of the era: Reed, Bowie and Jagger claimed to be. So he tried his best to have sex with a guy but during the experience had an epiphany that he was heterosexual. It's one thing to say you are bi, another to prove you are able to eat cunt, suck dick, whatever. At least that's what Paul Samuelson would have probably said.

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The OkCupid blog put together some interesting data about sexual orientation and same/opposite gender messaging patterns (although their framing is regrettable). See the last section of this post: https://web.archive.org/web/20140122045017/http://blog.okcupid.com/index.php/the-biggest-lies-in-online-dating/

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Oh boy, is that bar graph annoying...as many have already said, yeah, greatly increasing the rate of bisexuality without a corresponding huge increase in "same sex success rate" would make Number Go Down. The various whys given all seem plausible; I'd also tack on the whole Young People Not Having Sex Period thing, which would neatly include the same demographics largely responsible for skyrocketing affiliation. (Yeah, I know the magnitude of this effect is likewise contested.)

In similar vein, I think the social convenience calculus has also shifted...on the one hand, stigma more generally has been going down. But on the other hand, it's (perceived to be) a helluva lot more fraught to hit on women now, nevermind actually asking them out. It's hard to tailor norm changes to solely deter predatory men. Like, being a bi trans woman...I might prefer the company of women in most regards, but the risk of flirting with female coworkers just isn't worth that greater potential reward. (Current workplace has had, uh, numerous...incidents...of such going very poorly. The North remembers.) Which is unfortunate, since that means seeking out mostly men, and the local quality just isn't very good. So I too end up dragging down bar graphs of that sort, without meaning to. Many Such Cases, I'd imagine.

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Genital-arousal studies might be The Best Thing We Have for "objective" sexuality measurements (are they?), but...yeah, quite a lot of possible disconnect there. Lots of ways to get aroused without the actual genitals doing much, lots of ways to rouse the gametes while feeling otherwise pretty indifferent or even opposed to incipient sex. I have no idea how common this is, but like - personally, most of my erogenous zones or other things that get me in the mood have minimal connection with genital response. The nerve streams just don't seem to cross. The inverse is also true, where purely-genital machinations might strictly technically lead to "an orgasm", but it's sure not satisfying. The same way one *can* get drunk off pissbeer, but...why would you, where's the fun in that?

Wrt footnote #3: well, that cuts both ways. "Bisexual" loses a lot of meaning if it includes nearly all women, and similar for if it includes an excess of people who really mean "I'd theoretically be into a same-sex relationship With The Right Person, but it never actually happens". The useful signal of, hey, hit on me regardless of your sex and/or gender, I'm probably fine with it - I find that valuable. This is part of the downside of spectrum-framing; it really is a (I hate using this word) privilege to just not have to worry about being hit on/potentially feeling feelings for ~50% of people in daily life. Sometimes a much higher percentage, depending on one's specific circumstances.

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So guilty of not following this myself in all kinds of ways but I think this might get down to the question of “What is a thing?”

And because people can talk about internal states we have in recent times been heavily weighting how we categorize people based on those self-reports.

However, if you think about other things you are basically 1) describing constellations of characteristics 2) noticing they behave in predictable ways 3) describing them in a way you can communicate that prediction to someone else.

What is a chair? You’d say it has a seat and some legs and you can probably sit on it and if you say it somebody else knows what you mean.

If you’re a bisexual woman but not in anyway other than internally you’ve theoretically been open to having same sex relationships but in practice would never actually do it…

I can see both sides of this because it’s not like that attraction isn’t something measurable or interesting or a thing that’s very important to you but in day to day life it doesn’t really tell someone something about your actual predictable behavior. Like when someone has been married for years, has children, and then says they are now non-binary but the only actual functional change is that they get a haircut. From the outside, asking the question what is functionally different now in this system, the answer is: someone got a haircut, being non-binary means you get a hair-cut.

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I would assume the overwhelming majority of people identifying as/claiming to be bisexual are, in fact, bisexual, and "they're just faking!" is wrong. However, it seems like it only takes a few percent of people being extra susceptible to socially spread conditions to explain the results of your survey. In particular, why homosexuality was not associated with long covid: if you have the slightest inclination that maybe a same-sex sexual encounter is something you would try, you can put "heteroflexible" on your dating app profile (which urbandictionary defines as "inbetween bisexual and straight" which makes very little sense to me), answer "bisexual" on surveys and act almost completely indistinguishably from straight.

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As a Schrodingers' fake bisexual woman (who also has long COVID, despite it not being convenient for my COVID-related politics at all):

I spent years saying to myself that that one crush on my (female) best friend 'didn't count,' because, after all, I've never dated a woman. I've never kissed a woman. It was just that one crush.

(In the two point five years between meeting any out non-straight people at all, and getting together with my now husband. This was over twenty years ago, I should say).

Being bisexual's never impacted my life. I've never been oppressed because of it, and I'm not dating anyone because of it. I might, if I were single, but I'd been married for years before I was fully fine with doing so. So, I'm not.

But I decided to start saying I was bisexual rather than leaving that detail out - as 'personal, complicated, irrelevant' - because I was talking with all these other women. Liberal, social justice-y even, most leaning younger than me. About sexuality, and queerness, and I knew their lives, and lots of them hadn't kissed girls either! But if I described myself (perhaps more biographically accurately) as 'basically straight,' 'rounds to straight,' etc., then I'd be on the outside of that group. But if I'm 'bisexual', well, that's what they want. Because by their definitions, it's clear that any nonzero amount of attraction is not only good enough but actively should count, .... and then my opinions are valid, and, anyway, I'm as bisexual as lots of others!

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This might seem slightly off topic but I have been following the comments here with interest due to something that has been frequently trotted out in the media of my own country which has perplexed me.


Does anybody have any thoughts on why this could be true? It seems as though people identifying as bisexual claim to have proportionately higher experiences of just about everything.

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This is a very humorous angle to me because as a gay man, the trope is that actually the bisexual dudes are just in denial and are never actually dating the opposite sex. Maybe I’m just old enough to remember when bisexuality was gay denial rather than being a trendy victim of statistics.

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I don’t think advancing beyond the necessity of reproduction the old fashion way is exciting (comment triggered by the “(for now!)” hyperlink to some 2 year old article about turning blood into eggs or something). Could you imagine the fallout of that? People no longer having to be sexually competitive? Literally anyone being able to reproduce via parthenogenesis and create copies of themselves? I think humans have introduced enough dysgenic influences into the environment via tech, I don’t think removing the primary and sole remaining check on the continuing health of the species is good, much less something that warrants an exclamation point.

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Can we get a LOT more info on 'Long COVID also correlates with pretty much every mental illness, and it correlates more with psychiatrist-diagnosed illnesses than self-diagnosed ones'? To me, that's more fascinating than the article topic.

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That's why I'm annoyed by "social contagion" type of theories. They sneak in the assumption that the observed changes in the number of cases are all/mostly false positive without providing evidence for it. And then just keep pointing to the observed changes: "See! There used to be x cases when it wasn't trendy and now it's trendy and there are 2x cases! What other proof do you need?".

In reality "trendiness" is not two discreet state. Ideas can be more or less widespread in the society and we do not know which level of the spread for a specific idea is optimal, leading to the best f-score. We can't just assume that whatever base line was 10 years ago was the best.

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The graph you included that shows how many bisexual women "have exclusively dated men in the last five years" very clearly shows that this number has increased dramatically in the last decade. The linked study mentions "wide error bars," but claims the trend is statistically significant.

That seems to support the idea that when people self-identify as bisexual, it's helpful to keep in mind that that word doesn't mean what it used to.

My thesis is, to be clear, not that people are lying or that the broadening application of that self-label is bad or incorrect. It's just that bisexual-identification is inherently subjective, and so the act of self-identifying as bisexual signals someone's personality and cultural context in addition to their underlying arousal patterns. (The same is true of e.g. straight people, though we could argue about percentages.)

It's important to find a way to discuss this concept without making bisexual people feel "erased," and I'm open to suggestions on how to better accomplish that end. I say it's important to discuss because it feels Beyond Obvious to me that the long-covid correlation provides evidence for long covid being correlated with personality and cultural context in addition to underlying biology, which we miss if we can't admit and discuss those properties of bisexual identification. (I also think we should be more aware of how often self-identified straight people feel same-sex attraction, though that's a separate topic.)

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Agree pretty much with sections 1 and 3, but section 2 seems to presume that genital arousal correlates pretty well with actual arousal (as perceived internally by the person whose genitals are being monitored). Genital non-concordance is a pretty well-established phenomenon, particularly in women. Why this happens is unclear (one suggestion is that physical arousal can prevent further physical damage during a rape, so more cis women's bodies automatically respond with physical arousal to any sexual stimulus, regardless of whether they're into it or not), but monitoring genitals seems like a bad proxy for judging whether women are self-reporting their sexuality correctly, as it is pretty irrelevant to the question of "is this particular woman open to dating me or not".

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May 4, 2023·edited May 4, 2023

>Bisexuals themselves hate this

> why you shouldn’t say it

This is a weird appeal to niceness at the start of a post that seeks to convince by statistics. I have no particular horse in this race - I'm actually kinda annoyed by how trite and predictable the """Bisexuals are simply faking it""" opinions were getting in the last thread - but my first reaction to "You shouldn't do X" where X is a fairly harmless action or gesture is always being suspicious and defensive. The paternalistic "No Questions Asked" attitude is a hallmark of 2 kinds of institutions I despise the most, the Military and Traditional Religion, and this immediately motivates me to start looking for reasons that I *should* do X.

And, quite frankly Scott, the lgbtq+++!@#$ folks do not seem too keen on not upsetting the straight men either, who also have plenty of problems with some of what the lgbt say and do, and the latter's universal response is almost always some variation of "Lol sucks to suck". So why the asymmetrical calls for niceness here ? You ever see an article with a title like "Raise Your Threshold For <something that annoys straight men or offends them>" ? I have never.

But anyway, let me get a bit meta.

What this post and the comment sections of the last one has taught me is that what I call "Population Thought Experiments" ways of reasoning should be banned and\or significantly curtailed, at least as hard as aristotelian teleology or freud's psychoanalysis. By "Population Thought Experiments", I mean the genre of reasoning where you start with "Imagine a population of $GENERIC_ENTITY where x% are grubs and y% are shrubs, further assume that alpha, beta and omega, here is [What I think is] a plausible scenario that can happen in this world".

The insidious thing about this way of thought is that you might be perfectly right and still be wrong. The scenario your brain comes up with *might* be in fact a plausible one conditional on the world you imagined, in the sense that if I wrote a computer simulation (after teasing out all the implicit assumptions and biases in your wording and teaching them to the silicon) I *would* indeed get that scenario..... under a specific setting of parameters, in 34% or so of the simulation runs. But what happens under other parametric settings ? What happens in the other 66% of the runs ? What happens under different interpetations of your assumptions and biases ? If you have working code, you can explore all of this. But if all you have is your faulty and slow meat brain and the vague and rhetoric-optimized Natural Language that we originally just evolved to shout "Lions!!", you will be led astray. And then there is the whole, seperate, issue of whether the world you imagine approximates the real one enough for whatever insight you derive from the thought experiment to transfer.

This is the article that informs my opinion[1] : Probability, Why Intuition Fails Us & How Design And Simulation Can Help. Recommended reading, I spent 10 minutes hunting it down just to refer to it. Take all the difficulty that Probability Theory as a mathematical field is notoriously known for, and multiply it by 10x or 12x to get the difficulty of Statistics, which is Probablity meets Real World (^TM). Multiply *that* by another 5x or 7x combo factor when the Real World phenomenon under study happens to be the high-dimensional, anti-inductive, and value-laden Social World, where semi-coordinated groups of people navigate a semi-comprehensible world to achieve ill-defined goals. Population Thought Experiments never stood a chance.

Computer simulations are fantastic because all the countless assumptions and hidden steps are - MUST BE - spelled out right there in the code. Because everything can be made a parameter and sweeped for all possible values in its range. Because the results are huge arrays of numbers that can equally well be rendered as pretty pictures or sent as input to yet other computations to milk other insights from them.

I know it's unrealistic to expect writers, readers and people who like to think about questions in general to know programming *and* craft/follow an involved code+words mixed argument just for an essay. I'm not truly saying we should treat Population Thought Experiments with the exact same suspicion teleological reasoning or sex-metaphors-heavy psychoanalysis (and those ways of thought can - against all odds - be useful sometimes) are treated with, I'm just saying that... we should Raise Our Thresholds For Trusting The Results Of Such Ways Of Reasoning, so to speak.

And what's so bad about women faking bisexuality ? It has all the advantages of lesbianism, being very hot and beautiful in ways I can't articulate, but without the drawback of those women actually being out of reach. We Should Raise The Percentage Of Women Who Fake Their Bisexuality.

[1] https://nicolaerusan.medium.com/probability-why-intuition-fails-us-how-design-and-simulation-can-help-2e25483d714e

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Neurodiversity also correlates to a bunch of other physical disorders like EDS and digestive system problems, likely because of underlying pervasive development disorders - I'm not sure why that makes it 'more likely to be psychosomatic' rather than 'body that went slightly wrong in development is more susceptible to cumulative damage'.

It's fairly clear by now from autopsy evidence that covid does a load of subtle damage most people just don't notice because it doesn't stop them functioning, but if you're already on the edge of not functioning (or just more adept at noticing small changes) it is more likely to tip you over.

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I think I found a typo

"before identities were scrip that could be exchanged for trendiness points, "

"scrip" should be "scripts"

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Re: signaling value—I am considering reclassifying myself as straight on all-gender dating sites because right now 90% of my intros there are from gay men who clearly didn't read my profile and are probably just swiping right on everyone because for gay men on an all-genders site, "everyone" in your area is like 100 people. Even though I do want to remain open to male matches, my non-gender-related preferences are discriminating enough to rule out at least 99/100 people, and my intros from women are much more likely to be people with whom I share common interests just by virtue of them having so many other alternatives. I don't *want* to cut off potential matches with men, and I don't *want* to signal as straight (signaling as bi has the pleasant side-effect of filtering out homophobes), but being categorized as bi significantly lowers the signal-noise ratio.

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May 4, 2023·edited May 4, 2023

https://i.imgur.com/DACxRKN.png (The size of the overlaps is inaccurate, the point is that they all exist)

I don't really care if people are "faking" it or not. I'm saying that people are confusing the black circle for one of the other circles.

The questions we should be asking are: "What makes some women identify as bi and others not?", "What are the different things people signal when they identify as bi and why do they want to signal those things?", "What makes people more susceptible to psychosomatic or sociogenic illnesses?"

The retreat into talking about bisexuality in the more concrete, "real-world" sense is interesting but it avoids the occam's razor explanation of the long-covid correlation.

Mike’s explanation is clever but it fails to explain higher rates of young women identifying as Trans as well. Since there are actually a lot less FtMs that MtFs in reality.

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Just personal anecdata, but I have noticed some (I think?) systematic differences / strong trends semantically between women and men, as relates to sexual orientation- what people mean by 'gay', 'bisexual', etc.

In short, men have a strong tendency to use arousal-based definitions, and to use patterns of arousal as diagnostic. Whereas women have an equally strong tendency to use behavior-based definitions, where lesbianism and bisexuality to mean openness to actually dating someone of the same sex, whether or not you find them attractive. For example, I've seen lesbian friends ask their partners to stop identifying as 'bisexual' and start identifying as 'lesbian' for the duration of the relationship, because it felt to them like the girlfriend was saying the relationship was temporary.

Man was not made for the categories etc.; both of these definitions have their merits. But it's interesting to me that the arousal-based definition is something that's most useful in a community where homosexual arousal is quite rare, and there's a high correlation between same-sex arousal and same-sex activity. Contrast with the behavioral-based definition, which is more useful in a community where same-sex arousal is a poor predictor of same-sex sexual activity, that is, one in which bisexual arousal is common and same-sex intercourse is not.

(It could also speak to patterns where sexual arousal is more intrusive or acute in men than women, on average; that also seems like a pretty likely contender.)

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May 4, 2023·edited May 4, 2023

Just want to suggest long-covid may not be psychosomatic because it's associated with being bisexual which is

associated with stress/mental illness. Consider this...

"There were positive associations between mental health disorders, all cancers and lung cancer risk, however with the exception of anxiety and lung cancer in women (Hazard Ratio [HR] = 1.67, 95% CI: 1.01–2.76), associations were attenuated with adjustment for sociodemographics, health status and lifestyle factors."


Stress and mental illness leads to higher cortisol, etc., which leads to an increased risk of a real and long-term physical disorder! Just classic mind-body connection stuff. So being bisexual could be associated with more stress, mental illness, etc., which leads to a cascade of physical and immunological changes.

So link is bisexual (or some other sexuality...) <-> stress/mental illness -> physical/life style changes (cortisol, drug use, sleep, std rate, etc.,) -> greater risk of the body having long-covid.

I also find it interesting the link wasn't seen among homosexual patients which in theory should have a greater rate of mental illness when compared to bisexual patients. For me, that's a strong signal ethier the link is a false positive or is not strongly related to mental illness (why the inconsistency?).

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I’m not finding where in that last linked study it says most women experience both-sex arousal, seems to mostly be about same-sex attraction being linked to masculine non-sexual traits? I’d be curious about that.

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I'm a fake bisexual! Who has actually dated women in the past. About 20% of my total lifetime partners were woman (I ended up with a man, as one does.) I would say I'm actually kind of bad at introspection? I ended up being bisexual because women are pretty and men are ugly, and when I was younger I hadn't figured out that that being physically attractive isn't the same as sexual attraction at that point. But, I primarily get turned on from having sex with men, even though they're as a whole gross looking. So, in the end, I've decided I'm straight, actually. Female sexuality is WEIRD.

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"Long COVID also correlates with pretty much every mental illness, and it correlates more with psychiatrist-diagnosed illnesses than self-diagnosed ones, so I think that provides extra evidence that it is a neurodivergence effect, which is also sufficient to explain the bisexuality effect."

A possible way to adjudicate between this hypothesis and the 'signaling/cool points' hypothesis might be to find phenomena which are more uncontroversially just 'cool point' garnering and see how strongly correlated they are with bisexuality and long covid.

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To answer as to why people don't use the term (including people who "know" they are, to some degree, bisexual and accept the definition internally for themselves), there are a few reasons I have come across, as a bisexual (my own "split" is more 90/10 straight/same).

One is that the term lacks descriptiveness. That is, even if people take the label at face value, many (especially straight people) will assume that it means 50/50, which is a different person than the one I am, or even than the more typical 75/25. It doesn't seem to describe a lot of actually bisexual people very well, because it means something to straight people in particular that is not really reflective of what many bisexual people are, in fact, in terms of their attractions.

Another is that the term is disfavored and doubted by many. Many gay men simply think bisexual men don't exist, and are gay men in denial, regardless of what we actually say (this is ironic, of course, but it is common nonetheless). Many straight people make the kind of argument that has been discussed in these last few posts to the effect that if one mostly dates people of the opposite sex, then how bisexual are you, anyway, really, because they have neither crunched the numbers and done the analysis you've laid out in this post (and, to be honest, can't be reasonably expected to do so -- I mean why would the average straight person care?), nor have they had the personal experience that results in the numbers you discuss. But it seems like in many cases the term causes more dissonance than anything else, and it is easier to assume the label associated with one's primary dating pool, which for most bisexual people is the straight dating pool -- there are exceptions, as well, as you experienced with the lesbian who was actually a very lesbian leaning bisexual woman who chose, in the same way, to identify with her primary dating pool rather than use a label which was technically correct but otherwise mis-stated her general practice and history in dating and relationships.

Finally, bisexuality is a different kind of label than heterosexual or homosexual, because there is no such thing as a bisexual relationship. It is merely an umbrella term that captures sexual orientations which are not more or less "strictly" same sex or opposite sex in nature. But the actual relationships that a bisexual engages in are either heterosexual relationships (which is the most common for the reasons you cite here) or homosexual ones, and in both cases the person slips into the norms and assumptions and mores and behaviors of that specific relationship culture -- they don't exist in a "bisexual relationship culture", because there is no such thing. I think because of this there is also a much weaker personal link to the label than there is for heterosexual and homosexual oriented people, because there isn't an entire relationship (and sex) culture associated with it -- in the end, it is an umbrella term that lumps together in one "holding" category a lot of individually different permutations of not being perfectly straight or gay, and this goes a long way to explaining why the label is often so tenuously held by people who are, in fact, bisexual to some degree, if it is indeed held at all.

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Some someone explain why many conditions seem to correlate with sexual identities but are not seen in reverse?

I am beginning to feel that if somebody was to identify as bisexual I would consider them to be inherently unreliable, perhaps a liar in a general sense. I don't like feeling that way, can anyone tell me why I'd be wrong?

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It's probably pretty subjective, just like everything else. For me, I think I say I dated someone if we snogged more than twice.

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May 4, 2023·edited May 5, 2023

This thread/topic desperately needs a little clip from Ron White https://youtu.be/yVxZKOhLPco

I'm more of the opinion that everyone is bi. No one is 100% straight nor 100% gay. What's more, if we subscribe to this idea, one's "sexuality" no longer makes any of us special. Which would be nice as the west can't stop drooling over the idea that you can be special depending on what you do with your genitals.

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Thank you for writing this.

As a somewhat bi man who has exclusively dated women, I've always struggled with this--am I allowed to identify as bi? I'm not taking any of the risks that come with a queer identity, just occasionally ogling guys on the subway. I found this essay validating.

A lot of your first section focuses on why bi women end up in hetero relationships--bi men have a lot of complementary problems. E.g. every time I make myself available to men, I get completely overwhelmed for the usual reasons that every heterosexual woman already viscerally appreciates.

There's also (IMO) increased social stigma against bi men than bi women. And as a bi-male-Canadian friend of mine put it: "in Canada, when I say I'm bi, it means I date men and women. In the US, it just means I'm gay."

The genital arousal stats are interesting, but I'm not sure how much we should trust them. Young teenage Catholic me felt physical discomfort when I saw two men kissing (I have one very specific memory here), enough that it would probably kill any arousal. So I wonder how much social stigma influences the results--it will be interesting to see if the numbers change over time as LGBTQ identities gain more acceptance.

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i think that graph warrants a little bit more explanation in this article. As labeled, it shows a secular *increase* in the number of bisexual women who have had male-only partners in the past five years, suggesting that increased willingness of women to identify as bisexual (and thus a presumably larger same-sex dating pool for women) *negatively* correlates with the number of women who have had at least one female romantic partner between 2008 and 2023.

The linked article provides the presumptive explanation - last sentence is key ("Figure 9 illustrates the statistically significant finding that the share of bisexual women who report having only had male sexual partners over the past five years has risen since 2012. A rising share of women with heterosexual behavior is choosing to identify as bisexual."). But I think the result is somewhat counterintuitive and would benefit from an explicit note that the explanation for this appears to be explained by willingness to identify as bi in a manner decoupled from sexual behavior, rather than the ostensible explanation suggested the graph by itself without this context: that as the same-sex dating pool for women grows, the proportion of bisexual women with female sexual partners *shrinks.*

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What do Americans count as 'dating'?

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This is a category discussion, which is particularly difficult for certain communities (because they fight the nature of categories, argue about boundaries, basically philosophy major types). That said, seems odd to claim someone wants X, but never tries X, no matter what the numbers say. Also seems odd to conflate "arousal" and what someone actually "desires." Many folk have fantasized about X, only to be disgusted upon having X. Also somewhat odd because this suggests proverbial goat herd is actually "attracted" to goats, rather than opportunistic (back to arousal vs desire). That ability, ability to be aroused by X doesn't mean one is necessarily an Xian. Also doesn't seem to do enough with men playing the more active, "aggressive" role, which might mean it makes sense for women to focus on to what they are potentially receptive (even if those stereotypes now disfavored). But on that note, odd to suggest there's just relatively so little opportunity for women to be bi so they just default to men in most cases (as your use of numbers suggests), given the very intimate friendships, hours spent together alone, and very high chance you're female friend is willing to explore too (that is, with enough opportunities, 10% pays out very frequently over time). Finally, can't note the irony of how comfortable people seem with all these various label, knowing exactly what we mean by X and Y, and also A, B, C, even though in other contexts we're supposed to pretend these terms don't have any sort of fixed, accepted meaning.

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There's also a big difference between self-reporting willingness to do X, and actually "wanting" to do X, as demonstrated by doing X. There are many contexts in which people are sure they will love X, based on watching it, reading about it, etc., and then the time comes to (e.g.) rock climb or bungee jump or whatever, the reality is different. That is, arousal can be real, but doesn't necessarily correlate to willingness to follow through. Note that, for those who actually do love to bungee jump, that may seem like an insulting point, but shouldn't be (not about you, who actually do "desire" X). And also doesn't mean anyone's "faking" anything (except maybe the person in bed with not X (sorry, couldn't resist)).

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"Suppose someone (let’s say a woman) has exactly equal sexual attraction to both men and women.

Their male dating pool is all heterosexual and bisexual men (95%+ of men), and their female dating pool is all lesbian and bisexual women (about 5-10% of women). So their potential dating pool is about 90% male. So this “perfectly” bisexual woman could be expected to date about 10x as many men as women, just by numbers alone."

Perhaps this would be the case in a rural area. From my (admittedly limited) experience, women who identify as lesbian or bisexual end up with a pool of acquaintances that are not even close to balanced that way - they end up talking to women.

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Your last footnote struck me as odd. As a straight guy I don't feel like I benefit from men not hitting on me. Like your "mostly lesbian" friend, you may decide to make an unexpected exception (although being married rules this out for me). More options are good. And even if there really is a zero chance of taking them up on it, it's always nice to know people are in to you. (I'll caveats all this with women (straight or otherwise) may have reasons not to want men to hit on them).

OTOH, it does seem beneficial to gay and bisexuality men for straight to mean straight. Straight meaning "probably straight, but maybe not" can lead to wasted time, disappointment and even risk of harm (although hopefully that last one is less likely than it once was).

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"My friend explained that the acquaintance was mostly lesbian but a little bisexual and it hadn’t come up before. This distinction ended up being very important to me, and I don’t know who it serves to encourage people to hide it."

Your acquaintance was served, she mostly wanted men to not ask her out on dates, and lacking a socially recognized term for "don't ask me out on dates unless it's just perfect", she used the term for "don't ask me out on dates at all" and managed to get mostly what she wanted.

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Also note that a lot of homosexual individuals prefer not to date bisexuals owing to an experience gap (and also straight people experimenting resulting in multiple failed relationships, or seeing bisexual people who broke up with them settle down with an opposite-sex partner and assuming that the issue was one of sexuality rather than other incompatibilities which for many people may feel like a better option, might create a distaste for these potential relationships); my personal experience was approximately 50%.

Additionally, homosexual individuals may, because of their limited dating pool, relocate to areas more conducive to their desires (larger cities / areas with higher concentrations of homosexual people); I think bisexual individuals won't feel this pressure as acutely. (Certainly I didn't.)

These, I think, combine to exaggerate the effect far more than might otherwise be expected; even a bisexual person who makes a specific effort to date same-sex partners may find some additional difficulty finding any, relatively.

The more relevant dating pool for bisexual people, I think, is - other bisexual people. I've noticed that most of my partners have been some degree of bisexual, and most of their partners have been some degree of bisexual. And this, I think, might be somehow important.

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But 20% of young women are identifying as bi. So if you repeat the analysis with that number, then only about 20% of bi women should report not having a prior female partner.

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Assuming that here: "Most of them tune out the opposite-sex arousal and go through life honestly identifying as straight."

You meant: "Most of them tune out the *same-sex* arousal and go through life honestly identifying as straight."

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WRT social conditioning. It's worth remembering that essentially ALL Spartan men were in homosexual relationships. Also classical literature indicates that many Athenian men considered sex with their wives a duty. So social conditioning at least CAN be quite dominant. (OTOH, of course, a lot of Spartan men were killed if they weren't willing to be in a homosexual relationship. The phalanx sort of depended on maximal bonding.)

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It would not surprise me if the fraction of women that can claim to be bisexual on this definition is nearly 100%. This is anecdotal, I know, but I have known a number of women who attended women's colleges and virtually all of them had lesbian relationships. Lesbian until graduate was a real thing well before it become fashionable to be bisexual.

Of course, it could be just that bisexuals are more likely to attend women's colleges or that I happened to know a clique of particularly bisexual women. However, it has always been my impression that sexuality for women is much more fuzzy in its boundaries than it is for men.

It also means I don't think bisexual women are anything special and that I think a lot of them are putting themselves forward as bisexual because it is fashionable rather than because it has any actual special meaning to their identity.

I'm not sure if there's a word for this kind of truthful hypocrisy.

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I was one of the "yeah, bisexual people tend to like to have quirky labels" folks and I basically agree with this article. As a general rule I think just about anyone (with some exceptions) can be attracted to both men or women and most folks tend not to acknowledge that and continue to identify as straight. For instance, I am certain there are circumstances in which I could find men appealing - attractive male and attractive female faces aren't that different for one thing. Nonetheless I've only dated women, only pursued women, and suspect if I suddenly found myself single I would pursue women. In my mind that makes me straight, but I wouldn't be offended if people thought I was bi or whatever.

Nonetheless, just anecdotally there's a significant overlap between people in my life who identify as bisexual and people in my life who respond to another person's story by telling about how the same thing happened to them but it was so so much worse and can we please talk about how victimized I am and also I have eight chronic illnesses. Folks who despite enjoying all the benefits of being a straight cis white man/woman complain constantly about straight cis men and women, y'know?

And I feel like that's probably relevant to the question even if everyone's bisexual and bisexual folks are more correct about their orientation than others. In fact, take out my annoying, unfounded value judgments and you might get something like "bisexual folks are more in-tune with their bodies, their needs, and their inner life than you, you repressed asshole." Nonetheless, I think that probably accounts for at least some of the correlation between bisexuality and long Covid.

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Here's my wild conjecture, based on the spoons model of disability.

In the original model, a disability (especially a chronic and fatigue-inducing one - the original example was Lupus) is like having a limited budget of spoons per day, and each activity you do costs a number of spoons. Extra spoons do not carry over to the next day, and going over your spoon budget has bad effects including reducing your spoon budget in the future (the more you overspend, the worse the effects). Managing such a disability means carefully budgeting with your spoons (which costs extra spoons to do).

What if everyone had a spoon budget, but a normal working day costs around 100 spoons, and a non-disabled person's daily budget is 120 or something - the spoon fairy supplies their budget like everyone else, but they don't notice because they don't have to actively budget with their spoons. A mild disability might put you around the 90s and a more severe impairment is trying to survive on 50 a day or so?

In this model, what if the effect of long covid is something like -5 spoons/day? The person who used to get 120 and spend 100 is now on 115 / 100 and barely notices except on the most stressful days (excess spoons get discarded at the end of the day after all so you don't see something like less compound interest in your spoon account). But the person whose average day used to cost 100 against a budget of 100 - maybe their comorbidities are what's causing the reduced spoon budget in the first place - will absolutely notice the missing 5! And the person who's already actively budgeting their previous 80 spoons/day allowance will absolutely have to adapt to getting 5 more deducted.

In summary: there's a possible model where long covid is not psychosomatic, but still affects people with comorbidities that put them closer to their coping limits in the first place worse than healthier people who have enough slack to deal with the extra effects.

Personally, I agree with Scott's other posts that it's silly to make a distinction between psychosomatic and "real" conditions, I'm just saying there's a possible model to explain why long covid would get noticed more in already otherwise impaired people that doesn't involve a psychosomatic component.

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Unrelated to the topic at hand: When I click on a link to a reference (the small 1, 2 and 3) to go to it, or to go to where it was in the article, it takes almost two full seconds to go to it. This is a terrible experience.

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re bisexual women seeking dates with women:

"getting dates with women is hard, for the usual reasons that every heterosexual man already viscerally appreciates"

Do all of the usual reasons fully apply in this case? Women contemplating dates with men have to worry about accidental pregnancy (absent in this case) and potential violence (much reduced - e.g. the male killer/female killer ratio is around 7:1) so I'd expect less hesitancy from these considerations for women considering dates with women.

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May 4, 2023·edited May 4, 2023

>Sex researchers have done something kind of like this by showing people porn and monitoring genital arousal

I wonder if this is vicarious though? For instance straight women talk about focusing on the woman when watching straight porn instead of the men because they're imagining being them, it's a kind of vicarious sexual excitement.

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As other comments have noted, female physical arousal is not very well linked to subjective reports of arousal. This could be explained by female arousal being more about *getting ready for sex* - this also makes sense when you consider that women usually 'receive' sex rather than initiate it, so just observing sexual activity might be a signal for the body to start preparing (whether she wants it or not). In contrast, men would feel arousal only when they want to activity *initiate* sex, and so arousal would be much more linked to attraction.

Also, anecdotally, as a bi women who has pursued women in the past, there have been several instances where a woman says she thinks I'm attractive, even comes close to going out with me, but realises she actually doesn't want to do anything sexual with a woman. Maybe I'm just a really bad date, but these things make me doubt the 'most women are really bisexual' view. I'm more inclined to believe these arousal studies show something like - women are much more likely than men to prepare for sexual encounter when viewing something sex-related.

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For personal reasons, I am curious whether the study showing that most women are physically aroused by images women would replicate. So I made a market on it: https://manifold.markets/Sinclair/are-almost-all-women-into-women-wil?r=U2luY2xhaXI

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Anyone feel like defending the Kinsey Scale?

Because to me it's baffling in its juvenility and also in its lack of agreement with the actual world.

Being a linear scale it can't possibly model sexual attraction space with its 2+ dimensions. And not only is gynephilia independent from androphilia, but negative attraction is absolutely a thing that manifests in differing degrees, as anyone who has tried to set up a group encounter knows.

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May 4, 2023·edited May 4, 2023

But Scott,

1) Man was made for the categories, you're just plain wrong about this.

2) The same investigative method reveals that women also respond with genital arousal to seeing dogs or chimps have sex, violent rapes etc., basically all kinds of unsavory scenarios. So either all women are massive perverts (this contradicts our conventional wisdom, although not Greco-Roman conventional wisdom) or else women have just evolved to lubricate at the sight of anything sexual because in the ancestral environment they didn't necessarily have much choice about consent and so on and thus it simply minimized vaginal damage to always get ready for sex when there seemed to be some around. In the latter case, presumably "arousal" as subjectively experienced happens somewhere else. Personally I think this seems pretty probable since involuntary boners are also well known to be a thing, including in embarrassing/offputting situations.

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May 5, 2023·edited May 5, 2023

As I understand it, the argument is that the attitude of men who falsely claim to be bisexual to gain kudos for being broad-minded and commendably catholic in their tastes, and "the wolf in sheep's clothing" aim of sounding less potentially predatory to women, correlates with the sympathy-seeking goal of a false claim of having long covid. In short, deceit in one makes deceit in the other more likely.

But if the original survey was done by an online poll then what incentive would there have been for heterosexual men to give a false reply to the sexual orientation question?

FWIW, it seems to me that if there is a correlation it is more likely that both are the result of some lack of sensitivity in hormone regulation, a tendency to overshoot one way or another over time, with fluctuating levels causing corresponding changes in predominant sexual orientation, and Covid throwing the whole system out of whack for some time. I think it is well-known that in men, such as M2F guys starting on female hormones, i.e. HRT, a sudden increase in the levels of these can cause mental aberrations such as "brain fog" until the brain adjusts.

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Isn't the first table *exactly* what you would expect if people have been increasingly calling themselves bisexual as part of a fad without really practicing it? What else explains the dramatic rise?

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The problem is one of operationalizing definitions.

Dating 7 people. What do you mean by "dating"

"Long Covid" what is operational definition. Shouldn't it actually require contracting Covid. See Norwegian study.

"Preference status", "Jhanas", etc.

People who

a. claim to be the king of France and believe they are king of France

b. claim to be the king of France and know they are not king of France

c. are the king of France by some definition n1.

d. are the king of France by some definition n2.

e. 🤷‍♂️

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Seems like a reasonable disagreement of how we apply identity labels. If I said I was interested in basketball, but I never played basketball, you wouldn't call me a basketball player. If I said I was interested in having kids, but I never had kids, you wouldn't call me a father. Those identity labels require a specific action. But there are some identity labels like rich, poor, tall, short, blond, redhead, straight, gay, bisexual, that we typically apply without that person having to do any particular action.

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I'm struggling to reconcile figure 1 and figure 2 in the paper Scott linked on bisexual men:


figure 1 appears to indicate that Kinsey 2's and Kinsey 3's are equally aroused by men and women.

figure 2 appears to indicate that Kinsey 2's and Kinsey 3's are only half as aroused by one gender as they are by the gender that they prefer.

Does this make sense to anyone else?

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I still think it's pretty likely that there's some relationship between trend-susceptibility and activism that's affecting the data here. Right now, unless I'm completely missing the mark, bisexuality is one of those identities that's slated as being seriously underrepresented. Therefore, bisexuality is ripe for representation (i.e. trendy) and you should expect contemporary polls to catch an outsize number of trendsters within that group. (Note that I'm not claiming these people are fakers)

Since we should expect a good number of long COVID cases to by psychosomatic, and for trendsters to be more susceptible to social contagion, we should expect long COVID cases to be overrepresented among trendsters. Since contemporary social polling is likely to catch an outsize number of trendsters when fishing for bisexuals, this would seem to have some explanatory power.

Am I getting something wrong, or do you simply not find this reasoning sufficient to explain the data? It seems like what I've written here is probably falsifiable if somebody is willing to do the work involved...

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I'm a little curious why the percentage of bisexual women reporting only make dates in the past 5 years is increasing in that plot

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I'm straight but actually enjoy it when men hit on me (I fool many people's gaydars). I've even on occasion been to gay parties and enjoyed being objectified. It's a rare experience for men since it's usually men who do the objectifying and hitting on someone, and most are straight and won't presume gayness. Personal taste, though...

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Is "aroused by genitals of" simply being conflated with "attraction to"?

What if women are simply more imaginative, and so when they see any kind of genitals they're aroused?

Or what if they are biologically predisposed to show arousal signs in the presence of any kind of genitals because it's a possible signal of incoming sex, and they could have their genitals hurt if they aren't in an aroused state. Since this would impact their fitness, females would tend towards more inclusive genital arousal states.

Neither of these alternatives strike me as definitively suggesting same sex attraction.

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Your data all seem to be from Americans. The world population is much bigger, and various.

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I don't know why we would just use the background sexuality demographics to makes these estimates.

It's pretty clear that the dating pool of many bisexual women is going to be subject to some pretty powerful selection effects. I would expect the preponderance of these effects (living in urban and queer friendly areas, using queer dating apps, etc) to increase the proportion of women in their dating pool.

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In general, surveys of bisexuality are hopelessly skewed by sampling difficulties. Something like 85% of bi men are closeted even from the "most important people in their lives", and it's very hard to track them down to survey them. So your results are almost entirely dominated by _how_ you found your survey respondents. Several widely reported studies on "bi men", including "Sexual Arousal Patterns of Bisexual Men" (Rieger, Chivers, Bailey, 2005) supposedly found their participants by recruiting among the gay male community. And they concluded bi men didn't actually exist. Bailey also later participated in "Robust evidence for bisexual orientation among men" (Jabbour, et el., 2020) which successfully found some bi men to study. It concluded that bi men were, in fact, bi.

A more interesting dataset is YouGov's 2019 survey for MRS Pride: https://d25d2506sfb94s.cloudfront.net/cumulus_uploads/document/0mefw998rr/YG-Archive-SexualityScaleInternal-240519.pdf

This study asks people about their orientation in multiple ways! If I recall correctly, it asks them about how they label their orientation, what genders they're attracted to, where they place themselves on the Kinsey scale, and whether they'd consider a long-term same-gender relationship with the "right person". The results are fascinating: There are people who call themselves "straight" but who claim to be Kinsey 3s (equal attraction), and a bunch of other unexpected combos. Conclusion: Lots of people are open to relationships or sex with the same gender under various conditions, but they don't use any kind of consistent terminology.

And no, bi men are not "doing it for the attention." Outside of rare poly and queer communities, out bi men substantially reduce their dating pool. Something like 60% of women's magazine readers admitted that they would never date bi men. Annecdotally, the real number is likely higher in many places.

As for bi women, physical arousal studies is highly suspect, because of a well-studied phenomenon called "arousal non-concordance." Emily Nagowski summarizes this research as:

> There’s about a 50% overlap between how much blood flows to a male’s genital response and how “turned on” he feels — his “subjective arousal;” and there’s about 10% overlap for women’s genital response and subjective arousal.

Given all this, I would expect that most surveys of bi people are still heavily influenced by how they recruit bi people.

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Great article! Heaps of comments on here so I'm sure this is already covered, but in case it's not:

The studies on genital arousal seem super unreliable! Personally, I'm (very) bisexual both in terms of my sex/dating choices and in terms of 'how I identify'. There is ZERO PERCENT CHANCE I will get even the slightest erection if you put me in the Pornoprobotron-9000 and showed me nude pics. That would give me an anti-erection, for even pics I'd subjectively find attractive. Especially for visual-only stimuli, there's no chance I'd show any response to that.

Genital arousal is just so influenced by so many factors/context. Again I want to avoid TMI, but in my experience even in real-world sexual encounters, genital arousal for me is not linked in any straightforward way to how attracted I am to the person. It certainly happens! It's just not according to any pattern or criterion I can discern. If I treated genital arousal as the definitive marker of sexual orientation, I would have been very confused and probably missed out on a lot of later genital-arousal-causing things.

Also re: footnote 3... I think 5% of self-identified straight men would absolutely say yes to sex with a man at some point in their lives. (It was 4% in the table above, no?)

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My thoughts on this are not fully formed, but I think you're missing out on the fact that sexual attraction is IN ITSELF subject to suggestion. When someone expresses attraction to you, that emotional state can be contagious-- people are turned on just by being desired. So bisexuals can be genuinely attracted to both sexes, while at the same time being more prone to social contagion that would lead them to delusionally believe they have a disease.

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is anyone else here bi-curious?

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"The average person dates about seven people before marriage" This statistic seems to be an outlier and the source seems kind of dubious, as I can't actually find the study it is referencing. This much more credible source seems to indicate 4 partners for women in a lifetime:https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/nsfg/key_statistics/n-keystat.htm

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