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  • Journal of Bisexuality™ eHAWORTH® Electronic Text is provided AS IS without warranty of any kind. The Haworth Press, Inc. further disclaims all implied warranties including, without limitation, any implied warranties of merchantability or of fitness for a particular purpose. The entire risk arising out of the use of the Electronic Text remains with you. In no event shall The Haworth Press, Inc., its authors, or anyone else involved in the creation, production, or delivery of this product be liable for any damages whatsoever (including, without limitation, damages for loss of business profits, business interruption, loss of business information, or other pecuniary loss) arising out of the use of or inability to use the Electronic Text, even if The Haworth Press, Inc. has been advised of the possibility of such damages.
  • Bisexual Women: Friendship and Social Organization
  • Monographic Separates from the Journal of Bisexuality™ For additional information on these and other Haworth Press titles, including descriptions, tables of contents, reviews, and prices, use the QuickSearch catalog at http://www.HaworthPress.com. Bisexual Women: Friendship and Social Organization, edited by M. Paz Galupo (Vol. 6, No. 3, 2006). “Groundbreaking. . . . This work significantly advances our understanding of bisexual women’s social relationships and has set the stage for a range of fascinating future investigations into this topic.” (Lisa M. Diamond, PhD, Department of Psychology, University of Utah, Salt Lake City) Affirmative Psychotherapy with Bisexual Women and Bisexual Men, edited by Ronald C. Fox, PhD (Vol. 6, No. 1/2, 2006). “Dr. Fox has done a masterful job in putting together one of the best collections on how to provide affirmative mental health services to bisexual people.” (Linda Garnets, PhD, Affiliated Professor, UCLA, Psychology, Women’s Studies, and LGBT Studies) Bi Men: Coming Out Every Which Way, edited by Ron Jackson Suresha and Pete Chvany (Vol. 5, No. 2/3, 2005). “A must-read, this book is sure to be the standard for years to come.” (Les K. Wright, independent scholar, author, and gay activist; editor of The Bear Book and The Bear Book II; founder of the Bear History Project) Plural Loves: Designs for Bi and Poly Living, edited by Serena Anderlini-D’Onofrio, PhD (Vol. 4, Nos. 3/4, 2004). “Heartful, insightful, provocative, and stimulating. . . . In these pages, polyamory provides a context for many kinds of complex relationships that simply refuse to be pigeonholed into neat and exclusive little boxes.” (Oberon Zell-Ravenheart, DD, MA, President, TheaGenesis LLC; Founder, Church of All Worlds; Former Publisher, Green Egg magazine; Author of Grimoire for the Apprentice Wizard) Current Research on Bisexuality, edited by Ronald C. Fox, PhD (Vol. 4, Nos. 1/2, 2004). “Finally, the subdiscipline of bisexual studies has moved forward. This book represents a greater breadth and depth of empirical research on bisexuality than any other work to date. It contributes greater insight into issues ranging from better understanding of the bisexual identity formation process, to friendship patterns, intimate relationships, and mental health. The reader’s guide alone is worth the purchase price.” (Michele J. Eliason, PhD, Associate Professor, College of Nursing, University of Iowa) Bisexuality and Transgenderism: InterSEXions of the Others, edited by Jonathan Alexander, PhD, and Karen Yescavage, PhD (Vol. 3, Nos. 3/4, 2003). The first book devoted exclusively to exploring the common ground–and the important differences–between bisexuality and transgenderism. Women and Bisexuality: A Global Perspective, edited by Serena Anderlini-D’Onofrio, PhD (Vol. 3, No. 1, 2003). “Nimbly straddles disciplinary and geographical boundaries. . . . The collection’s diversity of subject matter and theoretical perspectives offers a useful model for the continued development of interdisciplinary sexuality studies.” (Maria Pramaggiore, PhD, Associate Professor of Film Studies, North Carolina State University) Bisexual Women in the Twenty-First Century, edited by Dawn Atkins, PhD (cand.) (Vol. 2, Nos. 2/3, 2002). An eclectic collection of articles that typifies an ongoing feminist process of theory grounded in life experience. Bisexual Men in Culture and Society, edited by Brett Beemyn, PhD, and Erich Steinman, PhD (cand.) (Vol. 2, No. 1, 2002). Incisive examinations of the cultural meanings of bisexuality, including the overlooked bisexual themes in James Baldwin’s classic novels Another Country and Giovanni’s Room, the conflicts within sexual-identity politics between gay men and bisexual men, and the recurring figure of the predatory, immoral bisexual man in novels, films, and women’s magazines. Bisexuality in the Lives of Men: Facts and Fictions, edited by Brett Beemyn, PhD, and Erich Steinman, PhD (cand.) (Vol. 1, Nos. 2/3, 2001). “At last, a source book which explains bisexual male desires, practices, and identities in a language all of us can understand! This is informative reading for a general audience, and will be especially valuable for discussions in gender studies, sexuality studies, and men’s studies courses.” (William L. Leap, PhD, Professor, Department of Anthropology, American University, Washington, DC)
  • Bisexual Women: Friendship and Social Organization M. Paz Galupo, PhD Guest Editor Journal of Bisexuality Volume 6, Number 3 Harrington Park Press® An Imprint of The Haworth Press, Inc.
  • EDITOR FRITZ KLEIN, MD, San Diego, California INTERIM EDITOR ZELLA L. ONDREY, Vice President of Publications, The Haworth Press, Inc. ASSISTANT EDITOR REGINA U. REINHARDT, PhD, Board of Directors, Biforum BOOK REVIEW EDITOR DAVID VAN LEER, Davis, California FILM/VIDEO REVIEW EDITOR WAYNE BRYANT, President, Bisexual Resource Center EDITORIAL BOARD JONATHAN ALEXANDER, PhD, Assistant Professor of English and Women’s Studies, University of Cincinnati BRETT BEEMYN, PhD, Stonewall Center, University of Massachusetts AMITY BUXTON, Director, Straight Spouse Network ELI COLEMAN, PhD, Professor, University of Minnesota; Director, Program in Human Sexuality CLIVE DAVIS, PhD, Department of Psychology, Syracuse University JOHN P. De CECCO, PhD, Professor Emeritus of Psychology, SFSU BRIAN DODGE, PhD, HIV Center for Clinical and Behavioral Studies, New York, New York SARI DWORKIN, PhD, Professor, CSU at Fresno, Department of Counseling LUIGI FERRER, Bisexuality and HIV Specialist, AIDS Activist, Miami, Florida RON FOX, PhD, Saybrook Graduate School & Resarch Center, San Francisco ALEXEI GUREN, National Coordinator, BiNet USA and Founder/Board Member, National Bisexual Advisory Board LANI KA'AHUMANU, Bisexual Organizer and Activist; BiNet USA; Emeritus MARTY KLEIN, PhD, Sex Therapist, Author ROBYN OCHS, Bi Activist, Bisexual Resource Center, Tufts University, Boston Bisexual Women’s Network MICHAEL PERRY, PhD, Private Practice in Encino, California; Producer, Instructional Erotica, Access Instructional Media CAROL QUEEN, EdD, Bisexual Activist, Author and Sex Educator WAYNE ROBERTS, Bi Activist, Australia MAGGI RUBENSTEIN, RN, MFT, PhD, Dean, Institute for Advanced Study of Human Sexuality, Bisexual Activist since 1969 PAULA RUST, PhD, Department of Sociology, SUNY, Geneseo MAURICE SNELLEN, Bi Activist, The Netherlands GERI D. WEITZMAN, PhD, Private Practice, Coordinator, Bisexuality-Aware Professional Direc- tory, Berkeley, CA
  • MARKETING DIVISION THE HAWORTH INFORMATION PRESS JOURNALS Sandra Jones Sickels, VP, Marketing Shelley Brutosky, Imprint Coordinator, Margaret Tatich, Sales/Publicity Manager Senior Production Editor Arleen Dallachiesa, Senior Production Editor Paul Deamer, Assistant Sales/Publicity Manager/ Conferences and Exhibits Manager Tammy Enama, Production Editor Beth Arnold, International Sales Director Patty Zoshak, Typesetting Support, MIS Liaison Becky Miller-Baum, Director, Office of Knowledge Management THE HAWORTH PRESS JOURNALS Christie Peterson, Advertising Manager THE HAWORTH MEDICAL PRESS JOURNALS Michelle Savory, Society Liaison Manager Nancy Colpitts, Imprint Coordinator, Senior Production Editor Timothy Bronstein, Internet Marketing Director Diane Stauffer, Senior Production Editor Marylouise Doyle, Cover Design Director Stephanie Paladino, Senior Production Editor Sue Hoyt, Foreign Rights Coordinator April Schaefer, Senior Typesetter Janice Hoag, Art Production Manager Sheila Stauffer, Senior Typesetter BOOK DIVISION THE HAWORTH PRESS JOURNALS THE HAWORTH PASTORAL PRESS JOURNALS Patricia Brown, Editorial Production Manager THE HAWORTH MALTREATMENT & TRAUMA PRESS Rebecca Browne, Scheduling/Project Manager, Naomi Fanning, Imprint Coordinator, Book Division Senior Production Editor Robin Hall, E-Text Production Manager Barbara Paladino, Senior Production Editor Margaret Marr, Senior Book Production Editor Sarah Godumski, Production Editor Robert Owen, Contract Coordinator, Publications April Schaefer, Senior Typesetter Amy Rentner, Senior Production Editor THE HAWORTH PRESS JOURNALS THE HAWORTH HOSPITALITY PRESS JOURNALS JOURNAL DIVISION BEST BUSINESS BOOKS JOURNALS Zella Ondrey, Vice President of Publications INTERNATIONAL BUSINESS PRESS JOURNALS Karen Richardson, Journal Production Manager Cynthia Fedak, Imprint Coordinator, Senior Production Editor Diane Fidishin, Senior Production Editor CHARTER ISSUES Michael Picciano, Senior Production Editor Shelley Brutosky, Charter Issue Specialist, Patty Zoshak, Typesetting Support, MIS Liaison Senior Production Editor Roxanne Cook, Typesetting Manager, Senior Typesetter THE HAWORTH PRESS JOURNALS HARRINGTON PARK PRESS JOURNALS JOURNAL PRE-PRODUCTION ALICE STREET EDITIONS Linda Woolf, Pre-Production Coordinator SOUTHERN TIER EDITIONS Linda Mantush, Pre-Production Assistant HAWORTH POSITRONIC PRESS Thomas J. Mayshock, Art Coordinator THE HAWORTH INFORMATION PRESS JOURNALS Debbie Gattine, Data Conversion Specialist Stacey Scarba, Imprint Coordinator, Senior Production Editor JOURNAL ADMINISTRATION Julie Ehlers, Senior Production Editor Jennifer Edwards, Production Editor Danielle Wiley, Scheduling Manager, Roxanne Cook, Typesetting Manager, Senior Typesetter Senior Administrative Assistant Lynn Ferry, Administrative Assistant Denise Katinsky, Administrative Assistant ADMINISTRATION to the Vice President Linda Pugliese, Office Coordinator Bill Cohen, Publisher Roger Hall, Senior Vice President THE HAWORTH PRESS JOURNALS THE HAWORTH MEDICAL PRESS JOURNALS PHARMACEUTICAL PRODUCTS PRESS JOURNALS HAWORTH FOOD & AGRICULTURAL PRODUCTS PRESS JOURNALS S. Singh, PhD, Managing Editor U. Singh, PhD, Imprint Coordinator, Senior Production Editor Jeffrey L. Wagner, Senior Production Editor Eric Kushmeder, Production Editor Christy Strohl, Senior Typesetter
  • Indexing, Abstracting & Website/Internet Coverage Journal of Bisexuality This section provides you with a list of major indexing & ab- stracting services and other tools for bibliographic access. That is to say, each service began covering this periodical during the year noted in the right column. Most Websites which are listed below have indicated that they will either post, disseminate, compile, archive, cite or alert their own Website users with research-based content from this work. (This list is as current as the copyright date of this publication.) Abstracting, Website/Indexing Coverage . . . . . . . . . Year When Coverage Began • Abstracts in Anthropology <http://www.baywood.com/Journals/PreviewJournals.asp?id= 0001-3455> . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2000 • Academic Search Premier (EBSCO) <http://www.epnet.com/academic/acasearchprem.asp> . . . . . . . . 2006 • British Library Inside (The British Library) <http://www.bl.uk/services/current/inside.html>. . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2006 • Cabell’s Directory of Publishing Opportunities in Psychology > (Bibliographic Access) <http://www.cabells.com>. . . . . . . . . . . . . 2006 • Cambridge Scientific Abstracts (a leading publisher of scientific information in print journals, online databases, CD-ROM and via the Internet) <http://www.csa.com> . . . . . . . . . 2006 • EBSCOhost Electronic Journals Service (EJS) <http://ejournals.ebsco.com> . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2001 • Elsevier Eflow-D <http://www.elsevier.com> . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2007 • Elsevier Scopus <http://www.info.scopus.com> . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2005 (continued)
  • • Family & Society Studies Worldwide (NISC USA) <http://www.nisc.com> . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2006 • Family Index Database <http://www.familyscholar.com> . . . . . . . . . 2003 • GLBT Life Product Family (EBSCO) <http://www.epnet.com/academic/glbt.asp>. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2004 • Google <http://www.google.com> . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2004 • Google Scholar <http://www.scholar.google.com>. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2004 • Haworth Document Delivery Center <http://www.HaworthPress.com/journals/dds.asp> . . . . . . . . . . . 2001 • Humanities International Index (EBSCO) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2006 • (IBZ) International Bibliography of Periodical Literature on the Humanities and Social Sciences (Thomson) <http://www.saur.de> . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2001 • IHLIA/Homodok-LAA <http://www.ihlia.nl/> . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2000 • Index Copernicus <http://www.indexcopernicus.com> . . . . . . . . . . . 2006 • Index to Periodical Articles Related to Law <http://www.law.utexas.edu> . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2000 • Internationale Bibliographie der geistes- und sozialwissenschaftlichen Zeitschriftenliteraur . . . see IBZ <http://www.saur.de> . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2001 • Journal of Social Work Practice “Abstracts Section” <http://www.carfax.co.uk/jsw-ad.htm> . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2000 • Lesbian Information Service <http://www.lesbianinformationservice.org> . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2003 • Links@Ovid (via CrossRef targeted DOI links) <http://www.ovid.com> . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2005 • Magazines for Libraries (Katz) . . . (Bibliographic Access) . . . . . . . . . 2003 • Men’s Studies Database (NISC USA) <http://www.nisc.com> . . . . . . 2006 • NewJour (Electronic Journals & Newsletters) <http://gort.ucsd.edu/newjour/>. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2006 • Ovid Linksolver (OpenURL link resolver via CrossRef targeted DOI links) <http://www.linksolver.com> . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2005 (continued)
  • • Psychological Abstracts (PsycINFO) <http://www.apa.org> . . . . . . . 2002 • PSYCLINE <http://www.psycline.org>. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2006 • Public Affairs Information Service (PAIS) International (Cambridge Scientific Abstracts) <http://www.pais.org/www.csa.com> . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2000 • Referativnyi Zhurnal (Abstracts Journal of the All-Russian Institute of Scientific and Technical Information–in Russian) <http://www.viniti.ru>. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2000 • Scopus (see instead Elsevier Scopus) <http://www.info.scopus.com> . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2005 • Social Services Abstracts (Cambridge Scientific Abstracts) <http://www.csa.com> . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2000 • Social Work Abstracts (NASW) <http://www.silverplatter.com/catalog/swab.htm>. . . . . . . . . . . . . 2003 • Studies on Women and Gender Abstracts (Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group) <http://www.tandf.co.uk/swa> . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2006 • Ulrich’s Periodicals Directory: International Periodicals Information Since 1932 (Bibliographic Access) <http://www.Bowkerlink.com> . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2006 • zetoc (The British Library) <http://www.bl.uk> . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2004 (continued)
  • Special Bibliographic Notes related to special journal issues (separates) and indexing/abstracting: • indexing/abstracting services in this list will also cover material in any “separate” that is co-published simultaneously with Haworth’s special thematic journal issue or DocuSerial. Indexing/abstracting usually covers material at the article/chapter level. • monographic co-editions are intended for either non-subscribers or librar- ies which intend to purchase a second copy for their circulating collections. • monographic co-editions are reported to all jobbers/wholesalers/approval plans. The source journal is listed as the “series” to assist the prevention of duplicate purchasing in the same manner utilized for books-in-series. • to facilitate user/access services all indexing/abstracting services are en- couraged to utilize the co-indexing entry note indicated at the bottom of the first page of each article/chapter/contribution. • this is intended to assist a library user of any reference tool (whether print, electronic, online, or CD-ROM) to locate the monographic version if the li- brary has purchased this version but not a subscription to the source journal. • individual articles/chapters in any Haworth publication are also available through the Haworth Document Delivery Service (HDDS).
  • CALL FOR SUBMISSIONS For an upcoming 2007 volume, the Journal of Bisexuality is planning an issue on BISEXUALITY AND FAMILY: THEORIES AND PRACTICES IN ELECTIVE AND EXPANDED KINSHIP AND PARENTING Possible foci are bisexuality and family practices like monogamy, non-monog- amy, responsible non-monogamy, polygamy, polyandry, and Polyamory; bisexual- ity and nuclear, extended, expanded, elective, tribal, and cyberspace families; bisexuality and the reproduction cycles: fertility, pregnancy, childbirth, child rear- ing, sibling relating, biological and elective parents and relatives; bisexuality and parenting, step-parenting, adoption, and grand-parenting; bisexuality and incest; in- cest taboos and their transgression; bisexuality and abuse. Possible related foci include bisexuality and initiation rituals; bisexuality and hu- man development, including childhood, sexual awakening, adolescence, young adulthood, maturity, ageing, later life, old age, and senility; the body, nudity, spiri- tuality, health, disability, illness, food, nurturing, care, affection, and erotic prac- tices in bisexual families; past and/or non-Western models of bisexual families. We are interested in theoretical, critical, and research articles, reports from the field, personal narratives, reviews, poems, and interviews. For articles, we welcome a va- riety of disciplinary and interdisciplinary perspectives, including those based in dis- ciplines like critical theory, philosophy, sociology, psychology, legal studies, literature, cultural studies, anthropology, and medical science. For the more experi- ential submissions, we welcome expertise in the healing arts, the creative arts in general, the new spiritualities, Polyamory, paganism, fetishism, DBSM, as well as past and/or non-Western modalities. Please mail all inquiries, abstracts, and final submissions by e-mail to Serena Anderlini-D’Onofrio: Serenal@coqui.net or Serenal@choicecable.net or serena2000@ wooow.it
  • CALL FOR SUBMISSIONS International Perspectives on Bisexuality Guest Editors: Leo Goetstouwers, Maria Palotta-Chiarolli, and Ron Fox Contributors are sought for a special issue of the Journal of Bisexuality on interna- tional perspectives on bisexuality. This volume will be published simultaneously as a special journal issue and as a book by The Haworth Press. This special issue will include articles that focus on theory, research, psychologi- cal, sociological, and anthropological perspectives, cultural and literary theory and analysis, history, and political and community endeavors. The volume will also in- clude personal essays and interviews that explore and describe the experience of be- ing bisexual in diverse cultures around the world. Potential topics of interest include, but are not limited to: bisexual identity; com- ing out bisexual; bisexuality and cultural diversity; attitudes toward bisexuality and bisexuals in diverse cultural contexts; bisexual relationship and family issues, in- cluding monogamy, non-monogamy, polyamory, mixed orientation relationships, and alternative family structures; bisexual youth and older bisexuals; bisexuality and disability; bisexuality and spirituality; bisexuality and transgender experience; counseling, education, and community outreach regarding health concerns, includ- ing primary care, mental health issues, and HIV/AIDS outreach, prevention and treatment; histories and experiences of bisexual support groups and communities; bisexuality in the context of local, regional, national, or international LGBTQI or- ganizations and advocacy. Inquiries are welcomed by the editors, and submission guidelines are available via e-mail at: <jb-international@bisources.com>. The editors may be reached individu- ally via e-mail as well: Leo Goetstouwers at <L.Goetstouwers@zonnet.nl>, Maria Palotta-Chiarolli at <mariapc@deakin.edu.au> and Ron Fox at <ronfox@ronfoxphd. com>.
  • FORTHCOMING JOURNAL OF BISEXUALITY IN ABSENTIA Body Image and Sexual Functioning Among Bisexual Women Lessons from Women’s Gendered Narratives What Is the Relationship Between Sexual Orientation, Bisexuality and Creativity? Fear of and Discrimination Against Bisexual, Homosexuals, and Individuals with AIDS Military Male Rape and the Development of Male Homophobia in Judaeo-Christian Culture BI FILM-VIDEO WORLD Bisexual Games and Emotional Sustainability in Ferzan Ozpetek’s Queer Films
  • ABOUT THE GUEST EDITOR M. Paz Galupo, PhD, is Professor of Psychology and Director of LGBT Studies at Towson University, in Baltimore, Maryland. Her pub- lished research related to the experiences of sexual minorities has ap- peared in Journal of Homosexuality, Journal of Bisexuality, Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, and Journal of Adolescence.
  • Bisexual Women: Friendship and Social Organization Journal of Bisexuality Volume 6, Number 3 CONTENTS About the Contributors xxi From the Editor xxv Fritz Klein Acknowledgments xxix Introduction 1 M. Paz Galupo RESEARCH PERSPECTIVES ON BISEXUAL WOMEN’S FRIENDSHIPS Young Women’s Sexual Experiences Within Same-Sex Friendships: Discovering and Defining Bisexual and Bi-Curious Identity 7 Elizabeth M. Morgan Elisabeth Morgan Thompson Though not frequently studied for their role in sexual orientation identity devel- opment, sexual experiences within same-sex friendships may offer an opportu- nity for bisexual and bi-curious women to explore and define their sexual orientation. This study examined sexual self-defining memories and narratives about sexual orientation development in bisexual and bi-curious young women. Participants were 48 female college students of various ethnic backgrounds.
  • They were selected for the study based on their primary sexual orientation identification and because they included a sexual experience with a same-sex friend as their event narrative. The event narratives were classified based on age (childhood versus adolescence) and type of same-sex friend sexual experi- ence (sexual attraction versus sexual behavior). Themes of discovery, closeness, conflict, and defining identity emerged. Findings suggest that sexual experiences with same-sex friends can serve an important role in the emergence and defini- tion of bisexual and bi-curious identity. KEYWORDS. Bisexuality, sexual identity development, friendship, self-defining memories Sexism, Heterosexism, and Biphobia: The Framing of Bisexual Women’s Friendships 35 M. Paz Galupo Recent research has indicated that friendship patterns of sexual minorities are si- multaneously influenced by sex, sexual orientation, and race (Galupo, 2007). An un- derstanding of bisexual women’s friendship patterns, then, must acknowledge the intersection of sex and sexual orientation as a context in which friendships develop. This paper considers the current literature as it informs our understanding of the friendships of bisexual women with particular emphasis on the meaning of bisexual identity in these friendships. In particular, selected research findings are interpreted to illustrate the intersection of how sexism, heterosexism, biphobia, and racism si- multaneously shape the friendship experiences of bisexual women. KEYWORDS. Bisexuality, friendship, bisexual women, heterosexism, biphobia, sexism Girl Friend or Girlfriend?: Same-Sex Friendship and Bisexual Images as a Context for Flexible Sexual Identity Among Young Women 47 Elisabeth Morgan Thompson Diamond (2000a, 2002) has demonstrated that young women have deep and intense same-sex “passionate friendships” while in adolescence. Young women’s friend- ships are often more physically and emotionally intimate than young men’s friend- ships and can result in feelings and behaviors that often resemble (heterosexual) romantic relationships (Diamond, 2002; Griffin, 2002; Reis, 1998). Additionally, recent shifts in popular culture have produced an increase in images of female same-sex desire in the media and sexual experimentation with female friends. In this paper, I address these bisexual images in the media and emotionally intense (and sometimes sexual) same-sex friendships as creating a context for the question- ing process of some young women who may ultimately experience flexibility in their sexual identity. KEYWORDS. Bisexuality, sexual flexibility, sexual identity, popular culture, friendship
  • Challenge and Promise: The Study of Bisexual Women’s Friendships 69 Julie R. Arseneau Ruth E. Fassinger The friendships of women and sexual minorities are widely recognized as principal relationships that provide significant social and psychological benefits, yet the friendships of bisexual women have garnered little scholarly attention to date. This article articulates some of the unique conceptual and methodological challenges associated with the study of bisexual women’s friendships, many of which can be located in the sociocultural constructs which circumscribe the topic (i.e., “bisex- ual,” “women,” and “friendship”). The article also highlights some ways in which current research has attempted to navigate these challenges, as well as promising directions for future theoretical and empirical work in this domain. KEYWORDS. Bisexuality, sexual identity, friendship, sexual orientation, women’s friendships PERSONAL PERSPECTIVES ON BISEXUAL WOMEN’S FRIENDSHIPS Fencing on Brokeback: Intersecting Bisexuality and Women’s Friendship 91 Julie Estep Part social analysis and part personal narrative, this piece examines the intersection between female friendships and bisexuality, and explores the complex dynamics at play for bisexuals living in tension with conventions common to both straight and gay circles. It looks at ways the closet can disfigure bisexual lives and relationships, and at how unique forms of bisexual polyamory both defy and create belonging. Fi- nally, it considers the deep human need for community, and the search for a core ethic that can accommodate the unconventional and protect the traditional. KEYWORDS. Bisexuality, bisexual women, polyamory, polyamorous, friendship, community Invisible Cords and Ties That Bind: Queering Female Friendship 103 Shoshana Magnet This short piece rethinks compulsory heterosexuality through an examination of the invisibility of the erotics of female friendship. The author uses narrative to in- vestigate the privileges of straight relationships and their impact on queer forms of relating. Heterosexism reifies the boundaries between platonic friendships and erotic relationships so that the contested space between the two is erased. What might the landscape of these in-between spaces look like? KEYWORDS. Bisexuality, female friendship, queer friendship, compulsory het- erosexuality
  • Playing with Pieces of Paper: The Impact of Non-Labeled Spaces on Relationships 107 Meaghan A. Overton This personal narrative explores some of the ways in which friendships and com- munities transform when sexual identity boundaries are changed and blurred. I will share parts of my journey toward a dynamic, unlabeled sexuality in an effort to illuminate some of the creative spaces that exist between, within, and outside sexual identity labels. I have found that locating my sexual identity within these creative, non-labeled spaces has had an enormous impact on my relationships, and I will ex- plore some of the ways in which my “playful” approach to sexual identity has shaped my close friendships and social networks. Specifically, I will explain the ways in which María Lugones’ (1987) concept of “playfulness” has helped me con- struct meaningful relationships across identity boundaries. KEYWORDS. Sexuality, labels, friendship, sexual orientation, social networks, sexual identity, community, feminism Relating the Personal Experiences of Bisexual Women to the Friendship Literature 115 Marcia L. Pearl Friendship research has only recently allowed an understanding of the experi- ences of bisexual women. When bisexual women’s friendships have been consid- ered, however, their experiences have largely been discussed in contrast to other sexual minority comparison groups. This paper provides an analysis of the litera- ture related to the personal experiences of bisexual women in an effort to better understand the ways in which friendship may be experienced. Discussion will fo- cus on three major themes related to bisexual women’s friendships: (1) defini- tions of friendship; (2) attitudes toward bisexuality mediates friendship experiences; and (3) friendship networks and communities. Suggestions are offered regarding how the research literature could better reflect the complex and diverse friendship experiences of bisexual women. KEYWORDS. Bisexuality, bisexual women, friendship, bisexual community INVITED COMMENTARY Bisexual Women’s Friendship Experiences: Challenging Identities, Challenging Friendships, Challenging Research 129 Jacqueline S. Weinstock While filling in some gaps in the literature and successfully expanding the dis- course on friendships to include bisexual and bi-curious women’s friendships, Bi- sexual Women: Friendship and Social Organization also raises a diversity of issues and poses several challenges for research and theorizing on friendships. Three of these challenges are explored in this chapter: (1) conceptualizing sexual
  • identities in friendship dyadic research; (2) the potentially positive and negative roles friends may play in each other’s lives and in the dynamics of privilege and oppression; and (3) narrowing the lines between friends and lovers. KEYWORDS. Bisexual, friendship, sexual identity development, oppression, privilege, lovers BI FILM-VIDEO WORLD Bisexuality and Friendship in A Home at the End of the World 143 Clare E. French This review critiques and comments on the film A Home at the End of the World. The film depicts the interwoven lives of three individuals and the intersection of their friendships and sexual encounters. The examination outlines a framework for which this film fits into the broader societal picture of the sometimes blurred line between bisexuality and friendship. KEYWORDS. Bisexuality, friendship, film, sexual identity, media BI BOOKS Getting Bi: Voices of Bisexuals Around the World, by Robyn Ochs and Sarah E. Rowley 151 Reviewed by Angela L. Breno
  • Publisher’s Note The Haworth Press is committed to the dissemination of ideas and information according to the highest standards of intellectual freedom and the free exchange of ideas. Statements made and opinions expressed in this publication do not necessarily reflect the views of the Publisher, Directors, management, or staff of The Haworth Press, Inc., or an endorsement by them. For more information or to order the Journal of Bisexuality, visit http://jb.haworthpress.com • or call (800) HAWORTH (in US and Canada) or (607) 722-5857 (outside US and Canada) • or fax (800) 895-0582 (in US and Canada) or (607) 771-0012 (outside US and Canada) For a list of related links, visit http://jb.haworthpress.com Urge your library to subscribe today! With your library’s print subscription, the electronic edition of the journal can be made available campus-wide to all of the library’s users! ALL HARRINGTON PARK PRESS BOOKS AND JOURNALS ARE PRINTED ON CERTIFIED ACID-FREE PAPER
  • About the Contributors Julie R. Arseneau, MA, is a doctoral student in Counseling Psychol- ogy at the University of Maryland, College Park. Her research interests focus on the social construction of gender and sexuality, particularly as experienced and expressed by bisexual- and transgender-identified in- dividuals, and the role of multiple identities for women in nontraditional careers. Angela L. Breno, MA, conducted her master’s work at Towson Uni- versity, in Baltimore, Maryland. Her thesis involves an empirical exam- ination of attitudes toward bisexual women and men in a marriage- matching task. Her research interests include intergroup relations, womyn and lesbian health issues, and queer studies. Julie Estep, MA, is a finishing PhD student at Michigan Technological University in Rhetoric and Technological Communications. Julie re- ceived Master’s degrees in English and Psychology from California State University, Chico, and a Bachelor’s degree in English from UC Berkeley. Her dissertation examines the effect of professional, political, military and minority blogs on social discourse, mainstream media, and “consensus reality.” Ruth E. Fassinger, PhD, is Professor in the Counseling Psychology Program and Affiliate Faculty in Women’s Studies, as well as a Distin- guished Scholar-Teacher, at the University of Maryland, College Park. She specializes in the psychology of women and gender, sexuality and sexual orientation, the psychology of work, and advocacy and social justice issues. She is a Fellow of the American Psychological Associa- tion in several divisions, currently serves on the editorial boards of the Psychology of Women Quarterly and Journal of Lesbian Studies, and has received numerous awards for her scholarship, teaching, and pro- fessional contributions. xxi
  • xxii BISEXUAL WOMEN: FRIENDSHIP AND SOCIAL ORGANIZATION Clare E. French, BS, received her bachelor’s degree in psychology from Towson University. She has a strong interest in the portrayal of minority groups in media, specifically television and film. She currently resides in Baltimore, Maryland, with her partner and her two dogs (Monkey and Trooper) where she works with victims of child sexual abuse. M. Paz Galupo, PhD, is Professor of Psychology and Director of LGBT Studies at Towson University, in Baltimore, Maryland. Her pub- lished research related to the experiences of sexual minorities has ap- peared in Journal of Homosexuality, Journal of Bisexuality, Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, and Journal of Adolescence. Shoshana Magnet, MA, is a PhD candidate, SSHRC doctoral fellow, and video artist at the Institute of Communications Research at the Uni- versity of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. She received her undergraduate degree from McMaster University in Arts and Science, and her Mas- ter’s degree from the University of Toronto in Sociology and Equity Studies. Her videos have screened at festivals in Canada, the United States and Europe. Her published work has appeared in The Journal of Communication Inquiry, Canadian Woman Studies/les cahiers de la femme, Qualitative Inquiry, Atlantis and New Media & Society. Elizabeth M. Morgan, MS, is a doctoral candidate in Developmental Psychology at the University of California, Santa Cruz. She received a Master of Science degree in Social Psychology from UC, Santa Cruz, in 2005, a Master’s in Social Work from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, in 2002, and an Advanced Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychol- ogy from Occidental College in 2001. Her research interests include: sexual identity development, narrative psychology and methodologies, adolescent development, and processes of sexual socialization. Meaghan A. Overton, BA, received her bachelor’s degree in Psychol- ogy from Hollins University in December 2005 with minors in Anthro- pology and Sociology. She has no firm plans for the near future, which really freaks her out. Someday, however, she hopes to return to the bliss of academia where she can debate and theorize with wild abandon. She lives with her partner near Baltimore, Maryland–at least until she and Cara decide to continue their adventure somewhere else. Marcia L. Pearl, MS, received her graduate training in Experimental Psychology at Towson University. She also received her undergraduate degree in Psychology at Towson University with a minor in Lesbian,
  • About the Contributors xxiii Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Studies. Her graduate thesis work in- volved the development and validation of the Attitudes Toward Same-Sex Marriage Scale. A manuscript based on her thesis is forth- coming in the Journal of Homosexuality. Elisabeth Morgan Thompson, MS, is a doctoral candidate in Social Psychology and Feminist Studies at the University of California, Santa Cruz. She received a Master of Science degree in Social Psychology from UC, Santa Cruz, in 2004, and two Bachelor of Arts degrees in Psy- chology and Women’s Studies from the University of South Florida in 2002. Her research interests include: popular culture influences on gen- der and sexuality, and bisexual/bi-curious sexual identity development in young women. Jacqueline (Jackie) S. Weinstock, PhD, is Associate Professor in the Human Development & Family Studies Program at the University of Vermont. Her scholarship focuses on the intersections of individual de- velopmental factors and socio-cultural conditions as they affect life out- comes. She is especially interested in Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) individuals’ friendship and community experi- ences. She is the co-editor, with Esther Rothblum, of the book, Lesbian Ex-Lovers: The Really Long-Term Relationships, published in 2004 by Harrington Park Press, and Lesbian Friendships: For Ourselves and Each Other, published in 1996 by New York University Press. With Lynne Bond, Dr. Weinstock has also published on the challenges and potential in lesbians’ and heterosexual women’s friendships with each other in (“Building bridges: Examining lesbians’ and heterosexual women’s close friendships with each other,” Journal of Lesbian Stud- ies, 6(1), 149-161. Currently Dr. Weinstock is concentrating on identi- fying and addressing the needs of LGBT elders in Vermont.
  • From the Editor Fritz Klein, MD
  • Available online at http://jb.haworthpress.com © 2006 by The Haworth Press, Inc. All rights reserved.
  • From the Editor xvii This issue of the Journal of Bisexuality is an important addition to the bisexual literature. It discusses friendship experiences of bisexual women with a research perspective, a personal perspective and invited commentary. Guest editor M. Paz Galupo, an author herself, has done an excellent job searching for authors who have written articles on the above subject matter and creating this wonderful issue. Galupo’s introduction goes into detail as to the specific articles and their content. My personal thanks for the fine job she has done. My appreciation also goes to Regina Reinhardt, my able assistant editor who continues to do a fine job. Fritz Klein, MD
  • Acknowledgments I would like to thank Fritz Klein and Regina Reinhardt for believing in this project and for their editorial support. An extended thanks to Mar- cia Pearl for her obsessive attention to APA format. In a volume about friendship it is only appropriate to thank Marcia and Clare for theirs, es- pecially as their support was instrumental in the completion of this col- lection. For making life worthwhile, I thank my wife, Carin, and our daughters Isabel Pilar and Maya Pilar. And a special acknowledgment to my sister and friend, Pilar, who I will forever miss. –M. Paz Galupo
  • Introduction M. Paz Galupo
  • Available online at http://jb.haworthpress.com © 2006 by The Haworth Press, Inc. All rights reserved. doi:10.1300/J159v06n03_01 [Haworth co-indexing entry note]: “Introduction.” Galupo, M. Paz. Co-published simultaneously in Journal of Bisexuality (Harrington Park Press, an imprint of The Haworth Press, Inc.) Vol. 6, No. 3, 2006, pp. 1-6; and: Bisexual Women: Friendship and Social Organization (ed: M. Paz Galupo) Harrington Park Press, an imprint of The Haworth Press, Inc., 2006, pp. 1-6. Single or multiple copies of this article are avail- able for a fee from The Haworth Document Delivery Service [1-800-HAWORTH, 9:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m. (EST). E-mail address: docdelivery@haworthpress.com].
  • Introduction 3 As a researcher interested in the friendships of sexual minorities, I first conceptualized the theoretical scope for this volume as addressing the friendship experiences of bisexual women and men. The topic of bi- sexual friendship had not been widely considered and I wanted to pro- vide a contribution that would address this apparent gap in the existing literature. By focusing on the experiences of bisexual women and men I believed this volume could potentially provide a unique contribution by directly addressing a population not often considered in the friendship literature. On the other hand, by focusing on the topic of friendships this volume could round out our understanding of bisexual experience (where the majority of the research had focused on understanding “pri- mary” or romantic relationships). Upon publicizing the call for papers, however, a gendered notion of friendship became immediately evident. The interest generated from the call for papers (the questions, the com- ments, the submissions) all centered on the friendship experiences of bi- sexual women. Not one correspondence indicated an interest in writing about or researching the friendship experiences of bisexual men. The resulting volume, then, was shaped at the outset by this bias toward women’s friendship experiences. This lends a fairly tight conceptual fo- cus to the volume on bisexual women’s friendship, one that provides a nice parallel to existing works on lesbian friendships (e.g., Weinstock & Rothblum, 1996). Interpreting these writings as a whole, I believe, is most instructive when imagining the ways in which the described friendship experiences are informed by the intersecting identities of “bisexual” and “woman.” This volume includes a combination of research and personal experi- ences on the topic of bisexual women’s friendships. The first two sec- tions follow this organization, providing research perspectives in the first section, followed by personal perspectives in the second. A third section features an invited commentary by Jacqueline S. Weinstock. As a friendship researcher with a particular focus and expertise on lesbian friendships, her commentary entitled “Bisexual Women’s Friendship Experiences: Challenging Identities, Challenging Friendships, Chal- lenging Research” is a response to the contributions offered in this volume. Her commentary places this volume in a historical context and situates the understanding of bisexual women’s friendship in the larger picture of sexual minority friendship research. Her commentary is fitting at the end of this volume as her own research made visible the topic of sexual minority friendships, and her writing set the tone and di- rection for the work represented here (Weinstock, 1998; Weinstock & Rothblum, 1996).
  • 4 BISEXUAL WOMEN: FRIENDSHIP AND SOCIAL ORGANIZATION RESEARCH PERSPECTIVES ON BISEXUAL WOMEN’S FRIENDSHIPS In “Young Women’s Sexual Experiences Within Same-Sex Friend- ships: Discovering and Defining Bisexual and Bi-Curious Identity” Elizabeth M. Morgan and Elisabeth Morgan Thompson describe the findings of their qualitative study exploring sexual experiences in same-sex friendships in bisexual and bi-curious women. This research is particularly important as Morgan and Thompson broaden the tradi- tional research criteria for “bisexual” including young women who in- cluded bi-curious under their descriptors of their sexual orientation identity. Methodologically this was particularly salient to their research focus on understanding emerging identities. The types of friendships formed by bisexually identified women, and how those friendship experiences are shaped by sociopolitical attitudes, is the topic of my article “Sexism, Heterosexism, and Biphobia: The Framing of Bisexual Women’s Friendships.” In this analysis I use selected research findings (both qualitative and quanti- tative) to describe the ways in which sexism, heterosexism, biphobia, and racism simultaneously shape friendship “choices” and experiences of bisexual women. In “Girl Friend or Girlfriend?: Same-Sex Friendships and Bisexual Images as a Context for Understanding Flexible Sexual Identity among Young Women” Elisabeth Morgan Thompson provides an analysis of girls’ same-sex friendships as they relate to sexual identity among young women. The gendered experience of friendship is evident in Thompson’s analysis. For example, she discusses the unique character- istics of girls’ same-sex friendships (versus boys’ same-sex friendships) and the ways in which bisexual women, in particular, are made visible through erotic same-sex images in popular media. Julie R. Arseneau and Ruth E. Fassinger in “Challenge and Promise: The Study of Bisexual Women’s Friendships” provide a thorough cri- tique of the bisexual women’s friendship literature to date. Their cri- tique situates the current research on bisexual women’s friendships within the deconstruction of the constructs of “bisexual,” “women,” and “friendship.” While outlining the unique challenges to research in the area of bisexual women’s friendships, their critique ultimately reveals the promise of continued work in the area. Taken together the perspectives offered in this section build upon the relatively few studies on the topic of bisexual women’s friendships– adding new findings for consideration and framing past research find-
  • Introduction 5 ings within a theoretical context. Additionally, these perspectives re- veal the wide implications for understanding bisexual women’s friendships and highlight the importance of continued research in this area. PERSONAL PERSPECTIVES ON BISEXUAL WOMEN’S FRIENDSHIPS Three personal essays are included in this section. Each offers a unique perspective on friendship and together serve as a reminder that the experiences of bisexual women are diverse. Julie Estep in “Fencing on Brokeback: Intersecting Bisexuality and Women’s Friendship” narrates her experience as a bisexual woman while offering an interpretation of these experiences through a smart so- cial analysis. In particular her narrative considers issues related to the bisexual closet, bisexual polyamory, as well as need for community. In her creative piece “Invisible Cords and Ties that Bind: Queering Female Friendship” Shoshana Magnet illustrates how compulsory heterosexism renders erotics in same-sex friendship invisible. Through narrative Magnet invites readers to explore the ways in which platonic friendships and erotic relationships are shaped by heterosexism. Meaghan A. Overton in “Playing with Pieces of Paper: The Impact of Non-Labeled Spaces on Relationships” illustrates the ways in which traditional sexual identity labels, and bisexuality in particular, can con- strict friendships and social relationships. Conversely, she describes the ways in which adopting a non-labeled identity has helped her create meaningful relationships through “playfulness.” Marcia L. Pearl in the final contribution to this section, “Relating the Personal Experiences of Bisexual Women to the Friendship Literature” offers an analysis of the personal experiences of bisexual women that are not represented in the research literature. Using the personal essays in this volume along with the narratives of bisexual women in Ochs and Rowley’s (2005) recent anthology, Pearl’s analysis focuses on the unique ways in which bisexual women define friendship, how their friendships are influenced by sexual experiences and stereotypes, and how these experiences exist within larger friendship networks and com- munities. Bringing this collection full circle, Pearl suggests ways in which future research could incorporate these factors to better reflect the lived experiences of bisexual women.
  • 6 BISEXUAL WOMEN: FRIENDSHIP AND SOCIAL ORGANIZATION REFERENCES Ochs, R., & Rowley, S. E. (2005). Getting bi: Voices of bisexuals around the world. Bi- sexual Resource Center: Boston, MA. Weinstock, J. S. (1998). Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender friendships in adult- hood: Review and analysis. In C. J. Patterson & A. R. D’Augelli (Eds.), Lesbian, gay, and bisexual identities in families: Psychological perspectives (pp. 122-153). New York: Oxford University Press. Weinstock, J. S., & Rothblum, E. D. (1996). Lesbian Friendships. New York: New York University Press.
  • RESEARCH PERSPECTIVES ON BISEXUAL WOMEN’S FRIENDSHIPS Young Women’s Sexual Experiences Within Same-Sex Friendships: Discovering and Defining Bisexual and Bi-Curious Identity Elizabeth M. Morgan Elisabeth Morgan Thompson
  • Available online at http://jb.haworthpress.com © 2006 by The Haworth Press, Inc. All rights reserved. doi:10.1300/J159v06n03_02 [Haworth co-indexing entry note]: “Young Women’s Sexual Experiences Within Same-Sex Friend- ships: Discovering and Defining Bisexual and Bi-Curious Identity.” Morgan, Elizabeth M., and Elisabeth Morgan Thompson. Co-published simultaneously in Journal of Bisexuality (Harrington Park Press, an imprint of The Haworth Press, Inc.) Vol. 6, No. 3, 2006, pp. 7-34; and: Bisexual Women: Friendship and Social Orga- nization (ed: M. Paz Galupo) Harrington Park Press, an imprint of The Haworth Press, Inc., 2006, pp. 7-34. Single or multiple copies of this article are available for a fee from The Haworth Document Delivery Service [1-800-HAWORTH, 9:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m. (EST). E-mail address: docdelivery@haworthpress.com].
  • Research Perspectives on Bisexual Women’s Friendships 9 SUMMARY. Though not frequently studied for their role in sexual ori- entation identity development, sexual experiences within same-sex friendships may offer an opportunity for bisexual and bi-curious women to explore and define their sexual orientation. This study examined sex- ual self-defining memories and narratives about sexual orientation de- velopment in bisexual and bi-curious young women. Participants were 48 female college students of various ethnic backgrounds. They were se- lected for the study based on their primary sexual orientation identifica- tion and because they included a sexual experience with a same-sex friend as their event narrative. The event narratives were classified based on age (childhood versus adolescence) and type of same-sex friend sex- ual experience (sexual attraction versus sexual behavior). Themes of discovery, closeness, conflict, and defining identity emerged. Findings suggest that sexual experiences with same-sex friends can serve an im- portant role in the emergence and definition of bisexual and bi-curious identity. [Article copies available for a fee from The Haworth Document Deliv- ery Service: 1-800-HAWORTH. E-mail address: <docdelivery@haworthpress. com> Website: <http://www.HaworthPress.com> © 2006 by The Haworth Press, Inc. All rights reserved.] KEYWORDS. Bisexuality, sexual identity development, friendship, self-defining memories We all slept over at my house one night. Eating pizza, watching 1 movies, etc. Katie had just gotten her tongue pierced. We were all sitting around talking about what it would be like to kiss someone with a tongue ring. However it came up, Katie agreed to kiss ev- eryone so they would know. But that wouldn’t be fair because then Katie kissed four girls and we all kissed one. We all ended up kiss- ing each other. Every slumber party we had after that turned into something sexual. Swimming naked, kissing, rubbing, etc. Those were my first experiences with other women. The experiences were soft, enjoyable, comfortable and intimate. Captioned: “Slumber parties with my four best girl friends.” (20-year-old Caucasian woman, Ashley) Exploring and constructing one’s sexual identity is a fundamental de- velopmental task throughout adolescence and young adulthood that informs later management of physical and emotional intimacy in rela-
  • 10 BISEXUAL WOMEN: FRIENDSHIP AND SOCIAL ORGANIZATION tionships with others (Arnett, 2000; Collins & Sroufe, 1999; Erikson, 1968). For adolescents and young adults in general, this time can be characterized by recognizing one’s sexual attractions, acting on these attractions, and beginning to develop a sexual identity. For sexual mi- norities specifically, this frequently involves the discovery of attraction to and initial sexual experiences with the same-sex (Rust, 2003; Savin- Williams, 1995). For sexual minorities, the discovery of same-sex feelings can cause confusion because heterosexuality is institutionalized and imposed from an early age (Rich, 1980). Because heterosexuality is the “norm,” coming to identify as a sexual minority can be difficult due to societal disapproval of same-sex sexual behavior. In hopes to alleviate some of this tension, many researchers have turned their attention toward under- standing sexual-minority identity development in general, and lesbian and gay male identity development in particular (e.g., McCarn & Fassinger, 1996; Fassinger & Miller, 1996). While many studies on sex- ual-minority identity development attempt to include bisexuals in their sample, the number is usually so small that few, if any, analyses are done with bisexuals alone; instead, they are often combined with gay and lesbian participants despite research highlighting unique aspects of bisexual identity development. In general, bisexual identity development is considered distinct from heterosexual, gay, and lesbian identity development such that the pro- cess is viewed as more dynamic and open-ended (Fox, 1995; Zinik, 1985). Moreover, bisexual identity development in women is especially characterized by flexibility, fluidity, and complexity (Diamond, 2000, 2003; Kinnish, Strassberg, & Turner, 2005; Rust, 1993). Bower, Gurevich, and Mathieson (2002) found tension in bisexual women be- tween resisting a label of bisexuality, while simultaneously striving, “for credibility in a cultural context in which bisexuality occupies an ambiguous position” (p. 25). Additionally, in discussions with bisexual women about choosing a definition of bisexuality for the self, Berenson (2002) found that her participants preferred to speak about bisexuality using a “continuum narrative,” one that eliminates barriers and restrictions, further orienting bisexuality as a fluid and complex identity. Because of strict notions of dichotomous sexual identity, bisexual identity inhabits a liminal position, from which its mere existence is questioned by “outsiders” (Rust, 2002). As a result, bisexual identity has to be “invented” (Bradford, 2004). Interestingly though, for bisex- ual women, the boundaries around bisexual identity are not as strictly
  • Research Perspectives on Bisexual Women’s Friendships 11 policed, restricted, or even well-defined (Berenson, 2002) as other iden- tities (Amestoy, 2001). Likewise, bisexual women have been shown to be very heterogeneous in the expression of their sexual identities (Kinnish et al., 2005; Rust, 2001; Weinberg, Williams, & Pryor, 2001) and to resist a rigid set of rules regarding who gains membership (Berenson, 2002), resulting in a more open and flexible identity cate- gory (Fassinger & Arseneau, 2007). This is especially important as we begin to study the circumstances surrounding emergent bisexual identi- ties, where same-sex curiosity and exploration is a likely first step. While there has been a limited, but growing, research body on bisexual identity development, there has been even less research on questioning and unlabeled (non-heterosexual) individuals, and no research to date on people who identify as bi-curious, a potential precursor to adopting a bisexual identity. In this study, we are interested in the various forms of bisexual and bi-curious identities and we are examining them in the context of sexual experiences in same-sex friendships. We chose to consider women in particular because young women are more likely to have bisexual-based identities (Savin-Williams & Diamond, 2000). YOUNG WOMEN’S FRIENDSHIPS Along with sexual orientation identity development, adolescence and young adulthood is characterized by increasing importance of peer rela- tionships (e.g., Youniss & Smollar, 1985). Research indicates that same-sex friendships make up the majority of adolescents’ social net- works (Diamond & Dubé, 2002), and that, for women, these relation- ships are characterized by intimacy and emotional sharing (Camarena, Sarigiana, & Petersen, 1990) and shifting dyads of “best friends” (Grif- fin, 2000). However, mainstream research on sexuality has privileged cross-sex friendships, ignored the possibilities of same-sex desire be- tween young women, and emphasized fundamental differences be- tween same-sex friendships and romantic relationships (Griffin, 2002). Casting doubt on the traditional view that same-sex platonic friend- ships are fundamentally different from heterosexual romantic relation- ships, Diamond’s (2002) study of passionate friendships found that sexual-minority women report emotionally intimate, passionate, and in- tense friendships that resemble romantic relationships. Additionally, she found that these same-sex friendships frequently included physical intimacy and occasionally included sexual attraction and sexual exploration.
  • 12 BISEXUAL WOMEN: FRIENDSHIP AND SOCIAL ORGANIZATION Despite having established that same-sex friendships are increas- ingly important during adolescence, and preliminary indications that same-sex friendships are the site of emotionally intense and potential sexual/romantic relationships, very little research has examined how bi-curious, bisexual, or even lesbian women use same-sex friendships to explore same-sex attractions and their sexual identities. Therefore, young women’s same-sex friendships provide an arena that, if explored, may yield a better understanding of sexual-minority identity develop- ment and, in particular, women’s bi-curious and bisexual identity devel- opment. Because sexual and romantic attraction and behavior in same-sex friendships has received little attention, it is worthwhile to review re- search on sexual attraction and exploration in cross-sex friendships with heterosexual adolescents and young adults. Several researchers have in- vestigated sexual attraction and behavior in cross-sex friendships, ex- ploring the prevalence of sexual attraction (Kaplan & Keys, 1997), sexual tension (Monsour, Harris, & Kurzweil, 1994), and sexual or physical contact (Monsour, 1992). In these studies, sexual attraction and physical contact between cross-sex friends was common (Kaplan & Keys), but 20 percent of men and 10 percent of women reported sexual tension within a cross-sex friendship (Monsour et al.). Monsour found that physical contact was viewed by women and sexual contact was viewed by men as expressions of intimacy in cross-sex friendships. Overall, these findings suggest that cross-sex “platonic” friendships can be sites of sexual and romantic attraction as well as physical or sexual intimacy for heterosexual youth. Because sexual attraction and explora- tion occurs among cross-sex friendships for heterosexual youth, it is likely that adolescents who simultaneously experience same-sex attrac- tions might choose to explore their emerging bi-curious or bisexual identities during adolescence and young adulthood within same-sex friendships. One study that has specifically reviewed sexual explorations among young women with same-sex attractions found that friendship was a fre- quent site for sexual and romantic involvement (Dempsey, Hillier, & Harrison, 2001). In their online survey study of same-sex attracted Aus- tralian youth between 14 and 21 years old, Dempsey et al. found that fe- male participants, in particular, were more likely than male participants to have explored their same-sex attractions with female friends. Having a relationship based on friendship has also been identified as important in lesbian dating and courtship. Rose, Zand, and Cini (1993) discussed a lesbian romance script that depicts emotional intimacy and sexual at-
  • Research Perspectives on Bisexual Women’s Friendships 13 traction as being intertwined in two women’s attraction to each other. Additionally, in a study of lesbian relationship formation, Rose and Zand (2002) found that 74 percent of lesbians reported having been friends with a woman, on at least one occasion, before becoming romantically involved with her. Examining traditional scripts of feminine sexuality help clarify why female friends offer a likely arena for sexual-minority women in gen- eral, and bi-curious and bisexual women in particular, to question and explore their sexual orientation. First, as a result of traditional scripts of femininity and female sexuality (e.g., Fine, 1988), women are likely to internalize expectations of the relational dimensions of their sexual en- counters and define attraction as involving components of emotional closeness. For bisexual and bi-curious women, the increasing intimacy of their same-sex friendships during adolescence would provide a de- sired component of their sexual attraction and romantic relationship scripts. Furthermore, Dempsey et al. (2001) propose that same-sex at- tracted young women are likely to have initial same-sex sexual experi- ences within friendships because of the emphasis on emotional and relational aspects of sexuality for women. This apparently made sex- ual exploration with friends more congruous to their socialized no- tions of appropriate sexual activity. Thus, the connections between sexuality and emotional closeness for women may lead bisexual and bi-curious women to explore same-sex attractions within close same- sex friendships rather than within other types of relationships. Sexual attraction and exploration with same-sex friends is not with- out potential risks and conflicts. Female participants in Dempsey et al.’s (2001) study indicated that sexual involvement with or desire for same- sex friends was emotionally risky, such that a friend’s negative reac- tions or non-reciprocated feelings of attraction may lead to the dissolu- tion of the friendship. Similarly, in studies of attraction in cross-sex friendships, results indicate that when feelings of physical/sexual at- traction and romantic attraction are asymmetrical, it can cause tension within the friendship dyad (Reeder, 2000). Other research has shown that, while perhaps interested in a romantic relationship, women are more likely than men to indicate that having sex with a male friend could ruin a friendship (Bell, 1981). Additionally, there are repercus- sions of becoming romantically involved with a cross-sex friend, such as also ending the friendship when the relationship ends (Rubin, 1985; Werking, 1997). Female participants in Dempsey et al.’s study indi- cated confusion about what feelings of same-sex attraction and same- sex sexual experiences meant for their romantic and relational futures,
  • 14 BISEXUAL WOMEN: FRIENDSHIP AND SOCIAL ORGANIZATION as well as their sexual orientation identity. Thus, both worries about po- tential conflict with friends and confusion about one’s own sexual identity surfaced among female youth who were exploring their same- sex sexual attractions. Overall, studies of sexual attraction and exploration within cross-sex friendships for heterosexual women and same-sex friendships for sex- ual-minority women have indicated that sexual attraction and sexual contact can and does occur within friendships. Research has suggested that same-sex friendships can provide an emotionally close relationship within which women may explore their same-sex attractions, but also that this exploration carries both risks of conflict within the friendship and within the individual questioning her sexual orientation for the first time. Despite this potentially central role of friends in initial same-sex sexual exploration, studies of and information about the role of same-sex friendships in women’s sexual-minority identity develop- ment are lacking (see Diamond, 2002 and Lamb, 2004 for exceptions). PRESENT STUDY The goal of the present study was to explore through written narra- tives the role of sexual experiences with same-sex friends in discover- ing and defining a bisexual or bi-curious sexual orientation identity for young women. Since peer relationships are increasingly important dur- ing adolescence, we anticipated that same-sex friendships would be via- ble sites of sexual attraction and exploration for bisexual and bi-curious women. Because these first same-sex attractions and experiences with friends are likely not expected by the adolescent, we anticipated that young women would report confusion when reminiscing about these events and that these events would materialize within narratives of sex- ual orientation development. Also, as same-sex sexual attraction and sexual exploration is considered a preliminary stage in sexual-minority orientation identity development, we anticipated that same-sex sexual experiences with friends would operate as integral episodes in bisexual and bi-curious young women’s sexual identity development. While sexual experiences with same-sex friends have similar impli- cations for lesbian-identified women and certainly occur among hetero- sexual women, we decided to restrict our study to bisexual or bi-curious women for several reasons. First, there is little to no research attention given to bisexual and/or bi-curious women. Second, bisexual and bi-cu- rious women have been shown to express especially complex and fluid
  • Research Perspectives on Bisexual Women’s Friendships 15 identities and experiences, with later onset and a shorter duration than lesbians (Rust, 1993). As a result, we anticipate that their stories will be characterized by richer meaning-making, catapulting many into greater (recent or even current) questioning and confusion surrounding their experiences with their friends. We included bi-curious women because developing a sustainable, strict bisexual identity is rare; specifically, same-sex attraction and behaviors among women do not always result in assuming a bisexual identity (Rust, 2002). To better understand the role of sexual attraction and exploration within young women’s same-sex friendships, this study examined sex- ual self-defining memories and narratives about sexual orientation de- velopment by bisexual and bi-curious women that discussed a sexual attraction to or sexual experience with a same-sex friend. Self-defining memories are highly significant personal memories that evoke strong emotions, are vivid, and can act as a representative or central memory in a set of related memories (Blagov & Singer, 2004). These memories typically revolve around concerns and conflicts that are personally im- portant. Self-defining memories are useful in the study of identity, as they are organized into life stories, which are narratives of self that inte- grate important memories and provide for the sense of a unique self by giving meaning, unity, and purpose to one’s personal past, perceived present, and anticipated future (McAdams, 2001). The use of self-defin- ing memories and narratives for inquiries of sexual identity are particu- larly useful because of their ability to capture the complex and dynamic nature of sexual identity. METHOD Preliminary Coding The initial sample of participants who completed the survey con- sisted of 417 undergraduate college students. Participants were first ex- cluded based on gender (159 men) and then sexual orientation (163 women primarily identified as “exclusively straight/heterosexual” or “exclusively gay/lesbian/homosexual”). This yielded a sample of 95 bisexual or bi-curious women. Participants were further excluded based on the content of their self-defining memories and responses to two open-ended questions about sexual orientation development. Fifteen percent (n = 14) of the overall sample of bisexual and bi-curious women reported a sexual ex-
  • 16 BISEXUAL WOMEN: FRIENDSHIP AND SOCIAL ORGANIZATION perience with a same-sex friend as a sexual self-defining memory and an additional 36 percent (n = 34) reported a sexual experience with a fe- male friend when specifically asked about sexual orientation develop- ment. Twelve of the 14 women who reported a sexual self-defining memory about a same-sex friend additionally reported on the same or on a different friendship experience in their sexual orientation response. Overall, 50 percent (n = 48) of the initial sample of 95 bisexual and bi-curious women reported that one or more sexual experiences with a female friend helped with their sexual self-definition or at least was im- portant in their sexual orientation development. Thus, 47 women who did not write about sexual experiences with same-sex friends were excluded. Final Sample The final sample consisted of 48 bisexual or bi-curious women whose sexual self-defining memory or sexual orientation response in- cluded content about a sexual experience with a same-sex friend. As with many college samples, participants were mostly young (age ranged from 18 to 22; M = 19) and mostly White. Twelve participants were first-year students, twenty-one sophomores, seven juniors, and eight se- niors. Participants’ racial backgrounds included White/Caucasian (n = 34), Asian/Pacific Islander (n = 8), Mexican-American/Latina (n = 4), and Bi-racial (n = 2). For their primary sexual orientation identity, 7 women indicated “bi- sexual,” 2 indicated “curious,” 5 indicated “questioning,” 25 indicated “mostly straight/heterosexual with some bisexual tendencies,” 5 indi- cated “I prefer not to label myself,” and 4 marked “other.” All of the 9 participants who chose “I prefer not to label myself” or “other” on this item also indicated identifying as “bisexual” and/or “curious” when able to list multiple sexual orientation identities. Procedure All participants were college students enrolled in a lower division psychology course at a public university in northern California, and participated to fulfill a course requirement. Participants were given infor- mation about the survey and chose to participate in this study through an online educational experiment system. The title of the study was, “Sexual Identity Study” and participants were instructed to complete the survey via a secure, online survey website (http://www.surveymonkey.com).
  • Research Perspectives on Bisexual Women’s Friendships 17 The procedure, including consent, debriefing, and credit allocation, took place entirely online. After giving consent, participants completed a demographics section and then reported on one open-ended sexual self-defining memory. The participants next completed two open-ended questions about sexual orientation development. Following these ques- tions, participants completed several additional measures of sexual atti- tudes and experiences not analyzed here. The entire questionnaire took approximately 90 minutes to complete. Measures Sexual Self-Defining Memory. The sexual self-defining memory questions were prefaced with a description of the features of a self-de- fining memory. Participants were asked to “think of a self-defining memory that has helped define you as a sexual person.” A sexual self-defining memory was described as a memory that was vivid, highly memorable, personally important, and at least one year old. These in- structions were originally adapted from Singer and Moffit (1991-1992, pg. 242) and based on the prompt used by Thorne and McLean (2002). Participants were asked to provide a caption for the event and to report their age at the time and who was involved in the event. They were then asked to describe the memory “with enough detail as if to help an imag- ined friend see and feel as you did,” including where they were, whom they were with, what happened, how they and others reacted. They were then asked “what does this memory mean to you now?” For the Self-Defining Memory Questionnaire, see Appendix. Sexual Orientation Development. The second set of narrative re- sponses came from two questions specifically about sexual orientation that the participant answered directly following the sexual self-defining memory. The first question asked, “Have you thought much about and/or questioned your sexual orientation? If yes, when do you first re- member thinking about your sexual orientation? If no, why do you think you have never thought about this?” The second question asked, “What has been important in developing your sexual orientation? Please be as specific as possible.” Participants were provided with unlimited text space to answer these questions. Analysis We used a grounded theory approach to analyze the data (Charmaz, 1983). This methodology stresses the inductive development of analytic
  • 18 BISEXUAL WOMEN: FRIENDSHIP AND SOCIAL ORGANIZATION categories; thus, the analysis involved reading these selections closely for emergent themes. This method of analysis was chosen because it optimizes the use of qualitative data through thematic analysis while also attending to the meaning participants give to their own experiences. Additionally, during the process of theme identification and interpreta- tion, we were aware of both the context within which the narratives were given (online with a course credit incentive) and the influence of the thoughts and feelings we bring to the text (e.g., Brown & Gilligan, 1992). Therefore, we recognize the impact of broad and specific re- search contexts on the participants, and understand that choices sur- rounding inclusion of information and interpretation of this information is influenced by our own subjectivity as psychological researchers. Both authors coded event narratives; discrepant narratives were dis- cussed to reach a consensus. Excerpts were selected for presentation as representative illustrations of the thematic patterns we observed across the event narratives. RESULTS AND DISCUSSION Age and Event Type Preliminary analyses classified the event narratives about sexual ex- periences with same-sex friends on two main axes, age and event type. The first axis of classification was age at the time of the event. Events reported within the narratives occurred either during childhood (event occurred before the age of 12) or adolescence (event occurred when the participant was 12-20 years old). While participants were not di- rectly asked to report age at the time of event in their responses to the sexual orientation development questions, all participants indicated either their age or their grade in school at the time of the event within their event narrative. The second classification axis was the type of sexual event reported; event narratives involved either sexual attraction to or sexual behavior with a same-sex friend. When both sexual attrac- tion and behavior were reported in the event narrative, the event was placed in the sexual behavior category (n = 2). The number of event nar- ratives that fell within each of the four possible classification groups are as follows: childhood/sexual attraction (n = 1), childhood/sexual behav- ior (n = 9), adolescence/sexual attraction (n = 19), and adolescence/sex- ual behavior (n = 19).
  • Research Perspectives on Bisexual Women’s Friendships 19 Reported events were more likely to have occurred during adoles- cence than childhood, χ (1) = 18.75, N = 48, p < .001. Event narratives 2 about sexual behavior were more common than narratives about sexual attraction during childhood, χ 2(1) = 6.40, N = 10, p = .01; events that oc- curred during adolescence were equally likely to be about sexual attrac- tion and sexual behavior (p > .05). Event narratives about sexual attraction were more likely to have occurred during adolescence than childhood, χ (1) = 16.20, N = 20, p < .001; event narratives about sexual 2 behavior were equally likely to have occurred during childhood as dur- ing adolescence (p > .05). Event Narratives: Emergent Themes Using a grounded theory approach, the event narratives were ana- lyzed for prominent themes. Following is a discussion of the four themes that emerged: discovery, closeness, conflict, and defining iden- tity. Table 1 presents the number of event narratives within each of the four theme categories separated by classification group. Themes were coded as present/not present and were not mutually exclusive, such that one event narrative could have all four themes present. All event narra- tives had at least one of the four themes present. Discovery. Discovery refers to the realization of sexual attraction and sexual desire for a same-sex friend; this was the most common theme TABLE 1. Number of Event Narratives in Each Theme Category Separated by Classification Group (N = 48) Classification group Childhood Adolescence Theme category Attraction Behavior Attraction Behavior Discovery 1 4 18 15 Closeness 0 3 9 9 Conflict 0 0 8 2 Defining identity Identity confusion 1 5 6 7 Identity solidification 0 0 3 6 Note. Theme categories are not mutually exclusive; event narratives can appear in multiple categories. All event narratives contained at least one theme. Classification groups are mu- tually exclusive; an event narrative can only appear in one classification group.
  • 20 BISEXUAL WOMEN: FRIENDSHIP AND SOCIAL ORGANIZATION across event narratives, particularly in adolescence. As seen in Table 1, the theme of discovery was present in event narratives that took place both in childhood and adolescence and involved attraction and sexual behavior. The following examples illustrate the kinds of narratives that characterized the theme of discovery. The first event narrative empha- sized discovery of sexual attraction for a same-sex friend. The event was reported by a 19-year-old Mexican-American woman whom we will call Anna, who identified as bisexual. The event reportedly hap- pened at age 10 with her “best friend Mandy”: We were out playing in the field during our lunch break when Mandy and I decided to talk about our latest crushes. She went on about a boy name Brad and how he was really cute and I said I had to agree. We played in the field while we thought about what we looked for in a friend and in a boyfriend and I realized that I really liked the idea of having Mandy as my boyfriend. At first the thought of it was a bit scary. “My girlfriend like my boyfriend.” She had everything that I wanted a great smile and a really good friend and more of all I really loved her. I never told her what crossed my mind, but I really wanted to see what it would be like to have a relationship with a girl and not a boy. The next event narrative example emphasized discovery of sexual desire with a same-sex friend that was not enacted, but described as “the first moment I knew I was attracted to women.” This event was reported by a 19-year-old White woman, Debbie, who also identified as bisex- ual. The event reportedly happened at age 13 with her “girlfriends”: My girlfriends and I often make jokes about hitting on each other. I pull my friend into the closet and fake like I’m going to kiss her– the thing you do where you put your hands over the other person’s lips so that from far off it looks real. As I lean in I realize that I re- ally, really, want to drop my hands and kiss her for real. I don’t. I don’t tell her that I wanted to kiss her either, but I do tell my friends that I’m bisexual that very day. The following event narrative also emphasized discovery of sexual desire with a same-sex friend, but this time it was enacted upon. This event came from an 18-year-old Latina woman, Marisol, who identified as mostly straight/heterosexual with some bisexual tendencies:
  • Research Perspectives on Bisexual Women’s Friendships 21 I had never thought about another girl in a sexual way since I had only had sex with my boyfriend and very much enjoyed it. But this changed by the end of my junior year in high school. One time I went to a party and I was dared to kiss one of my really close friends. We both agreed. At first I didn’t feel anything, but then I started to like it . . . she later confessed she liked it as well. Then we began to go out more often and we felt very comfortable with each other and whenever we were asked to kiss we would happily ac- cept without hesitation. By the time I was a senior I considered myself bi-curious, but never told anyone but my friend. As these three event narrative examples suggest, participants are re- porting it was with their female friend(s) that they discovered feelings of same-sex sexual attraction and desire. While models of bisexual identity development (e.g., Brown, 2002) have acknowledged that dis- covery or recognition of same-sex attraction and initial same-sex expe- riences are typical aspects of the emergence of a bisexual identity, that this discovery may occur with friends is less well-documented. The emergence of a theme of discovery for sexual attraction and sexual de- sire emphasizes the possibility that realization of one’s bisexuality or bi-curiosity could occur with a same-sex friend. Additionally, as seen in both Anna and Debbie’s narratives, framing of this discovery as a “realization” was similar to Epstein and Johnson’s (1998) findings through interviews with adult lesbians who spoke of “realization” of lesbianism, rather than “becoming” a lesbian. Here, bisexual and bi-cu- rious participants credited interactions with their same-sex friends for this realization. Closeness. Closeness materialized as both a precursor to and as a re- sult of a sexual encounter with a female friend and was generally dis- cussed in conjunction with feeling “comfort” from or “comfortable” with this friend. Ashley’s narrative at the beginning of this article nicely encapsulates the theme of closeness in describing her sexual experi- ences with female friends as slumber parties as, “soft, enjoyable, com- fortable and intimate.” As seen in Table 1, closeness emerged in more adolescent event narratives, though it was also found in three of the ten childhood narratives. The following examples illustrate the kinds of narratives that characterized the theme of closeness. In the following event narrative, the participant emphasized closeness in her discussion of a romantic relationship with a friend she “fell in love with.” The event was reported by a 19-year-old White woman, Jenna, who identi- fied as bisexual. The event reportedly happened at age 14:
  • 22 BISEXUAL WOMEN: FRIENDSHIP AND SOCIAL ORGANIZATION In eighth grade I was boy crazy just like all my other friends. I was as straight as the group I hung out with. Then a different girl joined our click. She was interesting, different, not boy crazy. I liked it, and her. After nine months of getting to know each other, separat- ing ourselves from our click, sexually pleasing each other, and be- ing in-love at an early age, it became difficult to hide our relationship from both our nosey friends and parents. [. . .]. To make a long story short, despite being in a healthy relationship, one that grew everyday, and made us truly happy, and in-love at age 14, it didn’t matter to [our moms]. We never got to see each other again. This next event narrative that emphasized closeness described a time when the participant was comforted by one of her “best friends from high school” that turned into her “first real same-sex kiss.” The event was reported by a 19-year-old White woman, Carrie, who preferred not to label her sexual identity: I had just broken up with my boyfriend of two years. We had bro- ken up partly because the relationship wasn’t healthy anymore, but also because I was sexually curious about girls, and could no lon- ger be in a committed relationship to a male until I explored those feelings. But at the time, I was very upset about the breakup, as it was such a drastic change from how my life had been for so long. So I was at Brittany’s house, on a couch, crying and talking to her, and she was comforting me and hugging me, and then she started touching my hipbone and stomach and holding me closer, and tell- ing me that, despite the tears, I was “all kinds of sexy.” I stopped crying and we stared at each other for a long time not saying any- thing, and then, it seemed like all of a sudden, we were kissing. We went to her bedroom and lay down on the bed, but did nothing be- yond kissing and holding each other that day. Several days later things went farther, but the first kiss is my most vivid memory. As indicated in the two preceding sexual event narratives, partici- pants emphasized their emotional closeness with their female friends. In Carrie’s narrative, it was Brittany’s comforting and supportive behavior that led to sexual desire and subsequent sexual activity. In Jenna’s nar- rative, she made it clear how close and “in love” she was with her friend, with whom she had become romantically and sexually involved. Thus, both the initial stages and later stages of sexual experiences with
  • Research Perspectives on Bisexual Women’s Friendships 23 same-sex friends can be characterized by emotional closeness, which is highly congruent with Dempsey et al.’s (2001) hypotheses and findings regarding women’s sexuality and same-sex experiences in general. Conflict. Conflict with friends regarding same-sex attraction or sex- ual exploration was present in only narratives of events that took place in adolescence. The first event narrative is an example of conflict with the friendship group. The event was reported by a 22-year-old White woman, Carly, who preferred not to label her sexual identity and re- marked that she did not “have a sexual orientation,” was “open to hav- ing a relationship with another woman” and was “at a point where labels are just kinda hilarious.” She was 16 years old at the time of the event and it involved, “Eliza, my good friend”: I fell in love and got into a relationship with a good friend of mine named Eliza. It was the first time I had even considered being involved with another woman. It was perplexing to be because I didn’t and still don’t identify as a lesbian or bi-sexual. It was just her essence that I craved and enjoyed. I was a bit shunned at school, I stopped hanging out with my friends, I focused more on school, got the best grades I’ve ever gotten and thus got into every college I applied to. Another participant, a 21-year-old Chinese-American woman, Lana, who identified as mostly straight/heterosexual with some bisexual ten- dencies, wrote about “being attracted to a good friend” when she was 18. She commented: In the beginning, I didn’t know how people know if they are a het- erosexual or a homosexual. Because being close to all my friends (girls) and a few male friends. While being with them, I constantly judged people whenever I see them in the streets or anywhere. Judging them whether or not they are attractive. Then I wondered if I liked both sexes, so I started asking my friends about it. How- ever, my friends thought I was just weird because they grew up where their family will like to see them with the opposite sex. So my friends started to be different awhile. So after awhile, I decided not to talk to them about it and told them I was joking around with them. I guess they were afraid of what I am. This theme suggests the potential for conflict with friends as a result of same-sex friend sexual experiences. Potential conflict with cross-sexual
  • 24 BISEXUAL WOMEN: FRIENDSHIP AND SOCIAL ORGANIZATION orientation friends has been previously documented (Diamond & Lucas, 2004; Epstein & Johnson, 1998; O’Boyle & Thomas, 1996; Muraco, 2005) and the findings here support that same-sex friends can “shun” or reject women who express same-sex attraction or desire. One possible explanation for anticipated or actual conflict could be informed by Reeder’s (2000) findings with dyads of cross-sex heterosexual friends. Her findings suggest that while friendships can occasionally be sites of sexual and romantic attraction, both members of the friendship dyad are not necessarily experiencing similar types of attraction leaving the dyad open to conflict and asymmetrical desires for the relationship. However, research also suggests that cross-sexual orientation friend- ships are not only negatively affected, and frequently serve positive functions, such as mutual support, an indication to lesbian and bisexual youth that acceptance from heterosexual individuals is possible (Galupo, Sailer, & St. John, 2004; Galupo & St. John, 2001). Three par- ticipants in this study did indicate that support from friends was impor- tant in developing their sexual orientation, as exemplified by Debbie who said that when she told her friends that she was bisexual, her “rela- tionships with my girlfriends at the time was very important. They were accepting, and some of them were testing out whether or not they were into girls, too.” Another 20-year old White woman who identified her sexual identity as “fluid” indicated that “having people around me who are supportive of ‘fluidity’ and who understand it” has been important in developing her sexual orientation. Thus, both conflict and support can materialize as a result of same-sex friend sexual encounters. Defining Identity. Defining sexual orientation identity differs from discovery in several ways. While discovery of same-sex attraction and sexual desire is typically an initial aspect of bisexual identity develop- ment, questioning sexual identity involves beginning to reorganize one’s self-recognition of the meaning that sexual orientation and sex- ual behavior have had for that individual (Savin-Williams, 1995). Thus, defining identity involves meaning-making, or stepping back from an event to reflect on its implications for future behaviors, goals, values, and self-understanding (Pillemer, 1992). So, within this theme, participants engaged in meaning-making by examining what effects their sexual experiences with same-sex friends have had on their sexual orientation identity. Event narratives containing the defining identity theme were broken down into two sub-themes: either (a) solidification of a bisexual iden- tity, or (b) confusion about how to define one’s identity following a same-sex friend sexual experience. As seen in Table 1, confusion was
  • Research Perspectives on Bisexual Women’s Friendships 25 more common overall than solidification, and the sub-theme of solidifi- cation occurred only regarding events from adolescence, not childhood. This result makes sense as many bisexual women do not settle on a bi- sexual identity until their twenties (Rust, 2003). The first example (confusion sub-theme) is from an 18-year-old Fili- pino-American woman, Gloria, who identified as mostly straight/het- erosexual with some bisexual tendencies. Following is her report on the meaning of a sexual experience with her best friend when she was 14. She indicated that: This memory, although I’d like to forget the person involved, helps me identify myself as an extremely sexual person. I was ac- tually in a secret relationship with her for about five months. How- ever, I always knew I wasn’t a lesbian because I’ve always been attracted to males. After my relationship with her, I know I could not and would not ever be a in a relationship with a female. It helped me confirm that I am heterosexual for the most part. I don’t really know how to label myself because I don’t consider myself bisexual. I’ll do sexual acts with a woman, but I’m not interested in women romantically. Another example of confusion surrounding defining sexual identity came from a 19-year-old White woman, Carol, who identified herself as mostly straight/heterosexual with some bisexual tendencies. She in- dicated: I began to question my sexual orientation in high school when it became “the cool thing to do” among my group of friends. Al- though my girl friends and I would make out when we got drunk, I decided that when it came down to it, I was straight. Well, I was pretty sure that I was straight until I suddenly got into a relation- ship a girl five months ago. Now I’m not sure what I am. I think I’m still predominantly straight, and I am attracted to men more than I am to women, but clearly I can have feelings for women as well. In these first two examples, both Gloria and Carol indicated that sex- ual experiences with same-sex friends actually reinforced their hetero- sexuality and desire for a relationship with a man, while also retaining their interest in and attraction to women. This is consistent with Dia- mond’s (2005b) discussion of same-sex “testing” and the erasure of bi-
  • 26 BISEXUAL WOMEN: FRIENDSHIP AND SOCIAL ORGANIZATION sexuality, where women experiment with bisexuality, acknowledge the experience as enjoyable, but emphasize their heterosexuality by pro- claiming the enjoyment to be situation and person-specific. The erasure of a sexual-minority identity following a same-sex encounter furthers Muraco’s (2005) finding from surveys of heterosexual college students asked to evaluate a hypothetical same-sex gay or lesbian friend. She found that male and female participants indicated a degree of accep- tance of gay men and lesbians on the interpersonal level; however, they simultaneously engaged in identity work to distance themselves from homosexuality. Diamond (2005a) also discusses how women may choose to question the nature of their sexual attraction to female friends rather than their sexual orientation. Results from this study indicate that participants’ same-sex attraction and desire may have led to experimen- tation with female friends, but the pressure these experiences produce regarding a re-evaluation of sexual orientation identity necessitated an erasure of a possible lesbian or bisexual identity and a return to a hetero- sexual identity. Diamond (2005b) suggests that this process is likely re- inforced by the remaining strict sexual dichotomy of homosexuality and heterosexuality that does not leave room for a valid identity in between homosexuality and heterosexuality, such as bisexuality or bi-curiosity. The first example of identity solidification as a result of a sexual ex- perience with a same-sex friend is 19-year-old bisexual Jenna, who was in a relationship with Julie during eighth grade. As indicated before, this relationship was terminated by both Jenna’s and Julie’s mothers. In re- sponse to what this memory meant to her now, she replied: It means the world. I won’t ever hide my relationship no matter who it’s with because the initial shock of my mom hating me for a month and the emotions from everything else put me in a depres- sion. And this helped me realize that I’d rather be in-love and happy, than pretend to be whatever else my mom wants me to be. I am not a lesbian. I look at guys just as much as I like at girls, if not more. It just happen though that I can keep a more interesting and longer relationship with girls. Another example came from Anna, a bisexual woman whom we also heard from earlier. She followed-up her event narrative with, “Since I was a little girl I really liked the idea of being with a girl or a boy. I was never lonely but both guys and girls are sexually attractive to me. I am a bisexual Mexican American girl and I wouldn’t like it any other way.” A 19-year-old White woman, Hillary, who identified as bisexual, ex-
  • Research Perspectives on Bisexual Women’s Friendships 27 plained the following experience that occurred with “a close female friend” when she was 12 years old: My friend, Michelle, lived in my neighborhood and attended my middle school. Even though this experience represents the first time I admitted by bisexuality, I had been attracted to/messing around with girls since a very young age. I found Michelle ex- tremely attractive, and found out that she was bi. She was open about it, and talked to me about prior experiences with her ex-girl- friend on the bus to and from school. I felt comfortable telling her that I was bi, well, because I wanted to get in her pants. I found out that the attraction was mutual, and soon afterwards had my first real sexual experience with a girl. Hillary added in her response to the sexual orientation development questions that, “I’ve thought about my sexual orientation since I was 6-years-old, which is the first time that one of my older girl friends ap- proached me in a sexual manner. In my lifetime, I’ve pondered about my orientation a lot, but now I am completely comfortable being at- tracted to both sexes.” Unlike Gloria and Carol, bi-curious women who experienced confusion in defining their sexual identities, Jenna, Anna, and Hillary indicated that they clearly defined themselves as bisexual women, and attributed this identification to their experiences with same-sex friends. Thus, not only might sexual attraction to and sexual desire for female friends lead to discovery of bisexual tendencies, as seen in the theme of discovery, the defining identity theme suggests that sexual experiences with female friends have also led to re-evaluations of one’s sexual orientation identity, resulting in confusion for some, and the solidification of a bisexual identity for others. CONCLUSIONS The overall purpose of this research was to gain a better understand- ing of the discovery and emergence of women’s bisexual and bi-curious identities through the examination of event narratives about sexual at- traction to and sexual behavior with same-sex friends during childhood and adolescence. As Ashley’s narrative at the beginning of this article illustrated, a primary finding was that almost half of bisexual and bi-cu- rious women reported one or more sexual experiences with a female friend. Secondarily, these experiences helped define themselves as sex-
  • 28 BISEXUAL WOMEN: FRIENDSHIP AND SOCIAL ORGANIZATION ual persons or at least were important in their sexual orientation iden- tity questioning and development. Examination of the self-defining memories and sexual orientation responses regarding sexual experi- ences with same-sex friends revealed two axes of classification, child- hood or adolescence and sexual attraction or sexual behavior. Further thematic analyses revealed four themes: discovery, closeness, conflict and defining identity. As a group, these themes can be interpreted as a meta-narrative of one way that bisexual or bi-curious identity develops. Specifically, through same-sex friendships, these participants “discov- ered” their same-sex attractions, which often led to either “comfort” or “conflict,” or both. Ultimately, for some participants, this led to defin- ing themselves as bisexual or bi-curious. Although previous studies have not reviewed the role of sexual expe- riences with same-sex friends in women’s bisexual or bi-curious iden- tity development, findings with regard to the themes that emerged from the event narratives are generally in line with models of bisexual iden- tity development (e.g., Brown, 2002; Fox, 1995). For example, Fox as- serts that bisexual individuals must recognize both the homosexual and heterosexual components of their sexual orientation identities. The re- sults from this study suggest that the recognition, or discovery, of the homosexual component of their identity was a remarkable outcome of these women’s sexual experiences with same-sex friends. Additionally, the conflict evident in several of these young women’s narratives paral- lels Fox’s description of the confusion that bisexual individuals often experience as a result of their feeling of attraction and behavior for both sexes not fitting within traditional dichotomous, either/or views of sex- ual orientation. Furthermore, Brown included the importance of strong emotional attachments with other women as an aspect particular to bi- sexual women’s identity development. Thus, the themes of discovery, closeness, and conflict, as well as actual identity definition coincide with and support previously proposed models of bisexual identity development. Unique Strengths of the Present Study Beyond supporting previous models of bisexual identity develop- ment, the results from this study contribute to the literature on bisexual women and friendships through both the inclusion of bi-curious partici- pants as well as the use of bisexual women’s friendship experiences to better understand the meaning and impact of these experiences on bi- sexual identity development. First, the inclusion of bi-curious partici-
  • Research Perspectives on Bisexual Women’s Friendships 29 pants further challenges the dichotomous, discrete conceptualization of sexual orientation (Fassinger & Arseneau, in press), for which research on bisexuality has already been praised (Berenson, 2002; Rust, 2001). Additionally, recent research has begun to recognize the fluid nature of women’s sexual orientation (e.g., Peplau & Garnets, 2000). By broad- ening our definitions and including bi-curious women as participants in this research, we more accurately represent women who experience both hetero- and homosexual attraction and behavior. Second, this re- search uniquely examines the meanings of bisexual or bi-curious women’s sexual experiences within friendship and how this relates to bisexual or bi-curious identity discovery and/or definition. While re- search that studies bisexual women’s friendship dynamics or demo- graphics is highly important, it is also worth recognizing the potential impact these relationships might have on the sexual orientation identi- ties of the women involved in these friendships. Limitations of the Present Study While these results are highly informative, there were several limita- tions to this study. This study had a small sample of women who primar- ily identified as bisexual, which may have been due to the younger age of the participants. Additionally, it is worthwhile to note that online re- search is a newer data collection method and has a unique set of meth- odological issues. There are concerns with the lack of control over the setting in which the questionnaire is completed (e.g., the participant could be in a public or private place); however, a potential upside to on- line data collection is that participants may in fact feel more comfort- able being “honest” while at home, or not in the presence of a researcher. Nevertheless, this study offers a starting point for under- standing bisexual and bi-curious women’s experiences with female friends. Directions for Future Research As indicated from the results of this study, same-sex friendships are a site of bisexual and bi-curious identity exploration and development. Both children and adolescents are indeed experiencing same-sex sexual attraction and desire within friendship relationships, and reporting that these experiences are integral in their sexual self-definition and/or sex- ual orientation development. Thus, further investigations into same-sex friendships and sexual experiences within these friendships can in-
  • 30 BISEXUAL WOMEN: FRIENDSHIP AND SOCIAL ORGANIZATION crease our understanding of bisexual identity development and expand the small amount of information about bi-curiosity and bi-curious iden- tity. Furthermore, not all bisexual and bi-curious participants discussed same-sex friendships within their self-defining memories; therefore, an investigation of the other types of events or themes within all self-defin- ing memories of bisexual/bi-curious participants could provide further insights into their identity development. Future research could also compare lesbian, bisexual, bi-curious, and heterosexual women’s ex- periences with same-sex friends (and even cross-sex friends) and sub- sequent differences in identity development. As evidenced here, the use of written narratives about sexual orientation development and sexual self-defining memories yield rich and informative data about sexual orientation identity development and should be applied in future research on this and other related topics. In general, findings from this exploratory study can guide more specific inquiries into the complex and dynamic nature of same-sex attraction and sexual desire within young women’s friendships. NOTE 1. Names have been changed; pseudonyms chosen by the authors are used. REFERENCES Amestoy, M. M. (2001). Research on sexual orientation labels’ relationship to behav- iors and desires. Journal of Bisexuality, 1(4), 91-113. Arnett, J. J. (2000). Emerging adulthood: A theory of development from the late teens through the twenties. American Psychologist, 55, 469-480. Bell, R. (1981). Worlds of friendship. Beverly Hills, CA: Sage. Berenson, C. (2002). What’s in a name? Bisexual women define their terms. Journal of Bisexuality, 2(2/3), 9-21. Blagov, P. S., & Singer, J. A. (2004). Four dimensions of self-defining memories (specificity, meaning, content, and affect) and their relationships to self-restraint, distress, and repressive defensiveness. Journal of Personality, 72, 481-511. Bower, J., Gurevich, M., & Mathieson, C. (2002). (Con)tested identities: Bisexual women reorient sexuality. Journal of Bisexuality, 2(2/3), 23-52. Bradford, M. (2004). The bisexual experience: Living in a dichotomous culture. Jour- nal of Bisexuality, 4(1), 7-23. Brown, L., & Gilligan, C. (1992). Meeting at the crossroads: Women’s psychology and girls’ development. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
  • Research Perspectives on Bisexual Women’s Friendships 31 Brown, T. (2002). A proposed model of bisexual identity development that elaborates on experiential differences of women and men. Journal of Bisexuality, 2(4), 67-91. Camarena, P. M., Sarigiana, P. A., & Petersen, A. C. (1990). Gender-specific pathways to intimacy in early adolescence. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 19, 19-32. Charmaz, K. (1983). The grounded theory method: An explication and interpreta- tion. In R.E. Emerson (Ed.), Contemporary field research: A collection of read- ings (pp. 109-126). Boston: Little, Brown, & Co. Collins, W. A., & Sroufe, L. A. (1999). Capacity for intimate relationships: A develop- mental construction. In W. Furman, B. B. Brown, & C. Feiring (Eds.), The develop- ment of romantic relationships in adolescence (pp. 125-147). Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. Dempsey, D., Hillier, L., & Harrison, L. (2001). Gendered (s)explorations among same-sex attracted young people in Australia. Journal of Adolescence, 24, 67-81. Diamond, L. M. (2000). Sexual identity, attractions, and behavior among young sex- ual-minority women over a 2-year period. Developmental Psychology, 36, 241-250. Diamond, L. M. (2002). “Having a girlfriend without knowing it”: Intimate friendships among adolescent sexual-minority women. Journal of Lesbian Studies, 6(1), 5-16. Diamond, L. M. (2003). Was it a phase? Young women’s relinquishment of lesbian/bi- sexual identities over a 5-year period. Journal of Personality and Social Psychol- ogy, 84, 352-364. Diamond, L. M. (2005a). From the heart or the gut? Sexual-minority women’s experi- ences of desire for same-sex and other-sex partners. Feminism & Psychology, 15, 10-14. Diamond, L. M. (2005b). ‘I’m straight, but I kissed a girl’: The trouble with American media representations of female-female sexuality. Feminism & Psychology, 15, 104-110. Diamond, L. M., & Dubé, E. M. (2002). Friendship and attachment among heterosex- ual and sexual-minority youths: Does the gender of your friend matter? Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 31, 155-166. Diamond, L. M., & Lucas, S. (2004). Sexual-minority and heterosexual youths’ peer relationships: Experiences, expectations, and implications for well-being. Journal of Research on Adolescence, 14, 313-340. Epstein, D., & Johnson, R. (1998). Schooling sexualities. Briston, PA: Open University Press. Erikson, E. H. (1968). Identity: Youth and crisis. New York: Norton. Fassinger, R. E., & Arseneau, J. R. (2007). “I’d rather get wet than be under that um- brella:” Differentiating the experiences and identities of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people. In K. J. Bieschke, R. M. Perez, & K. A. DeBord (Eds.), Hand- book of counseling and psychotherapy with lesbian, gay, and bisexual clients (2nd ed.). Washington, D.C.: American Psychological Association Books. Fassinger, R. E., & Miller, B. A. (1996). Validation of an inclusive model of sexual mi- nority identity formation on a sample of gay men. Journal of Homosexuality, 32, 53-78. Fine, M. (1988). Sexuality, schooling, and adolescent females: The missing discourse of desire. Harvard Educational Review, 58, 29-53.
  • 32 BISEXUAL WOMEN: FRIENDSHIP AND SOCIAL ORGANIZATION Fox, R. C. (1995). Bisexual identities. In A. R. D’Augelli & C. J. Patterson (Eds.), Lesbian, gay, and bisexual identities over the lifespan: Psychological perspectives (pp. 48-86). New York: Oxford University Press. Galupo, M. P., Sailer, C. A., & St. John, S. C. (2004). Friendships across sexual orien- tations: Experiences of bisexual women in early adulthood. Journal of Bisexuality, 4(1-2), 37-53. Galupo, M. P., & St. John, S. (2001). Benefits of cross-sexual orientation friendships among adolescent females. Journal of Adolescence, 24, 83-93. Griffin, C. (2000). Absences that matter: Constructions of sexuality in studies of young women’s friendship groups. Feminism & Psychology, 10, 227-245. Griffin, C. (2002). Girls’ friendships and the formation of sexual identities. In A. Coyle & C. Kitzinger (Eds.), Lesbian and gay psychology: New perspectives (pp. 45-62). Malden, MA, US: Blackwell Publishers. Kaplan, D. L., & Keys, C. B. (1997). Sex and relationship variables as predictors of sexual attraction in cross-sex platonic friendships between young heterosexual adults. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 14, 191-206. Kinnish, K. K., Strassberg, D. S., & Turner, C. W. (2005). Sex differences in the flexi- bility of sexual orientation: A multidimensional retrospective assessment. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 34, 173-183. Lamb, S. (2004). Sexual tensions in girls’ friendships. Feminism & Psychology, 14, 376-382. McAdams, D. P. (2001). The psychology of life stories. Review of General Psychol- ogy, 5, 100-122. McCarn, S. R., & Fassinger, R. E. (1996). Revisioning sexual minority identity forma- tion: A new model of lesbian identity and its implications for counseling and re- search. The Counseling Psychologist, 24. 508-534. Monsour, M. (1992). Meanings of intimacy in cross-sex and same-sex friendships. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 9, 277-295. Monsour, M., Harris, B., & Kurzweil, N. (1994). Challenges confronting cross-sex friendships: ‘Much Ado About Nothing?’ Sex Roles, 31, 57-77. Muraco, A. (2005). Heterosexual evaluations of hypothetical friendship behavior based on sex and sexual orientation. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 22, 587-605. O’Boyle, C. G., & Thomas, M. D. (1996). Friendships between lesbian and hetero- sexual women. In J. S. Weinstock & E. D. Rothblum (Eds.), Lesbian friendships (pp. 240-248). New York: New York University Press. Peplau, L. A., & Garnets, L. D. (2000). A new paradigm for understanding women’s sexuality and sexual orientation. Journal of Social Issues, 56(2), 329-350. Pillemer, D. B. (1992). Remembering personal circumstances: A functional analysis. In E. Winograd & U. Neisser (Eds.), Affect and accuracy in recall: The problem of “flashbulb” memories (pp. 236-254). New York: Cambridge University Press. Reeder, H. M. (2000). ‘I like you . . . as a friend’: The role of attraction in cross-sex friendship. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 17, 329-348. Rich, A. (1980). Compulsory heterosexuality and lesbian existence. Signs, 5, 631-660. Rose, S. M., & Zand, D. (2002). Lesbian dating and courtship from young adulthood to midlife. Journal of Lesbian Studies, 6(1), 85-109.
  • Research Perspectives on Bisexual Women’s Friendships 33 Rose, S., Zand, D., & Cini, M. (1993). Lesbian courtship scripts. In E. D. Rothblum & K. A. Brehony (Eds.), Boston marriages: Romantic but asexual relationships among contemporary lesbians (pp. 70-85). Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press. Rubin, L. (1985). Just friends. New York: Harper & Row. Rust, P. C. (1993). “Coming out” in the age of social constructionism: Sexual identity formation among lesbian and bisexual women. Gender & Society, 7, 50-77. Rust, P. C. (2001). Two many and not enough: The meanings of bisexual identities. Journal of Bisexuality, 1(1), 31-68. Rust, P. C. (2002). Bisexuality: The state of the union. Annual Review of Sex Research, 13, 180-240. Rust, P. C. (2003). Finding a sexual identity and community: Therapeutic implications and cultural assumptions in scientific models of coming out. In L. D. Garnets & D. C. Kimmel (Eds.), Psychological perspectives on lesbian, gay, and bisexual experi- ences (2nd ed., pp. 227-269). New York: Columbia University Press. Savin-Williams, R. C. (1995). Dating and romantic relationships among gay, lesbian, and bisexual youths. In R. C. Savin-Williams and K. M. Cohen (Eds.), The lives of lesbians, gays and bisexuals: Children to adults (pp. 166-180). New York: Harcourt Brace. Savin-Williams, R. C., & Diamond, L. M. (2000). Sexual identity trajectories among sexual-minority youths: Gender comparisons. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 29, 607-627. Singer, J. A., & Moffitt, K. H. (1991-1992). An experimental investigation of specific- ity and generality in memory narratives. Imagination, Cognition, and Personality, 11, 233-257. Thorne, A., & McLean, K. C. (2002). Gendered reminiscence practices and self-defini- tion in late adolescence. Sex Roles, 46, 261-271. Weinberg, M. S., Williams, C. J., & Pryor, D. W. (2001). Bisexuals at midlife: Com- mitment, salience, and identity. Journal of Contemporary Ethnography, 30, 180-208. Werking, K. (1997). We’re just good friends. New York: Guilford Press. Youniss, J., & Smollar, J. (1985). Adolescent relations with mothers, fathers, and friends. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Zinik, G. (1985). Identity conflict or adaptive flexibility? Bisexuality reconsidered. Journal of Homosexuality, 11, 7-19.
  • 34 BISEXUAL WOMEN: FRIENDSHIP AND SOCIAL ORGANIZATION APPENDIX Self-Defining Memory Questionnaire For the first 5 questions, you will be describing a self-defining memory that pertains to your sexuality. A self-defining memory is a memory of a specific event in your life that you remember very clearly and that still feels important to you even as you think about it now. The memory must be at least a year old. It is a memory that helps you to understand who you are as an individual and might be the memory you would tell someone else if you wanted that person to understand you in a more profound way. It may be a memory that is positive or negative, or both, in how it makes you feel. The only important aspect is that it leads to strong feelings and that it is familiar to you, like a picture you have studied or a song (happy or sad) you have learned by heart. For the next question, please think of a self-defining memory that has helped define you as a sexual person. So think of a specific event that helps you understand who you are as a sexual person. First, jot down a one caption or one-sentence summary for the memory that comes to mind. Then describe the memory with enough detail as if to help an imagined friend see and feel as you did. Although the memories are confidential, please do not reveal a memory that is so painful as to make you feel uncomfortable describing it. 1. Caption (Give a brief sentence to identify the event): 2. Age at the time of the original event: 3. Other person/persons involved in the event: 4. Description of the event: where you were, whom you were with, what happened, how you and others reacted. Include details that will help an imagined friend see and feel as you did. 5. What does this memory mean to you now?
  • Sexism, Heterosexism, and Biphobia: The Framing of Bisexual Women’s Friendships M. Paz Galupo
  • Available online at http://jb.haworthpress.com © 2006 by The Haworth Press, Inc. All rights reserved. doi:10.1300/J159v06n03_03 [Haworth co-indexing entry note]: “Sexism, Heterosexism, and Biphobia: The Framing of Bisexual Women’s Friendships.” Galupo, M. Paz. Co-published simultaneously in Journal of Bisexuality (Harrington Park Press, an imprint of The Haworth Press, Inc.) Vol. 6, No. 3, 2006, pp. 35-45; and: Bisexual Women: Friendship and Social Organization (ed: M. Paz Galupo) Harrington Park Press, an imprint of The Haworth Press, Inc., 2006, pp. 35-45. Single or multiple copies of this article are available for a fee from The Haworth Document Delivery Service [1-800-HAWORTH, 9:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m. (EST). E-mail address: docdelivery@haworthpress.com].
  • Research Perspectives on Bisexual Women’s Friendships 37 SUMMARY. Recent research has indicated that friendship patterns of sexual minorities are simultaneously influenced by sex, sexual orienta- tion, and race (Galupo, 2007). An understanding of bisexual women’s friendship patterns, then, must acknowledge the intersection of sex and sexual orientation as a context in which friendships develop. This paper considers the current literature as it informs our understanding of the friendships of bisexual women with particular emphasis on the meaning of bisexual identity in these friendships. In particular, selected research findings are interpreted to illustrate the intersection of how sexism, heterosexism, biphobia, and racism simultaneously shape the friendship experiences of bisexual women. [Article copies available for a fee from The Haworth Document Delivery Service: 1-800-HAWORTH. E-mail address: <docdelivery@haworthpress.com> Website: <http://www.HaworthPress.com> © 2006 by The Haworth Press, Inc. All rights reserved.] KEYWORDS. Bisexuality, friendship, bisexual women, heterosexism, biphobia, sexism There are some overall friendship patterns that may be common for sexual minorities. Galupo (2007) found that sexual minorities report similar numbers of close friends across sex, sexual orientation, and race. In general, sexual minorities report more same-sex than cross-sex friendships, and more same-race than cross-race friendships. These findings are consistent with the general friendship literature that charac- terizes friendship choice as occurring along similar demographic di- mensions with regard to sex, age, race/ethnicity, and socioeconomic status (Duck, 1991; Rawlings, 1992). Some friendship patterns of sexual minorities, however, are simulta- neously influenced by sex, sexual orientation identity, and race (Galupo, 2007). In particular, bisexual women have friendship patterns that are distinct from those of lesbian women as well as those of bisexual men. An understanding of bisexual women’s friendship patterns, then, must ac- knowledge the intersection of sex and sexual orientation as a context in which friendships develop. In this paper, I consider the current literature as it informs our understanding of the friendships of bisexual women with particular emphasis on the meaning of bisexual identity in these friend- ships. In particular, selected research findings will be interpreted to illus- trate how sexism, heterosexism, biphobia, and racism simultaneously shape the friendship experiences of bisexual women.
  • 38 BISEXUAL WOMEN: FRIENDSHIP AND SOCIAL ORGANIZATION HETEROSEXISM AND THE FRIENDSHIPS OF LESBIANS AND GAY MEN Given that individuals generally choose friends similar to them- selves, the friendships of lesbians and gay men follow an expected pat- tern with regard to sexual orientation–emphasizing same-orientation (same-sex) friendships. Lesbian women are more likely to develop friendships with other lesbians (D’Augelli, 1989; Stanley, 1996) and gay men are most likely to develop friendships with other gay men (McWhirter & Mattison, 1984; Nardi, 1992a, 1999). These within- community friendships have been shown to provide important benefits to sexual minorities. For example, Berger (1984) reported that positive psychological adjustment among gay men was associated with having friends who also identify as gay. In addition, Nardi (1999) points to the unique opportunities offered by gay male friendships as they provide a context for experiencing equity within a friendship. Lesbians’ friend- ships with other lesbians can provide a buffer from being socially deval- ued as a sexual minority, an outlet for sharing daily aspects of life especially for women who are not otherwise open about their sexual ori- entation identity, and important role models in a culture where lesbian experience is not widely visible (Stanley, 1996). As positive as these same-orientation friendships may be, the fact that these friendship experiences are partially organized around a shared sense of oppression emphasizes the importance of understanding these friendships as being shaped, in part, by the heterosexism and ho- mophobia of larger culture. Without the stigmatization of lesbian and gay existence, for example, there would be no need to have a social “buffer.” Without the inequities present in larger culture, gay male friendships would not be one of the few relationships available to gay men for experiencing a sense of social equity. That same-orientation friendships provide “unique” benefits to lesbi- ans and gay men suggests that these friendships are defined, in part, by those aspects that are lacking in their other friendships or social net- works. The fact that many individuals lose traditional family support in the process of openly identifying as non-heterosexual has led research- ers to consider the ways in which friendship serves as a type of familial support within the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) com- munity (Nardi, 1992b; Weinstock, 1998). The importance of friendship is underscored by the language sexual minorities often use to refer to friends as “family” (Weinstock, 1998; Weston, 1991), and by the cen-
  • Research Perspectives on Bisexual Women’s Friendships 39 tral role friendship networks are given in defining LGBT communities (Esterberg, 1997; Tillman-Healy, 2001). As strong and meaningful as same-orientation friendships may be for lesbians and gay men, it is important to note that not all friendships are experienced in a same-orientation context. Despite the fact that many sexual minorities report the loss of friendships with the disclosure of sexual orientation identity, the overwhelming majority of sexual minor- ities report at least one cross-orientation friendship (Galupo, 2006). A significant experience within cross-orientation friendships is the nego- tiation of the sexual minority identity. Difference in sexual orientation identity is perceived as a barrier to be overcome in order for cross-orien- tation friendship development to occur (Galupo, Sailer & St. John, 2004; Galupo & St. John, 2001; O’Boyle & Thomas, 1996; Price, 1999; Tillman-Healy, 2001). The friendship literature for lesbians and gay men, overall, empha- sizes a sense of similarity across multiple identities and behaviors. For example, lesbians and gay men form friendships with individuals simi- lar in relationship status (Berger, 1990), parenting status (Lewin, 1993) and age group (Berger, 1996; Raphael & Robinson, 1984). In her re- view of the research on lesbian and gay male friendships Weinstock (1998) makes an important point in conceptualizing these friendships. Friendship choices are not likely random. Rather, sociopolitical atti- tudes and structures help to shape friendship patterns for lesbians and gay men. A similar argument is relevant to our understanding of the friendship patterns of bisexual women and men. In some ways it is ex- pected that the friendships of sexual minorities as a group may be framed similarly by heterosexism. However, a consideration of the ways in which biphobia operates allows an understanding of the unique contours in the friendship patterns of bisexual women and men. INTERSECTING HETEROSEXISM AND BIPHOBIA: FRIENDSHIPS OF BISEXUAL WOMEN AND MEN The friendship patterns for bisexual individuals do not neatly mirror those of lesbians and gay men. Although bisexuals’ friendships empha- size same-sex and same-race patterns, same-orientation friendships are relatively de-emphasized. That is, bisexual individuals actually report few friendships with other bisexuals. Instead the majority of their friendships are experienced in a cross-orientation context, and most of
  • 40 BISEXUAL WOMEN: FRIENDSHIP AND SOCIAL ORGANIZATION those friendships are formed with heterosexual individuals (Galupo, 2006). How friendship patterns play into the level of social support available to bisexual women and men is a question of considerable interest. If les- bians and gay men find unique support for their experiences as sexual minorities through their friendships with individuals of the same-orien- tation identity, bisexual women and men have less opportunity to do so. The fact that bisexual women and men may experience few same-orien- tation friendships may not be that surprising if considering population percentages. However, population demographics alone cannot fully ex- plain the lack of within-LGBT community friendships of bisexual women and men. Bisexual women and men experience a unique brand of discrimina- tion or biphobia that can be levied from heterosexuals, lesbians, and gay men (Fox, 1996; Herek, 2002; Ochs, 1996). Rust (1995) suggested that this sense of distrust or misunderstanding of bisexuality may pose a sig- nificant barrier for bisexual individuals in developing friendships with lesbians and gay men. In Rust’s survey on friendship preferences, the majority of lesbian respondents indicated a preference for friendships with other lesbians. In the same study, half of the bisexual women did not indicate a friendship preference. However, for those that did, over half of them also preferred lesbian friends over bisexual ones. This find- ing underscores the importance of considering not only biphobia, but internalized biphobia as it shapes the friendship patterns of bisexually identified individuals. Biphobia appears to influence friendship patterns in a direction outside of the LGBT community. Even though bisexual women and men report heterosexual friends as the most common form of friendship (Galupo, 2007), bisexual-hetero- sexual friendships have not received much attention. The research that does exist focuses on women’s same-sex friendship experiences. The dynamics of bisexual-heterosexual friendships are understood partially by comparison to lesbian-heterosexual friendships. CONNECTING SEXISM, HETEROSEXISM, AND BIPHOBIA: BISEXUAL-HETEROSEXUAL FRIENDSHIPS AMONG WOMEN In their study of cross-orientation friendships among women, Galupo and St. John (2001) interviewed close friends who differed in sexual orientation identity (including bisexual-heterosexual and lesbian-het-
  • Research Perspectives on Bisexual Women’s Friendships 41 erosexual friendship dyads). Participants characterized their friendships as functioning similarly to any other friendships–as a means of provid- ing emotional support. Cross-orientation friends also provided benefits to both sexual minority and heterosexual friends. Galupo and St. John’s 2001 findings were based on understanding the shared experiences of bisexual-heterosexual and lesbian-heterosex- ual friendships. Comparison of the two friendship types, however, re- veals that sexual orientation impacts friendship dynamics in a way that leads bisexual women to report unique friendship experiences (Galupo et al., 2004). Bisexual-heterosexual friends were more likely to perceive themselves as similar to one another when compared to lesbian-hetero- sexual friends. In their friendship, bisexual-heterosexual pairs had a fo- cus on their shared attraction to men and there was an overall invisibility of bisexual identity within the friendship where sexual minority issues were not openly addressed. This downplaying of bisexual identity was responsible for allowing the friendship to remain focused on similarities and was viewed by bisexual women as a routine sacrifice in their friend- ships. Lesbian-heterosexual friends, by contrast, were more likely to explicitly acknowledge the difference in sexual orientation identity and issues relevant to the lives of sexual minorities were discussed openly. Bisexual-heterosexual friendship pairs also experienced a shift in the friendship dynamic based on the sex of the bisexual friend’s partner (Galupo et al., 2004). If the bisexual friend was partnered with a man the friendship maintained a focus on the similarity between friends. This operated as a default for the friendship dynamic as the friendship would maintain this focus, even if the bisexual woman was not partnered. By contrast, if the bisexual friend was partnered with a woman, the friend- ship shifted toward a focus on the difference between friends and bisex- uality became acknowledged openly (much like lesbian-heterosexual friendships). This shift mediated the way in which relationships were discussed in the friendship, the perception of similarity between friends, as well as the support the bisexual woman felt in the friendship. The subtle ways in which bisexuality is negotiated in bisexual-het- erosexual friendships illustrates the ways in which sexism, hetero- sexism, and biphobia uniquely shape the friendship experiences of bisexual women. It is important to note that the shifting of the friendship dynamic in bisexual-heterosexual pairs occurred on the basis of the sex of the bisexual woman’s partner–not on the basis of a shifting identity (Galupo, Sailer, & St. John, 2004). In reality, the shift may be best un- derstood as being mediated by the bisexual woman’s behavior when it makes evident her same-sex desire.
  • 42 BISEXUAL WOMEN: FRIENDSHIP AND SOCIAL ORGANIZATION Rust (2000) traces the re-conceptualization of women’s identity and considers the implications for the way in which bisexuality is under- stood. Traditionally, women’s identities have been tied to the way they are integrated within the family structure specifically via their connec- tion to husbands and/or children (Katz, 1995). Identity, in this case, takes precedence over women’s sexual behavior and emotional bonds to either women or men. With the emergence of sexual orientation iden- tity labels in the late 19th century identity was culturally reconstructed around notions of sexual eroticism. This, along with the conceptualiza- tion of lesbianism and heterosexuality as polar opposites has limited the degree by which bisexual expression is socially supported. In this framework, lesbian and heterosexual women’s identities are tied to no- tions of eroticism. Bisexuality, in contrast, is distinguished from them both only through sexual experience and/or behavior (Rust, 2000). The shift in friendship dynamic between bisexual-heterosexual friends, then, does not become activated with shifts in identity. Rather, it is at- tached to the “behavior” of the bisexual woman. Further, this behavioral criterion is established within a sexist/heterosexist context. The shift occurs when the bisexual woman violates the heterosexist norm by making behaviorally tangible her same-sex desire. Galupo et al. (2004) did not include bisexual-lesbian or bisexual-bi- sexual friendship pairs in their study. It is likely, however, that a simi- lar shift would occur in these friendships as well. For example, past research has documented lesbians’ change in perception toward bisex- ual women when they are dating men versus women (Esterberg, 1997) although this has not been considered within the context of close friendships. FURTHER SHAPING OF BISEXUAL WOMEN’S FRIENDSHIPS: INFLUENCES OF RACISM Friendship patterns of sexual minority individuals, in addition to being shaped by sex and sexual orientation, are also shaped by race. As noted ear- lier, a significant consideration for bisexuals is the lack of friendships with other bisexually identified individuals. When comparing racial minority versus white participants, Galupo (2007) found that among white partici- pants, bisexual women and men had a similar number of bisexual friends. However, among racial minorities, bisexual men reported signifi- cantly fewer same-orientation friends than bisexual women. That is, while bisexual individuals in general had very few bisexual friends, racial minor- ity men were the least likely to report same-orientation friendships.
  • Research Perspectives on Bisexual Women’s Friendships 43 This finding illustrates the ways in which sex, sexual orientation, and race intersect in complex, yet socially meaningful ways, to structure the friendships of bisexual individuals. Bisexual and gay men who are mi- norities face increased discrimination within and outside of the LGBT community (Savin-Williams, 1996), and this can lead to them being less open (than women) regarding their sexual orientation identity, or less likely to identify themselves outright as a sexual minority (Manalansan, 1996). This context is shaped by the related intersections of sex, sexual orientation, and race. For example, racism is experienced both within and outside the LGBT community and different forms of homo- negativity are expressed among ethnic communities (Savin-Williams, 1996). In addition, more negative attitudes are directed toward male than female sexual minorities (Herek & Capitanio, 2002; Herek, 2002). There is a reality to the way in which racism operates in the LGBT community that has not yet been fully explored in the lives of sexual minorities in general and in the friendships of bisexual women specifically. CONCLUSION The friendship patterns of bisexually identified women occur within a context that is shaped by and limited through the simultaneous influ- ences of sexism, heterosexism, biphobia, and racism. In addition to in- fluencing friendship “choices” these sociopolitical attitudes and structures influence the ways in which bisexuality is explored, negoti- ated, and otherwise made visible within these friendships. The shifting dynamics of bisexual-heterosexual friendships in particular, illustrate much about the way we conceptualize sexual orientation and how this frames the experiences of bisexual women. Although participants in the studies included in this analysis (Galupo & St. John, 2001, Galupo et al., 2004, Galupo, 2007) were self-identified as bisexual, it is important to note that it is behavior, not identity that is responsible for the shifting dynamics in the friendship. Specifically the shift occurs when “behav- ior” aligns women with same-sex desire. While the social and political consequences of biphobia have been discussed elsewhere (Fox, 1996; Herek, 2002; Ochs, 1996), this analysis makes clear that even in the realm of close friendships biphobia enacts real and meaningful conse- quences for social interactions. As the role of friendships for sexual mi- nority women have been shown to be related to both identity (Morgan & Thompson, 2006) and relationship development (Rose & Zand, 2000) the implications of friendship choice and experience are far reaching.
  • 44 BISEXUAL WOMEN: FRIENDSHIP AND SOCIAL ORGANIZATION REFERENCES Berger, R. M. (1984). Realities of gay and lesbian aging. Social Work, 29, 57-62. Berger, R. M. (1990). Men together: Understanding the gay couple. Journal of Homo- sexuality, 19, 31-49. Berger, R. M. (1996). Gay and gray: The older homosexual man, 2nd ed. New York: Haworth Press. D’Augelli, A. R. (1989). Lesbian women in a rural helping network: Exploring infor- mal helping resources. Women and Therapy, 8, 119-130. Duck, S. (1991). Understanding relationships. New York: Guilford. Esterberg, K. G. (1997). Lesbian and bisexual identities: Constructing communities, constructing selves. Philadelphia, PA: Temple University Press. Fox, R. C. (1996). Bisexuality in perspective: A review of theory and research. In B. A. Firestein (Ed.). Bisexuality: The psychology and politics of an invisible minority (pp. 3-50). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. Galupo, M. P. (2007). Friendship patterns of sexual minority individuals in adulthood. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 24: 5-17. Galupo, M. P., Sailer, C. A., & St. John, S. C. (2004). Friendships across sexual orien- tations: Experiences of bisexual women in early adulthood. Journal of Bisexuality, 4(1/2), 37-53. Galupo, M. P., & St. John, S. (2001). Benefits of cross-sexual orientation friendships among adolescent females. Journal of Adolescence, 24(1), 83-93. Herek, G. M. (2002). Heterosexuals’ attitudes toward bisexual men and women in the United States. The Journal of Sex Research, 39(4), 264-274. Herek, G. M., & Capitanio, J. P. (1999). Sex differences in how heterosexuals think about lesbians and gay men. Journal of Sex Research, 36(4), 348-360. Katz, J. N. (1995). The invention of heterosexuality. New York: Plume. Lewin, E. (1993). Lesbian mothers: Accounts of gender in American culture. Ithaca: Cornell University Press. Manalansan, M. F. (1996). Double minorities: Latino, black, and Asian men who have sex with men. In R. C. Savin-Williams, K. M. Cohen (Eds.). The lives of lesbians, gays, and bisexuals (pp. 393-415). Orlando: Harcourt Brace. McWhirtner, D. P., & Mattison, A. M. (1984). The male couple: How relationships de- velop. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall. Morgan, E. M., & Thompson, E. M. (2006). Young women’s sexual experiences within same-sex friendships: Discovering and defining bisexual and bi-curious identity. Journal of Bisexuality, 6(3). Nardi, P. M. (1992a). Sex, friendship, and gender roles among gay men. In P. M. Nardi (Ed.), Men’s friendships (pp. 173-185). Newbury Park, CA: Sage Publications. Nardi, P. M. (1992b). That’s what friends are for: Friends as family in the gay and les- bian community. In K. Plummer (Ed.), Modern homosexualities: Fragments of les- bian and gay experience (pp. 108-120). New York: Routledge. Nardi, P. M. (1999). Gay men’s friendships: Invincible communities. Chicago: Chi- cago University Press. O’Boyle, C. G., & Thomas, M. D. (1996). Friendships between lesbian and heterosex- ual women. In J.S. Weinstock & E.D. Rothblum (Eds.), Lesbian friendships. New York: New York University Press.
  • Research Perspectives on Bisexual Women’s Friendships 45 Ochs, R. (1996). Biphobia: It goes more than two ways. In B. A. Firestein (Ed.), Bisex- uality: The psychology and politics of an invisible minority. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. Price, J. (1999). Navigating Differences: Friendships between gay and straight men. New York: Harrington Press. Raphael, S., & Robinson, M. (1984). The older lesbian: Love relationships and friend- ship patterns. In T. Darty & S. Potter (Eds.), Women-identified women (pp. 67-82). Palo Alto: Mayfield. Rawlings, W. K. (1992). Friendship matters: Communication, dialectics, and the life course. New York: Aldine DeGruyter. Rose, S., & Zand, D. (2000). Lesbian dating and courtship from young adulthood to midlife. Journal of Lesbian Studies, 6(1), 85-109. Rust, P. C. (1995) Bisexuality and the challenge to lesbian politics: Sex, loyalty and revolution. New York: New York University Press. Rust, P. C. (2000). Bisexuality: A contemporary paradox for women. Journal of Social Issues, 56(2), 205-221. Savin-Williams, R. C. (1996). Ethnic- and sexual-minority youth. In R. C. Savin-Wil- liams, K. M Cohen (Eds). The lives of lesbians, gays, and bisexuals (pp. 152-165). Orlando, FL: Harcourt Brace. Stanley, J. L. (1996). The lesbian’s experience of friendship. In J. S. Weinstock & E. D. Rothblum (Eds.), Lesbian friendships (pp. 39-59). New York: New York Univer- sity Press. Tillman-Healy, L. M. (2001). Between gay and straight: Understanding friendship across sexual orientation. Rowman and Littlefield Press. Weinstock, J. S. (1998). Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender friendships in adult- hood. In C. J. Patterson and A. R. D’Augelli (Eds.), Lesbian, gay, and bisexual iden- tities in families: Psychological perspectives (pp. 122-155). London: Oxford University Press. Weston, K. (1991). Families we choose: Lesbians, gays, kinship. New York: Columbia University Press.
  • Girl Friend or Girlfriend?: Same-Sex Friendship and Bisexual Images as a Context for Flexible Sexual Identity Among Young Women Elisabeth Morgan Thompson
  • Available online at http://jb.haworthpress.com © 2006 by The Haworth Press, Inc. All rights reserved. doi:10.1300/J159v06n03_04 [Haworth co-indexing entry note]: “Girl Friend or Girlfriend?: Same-Sex Friendship and Bisexual Images as a Context for Flexible Sexual Identity Among Young Women.” Thompson, Elisabeth Morgan. Co-published simultaneously in Journal of Bisexuality (Harrington Park Press, an imprint of The Haworth Press, Inc.) Vol. 6, No. 3, 2006, pp. 47-67; and: Bisexual Women: Friendship and Social Organization (ed: M. Paz Galupo) Har- rington Park Press, an imprint of The Haworth Press, Inc., 2006, pp. 47-67. Single or multiple copies of this article are available for a fee from The Haworth Document Delivery Service [1-800-HAWORTH, 9:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m. (EST). E-mail address: docdelivery@haworthpress.com].
  • Research Perspectives on Bisexual Women’s Friendships 49 SUMMARY. Diamond (2000a, 2002) has demonstrated that young women have deep and intense same-sex “passionate friendships” while in adolescence. Young women’s friendships are often more physically and emotionally intimate than young men’s friendships and can result in feelings and behaviors that often resemble (heterosexual) romantic rela- tionships (Diamond, 2002; Griffin, 2002; Reis, 1998). Additionally, re- cent shifts in popular culture have produced an increase in images of female same-sex desire in the media and sexual experimentation with female friends. In this paper, I address these bisexual images in the me- dia and emotionally intense (and sometimes sexual) same-sex friend- ships as creating a context for the questioning process of some young women who may ultimately experience flexibility in their sexual identity. [Article copies available for a fee from The Haworth Document Delivery Service: 1-800-HAWORTH. E-mail address: <docdelivery@haworthpress.com> Website: <http://www.HaworthPress.com> © 2006 by The Haworth Press, Inc. All rights reserved.] KEYWORDS. Bisexuality, sexual flexibility, sexual identity, popular culture, friendship Recent literature has characterized young women’s friendships as not much different from (heterosexual) romantic relationships. Specifi- cally, young women’s friendships are characterized by companionship, preoccupation, jealousy, exclusivity, inseparability, and physical affec- tion (Berndt, 1982; Diamond, 2000a, 2002; Griffin, 2000, 2002; Hussong, 2000). Though physical affection is often seen (and not dis- couraged) between female friends, it is rarely mistaken for sexual de- sire. In this paper, I begin by discussing the intimate, passionate, and affectionate nature of young women’s friendships and how they overlap with literature on (heterosexual) romantic relationships. Secondly, I ar- gue that the missing link between friendship and romance in young women’s relationships, sexual desire, is more likely to surface given re- cent shifts in popular culture. In particular, shifts in popular culture are marked by increased images of same-sex desire in the media and greater amounts of sexual experimentation between young women at an earlier age. These images and experiences, coupled with the intense and pas- sionate qualities of young women’s friendships, have implications for the sexual orientation questioning process, and specifically flexible sexual identity development in young women.
  • 50 BISEXUAL WOMEN: FRIENDSHIP AND SOCIAL ORGANIZATION YOUNG WOMEN’S FRIENDSHIPS Psychological research tells us that same-sex friendships make up the majority of adolescents’ social networks (Diamond & Dubé, 2002) and young women’s friendships are very different than young men’s friend- ships (Azmitia, Kamprath, & Linnet, 1998; Berndt, 1982; Hussong, 2000; Salas & Ketzenberger, 2004). Specifically, the kind of intimacy that often characterizes young women’s friendships is not considered socially appropriate between young men. Therefore, young women’s friendships contain certain qualities, which deserve specific research at- tention, especially as they relate to sexual development and sexual identity formation. Researchers have found that young women’s friendships, compared to young men’s friendships, exhibit greater intimacy (Berndt, 1982; Reis, 1998; Salas & Ketzenberger, 2004), fragility (Benenson & Christakos, 2003) and exclusivity (Berndt; Savin-Williams & Berndt, 1990). Young women’s friendships also provide self-esteem enhance- ment (Way, Cowal, Gingold, Pahl, & Bissessar, 2001) and companion- ship (Hussong, 2000). They are often focused on similarity (Berndt; Brooks-Gunn, Warren, Samelson, & Fox, 1986; Duck, 1975); that is, young women not only form friendships on the basis of similarity to one another, but also are later influenced into similar attitudes and interests. Intimacy (Connolly, Craig, Goldberg, & Pepler, 1999; Feiring, 1996; Salas & Ketzenberger), fragility (Rinaldi & Gragnani, 1998), exclusiv- ity (Baxter & Bullis, 1986; Baxter & Pittman, 2001), companionship (Feiring; Felmlee, 2001; Shulman & Kipnis, 2001), and similarity (Hendrick, Hendrick, & Adler, 1988; Neyer & Voigt, 2004; Van Horn et al., 1997) are also characteristic of romantic relationships. In fact, many of the affiliation processes central to romantic relationships are learned through friendships (Furman, 1999). “Passionate” Friendships It has been explicitly suggested that the intensity of young women’s friendships is similar in many ways to adolescent sexual-romantic rela- tionships (Diamond, 2000a, 2002; Griffin, 2000, 2002). These re- searchers suggest that the following characteristics of young women’s friendships overlap with (heterosexual) romantic relationships: preoc- cupation, expressions of lifelong devotion, jealousy, fears of betrayal, inseparability and separation anxiety, and physical affection, such as
  • Research Perspectives on Bisexual Women’s Friendships 51 cuddling, sitting on each other’s laps, sleeping in the same bed, and hand holding. Diamond’s (2000a) study with 80 self-identified sexual-minority (34 lesbian, 26 bisexual, 20 unlabeled) women between the ages of 18 and 25 “assess[ed] the extent to which a participant’s most intense adoles- cent friendship . . . contained feelings and behaviors related to attach- ment” (p. 197). Diamond (2000a) asked her participants to indicate whether or not they had a platonic friendship growing up that was simi- lar in emotional intensity to a romantic relationship. Eighty-seven per- cent of the young women in her study indicated that they had, and the majority of these young women (80%) were referring to a same-sex friendship. In a follow-up study, Diamond (2002) discussed how many of these friendships between young women were barely distinguishable from romantic love. One participant said: It’s like having a girlfriend without knowing it. We spent 100% of our time together–my other friends used to call her “the Queen” because they knew I wouldn’t go anywhere without her. We used to sit on each other’s laps, sleep in the same bed and stuff. Some- times it freaked me out how intense it was, and the amount of physical closeness. (p. 8) As exemplified above, Diamond’s (2002) participants reported being overly possessive of and preoccupied with their friend’s time and atten- tion, behavior and appearance. Additionally, young women reported experiencing a physical closeness that was incomparable to other friendships, as the description above is “typical” of reports of physical affection between friends. Examples of physical affection between same-sex friends reported in Diamond’s (2002) interviews included sleeping together in the same bed, sitting on each other’s laps, rubbing each other’s backs, playing with each other’s hair, cuddling side-to-side and face-to-face, gazing into each other’s eyes, and holding hands. Young women’s same-sex friendships provide a rich soil for the ex- ploration and growth of same-sex relationships (Dempsey, Hillier, & Harrison, 2001). Girls and women are socialized to privilege the emo- tional and affectionate (not sexual) components of a relationship (Fine, 1988), and these emotional and affectionate components are often pres- ent and integral to girls’ friendships. This can result in very close and in- tense relationships between girls/women and can blur the boundary between romance and friendship. For example, Rose and Zand (2002) found that the majority of their lesbian sample not only preferred but
  • 52 BISEXUAL WOMEN: FRIENDSHIP AND SOCIAL ORGANIZATION frequently enacted a “friendship” script (over both a “romance” and “sexual” script) when initiating a romantic-sexual relationship. The “friendship” script emphasized emotional intimacy and was character- ized by being friends first before falling in love. Similarly, Dempsey et al. suggest that women’s same-sex friendships make sense as a site for same-sex explorations because the emotional and relational components are congruent with women’s notions of sexuality. Dempsey et al.’s (2001), Diamond’s (2000a, 2002), and Rose and Zand’s (2002) studies are important in that they provide evidence that young women’s friendships ultimately possess many attachment and affiliation qualities perceived in the literature to be exclusive to (hetero- sexual) romantic relationships. While these studies particularly address the same-sex friendships of sexual-minority women, these qualities have been found to be present in girls’ friendships in general. In fact, many of the women in Diamond’s (2000a, 2002) studies reported expe- riencing “passionate” friendships before they began questioning their sexual identities, had same-sex sexual attractions and experiences, and/or even identified as sexual minorities. Therefore, it cannot be ar- gued that “passionate” friendships only take place among sexual-mi- nority women, because most women start out thinking they are heterosexual and do not identify as a sexual minority until after these in- tense childhood and adolescent friendships occur. Hence, it should be clear that young women’s friendships, especially “passionate” ones (re- gardless of later sexual identification), provide practice with interac- tions that are typically exclusive to romantic partners. Therefore, I would argue that these deep, intense, and emotional (and sometimes sexual) same-sex friendships open these women up to unexpected experiences that conflate love, romance, friendship, and sexuality. Even though there are many characteristics present in young women’s friendships that blur the boundaries between friendship and romance, there is one major component that is overwhelmingly miss- ing, distinguishing them from traditional romantic relationships, and that is sexual desire and/or sexual activity (Diamond, 2000a, 2002, 2003b, 2004; Rose & Zand, 2002; see Lamb, 2004 for an exception). In fact, Diamond (2002) noted that participants were quick to defend the intensity and passion in their close friendships as having no necessary underlying sexual motivation. Likewise, the majority of lesbians (68%) in Rose and Zand’s study ascribed to this distinction, in that they clearly cited sexual energy and contact as the main feature that moves a rela- tionship from friendly to romantic. In the next section, I suggest that re-
  • Research Perspectives on Bisexual Women’s Friendships 53 cent shifts in popular culture will continue to help bridge the disconnect between friendship and romance for many young women. RECENT SHIFTS IN POPULAR CULTURE Shifts in popular culture, relevant to sexual-minority visibility, are important to note, as sexual-minority children and adolescents today are growing up in a much different society than those several decades ago (Diamond, 2000b). Specifically, there are now more spaces both in school and in the community where sexual-minority issues are being discussed (DeZolt & Henning-Stout, 1999; Petrovic & Ballard, 2005). And while the societal and familial taboos for stepping outside rigid gender and (hetero)sexual roles are still in place, the recent influx of sexual-minority visibility in the media, while highly stereotypical and often unjust, fosters a “pseudo-supportive” atmosphere. “Bisexual Chic” in Popular Culture This “pseudo-supportive” atmosphere is most obvious in portrayals of same-sex sexual contact between women. Whether two women are ripping each other’s clothes off and fighting in a park water fountain over why they like Miller Lite™ or they are kissing each other on Howard Stern and Music Television (MTV), “experimental” same-sex affection between women, primarily for the purpose of the male gaze, has become a trend in recent years. In 2003, in-your-face girl-on-girl ac- tion was practically the norm, especially on MTV, a television station whose primary viewing audience is adolescent boys and girls. At the MTV Movie Awards in February of 2003, a girl band, named t.A.t.U, flooded the stage in panties and tank tops, while professing their love for one another and kissing each other on stage. During this perfor- mance, they sang lyrics from “All the Things She Said” (MTV, 2003a): When they stop and stare don’t worrying me ’Cause I’m feeling for her what she’s feeling for me I can try to pretend, I can try to forget But it’s driving me mad Going out of my head. While some have discussed this display of affection as commercially driven and not “authentic” (Diamond, 2005b), the commercial appeal is
  • 54 BISEXUAL WOMEN: FRIENDSHIP AND SOCIAL ORGANIZATION undeniable. While MTV and t.A.t.U certainly outraged parents and sur- prised young women (and excited young men) with this display, no one was prepared for the revolution that happened only six months later. When Britney Spears and Madonna (and quickly forgotten Christina Aguilera) kissed on the MTV Video Music Awards in August (MTV, 2003b; Warn, 2003c), the story was all over the news; conservatives were predicting “the end of the world as we know it,” and young women were saying “goodbye” to their obviously “not that innocent” role model and “hello” to their own questions concerning the fluidity of their sexuality. According to Warn (2003a), proclaiming oneself “bi” in Hollywood is a new trend. Over the past few years, “reality” shows on both network and cable television (starting with The Real World on MTV) have been a “safe space” for same-sex sexual desire, particularly between women. And during this past year, there have been at least three teen-focused dramas where same-sex affection occurred between staple female char- acters, in the form of kissing, causing a questioning of one’s sexuality. These shows also boasted recurring bisexual female characters, Alex on The OC (Warn, 2005b), Anna on One Tree Hill (Warn, 2005a), and Ashley on South of Nowhere (Lo, 2005). In the recent episode of Grey’s Anatomy that was aired immediately after Superbowl XL, the opening scene showed three primary female characters, Christina, Meredith, and Isabelle, who happen to be hospital interns, playing up their desire for one another in a naked shower scene. Even though this was ultimately a dream one of the male interns (George) was having, it was still an expression of same-sex desire among women. Interestingly, because of the timing of this episode, 15 million more viewers watched it and there was no known controversy despite its larger, and likely wider, viewing market. In each of these examples–The OC, One Tree Hill and Grey’s Anatomy–the female characters involved either ultimately relinquish their bi-curiosity/bi- sexuality, specifically through emphasizing their “true” desire for men, or are taken off the show (see South of Nowhere for an excep- tion). Likewise, celebrities like Madonna, Britney Spears, and Chris- tina Aguilera capitalize on their heterosexual privilege by claiming their actions as a “performance” or “show” and return to their lives with their boyfriends/husbands. For two reasons, I only include instances of what I consider “bisex- ual” visibility in mainstream media. First, exposure to the images of same-sex desire between women that I discuss is far-extending, as they are available on regular network or basic cable television channels, and
  • Research Perspectives on Bisexual Women’s Friendships 55 can be seen at all times during the day, especially prime-time hours. Second, exposure to these images is less intrusive, meaning they are usually one of several storylines or events that co-exist, and the visi- bility of same-sex experiences and relationships is not the end goal. I do not address bisexual women’s visibility within lesbian-gay media (e.g., The L Word), primarily because access to lesbian-gay media is not available as widely. Specifically, these images are typically avail- able on premium channels (e.g., HBO, Showtime) or in independent film festivals/sections. However, now that earlier seasons of shows like Queer as Folk and The L Word are available on DVD, a wider audience will likely enjoy them. As a result, I would argue that exposure to any readily available images of desire between women will similarly spark curiosity and flexibility in those women who watch if curiosity and flex- ibility is not already present. These are just a few media images of expressions of female same-sex desire as “chic,” but exposure is not limited to these scattered examples. In fact, the reason Grey’s Anatomy likely did not spark any controversy could be due to the fact that expressions of same-sex desire between women have become so normalized (and, more importantly, are part of heterosexual male fantasy). While often commercially driven, these im- ages in popular media are important, because young women are regu- larly witnessing active sexual desire between women (Warn, 2003b). And while these shifts are certainly de-politicizing and making same-sex desire “chic” (Diamond, 2005b), I argue that the mere visibil- ity of these relationships will likely result in increased same-sex sexual experimentation with young women at an earlier age. Young women exposed to mainstream media outlets are seeing ex- pressions of same-sex desire between women much more frequently than ever before. However, mainstream images of same-sex desire be- tween women are very specific, meaning they are often of hyper-femi- nine women (“lipstick lesbians”). Explicit images among attractive, feminine, “heterosexual-looking” women in particular cater to hetero- sexual male fantasy (Diamond, 2005b). The power of this fantasy and the (heterosexual) male-dominated nature of mainstream media, cou- pled with more rigidity associated with male sexuality and masculinity, results in fewer popular images of same-sex desire among men. The greater fluidity and allowance for disconnect across feminine sexuality that characterizes these images of same-sex desire can be documented through the fact that these experiences do not, in most cases, lead to ex- clusive same-sex sexual activity or an exclusive lesbian identity. In con- trast, homo-/bi-sexuality in men is viewed as more stable and inherent
  • 56 BISEXUAL WOMEN: FRIENDSHIP AND SOCIAL ORGANIZATION than in women (Baumeister, 2000; Henderson, 1984; Kinnish, Strassberg, & Turner, 2005), so images of same-sex desire between women are less threatening so long as they are viewed as purely “exper- imental” or dictated by heterosexual men’s desire. As a result, I label these images “bisexual” at most, rather than “lesbian,” because those women who are performing and/or exploring are also clear about their continued sexual availability to men. If these images were clearly understood as “lesbian,” they would limit the male gaze/fantasy. While certainly a desired goal when negoti- ating a male-dominated, female-objectified media, these images would less likely be readily available if labeled “lesbian.” While some would argue that they would rather not see any images of same-sex desire if they must be objectifying, this is a difficult quandary feminists have found themselves in for years (Diamond, 2005b). I argue here that the mere visibility opens up doors that were not opened before, and while media images often provide a limited and depoliticized experience, it is better than no experience or invisibility. And the effects of this exposure to popular culture images of “bisexuality” are evident in that young women, regardless of the reasons why, are sexually experimenting with same-sex desire and attraction in record numbers (Mosher, Chandra, & Jones, 2005). “Bisexual Chic” in Adolescent Girls’ Relationships Same-sex sexual experimentation is typically considered a “college trend,” especially something young women do (Laumann, Gagnon, Mi- chael, & Michaels, 1994). In fact, there is a popular acronym that char- acterizes young women’s same-sex sexual experimentation in college: “LUG” (“Lesbian until Graduation”). Likewise, it is not uncommon for young women continuing into their twenties and thirties to talk about “girl crushes” (Rosenbloom, 2005), and more recently, sexual experi- mentation has filtered into earlier stages of development (Fox, 1995; Lamb, 2004; Morgan & Thompson, 2006), namely high school. In fact, same-sex sexual experimentation with friends occurred in high school in several of the narratives provided by Morgan and Thompson, pre- sumably because it was ‘the cool thing to do’ (see “Marisol” and “Carol” for examples). According to Malernee (2003), it is not unusual to attend a high school party, all over the nation, and to see adolescent girls making out with other girls, while a group of teenagers, mainly boys, gawk at and encourage the scene. Usually these adolescent girls are friends, best
  • Research Perspectives on Bisexual Women’s Friendships 57 friends, or occasionally random acquaintances, but they are typically engaging in these make-out sessions to execute a dare (see “Marisol,” in Morgan & Thompson, 2006), to gain attention, to appease their boy- friends, or just to “turn boys on.” That is, girls are often beginning to experiment with other girls, under the guise of boys thinking it is “hot.” Regardless of the rationale, this “bisexual chic” (Malernee, 2003) or “heteroflexible” trend (Diamond, 2005b; Essig, 2000; Warn, 2003b) is beginning earlier, and young women’s same-sex sexual ex- perimentation is becoming the norm. Headlines like “US girls embrace gay passion fashion,” “More women experimenting with bisexuality,” and “Everybody wants you when you’re bi” can be viewed as an invalidation of sexual-minority identity. In fact, some bisexual women have expressed concern over what the “bisexual chic” trend means for bisexual identity as a real identity (Bower, Gurevich, & Mathieson, 2002). For example, one participant from Bower et al.’s study of bisexual women said, “I think there’s a whole lot of prevalence and a whole lot of fashion chic and not a lot of acceptance as far as it being a real option. It’s like a play op- tion” (p. 38). Similarly, the fact that cultural constructions of women’s (bi)sexuality are based on heterosexual male fantasy contributes to the erasure of bisexuality as an authentic sexual identity and uneasiness for bisexual women to identify as such. An example of this, A lot of the people that hung around me who said that they were bi- sexual were girls who said it because they knew that a lot of the guys in their circle would be turned on if they thought of two girls together . . . for a long time, I didn’t want to say that I was [bisex- ual] because it was so trendy to do so. (Bower et al., p. 39) Even if catering to a heterosexual male fantasy, it can be argued that sexual activity and sexual desire in young women’s friendships is no longer “missing” (Diamond, 2002; Lamb, 2004; Morgan & Thompson, 2006). In fact, Diamond (2002) proposes that these “bonds between women often provide a critical foundation for experiences of same-sex sexual desire” (p.13). Likewise, Lamb discussed the overwhelming presence of sexual desire and exploration in girls’ childhood friend- ships, despite the fact that many girls were “playing” or “practicing” as if they were kissing boys. This practice, while reinforcing heterosexual norms of desire, simultaneously undermines them by “creating a space for same-sex desire and same-sex sexual play in the lives of young girls” (p. 378). As a result, then, the combination of the emotional inten-
  • 58 BISEXUAL WOMEN: FRIENDSHIP AND SOCIAL ORGANIZATION sity of young women’s friendships and same-sex sexual “experimenta- tion” (as a result of “practicing” heterosexuality, modeling popular culture norms or appeasing the boys) can not only lead to increased same-sex sexual desire, but can even go a step further in contributing to an initial questioning of or flexibility in one’s sexual identity. SEXUAL IDENTITY DEVELOPMENT Questioning Heterosexuality Because heterosexual identity is the standard, the assumed, the de- fault, in our society, it is not an important identity to those who do not question it. Heterosexual identity is a privileged identity; it is socially sanctioned (Rich, 1980), and all are exposed to and measured against it. It is the questioning of this heterosexual identity where the process of sexual-minority identity development begins for many women (Dia- mond, 1998, 2000b; Rust, 1993; Weinberg, Williams, & Pryor, 1994). The questioning process can occur in several contexts, and Diamond (2003a) broke them down into three categories: environmental facilita- tion (e.g., through taking a women’s studies class, media images, peer pressure), general feelings of same-sex desire, and specific feelings of same-sex desire (e.g., falling in love with a particular woman). Dia- mond (2000a, 2002) suggests, retrospectively, that the intensity, pas- sion and intimacy that uniquely characterize young women’s same-sex friendships have the potential for initiating the questioning process in those same women. Research has shown that young women’s first same-sex attractions are more commonly emotionally based and directed toward close friends (Dempsey et al., 2001; Diamond & Savin-Williams, 2000; Mor- gan & Thompson, 2006; Rose & Zand, 2002; Savin-Williams & Dia- mond, 2000). Diamond (2002), Morgan and Thompson, and Rose and Zand reported that several of the women in their studies ultimately de- veloped romantic relationships with their closest friends, and this was often their first experiences with same-sex sexuality. Diamond (2002) poses that such relationships often accelerate the questioning process, but warns us to recognize that not all women who experience same-sex attraction for, or romantic relationships with, their friends ultimately identify as a sexual minority. For example, some participants identified the sexual attraction they felt for their friend as part of the uniqueness of their relationship, but that they have not experienced the same intensity
  • Research Perspectives on Bisexual Women’s Friendships 59 or viewed any of their other same-sex relationships as such. One young woman said, “. . . Right now I only have these feelings for her, and I don’t know if that’ll change. I don’t know if I’m a lesbian. I just know I want to be with her, forever” (p. 12; Diamond, 2002). While the questioning process can occur across several contexts, it is important to note, as evidenced in the excerpt above, that there is no clearly defined relationship between identity and context (Diamond, 2003a, 2005a). More specifically, there are variations within lesbians, bisexual, (non-heterosexual) unlabeled, and heterosexual women in where, when, and if they questioned their sexual identity. For example, Galupo and St. John (2001) cite “questioning” one’s sexual orientation as a benefit that heterosexual women reportedly acquire when involved in close friendships with bisexual and lesbian women. Variations have been noted within sexual identity categories elsewhere in the literature (Amestoy, 2001; Diamond, 2000b; Hoburg, Konik, Williams, & Crawford, 2004; Moore, 2000; Rust, 1993, 2001; Weinberg, Williams, & Pryor, 2001); but important to my argument, variations have been noted between sexual identity categories as well (Kinnish et al., 2005; Rust, 1992, 1993; Zinik, 1985). Flexible Sexualities This variability within and between identity groups speaks to the flexibility that typically characterizes women’s sexuality. Researchers have repeatedly shown that women’s sexuality is more “fluid” or “flexi- ble” than men’s sexuality (Baumeister, 2000; Dempsey et al., 2001; Di- amond, 1998, 2000b; Hoburg et al., 2004; Kinnish et al., 2005; Mosher et al., 2005) and more subject to environmental influences (Diamond, 2003a; Galupo, Sailer, & St. John, 2004; Henderson, 1984; Kinnish et al.). For example, Baumeister found greater flexibility in women’s sex- ual behavior across time, and more inconsistencies between women’s attitudes, attractions, and behavior. Similarly, Kinnish et al. found het- erosexual and lesbian women, in particular, demonstrated greater fluid- ity over time in their self-ratings of same-sex and other-sex sexual fantasies, attractions, and behaviors compared to heterosexual and gay men. An additional finding providing evidence for greater flexibility in women’s sexuality is that one-third of participants (mostly women) shifted their sexual identity label at least once (Kinnish et al.). Greater “flexibility” has also been shown in bisexual (and unlabeled) women in particular (Baumeister; Diamond, 1998, 2000b; Kinnish et al.; Moore,
  • 60 BISEXUAL WOMEN: FRIENDSHIP AND SOCIAL ORGANIZATION 2000), as women are more likely to identify as bisexual (Dempsey et al.; Mosher et al.; Savin-Williams & Diamond, 2000). Bisexual individuals describe their identity formation as a constantly evolving (Weinberg et al., 1994), continuous process (Berenson, 2002), especially during younger ages. In Kinnish et al.’s (2005) study, bisex- ual individuals reported some of the highest change scores in sexual fantasy, attractions, and behaviors across the lifespan. Zinik (1985) proposes that bisexual individuals, by definition, possess a certain amount of cognitive and interpersonal flexibility. Beginning with con- fusion and ending with uncertainty around identity, Weinberg et al. (1994) suggest that bisexual individuals face unique challenges be- cause of this flexibility. Even when identity is settled for bisexuals, es- pecially as age increases, actual sexual behavior and attraction are not always consistent with this identity label (Weinberg et al., 2001), fur- thering the notion that bisexuality does not neatly fit into popular no- tions of a dichotomous sexuality. That sexually dichotomous thinking does not work for bisexuals is especially evident for women as seen in Berenson’s (2002) study of bi- sexual women. Berenson reported that the women in her study viewed bisexuality as a place of resistance to dichotomous sexuality and iden- tity categories. Bisexual identity was more about refusing to exclude possible variations, not wanting to de-legitimate anyone’s experience, and resisting boundaries around the bisexual category. For these women, a “continuum narrative” felt most appropriate, as it provided a “fluid and relatively unrestrained place to locate the self” (p. 17). Like- wise, this continuum resulted in unclear rules for membership in the bi- sexual category, which ultimately provided a place where women with more flexible (and not necessarily “bisexual”) sexual identities could co-exist. This erasure of bisexuality due to rigid dichotomies was also seen in Galupo et al.’s (2004) study of 14 cross-sexual orientation friendship pairs. The bisexual-heterosexual friendship pairs were less likely than the lesbian-heterosexual pairs to cite sexual orientation identity as a point of difference, because of an emphasis on their shared sexual desire for men. It was only when the bisexual women in this study were part- nered with another woman that their bisexuality became visible. One in- teresting finding from Galupo et al.’s study was that bisexual women do not typically have other bisexual women friends. Therefore, their first same-sex sexual experiences likely occur across sexual orientation. Be- cause these sexual experiences between friends often occur before sex- ual orientation identity is settled, there is an emphasis placed on
  • Research Perspectives on Bisexual Women’s Friendships 61 similarity through discussions of desire for men, especially for hetero- sexual-bisexual friendship pairs. Same-sex experiences when blan- keted by heterosexual desire can lead to close friendships between bisexual and heterosexual women. This perceived emphasis on simi- larity could open doors for flexibility, such that the benefits of cross-sexual orientation friendships that heterosexuals reported in- cluded a redefinition of sexuality as not dichotomous and an increased flexibility in understanding their own personal sexual identity (Galupo & St. John, 2001). In this paper, I argue that exposure to popular culture images of bi- sexuality and the intensity that characterizes girls’ friendships likely contribute to women’s greater flexibility in sexual identity. This is evi- dent in the greater number of reported “unlabeled” or “something else,” non-heterosexual sexual identities (Dempsey et al., 2001; Diamond, 2000b, 2003a; Mosher et al., 2005). Furthermore, it could be argued that these images and friendship experiences could account for the recent in- crease in bisexual identity in women in particular. Specifically, in Mosher et al.’s national report for the CDC, rates of bisexual identity and bisexual activity in women, especially young women, have in- creased over the past ten years. In 1992, for example, only .5% of women aged 18-44 identified as bisexual while this figure increased to 2.8% in 2002. Interestingly, too, 18 and 19-year-old women reported the highest rates bisexual identity (7.4%). This was the highest non-het- erosexual identity reported across all gender and age groups. Similarly, trendy or not, same-sex sexual attraction and behavior among women has markedly increased, as evidenced by women’s same-sex sexual contact rising from 4.1% in 1992 to 11.2% in 2002 (Mosher et al.). Bower et al.’s (2002) study of bisexual women provides an interest- ing contrast to the discussion of Berenson (2002) earlier in that their participants provided stories that rejected the “trendy” and “experimen- tal” cultural constructions of bisexuality, resulting in narrower borders around the bisexual identity category. Regardless, the bisexual label for young women in particular has become comfortable, indeed trendy in re- cent years. In fact, newer and safer alternatives to bisexuality, “bi-curios- ity” and even “heteroflexibility” (Essig, 2000), allow women to keep their hetero-label, while simultaneously experimenting with same-sex attractions and desires. These new labels contribute to the unique prob- lem posed by attempting to explain and understand the experiences of women who report both same- and other-sex desire and/or sexual con- tact in the face of dichotomous views of sexuality (Diamond & Savin-Williams, 2000; Hoburg et al., 2004).
  • 62 BISEXUAL WOMEN: FRIENDSHIP AND SOCIAL ORGANIZATION Understanding young women who traverse into multiple sexual identities over time, or who remain grounded in one identity but are in- consistent in behavior is important to the study of currently con- structed sexualities. Specifically, when same-sex attractions in women are reported, while stable (Diamond, 2000b), they are rarely exclusive (Diamond, 1998; Mosher et al., 2005; Rust, 2001). Hence, closer examinations of contributors to bisexual and flexible sexual iden- tities, and more inclusive flexible sexual identity models are necessary to be able to address women’s real experiences. FUTURE DIRECTIONS Flexibility, fluidity, and inconsistency between identity, attraction, and behavior need to be examined in greater detail. Likewise, more con- tinuous models of sexual identity need to be developed and acknowl- edged. Current conceptions of flexibility in sexual identity began with measures that were designed to tap into the continuum of sexual orienta- tion (Kinsey, Pomeroy, & Martin, 1948). More recently, these measures have been expanded to include various dimensions that comprise sexual orientation identity (e.g., attraction, behavior, identity) (Hoburg et al., 2004; Kinnish et al., 2005; Klein, Sepekoff, & Wolf, 1985). As sexual flexibility is conceptualized here in this paper, the Klein Sexual Orien- tation Grid (SOG) (Klein et al., 1985; see also adapted version by Moore, 2000) may provide the best assessment from existing measures, as it focuses on seven different aspects of sexual orientation identity (in- cluding attraction, fantasy, behavior, and identity) at three different points in one’s life (past, present, and ideal). One aspect that the Klein SOG includes is emotional preference, which could ultimately tap into the prevalence or desire for intense same-sex friendships. However, no measures to date have explicitly ad- dressed the effects of images of same-sex desire in popular culture on sexual flexibility. As a result, future research could include focus group discussions and interviews, where recent shifts in popular culture (ei- ther images or social experiences) could be examined in relation to the perceived contributions they have made to flexible sexual identity in women in particular. Research aimed at establishing causal relation- ships between these variables is especially encouraged. For example, longitudinal designs could focus on identifying the impact of various socializing influences and major popular culture shifts on sexual iden- tity development. Future studies could also utilize experimental manip-
  • Research Perspectives on Bisexual Women’s Friendships 63 ulations of popular culture images of female same-sex desire and subsequently assess various related outcomes, like pre- and post-mea- sures of sexual flexibility, and attitudes toward sexual minorities (adapting measures to include multiple points on the sexual contin- uum like “bi-curious,” “mostly straight,” “bisexual,” etc.). Because not all women are the same and come from varied ethnic, class, reli- gious, and sexual backgrounds, it is imperative to not only sample widely from diverse populations, but also to develop culturally sensi- tive measures that are better able to assess and understand experiences (e.g., those who are not “out”; those who have not “realized” their same-sex attractions; those who are socially and sexually oppressed) not typically represented in psychological research. Because women “appear more likely to exhibit situational and envi- ronmental plasticity in sexual attractions, behavior and identification” (Diamond, 2005a, p. 119), it is very likely that the current context in which young women are being exposed will contribute to a flexibility in sexual identity. It is this flexibility, this fluidity, this dual attraction (Weinberg et al., 1994) that characterizes many young women’s experi- ences that permits me to assert that intense same-sex friendships and re- cent shifts in popular culture have specific implications for flexible sexual identity development in women. It is important to examine the intensity of girls’ friendships, contem- porary shifts in popular culture, and the ability for “flexibility” in young women’s sexuality as major contributors to sexual identity develop- ment. It is imperative to identify and begin to explore multiple precur- sors to sexual identity development, as same-sex sexual desire and experimentation, either through peer pressure, media exposure, or just the changing of the times, is beginning at earlier ages than before. By acknowledging that there is the potential for experimentation to begin earlier, and by understanding that sexual desire and contact (no matter what kind) can ultimately result in a confusing identity formation pro- cess, we will begin to provide safer spaces for understanding oneself and one’s sexuality in relation to others. REFERENCES Amestoy, M. M. (2001). Research on sexual orientation labels’ relationship to behav- iors and desires. Journal of Bisexuality, 1(4), 91-113. Azmitia, M., Kamprath, N., & Linnet, J. (1998). Intimacy and conflict: On the dynam- ics of boys’ and girls’ friendships during middle childhood and adolescence. In L.
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  • 66 BISEXUAL WOMEN: FRIENDSHIP AND SOCIAL ORGANIZATION Kinnish, K. K., Strassberg, D. S., & Turner, C. W. (2005). Sex differences in the flexi- bility of sexual orientation: A multidimensional retrospective assessment. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 34, 173-183. Kinsey, A. C., Pomeroy, W. B., & Martin, C. E. (1948). Sexual behavior in the human male. Philadelphia: W. B. Saunders. Klein, F., Sepekoff, B., & Wolf, T. (1985). Sexual orientation: A multivariate dynamic process. Journal of Homosexuality, 11, 35-49. Lamb, S. (2004). Sexual tension in girls’ friendships. Feminism & Psychology, 14, 376-382. Laumann, E. O., Gagnon, J. H., Michael, R. T., & Michaels, F. (1994). The social orga- nization of sexuality: Sexual practices in the United States. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Lo, M. (2005, December). 2005 year in review: Lesbian and bisexual women on TV. Retrieved on February 18, 2006, from http://www.afterellen.com/TV/2005/ 12/2005.html Malernee, J. (2003, December 30). South Florida teen girls discovering ‘bisexual chic’ trend [Electronic version]. Sun Sentinel. Retrieved on December 30, 2003, from www.sun-sentinel.com/ Moore, D. L. (2000). Empirical investigation of the conflict and flexibility models of bisexuality (Doctoral dissertation, Georgia State University, 1999). Dissertation Abstracts International, 61, 1645. Morgan, E. M., & Thompson, E. M. (2006). Young women’s sexual experiences within same-sex friendships: Discovering and defining bisexual and bi-curious identity. Journal of Bisexuality, 6(3/4), 7-34. Mosher, W. D., Chandra, A., & Jones, J. (2005). Sexual behavior and selected health measures: Men and women 15-44 years of age. United States, 2002. Advance Data from Vital and Health Statistics, 362, 1-56. MTV. (2003a). MTV Movie Awards. Retrieved on February 29, 2004, from http://www.mtv.com /onair/movieawards/ma03/ MTV. (2003b). MTV Video Music Awards. Retrieved on February 29, 2004, from http://www.mtv.com/onair/vma/2003/ Neyer, F. J., & Voigt, D. (2004). Personality and social network effects on romantic re- lationships: A dyadic approach. European Journal of Personality, 18, 279-299. Petrovic, J. E., & Ballard, R. M. (2005). Unstraightening the ideal girl: Lesbians, high school, and spaces to be. In P. J. Bettis & N. G. Adams (Eds.), Geographies of girl- hood: Identities in between (pp. 195-209). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Asso- ciates. Reis, H. T. (1998). Gender differences in intimacy and related behaviors: Context and process. In D. L. Canary & K. Dindia (Eds.), Sex differences and similarities in communication (pp. 203-231). Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum. Rich, A. (1980). Compulsory heterosexuality and lesbian existence. Signs, 5, 631-660. Rinaldi, S., & Gragnani, A. (1998). Love dynamics between secure individuals: A modeling approach. Nonlinear Dynamics, Psychology, & Life Sciences, 2, 283-301. Rose, S. M., & Zand, D. (2002). Lesbian dating and courtship from young adulthood to midlife. Journal of Lesbian Studies, 6(1), 85-109.
  • Research Perspectives on Bisexual Women’s Friendships 67 Rosenbloom, S. (2005, August 20). Cool, Smart, Pretty–It Must be a Girl Crush. Re- trieved on August 26, 2005, from http://www.orlandosentinel.com/features/orl- crush2005aug20,0,4393173.story?coll = orl-shopping-headlines Rust, P. C. (1992). The politics of sexual identity: Sexual attraction and behavior among lesbian and bisexual women. Social Problems, 39, 366-386. Rust, P. C. (1993). “Coming out” in the age of social constructionism: Sexual identity formation among lesbian and bisexual women. Gender & Society, 7, 50-77. Rust, P. C. (2001). Two many and not enough: The meanings of bisexual identities. Journal of Bisexuality, 1(1), 31-68. Salas, D., & Ketzenberger, K. E. (2004). Associations of sex and type of relationship on intimacy. Psychological Reports, 94, 1322-1324. Savin-Williams, R. C., & Berndt, T. J. (1990). Friendship and peer relations. In S. S. Feldman & G. R. Elliot (Eds.), At the threshold: The developing adolescent (pp. 277-307). Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Savin-Williams, R. C., & Diamond, L. M. (2000). Sexual identity trajectories among sexual-minority youths: Gender comparisons. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 29, 607-627. Shulman, S., & Kipnis, O. (2001). Adolescent romantic relationships: A look from the future. Journal of Adolescence, 24, 337-351. Van Horn, K. R., Arnone, A., Nesbitt, K., Desilets, L., Sears, T., & Giffin, M., et al. (1997). Physical distance and interpersonal characteristics in college students’ ro- mantic relationships. Personal Relationships, 4, 25-34. Warn, S. (2003a, July). Bi with a boyfriend: The latest Hollywood trend. Retrieved on August 26, 2005, from http://www.afterellen.com/People/bicelebs.html Warn, S. (2003b, August). Ally McBeal, heteroflexibility, and lesbian visibility. Re- trieved on August, 26, 2005, from http://www.afterellen.com/TV/allymcbeal– print.html Warn, S. (2003c, September). VMA’s Madonna-Britney-Christina kiss: Progress or publicity stunt? Retrieved on August, 26, 2005, from http://www.afterellen. com/TV/vmakiss.html Warn, S. (2005a, January). One Tree Hill’s Anna: Yep, she’s bisexual. Retrieved on August 26, 2005, from http://www.afterellen.com/TV/2005/1/onetreehill.html Warn, S. (2005b, January). The O.C.’s Alex boosts bisexual visibility on TV. Retrieved on August 26, 2005, from http://www.afterellen.com/TV/2005/1/theoc.html Way, N., Cowal, K., Gingold, R., Pahl, K., & Bissessar, N. (2001). Friendship patterns among African American, Asian American, and Latino adolescents from low-in- come families. Journal of Social & Personal Relationships, 18, 29-53. Weinberg, M. S., Williams, C. J., & Pryor, D. W. (1994). Dual attraction: Understand- ing bisexuality. New York, NY: Oxford University Press. Weinberg, M. S., Williams, C. J., & Pryor, D. W. (2001). Bisexuals at midlife: Com- mitment, salience, and identity. Journal of Contemporary Ethnography, 30, 180-208. Zinik, G. (1985). Identity conflict or adaptive flexibility? Bisexuality reconsidered. Journal of Homosexuality, 11, 7-19.
  • Challenge and Promise: The Study of Bisexual Women’s Friendships Julie R. Arseneau Ruth E. Fassinger
  • Available online at http://jb.haworthpress.com © 2006 by The Haworth Press, Inc. All rights reserved. doi:10.1300/J159v06n03_05 [Haworth co-indexing entry note]: “Challenge and Promise: The Study of Bisexual Women’s Friend- ships.” Arseneau, Julie R., and Ruth E. Fassinger. Co-published simultaneously in Journal of Bisexuality (Harrington Park Press, an imprint of The Haworth Press, Inc.) Vol. 6, No. 3, 2006, pp. 69-90; and: Bisexual Women: Friendship and Social Organization (ed: M. Paz Galupo) Harrington Park Press, an imprint of The Haworth Press, Inc., 2006, pp. 69-90. Single or multiple copies of this article are available for a fee from The Haworth Document Delivery Service [1-800-HAWORTH, 9:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m. (EST). E-mail address: docdelivery@haworthpress.com].
  • Research Perspectives on Bisexual Women’s Friendships 71 SUMMARY. The friendships of women and sexual minorities are widely recognized as principal relationships that provide significant so- cial and psychological benefits, yet the friendships of bisexual women have garnered little scholarly attention to date. This article articulates some of the unique conceptual and methodological challenges associ- ated with the study of bisexual women’s friendships, many of which can be located in the sociocultural constructs which circumscribe the topic (i.e., “bisexual,” “women,” and “friendship”). The article also highlights some ways in which current research has attempted to navigate these challenges, as well as promising directions for future theoretical and em- pirical work in this domain. [Article copies available for a fee from The Haworth Document Delivery Service: 1-800-HAWORTH. E-mail address: <docdelivery@haworthpress.com> Website: <http://www.HaworthPress. com> © 2006 by The Haworth Press, Inc. All rights reserved.] KEYWORDS. Bisexuality, sexual identity, friendship, sexual orienta- tion, women’s friendships In the psychological literature on close interpersonal relationships, friendships traditionally have been viewed as an important form of so- cial support. Social support repeatedly has been demonstrated to have positive effects on mental health, such as increased self esteem and overall life satisfaction, and protection against the harmful effects of stress (Cohen & Wills, 1985). For individual members of marginalized groups, social support may additionally buffer against the negative ef- fects of oppression, such as racism and ageism (Smith, 1985). Sexual minority individuals in particular may rely on social support when other types of support, such as familial or institutional support, are limited by heteronormative or homonegative attitudes, behaviors, and policies (e.g., assumptions of a heterosexual orientation, alienation from the family of origin, exclusion from religious communities, lack of govern- mental recognition of same-sex marriage). Among gay men and lesbi- ans, higher levels of social support have been linked to positive outcomes such as psychological adjustment, relationship quality, and the development and maintenance of a positive gay or lesbian identity (Kurdek, 1998; Smith & Brown, 1997). While heteronormativity poses considerable social, psychological, and physical threat to all sexual minority people, bisexually-identified individuals additionally are confronted by a noxious bi-negative my-
  • 72 BISEXUAL WOMEN: FRIENDSHIP AND SOCIAL ORGANIZATION thology that results in discrimination by lesbians and gay men as well as heterosexuals (Fox, 1995; Herek, 2002; Rust, 2000). Common bi-nega- tive attitudes include the beliefs that bisexuality is a transitional orienta- tion en route to a same-sex orientation, that bisexual women and men are in denial about their “true” sexual orientation, that bisexual individ- uals are sexually overactive, and that bisexual people purposefully es- chew self-labeling as gay or lesbian in order to reap the benefits of heterosexual privilege. These beliefs contribute to alienation of and discrimination against bisexual individuals within both heterosexual and sexual minority communities (D’Augelli & Garnets, 1995). Friend- ships therefore may be especially important for bisexual women and may well constitute a significant portion of the social support they expe- rience. For women in particular, friendships have been found to be critically important to health and well-being (Blieszner & Adams, 1992; O’Connor, 1992; Weinstock & Rothblum, 1996). The so-called “rela- tional style” of women has been considered extensively in the literature, from both essentialist (e.g., Taylor et al., 2000) and social constructivist perspectives (e.g., Rose, 2000). The Taylor et al. research, for example, suggests that women’s friendships constitute a critical component of a “tend and befriend” (rather than the commonly presumed “fight or flight”) style of coping triggered by fear and stress, and that women’s friendships actually buttress their physiological responses to stress. It has been demonstrated that women tend to have larger and more satisfy- ing friendship networks than men, and that these friendships are charac- terized by higher levels of self-disclosure and intimacy (c.f. Fassinger & Schlossberg, 1992). “Coming out” may be one example of a particularly significant self-disclosure for sexual minority individuals, and there is evidence to suggest that sexual minorities first come out to a friend or therapist rather than a family member or people at work or school (Fox, 2000). Furthermore, Griffin (2002) argues that close female friendships are an important part of the negotiation of sexual identification for all young women. For bisexual women, then, it would seem that friend- ships are likely to be of great importance and hence constitute an impor- tant area for research. Nevertheless, the topic of bisexual women’s friendships has garnered scant empirical or theoretical attention to date. In this article, we attempt to highlight both the challenge and promise of conducting research on bisexual women’s friendships, with critical attention to several conceptual and methodological tendencies in the ex- tant literature(s). Because scholarly work examining these specific rela- tionships is sparse, we do not present a conventional review and
  • Research Perspectives on Bisexual Women’s Friendships 73 critique, but rather discuss broadly the challenges in conducting this work, making selective reference to existing studies where relevant. We also provide a few suggestions for promising future research directions based on our observations of the gaps in existing scholarship. “BISEXUAL” “WOMEN’S” “FRIENDSHIPS”: DECONSTRUCTING A DISCOURSE Despite the importance of the topic of bisexual women’s friendships, the attempt to locate, define, and detail such relationships is exceed- ingly difficult. This may help to explain why few scholars had under- taken the challenge of examining these relationships theoretically or empirically at the time of this writing. A small number of empirical studies have examined friendships of sexual minority women taken col- lectively, and have notably (and atypically) included bisexual women in numbers similar or equal to that of lesbians (Diamond, 2000; Galupo & St. John, 2001; Oswald, 2000). For example, in one study of passionate friendships (i.e., nonsexual friendships with the emotional intensity of a romantic relationship), Diamond (2000) conducted phone interviews with 80 young adult sexual minority women who identified as lesbian or bisexual or did not self-label sexual orientation. She found that same-sex friendships were as likely as cross-sex friendships to be clas- sified as passionate, that same-sex passionate friendships were initiated at a younger age than same-sex conventional friendships, and that same-sex passionate friendships developed prior to a young woman’s first same-sex sexual contact were less likely to involve sexual attrac- tion. Galupo and St. John (2001) investigated cross-sexual orientation friendships in adolescent girls through interviews with 10 friendship dyads (5 lesbian-heterosexual pairs, and 5 bisexual-heterosexual pairs). The authors found themes suggesting that cross-orientation friendships function similarly to other friendships in important ways (e.g., provid- ing someone to talk to or a person who’s there when needed). Addition- ally, thematic analysis of the interviews suggested unique benefits of cross-orientation friendships for both heterosexual (e.g., increased flex- ibility in personal sexual identity) and sexual minority participants (e.g., increased self-acceptance). Oswald (2000) examined the influence of coming out on the family and friend relationships of 6 college-age women, of whom 4 identified as bisexual and 2 as lesbian, through in- terviews with these women and several of their closest family members or friends. She found that coming out was accompanied by changes in
  • 74 BISEXUAL WOMEN: FRIENDSHIP AND SOCIAL ORGANIZATION communication, relationship structure, and beliefs about sexuality within these close relationships, and that variations in communication style occurred both within and between these networks. Only a very few studies were located which addressed the friendships of bisexual women directly and explicitly (Galupo, 2007; Galupo, Sailer, & St. John, 2004; Morgan & Thompson, 2006). For example, in her study of the friendship patterns of 405 sexual minority individuals, Galupo (2007) found that bisexual women and men reported signifi- cantly greater numbers of heterosexual friends than did lesbians or gay men; they also reported significantly fewer numbers of lesbian and gay friends. She further found that bisexual participants had a greater num- ber of friends questioning their sexual orientation identity than did other sexual minority participants. Regardless of sexual orientation, partici- pants in the study also reported greater numbers of same-sex friends than cross-sex friends. Results of Galupo, Sailer, and St. John’s inter- views with 7 lesbian-heterosexual and 7 bisexual-heterosexual female friendship dyads suggest that sexual orientation did affect the relation- ship dynamic in these cross-orientation friendships. Additionally, the authors investigated potential differences according to the identifica- tion of the sexual minority friend and found that bisexual women were perceived as less different from their heterosexual friends than were lesbians. Furthermore, friends in bisexual-heterosexual friendships in- dicated a shift in the relationship according to the sex of the bisexual woman’s partner. In Morgan and Thompson’s recent study, event narra- tives of 48 bisexual and bi-curious women who reported on a sexual ex- perience with a same-sex friend were examined. Experiences included in analysis were considered by participants to be a self-defining mem- ory or otherwise significant to their sexual identity development. Themes emerging within these narratives included discovery of sexual attraction, closeness and conflict within the relationship, and defining identity. At the time of this writing, no other studies were located which attended to the friendships of bisexual women exclusively (e.g., as op- posed to comparing their friendships with those of other LGB individu- als). Taken collectively, these studies provide a preliminary understand- ing of some of the features of bisexual women’s friendships. Specifi- cally, they suggest that bisexual women tend to form friendships with heterosexual women most frequently. These same-sex friendships may play a significant role in the sexual identity development of bisexual women, but also may be subject to change depending on the individ- ual’s enactment of bisexuality at particular moments in time. While the
  • Research Perspectives on Bisexual Women’s Friendships 75 contributions of these studies are significant, it is clear that a great num- ber of questions remain unanswered (and even unasked) in the existing body of scholarly work in this area. In light of the paucity of literature organized around the specific intersection of bisexual women’s friend- ships, it is reasonable to presume that related literatures approaching this intersection (e.g., friendships of lesbian women, cross sexual orien- tation friendships, etc.) might inform future work in this domain. For this reason, our observations address both the body of work on bisexual women’s friendships and the larger literatures in which that work is sit- uated. We assert that many of the conceptual and methodological chal- lenges facing contemporary researchers aspiring to add to the small body of scholarly work in this area can be located within the very terms which circumscribe the topic: “bisexual,” “women,” and “friendships.” As such, these three words provide an organizing structure for our comments regarding the existing literature(s) in this domain, and we begin by highlighting the problematic use of each. “Bisexual” If women and men are “opposite” genders, then attractions toward women and men must also be opposite attractions that cannot co- exist simultaneously within a single individual. If one is attracted to a man, how can one simultaneously be attracted to a woman who is everything a man is not and nothing that he is? (Rust, 2000, p. 206) The literature on bisexuality, as well as the broader sexual minority literature, increasingly is characterized by a marked and potentially dangerous divide between its theoretical and empirical components. Many scholars have devoted considerable time and attention to the in- terrogation or deconstruction of terms such as “lesbian,” “gay,” and “bisexual” and the popular conceptions of sexuality from which these derive (e.g., Bohan, 1996; Fassinger & Arseneau, 2007; Peplau & Gar- nets, 2000); nevertheless, much of the current empirical work which laudably seeks to investigate the experiences of historically marginal- ized sexual minority populations also regrettably utilizes these labels as though they possess essential meaning. While a comprehensive discus- sion of the problematic assumptions inherent in the construction of sex- ual orientation is well beyond the scope of this article, we here address some of the ways in which the word “bisexual” may create challenges for those seeking to conduct high quality research in this area.
  • 76 BISEXUAL WOMEN: FRIENDSHIP AND SOCIAL ORGANIZATION It has been argued that individual expressions of bisexuality are quite variable both in terms of self-identification and behavior, especially for women (Fox, 1995; Rothblum, 2000; Rust, 1997, 2000). This means that women who choose to identify as bisexual probably vary greatly along a number of dimensions, including relationship status and config- uration, sexual behavior, preferred partner characteristics, and the like. Conversely, many women who experience bisexual feelings of attrac- tion or engage in bisexual behavior may choose not to self-label as bi- sexual. For example, one woman may choose to self-label as a lesbian “even though” she is attracted to or partners with men, while another may identify as heterosexual “despite” her attraction to or sexual behav- ior with women. Moreover, some individuals may reject the term bisex- ual due to its implicit acceptance of a conceptualization of gender as binary and oppositional; such individuals may instead identify as pan-, multi-, or omnisexual, or choose to self-label as queer (Fassinger & Arseneau, 2007). Still others still may choose not to self-label in terms of sexual orientation at all. Moreover, given the complexities of coming out in many racial/eth- nic minority communities, it is reasonable to presume that patterns of identification as bisexual may vary considerably between racial/ethnic groups. There is some evidence to suggest, for example, that Mediterra- nean, Latino, and African-American men self-label in part according to culturally specific indicators that differ from those frequently utilized by White men (Fox, 2000); less is known about the self-labeling experi- ences of women of color. Assumptions that a bisexual self-identifica- tion has common meaning cross-racially may well be in error, and concomitant assumptions that such an identification will be equally and predictably endorsed may have implications for the inclusion of people of color in research in this area. The great variability in self-labeling calls into question the reliance on self-report of a bisexual identity in empirical research and its implicit suggestion of a homogenous bisexual experience (see Fassinger & Arseneau, 2007, for a more detailed dis- cussion of the complexities of self-labeling for sexual minority individ- uals). While assumptions about who is or is not self-labeling as bisexual can be problematic, the very requirement that participants endorse a sin- gle specific sexual orientation may further reflect a methodological bias that is at once masculinist and reductionist. There is ample evidence to suggest that many women experience their sexuality as both fluid and dynamic (Peplau & Garnets, 2000). Women are more likely than men to endorse multiple sexualities concurrently; they are also less likely than
  • Research Perspectives on Bisexual Women’s Friendships 77 men to demonstrate “match” between sexual behavior and self-identifi- cation, and instead utilize self-labels which encompass “romantic, so- cial, and political relationships with others as well as their sexual feelings and behaviors” (Rust, 2000, p. 215). Thus, while self-identifi- cations are important and information about self-identified bisexual participants may be useful, the tendency of researchers to equate self-identification with a discrete categorical sexual orientation (i.e., ei- ther lesbian or gay or bisexual or heterosexual) flies in the face of evidence that, particularly for women, sexuality is rarely experienced as neatly defined or constant. Considerations about self-identifying and self-reporting as bisexual have several important implications for research on bisexual women’s friendships. The first is that researchers seldom differentiate between individuals who self-identify as bisexual and other bisexually attracted or behaving individuals, either in the theoretical positioning of the study or the discussion of its results. Additionally, even when questions about behavior, or non-categorical (e.g., scalar) or non-discrete (e.g., “check all that apply”) methods are used to obtain a more detailed assessment for identifying participants, these typically are used in reductive ways, such as for creating categorical groupings or to eliminate respondents who fail to fit a given criterion (Rothblum, 2000). Morgan and Thomp- son’s (2006) recent study on sexual experiences in bisexual women’s same-sex friendships is notable in its intentional and atypical inclusion of bi-curious women. The variations of meaning of “bisexual” render questionable the ten- dency in sexual minority research generally, and sexual minority friend- ship research specifically, to use comparative studies which attempt to make distinctions between sexual minority “groups” using unitary self-identifications. Thus, while studies examining reported differences between bisexual-heterosexual female friendship dyads and les- bian-heterosexual female friendship dyads (e.g., Galupo, Sailer, & St. John, 2004) are useful in that they center the potentially unique experi- ence of bisexual women, they are confounded by the fact that bisexual and lesbian women may look remarkably similar in terms of behavior and relationship(s) and yet label differently. We might make more ef- fective use of these research findings if we had a deeper understanding of the ways in which the bisexual and lesbian-and heterosexual-partici- pants arrived at these self-labels. Thus, friendship studies attempting to differentiate between lesbians and bisexual women may provide in- sight into similarities and differences between women who self-identify as lesbian or bisexual, but discussion of findings typically uses more ab-
  • 78 BISEXUAL WOMEN: FRIENDSHIP AND SOCIAL ORGANIZATION solute terminology (i.e., “lesbians and bisexual women differ” rather than “women who self-identify as lesbian or bisexual differ”), compro- mising the interpretations of the results of such studies. Finally, Rust (2000) makes the important point that the term “bisex- ual” may equally be endorsed by a person of relatively constant gender identity whose sexual/affectional orientation is toward men and women, and a person of variable gender identity who exclusively part- ners with or is attracted to either men or women. By extension, a bisex- ual label presumably may be assumed by a person of variable gender identity who partners with men and women or with other gender-variant individuals. That is, a self-identified bisexual individual may live at one point in time as a man attracted to women and at another as a woman at- tracted to women. The normative presumption that the “bi” in “bisexu- ality” refers exclusively to the gender of the sexual or romantic object rather than to the gender of the individual claiming the bisexual identity may well be erroneous. Thus, use of the term “bisexual” without critical attention to meaning may present multiple difficulties in research on bisexual women’s friendships. The reliance on participant self-identification of sexual identity from among limited, implicitly immutable, categorical choices may be inconsistent with the self-conceptions of many women and may over- or under-represent certain populations and experiences. Further- more, discussion of findings as revealing something about bisexual in- dividuals rather than bisexually-identified individuals is potentially inaccurate and misleading, and could obfuscate rather than illuminate the lived experiences of bisexual individuals. Lastly, comparative stud- ies, which attempt to differentiate the experiences of lesbian and bisex- ual women, may overstate divergence and conceal similarities. Note that these cautions should not be interpreted as a deterrent from con- ducting research on bisexual women. Additional empirical work clearly is needed and more complex approaches to conducting research on this population are warranted. Rust (2000) suggests that current methodolo- gies would be vastly improved if researchers would carefully detail their conceptualization of sexual orientation for the purposes of a given study, ensure that their methodological choices match that intent, and report and discuss findings in light of that specific conceptualization. “Women” All young women in contemporary western societies face social and financial pressures to ‘get a man’ at some point, and to become
  • Research Perspectives on Bisexual Women’s Friendships 79 established on the literally straight and narrow path to mature adult heterosexuality, monogamy, marriage, and motherhood–prefera- bly in that order. Such pressures and young women’s experiences of this process are extremely diverse: these phenomena are shaped by class, ‘race,’ ethnicity, and religion, as well as age and gender relations. (Griffin, 2000, pp. 232-233) The case could be made that the “women’s” friendship literature ex- cludes large portions of the population of women. Clearly, most rele- vant to this discussion is the relative inattention to sexual minority women in broader discussions of women and friendships, or a lack of recognition that sexual orientations other than heterosexual even exist (Griffin, 2000). The emergence of work focusing specifically on the friendships of queer women serves to redress this omission, while also having the potential to inform future work on heterosexual women’s friendships in useful ways by calling into question the heterosexist as- sumptions which undergird many of those studies (Rose, 2000). Never- theless, discussion of sexual minority and sexual majority women’s friendships often exclude women based on age, race/ethnicity, social class, or gender identity. For example, much of the literature on women’s friendships attends specifically to adolescent or young adult women, and a great deal of the emerging work on sexual minority women’s friendships also focuses on women in these age groups (e.g., Diamond, 2002; Galupo & St. John, 2001; Weinstock & Bond, 2002). Rose suggests that the attention to young women’s friendships is consistent with the cultural script which dictates that friendships are effectively a developmental training ground in which girls acquire the skills necessary for obtaining and maintaining a monogamous other-sex sexual relationship (i.e., heterosexual mar- riage) in the future. Indeed, the formation of friendships typically pre- cedes the formation of (other) sexual or romantic relationships, and hence they are cast as lesser, immature relationships which do not and should not compare in intimacy to the primary relationship. The work on adolescent women’s friendships largely assumes the existence of a rigid heterosexual identity, and stands ready to dismiss any evidence of same-sex attraction or same-sex sexual behavior between friends with claims or insinuations of “phases” and “experimentation” (Griffin, 2000). Diamond’s (2000; 2002) work on young women’s passionate friendships is a notable exception, in that she examines the relationships of women of varying sexual orientation and self-identifications, and she allows for the possibility of sexual attraction and romance between
  • 80 BISEXUAL WOMEN: FRIENDSHIP AND SOCIAL ORGANIZATION same-sex as well as other-sex friendship dyads, regardless of participants’ sexual orientation. It is worth noting here that the common conceptualization of friend- ship as a form of social support in the psychological literature is itself firmly rooted in the cultural assumption that friendships exist only to support the primary (heterosexual) relationship; indeed, the fact that friendships are commonly conceptualized as a threat or a detraction from this primary partnership suggests that ideally, all of one’s support should be coming from the primary (heterosexual) partner. This as- sumption is simultaneously heterosexist, coupleist, monosexualist, and masculinist–heterosexist because it centers an other-sex sexual rela- tionship, coupleist because it elevates sexual or romantic partnerships above all other relationships, monosexualist in its implicit rejection of the possibility of more than one sexual or romantic partner, and masculinist because it disregards the significance of friendships for women. It should be noted that a few studies have been conducted which in- vestigate the friendships of middle-aged and older sexual minority indi- viduals, especially gay men (e.g., Dorfman, Walters, Burke, Hardin, & Karanik, 1995; Grossman, D’Augelli, & Hershberger, 2000; Shippy, Cantor, & Brennan, 2004). Weinstock’s (2000) work on midlife lesbi- ans and Stanley’s (2002) work on cross-generational lesbian friend- ships are of significance in that they center the experience of a population multiply marginalized by age, gender, and sexual orienta- tion. Including older women in the body of research on women’s friend- ships is indisputably important; however, this work also runs the risk of inadvertently reinforcing stereotypes about women at midlife and older. Because friendships often are assumed to be of greatest importance in the absence of a primary sexual relationship, a focus on the friendships of older women must attend carefully to the danger of contributing to the desexualization of these women. This is especially true for research on sexual minority women’s friendships, given that women’s same-sex sexual behavior is rendered largely invisible by societal gender roles and disregard for women’s experience more generally (Fassinger, 2003; Fassinger & Morrow, 1995). Likewise, it will be important that future work on sexual minority women’s friendships include women between the ages of 25 and 40, who may be overlooked in this particular literature because of heteropatriarchal beliefs regarding the primacy of a monogamous and preferably other-sex partnership for women in this (marrying and child-bearing) age range.
  • Research Perspectives on Bisexual Women’s Friendships 81 In addition to failing to represent diversity in age, the literature on women’s friendships also tends to be exclusive along racial/ethnic and social class lines. Most of the literature on women’s friendships focuses on white middle- or upper middle-class women, and fails to include the experiences of women of color or working-class and poorer women for whom the benefits of friendships might provide unique and necessary protections against the stressors of racism and classism (Griffin, 2000). Galupo’s (2006) recent investigation of the friendship patterns of 405 sexual minority women and men was notable in that 31% of partici- pants identified as racial minorities. This study not only was charac- terized by laudable racial/ethnic diversity of participants, but also examined racial-ethnic differences in analyses, and the simultaneous effect of sex, sexual orientation, and race on friendship patterns. Con- sistent with the heterosexual population, sexual minority participants reported more same-race than cross-race friendships, and this did not differ according to self-identified sexual orientation. However, racial minority individuals reported more cross-race friendships than did White participants, and among racial minority participants, women re- ported more cross-race friendships than men. These findings suggest that women who are both racial and sexual minorities may have differ- ent sources of friendship than sexual minority men of color; Galupo suggests that this may be due in part to racism within the larger LGBT community and/or differing forms of homonegativity within racial/eth- nic communities. This finding is useful for highlighting the likelihood of unique friendship experiences of lesbian and bisexual women of color as compared to gay and bisexual men of color or lesbian and bi- sexual White women, and suggests that further research exploring their friendship experiences is needed. Finally, as is true of the majority of psychological research to date, the literatures on women’s friendships, sexual minority women’s friendships, and bisexual women’s friendships are characterized by essentialist definitions of “women” which neglect large numbers of women of diverse gender expression. Women who identify as transgender, transsexual, MTF, FTF, genderqueer, androgynous, bigender, pangender, or who reject gender as a meaningful organizer of their experience are either excluded from or not accounted for in most studies. If such individuals are included in research, it may be despite and not because of researchers’ efforts, and the experiences of gen- der-variant participants typically are not examined or discussed. The re- sult of this omission is a perpetuation of a conceptualization of gender which is increasingly untenable in its conceptual oversimplification.
  • 82 BISEXUAL WOMEN: FRIENDSHIP AND SOCIAL ORGANIZATION “Friendships” What is a friend? Unfortunately, the term “friend,” particularly in the U.S., has come to mean almost anyone we know who is not a lover. There are four categories of people: (1) lovers (usually one lover); (2) enemies (hopefully none or few); (3) people we haven’t met; and (4) friends (that is, everyone else). (Rothblum, 1999, p. 79) Esther Rothblum’s observation on the ill-defined friend relationship is an apt introduction to the quandaries in conducting work on friend- ships, particularly queer women’s friendships. Friendship is in many ways a neglected relationship, without rituals validating its existence, agreements establishing its boundaries or expectations, or linguistic variation to clarify its specific nature, and it tends to be “secured by emotional bonds alone” (Fassinger & Schlossberg, 1992, p. 240). The lack of language to describe or differentiate among friendships makes them difficult to characterize. One fairly consistent assumption about friendships in the psychological literature is that typically they are de- fined as nonsexual relationships, particularly when the friendship is between people of the same sex (Rose, 2000). However, anecdotal evidence and the few empirical reports of the re- lationships of lesbian women suggest that many lesbians draw their partners from their pool of friends, remain friends with their exes, and describe their partner as their best friend (Harkless & Fowers, 2005; Rothblum, 1999; see also Weinstock & Rothblum, 2004). In addition, there is research to support the existence of “friends with benefits,” or friends with whom one is sexually involved, within heterosexual cross-sex friendship dyads (e.g., Hughes, Morrison, & Asada, 2005), which may apply to same-sex dyads as well. Moreover, individuals who are not in primary partnerships or who are in polyamorous relationship configurations may well draw sexual partners from among their friends. Thus, it seems likely that if lesbians and heterosexual women are violat- ing the “nonsexual” friendship mandate, bisexual women might be as well. The heteronormative cultural assumption that “lover” and “friend” are two distinct categories of relationship is likely inaccurate or inadequate for bisexual (if not all) women. Similarly, one could argue that the common distinction between “family” and “friends” lacks specificity and utility. Drawing from her interviews with White, middle-class midlife lesbians, Weinstock (2000) explicates three variations of a “friends as family” theme: friends as substitute family members, friends as a challenge to the core
  • Research Perspectives on Bisexual Women’s Friendships 83 family structure, and friends as in-laws. The “friends as family” concept appears in much of the work on sexual minority populations (see Bohan, 1996 for general discussion and Dorfman, Walters, Burke, Hardin & Karanik, 1995 for an empirical example). Thus, exploring more integra- tive conceptualizations of close relationships as opposed to the traditional friends-family binary might enhance research on friendship. Though friendships classically are viewed as nonsexual, when the possibility of sexuality within friendships is allowed for, it typically is viewed as a threat either to that friendship itself, or to another, more im- portant, relationship. Often the other relationship is the primary sex- ual/romantic partnership: Rose (2000) notes that the presumed acceptable role for women’s friendships is to complement marriage and Griffin (2000) argues that the pressure toward heterosexual coupling can undermine female friendship groups and restrict women’s friend- ship behavior. The study of cross-sex friendships emerged relatively re- cently in the friendship literature to identify the attributes of these atypical and perhaps inappropriate relationships between (presumably) heterosexual women and men (O’Meara, 1989). These studies sought, at least in part, to evaluate the sexual threat component of these relationships. A cross-orientation sexual minority friendship literature may be the recently emerging counterpart to that of heterosexual cross-sex friend- ships. Interestingly, this literature typically is organized around sexual minority-heterosexual friendships rather than, for example, bisex- ual-lesbian dyads, which, according to the discrete categories of self- identification typically used, might equally be viewed as involving indi- viduals of differing sexual orientation. This circumscribed definition of cross-orientation friendships may in part reflect some empirical evi- dence suggesting that bisexual women are more likely to have female friends who are heterosexual than bisexual or lesbian. For example, in Esterberg’s (1997) interviews with approximately 120 sexual minority women in a small Northeastern community, the overwhelming majority (82%) of interviewees indicated that very few or none of their friends consider themselves bisexual. The likelihood of close friendship be- tween bisexual and lesbian women may in part be compromised by bi-negative attitudes within the lesbian community or perceptions thereof among bisexual women. Among the bisexual women inter- viewed in this study, feelings of marginalization within the larger sex- ual minority community were not uncommon. One participant described herself as “furious” at lack of acceptance she felt from the lesbian community, and noted, “I don’t think anybody really trusts me
  • 84 BISEXUAL WOMEN: FRIENDSHIP AND SOCIAL ORGANIZATION (p. 161).” Rust’s (1995) study of 427 sexual minority women further found that among bisexual participants, 29% indicated that they pre- ferred friends to be lesbians rather than bisexual. Nevertheless, the la- beling of friendships between bisexual and heterosexual women as cross-orientation without similar attention to the relationships between bisexual women and lesbians seems to reinforce presumptions of het- erosexuality as “normal” and concomitantly homogenizes the experi- ences of sexual minority women while simultaneously distancing them from the experiences of heterosexual women. The standard cross-orientation paradigm within the bisexual women’s friendship literature (i.e., bisexual-heterosexual) carries with it some of the same dangers as heterosexual cross-sex friendship models in terms of over-emphasizing sexual threat within friendships and rein- forcing heteropatriarchal norms. Galupo (2007) found that sexual mi- nority individuals are significantly more likely to report cross- orientation friendships (i.e., with heterosexuals) than same-orientation friendships, and suggests that cross-orientation friendships might con- stitute a useful heuristic for illuminating the nature and functions of the friendships of sexual minority people. Cross-orientation friendships may indeed constitute the most frequent type of friendship for many sexual minority individuals based on sheer population percentages alone (i.e., there are likely to be greater numbers of heterosexuals in most general social situations); however, such studies run the risk of im- plicitly if inadvertently problematizing the sexual minority person by presuming salience of sexual orientation within the friendship, assum- ing significant differences between cross- and same-orientation friend- ships, and magnifying possible difficulties for individuals in cross-orientation relationships. For example, though one study (Galupo, Sailer, & St. John, 2004) did seek to explore differences and similarities between lesbian-heterosexual and bisexual-heterosexual friendship pairs, there appears to be no empirical work exploring simi- larities and differences between bisexual-bisexual and bisexual-het- erosexual or bisexual-lesbian dyads. In the absence of information about same-orientation friendships, findings on cross-orientation friendships may be difficult to interpret. Moreover, particularly where bisexual women are involved, cross-orientation studies may uninten- tionally reinforce bi-negative stereotypes which paint bisexual women as sexual predators, because the studies themselves are located in the larger literature of sexual threat. If the conventions around the form of friendships are problematic for research in this area, conventions about their function are equally ques-
  • Research Perspectives on Bisexual Women’s Friendships 85 tionable. As noted at the beginning of this article, the most common view of friendship for women is as a source of social support. How- ever, Weinstock (2000) argues that it is important to recognize that this view of friendship ignores the myriad other functions that women’s friendships might serve. She notes that most of the research on the friendships of lesbians has concentrated on the role of these re- lationships in promoting psychosocial well-being, while little atten- tion has been given to the potential of these relationships to provide other resources to women, such as a community for feminist or political action. For sexual minority women, and particularly bisexual women, these functions may be indispensable given the oppressive (racist, classist, and ageist) heteropatriarchal contexts in which they exist. Researching Bisexual Women’s Friendships Thus far, we have been arguing that there are a number of challenges for researchers interested in studying bisexual women’s friendships that are rooted in the very terms that define this emerging area of study. In addition, there are more general methodological problems in this litera- ture. In this section, we share some observations regarding the difficul- ties in “researching” bisexual women’s friendships, and we offer a few suggestions for future work in this important area of scholarship. The first issue is the consideration of the unit of analysis necessary and appropriate to research on bisexual women’s friendships. In the general friendship literature, there has been a shift from a focus on indi- vidual reports about friend relationships to an increased number of dyadic studies that use friendship pairs as the unit of analysis. While the consideration of friendship dyads clearly presents certain advantages over the study of individuals, it could be argued that dyadic work alone should not characterize the totality of the literature in the friendship do- main. Currently, the sexual minority women’s friendship literature is predominantly characterized by studies of friendship pairs. This raises the question of whether friendships are best conceptualized as a self-contained dyad. Anecdotal reports and representations in popular culture suggest that for women, friendships often occur in groups or dy- namic systems (including “friends as family” systems), and the women in Esterberg’s (1997) study described their particular sexual minority community as a set of overlapping social circles. Unfortunately, very little research to date has explored systems of close relationships (for a notable empirical exception, see D’Augelli, 1989).
  • 86 BISEXUAL WOMEN: FRIENDSHIP AND SOCIAL ORGANIZATION A combination of individual, dyadic, and systems approaches in fu- ture research on bisexual women’s friendships might ultimately best capture the true nature of these friendships. Oswald’s (2000) work pro- vides a useful example of the possibility of considering social networks in the lives of sexual minority women. In her study, she interviewed 6 bisexual- or lesbian-identified women, along with 25 of their family members and friends (between 3 and 5 significant others for each partic- ipant) about how the sexual minority woman’s coming-out process af- fected the relationships. Oswald did not dictate who these individuals should be nor differentiate between friend, familial, or other status; rather, she simply asked each sexual minority participant to name the “most important people” in her life. As is true of the larger body of psychological research, there is a need in the research on sexual minority women’s friendships for both quali- tative and quantitative (including instrument development) work as well as mixed-methods studies. Many of the studies on sexual minor- ity women’s friendships have utilized interviews, which is perhaps un- surprising given the frequently exploratory nature of this work and its focus on a marginalized population. Despite their valuable rich descrip- tion of the friendship experiences of lesbian and bisexual women, often these studies are not clearly located in a specific qualitative paradigm. Qualitative research is gaining in acceptance and use within psychology and there is increasing attention to the rigor with which this research is conducted. The trustworthiness of qualitative research is in part estab- lished by a clear articulation of the paradigmatic positionality of the study and the “lens” of the researcher, and in the provision of replicable analytic procedures (Morrow, 2005); unfortunately, detailed descrip- tions of these processes and decisions seldom appear in published work. Whether quantitative or qualitative in nature, the majority of the ex- isting women’s friendship studies are cross-sectional designs, provid- ing a “snapshot” of a relationship in a given moment. Many have additionally utilized retrospective reports of friendships, such that the picture presented is a recollection of a moment that has passed (Griffin, 2000). While cross-sectional and retrospective approaches present cer- tain advantages to researchers, longitudinal studies are uniquely able to capture the evolution of relationships over time. Furthermore, longitu- dinal studies may best reveal the evolution of sexual orientation or self-identification on the part of individual participants. Rust (1997) notes that many women change in their understanding or self-labeling of their sexuality over time, yet this reality has as of yet not been well reflected in the literature on bisexual women’s friendships.
  • Research Perspectives on Bisexual Women’s Friendships 87 Finally, sexual minority research is characterized by a reliance on convenience sampling, particularly of individuals who participate in LGBT organizations or events, and “snowball” sampling. Sample sizes often are small and participants frequently are similar in demo- graphic and other characteristics. For example, the tendency toward examining friendships of younger women, while probably rooted in heteropatriarchal assumptions (as noted previously), may likewise em- anate from the relative convenience of sampling these women in col- lege-based studies. Rothblum (2000) also has observed that researchers who utilize categorical self-report of sexual orientation in samples of women who participate in community organizations or events fre- quently express regret about the lack of representativeness of their sam- ples rather than acknowledging the value in focusing on self-identified members of the community of bisexual (or lesbian, and/or transgender) women. The experiences of women who do choose to embrace these la- bels as personally significant represent a valuable area of exploration. Nevertheless, researchers do need to continue to seek out methods for obtaining larger, more representative samples in the pursuit of the kinds of generalizable findings that result from large quantitative empirical efforts. It bears remembering, however, that representativeness and generalizability may be effectively impossible goals in LGBT research as long as sexual minority identities and existences remain socially stig- matized (Rothblum, 2000). CONCLUSION Researchers aspiring to contribute to the literature on bisexual women’s friendships are presented with unique challenge and opportu- nity. Because of the relatively small body of scholarly work examining these relationships explicitly and purposefully, there is much need for further theoretical and empirical work in this area, and the possibility for significant contribution to our understanding of this complex inter- section exists. In addition to explicating the nature and functions of these relationships specifically, research on bisexual women’s friend- ships also has the potential to add to the broader literatures in which it is naturally embedded. Increased understanding of the friendship experi- ences of bisexual women clearly enhances our understanding of bisexu- ality generally, and aids in shifting the discussion of sexual orientation from an excessively narrow focus on sexual behavior. The study of friendship remains incomplete without the inclusion of the experiences
  • 88 BISEXUAL WOMEN: FRIENDSHIP AND SOCIAL ORGANIZATION of sexual minority individuals generally and bisexual women particu- larly. Discussions of the relationship experiences of women are en- hanced by attention to the friendships of bisexual women, attention that serves to “re-center” both a marginalized relationship (friendship) and a marginalized population (bisexual women). Thus, though we have ar- gued that the very linguistic constructions (i.e., “bisexual,” “women’s,” “friendships”) in which this topic is rooted are reductive and problem- atic, we have also noted a few directions for future research which could shift the discourse on sexual minority women’s relationships in meaningful ways. The scholarly work on bisexual women’s friendships can only be strengthened by mirroring the rich complexity of the relationships and women it seeks to describe. REFERENCES Blieszner, R., & Adams, R. G. (1992). Adult friendship. Newbury Park, CA: Sage. Bohan, J. S. (1996). Psychology and sexual orientation: Coming to terms. New York: Routledge. Cohen, S., & Wills, T. A. (1985). Stress, social support, and the buffering hypothesis. Psychological Bulletin, 98, 310-357. D’Augelli, A. R. (1989). Lesbian women in a rural helping network: Exploring infor- mal helping resources. In E. D. Rothblum & E. Cole (Eds.), Loving boldly: Issues facing lesbians (pp.119-130). Binghamton, NY: Harrington Park Press. D’Augelli, A. R., & Garnets, L. D. (1995). Lesbian, gay, and bisexual communities. In A. R. D’Augelli & C. J. Patterson, Lesbian, gay, and bisexual identities over the lifespan: Psychological perspectives (pp. 293-320). New York: Oxford University Press. Diamond, L. M. (2002). “Having a girlfriend without knowing it”: Intimate friendships among adolescent sexual-minority women. Journal of Lesbian Studies, 6(1), 5-16. Diamond, L. M. (2000). Passionate friendships among adolescent sexual-minority women. Journal of Research on Adolescence, 10(2), 191-209. Dorfman, R. A., Walters, K., Burke, P., Hardin, L., & Karanik, T. (1995). Old, sad, and alone: The myth of the aging homosexual. Journal of Gerontological Social Work, 24(1/2), 29-44. Esterberg, K. G. (1997). Lesbian and bisexual identities: Constructing communities, constructing selves. Philadelphia: Temple University Press. Fassinger, R. E. (2003, August). A thousand points of slight: Lesbian eroticism in heterosexist contexts. Invited address presented at the annual meeting of the Ameri- can Psychological Association, Toronto, Canada. Fassinger, R. E., & Arseneau, J. R. (2007). “I’d rather get wet than be under that um- brella”: Differentiating the experiences and identities of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people. In K. J. Bieschke, R. M. Perez, & K. A. DeBord (Eds.), Hand-
  • Research Perspectives on Bisexual Women’s Friendships 89 book of counseling and psychotherapy with lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender clients (2nd Ed.). Washington, D.C.: American Psychological Association. Fassinger, R.E., & Morrow, S.L. (1995). OverCome: Repositioning lesbian sexualities. In L. Diamant & R. McAnulty (Eds.), The psychology of sexual orientation, behav- ior, and identity: A handbook (pp. 197-219). Westport, CT: Greenwood Publishing Group. Fassinger, R. E., & Schlossberg, N. K. (1992). Understanding the adult years: Perspec- tives and implications. In S. D. Brown & R. W. Lent (Eds.), Handbook of counsel- ing psychology (2nd Ed.), (pp. 217-249). Oxford, England: John Wiley & Sons. Fox, R. C. (2000). Bisexuality in perspective: A review of theory and research. In B. Greene & G. L. Croom (Eds.), Education, research, and practice in lesbian, gay, bi- sexual, and transgendered psychology: A resource manual (pp. 161-206). Thou- sand Oaks, CA: Sage. Fox, R. C. (1995). Bisexual identities. In A. R. D’Augelli & C. J. Patterson (Eds.), Lesbian, gay, and bisexual identities over the lifespan: Psychological perspectives (pp. 48-86). New York: Oxford University Press. Galupo, M. P. (2007). Friendship patterns of sexual minority individuals in adulthood. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 24: 5-17. Galupo, M. P., Sailer, C. A., & St. John, S. C. (2004). Friendships across sexual orien- tations: Experiences of bisexual women in early adulthood. Journal of Bisexuality, 4(1/2), 37-53. Galupo, M. P., & St. John, S. (2001). Benefits of cross-sexual orientation friendships among adolescent females. Journal of Adolescence, 24, 83-93. Griffin, C. (2002). Girls’ friendships and the formation of sexual identities. In A. Coyle & C. Kitzinger (Eds.), Lesbian and gay psychology: New perspectives (pp. 45-62). Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishing. Griffin, C. (2000). Absences that matter: Construction of sexuality in studies of young women’s friendships. Feminism & Psychology, 10(2), 227-245. Grossman, A. H., D’Augelli, A. R., & Hershberger, S. L. (2000). Social support net- works of lesbian, gay, and bisexual adults 60 years of age and older. Journals of Gerontology: Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences, 55B(3), 171-179. Harkless, L. E., & Fowers, B. J. (2005). Similarities and differences in relational boundaries among heterosexuals, gay men, and lesbians. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 29(2), 167-176. Herek, G. M. (2002). Heterosexuals’ attitudes toward bisexual men and women in the United States. Journal of Sex Research, 39(4), 264-274. Hughes, M., Morrison, K., & Asada, K. J. K. (2005). What’s love got to do with it?: Ex- ploring the impact of maintenance rules, love attitudes, and network support on friends with benefits. Western Journal of Communication, 69(1), 49-66. Kurdek, L. A. (1998). Perceived social support in gays and lesbians in cohabitating re- lationships. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 54, 504-509. Morgan, E. M., & Thompson, E. M. (2006). Young women’s sexual experiences within same-sex friendships: Discovering and defining bisexual and bi-curious identity. Journal of Bisexuality, 6(3), 7-34. Morrow, S. L. (2005). Quality and trustworthiness in qualitative research in counseling psychology. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 52(2), 250-260.
  • 90 BISEXUAL WOMEN: FRIENDSHIP AND SOCIAL ORGANIZATION O’Connor, P. (1992). Friendships between women: A critical review. New York: Guilford Press. O’Meara, J. D. (1989). Cross-sex friendship: Four basic challenges of an ignored rela- tionship. Sex Roles, 21(7/8), 525-543. Oswald, R. F. (2000). Family and friendship relationships after young women come out as bisexual or lesbian. Journal of Homosexuality, 38(3), 65-83. Peplau, L. A., & Garnets, L. D. (2000). A new paradigm for understanding women’s sexuality and sexual orientation. Journal of Social Issues, 56(2), 329-350. Rose, S. (2000). Heterosexism and the study of women’s romantic and friend relation- ships. Journal of Social Issues, 56(2), 315-328. Rothblum, E. (1999). Poly-friendships. Journal of Lesbian Studies, 3(1/2), 71-83. Rothblum, E. D. (2000). Sexual orientation and sex in women’s lives: Conceptual and methodological issues. Journal of Social Issues, 56(2), 193-204. Rust, P. C. (1995). Bisexuality and the challenge to lesbian politics: Sex, loyalty, and revolution. New York: New York University Press. Rust, P. C. (1997). “Coming out” in the age of social constructionism: Sexual identity formation among lesbian and bisexual women. Journal of Lesbian Studies, 1(1), 25-47. Rust, P. C. (2000). Bisexuality: A contemporary paradox for women. Journal of Social Issues, 56(2), 205-211. Shippy, R. A., Cantor, M. H., & Brennan, M. (2004). Social networks of aging gay men. Journal of Men’s Studies, 13(1), 107-120. Smith, E. M. J. (1985). Ethnic minorities: Life stress, social support, and mental health issues. The Counseling Psychologist, 13, 537-579. Smith, R. B., & Brown, R. A. (1997). The impact of social support on gay male cou- ples. Journal of Homosexuality, 33, 39-61. Stanley, J. L. (2002). Young sexual minority women’s perception of cross-genera- tional friendships with older lesbians. Journal of Lesbian Studies, 6(1), 139-148. Taylor, S. E., Klein, L. C., Lewis, B. P., Gruenewald, T. L., Gurung, R. A. R., & Updegraff, J. A. (2000). Biobehavioral responses to stress in females: Tend-and-be- friend, not fight-or-flight. Psychological Review, 107(3), 411-429. Weinstock, J. S. (2000). Lesbian friendships at midlife: Patterns and possibilities for the 21st century. Journal of Gay and Lesbian Social Services, 11(2/3), 1-32. Weinstock, J. S., & Bond, L. A. (2002). Building bridges: Examining lesbians’ and het- erosexual women’s close friendships with each other. Journal of Lesbian Studies, 6(1), 149-161. Weinstock, J. S., & Rothblum, E. D. (Eds.) (2004). Lesbian ex-lovers: The really long-term relationships. Binghamton, NY: Harrington Park Press.
  • PERSONAL PERSPECTIVES ON BISEXUAL WOMEN’S FRIENDSHIPS Fencing on Brokeback: Intersecting Bisexuality and Women’s Friendship Julie Estep
  • Available online at http://jb.haworthpress.com © 2006 by The Haworth Press, Inc. All rights reserved. doi:10.1300/J159v06n03_06 [Haworth co-indexing entry note]: “Fencing on Brokeback: Intersecting Bisexuality and Women’s Friendship.” Estep, Julie. Co-published simultaneously in Journal of Bisexuality (Harrington Park Press, an imprint of The Haworth Press, Inc.) Vol. 6, No. 3, 2006, pp. 91-102; and: Bisexual Women: Friendship and Social Organization (ed: M. Paz Galupo) Harrington Park Press, an imprint of The Haworth Press, Inc., 2006, pp. 91-102. Single or multiple copies of this article are available for a fee from The Haworth Document Deliv- ery Service [1-800-HAWORTH, 9:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m. (EST). E-mail address: docdelivery@ haworthpress.com].
  • Personal Perspectives on Bisexual Women’s Friendships 93 SUMMARY. Part social analysis and part personal narrative, this piece examines the intersection between female friendships and bisexuality, and explores the complex dynamics at play for bisexuals living in ten- sion with conventions common to both straight and gay circles. It looks at ways the closet can disfigure bisexual lives and relationships, and at how unique forms of bisexual polyamory both defy and create belong- ing. Finally, it considers the deep human need for community, and the search for a core ethic that can accommodate the unconventional and protect the traditional. [Article copies available for a fee from The Haworth Document Delivery Service: 1-800-HAWORTH. E-mail address: <docdelivery@haworthpress.com> Website: <http://www.HaworthPress. com> © 2006 by The Haworth Press, Inc. All rights reserved.] KEYWORDS. Bisexuality, bisexual women, polyamory, polyamorous, friendship, community None of the dozens of Brokeback Mountain (Lee & Schamus, 2005) reviewers used the term bisexual. It’s as though they feared introducing the concept would weaken Brokeback’s punch. It’s true that social con- servatives have made pungent hay out of the question of whether the Ennis character might have happily married had Jack kept his hands to himself. But legitimate fidelity ethics aside–Ennis is already engaged when he meets Jack (Lee & Schamus, 2005)–such “what ifs” shouldn’t matter. The tragedy isn’t that Jack and Ennis are constitutionally un- suited to women but nonetheless forced to heterosexually marry. The tragedy is that they want only each other, and aren’t safe to have a life together. But there is another tragedy, one which the film reviewers also left to molder. Though director Ang Lee says of Brokeback’s romance: “a love not blessed by society is always harder” (Ordona, 2006), others have countered that the closet–more like a dungeon in 1963, when the film was set–makes Brokeback categorically unlike other forbidden love stories such as Romeo and Juliet. The closet, especially the default closet unique to a “bisexual lifestyle,” doesn’t just deny us an open life with our true love. It denies us community. It denies us our true friends. Much of the offense taken at Brokeback‘s sexual intrusion upon America’s buddy Western has to do with the hallowed cowboy partner- ship, best captured by Doc Holliday in Tombstone (Cosmatos et al., 1993). Holliday secretly shows up to a duel in his comrade’s place, and explains to his shocked adversary: “Wyatt Earp is my friend.” His chal-
  • 94 BISEXUAL WOMEN: FRIENDSHIP AND SOCIAL ORGANIZATION lenger shoots back: “Hell, I got lotsa friends.” Holliday replies: “I don’t” (Cosmatos et al., 1993). But the taciturn desolation of Western cowboys, vaguely penetrated by women but really broken only in fraternity, doesn’t epitomize the hu- man need for friendship, it only brings it into bold relief. An irony in all of the Brokeback film-trailer spoofs that are springing up–Brokeback to the Future (Ade, J., & De Nicola, P., 2006), Brokeback Hobbiton (Poe, B., 2006), etc.–is that they play across genre on buddy flicks that cap- ture a richness of friendship forever denied to Jack and Ennis. Both raised by cold and derisive men, their starvation for belonging, for brotherhood, is part of what draws Jack and Ennis close. Yet the mo- ment they fall for each other as lovers, they are lost to each other as any- thing else. The bond between Jack and Ennis is sweet and true. But lovers are not friends. Friends are the ones who celebrate our love af- fairs with and for us, and who help us to survive them. This is the closet’s dankest corner–the absence of someone who has our back, who sees by the same lights, and, who can help to blunt the sting of differ- ence without being part of its cause. Let’s make no mistake. It is not sex, but heterosexism, that robs Jack and Ennis of kinship; that segregates them from defenders, from any kind of tribe. Heterosexism estranges Jack and Ennis from their own image in the cultural mirror. Heterosexism burns their intimacy into their skin like a brand; leaves them marked men. After this, all potential friends are suspect–any other man may be the one to drag Ennis behind a truck, or drive a tire iron through Jack’s skull. So we see Ennis kicking and punching his way through encounters with other men, and Jack chaffing hard against the contempt of his father-in-law, and the other ro- deo boys (Lee & Schamus, 2005). Both of them might have survived–or better–if either had a Doc Holliday to duel for him. BI WOMEN DON’T WALK LIKE JOHN WAYNE For bisexual women as well, heterosexism has acted, and continues to act, as an obstacle to friendship. And it is not just the direct heterosexism of straights, it is the contortions, the defensive positions queer people have learned to assume in their lives with each other. As characters of suspicion to both straight and gay communities, some bi women find themselves walking on social eggshells, or on a social tightrope.
  • Personal Perspectives on Bisexual Women’s Friendships 95 This dynamic is magnified by the fact that, even were heterosexism much less a factor, bisexuals would still have a sketchy road to navigate. A stalwart friend–loyal but romantically uninterested and uninterest- ing–can be a rare find for anyone. But without the common clarity of gender separating “friend” from “potential lover,” bisexuals, particu- larly women, have more relational turns and weird trajectories to nego- tiate. Not only can bisexual women take longer (than men, than straights, than gays) to figure themselves out, young women still are rarely taught to draw firm boundaries, or to ask themselves–let alone express–exactly what they want. Bi women encounter more points of hesitation, more tangents, more blurry lines. The ocean of opportunities for confusion can make for shifting sand when it comes to bisexual friendship. At least, that’s been the case for me. We all know that the faux-friendships we manage from the closet are hollowed-out with what ifs–“what if they knew about us what we know about ourselves?” But it’s even tougher to have sturdy friendships when the knowing- about-ourselves is the hollow part. We understand ourselves in the re- flection of community, and we define ourselves, often, by who we love. But bisexuality creates a “half-breed” phenomenon; a sexual no-man’s-land where belonging anyplace can amount to belonging no-place. This dynamic gives potency to Ennis’s anguished line: “It’s because of you that I’m this way. I’m no one, and I’m nowhere” (Lee & Schamus, 2005). NO ONE, AND NOWHERE I am not like Ennis. I’ve been through intense confusion and floun- dering iterations of identity, but I’ve never been cut off from commu- nity. Compared to most, I’ve been inordinately lucky. My dozen or so straight friends of both sexes who’ve stuck with me since childhood were all–like me–professors’ kids, so they’ve always been tolerant and smart. I’ve been loved and supported all along by “good-liberal” par- ents and an open-minded extended family. I mention this to place into perspective the long-distance road-rash I got between the time my sexu- ality asserted itself and the time I stood on solid ground with regard to love and friendship. Bisexuality tossed me into the deep. As a teen, my sexuality crept up on me like a living fog, and infected treasured friendships, more so be- cause I didn’t see it coming. Since I was infrequently attracted to males
  • 96 BISEXUAL WOMEN: FRIENDSHIP AND SOCIAL ORGANIZATION also, that traumatic but certainty-giving epiphany of: “Oh God, I’m an alien” that most gay youth suffer did not descend upon me. It was harder to view my sexuality as uncommon, so I didn’t understand why only guys reciprocated my interest. I thought surely everyone felt attraction like I did, that only the narrow, unimaginative culture stood in the way. Further, my inability to tease apart “friend” and “crush” regarding cer- tain gal pals turned me into one crappy friend–oversensitive, over in- volved, even manipulative. In response to what must have been one pathetic display of frustration, one straight girlfriend offered to sleep with me–not because she was attracted to me, but because she hated to see me so miserable. Humiliating as that offer was, it clued me in that I really was some bizarre kind of hybrid. My male dates found that differ- ence exotic. The cheerleader coven didn’t want to be seen with me. As I got older, gay and straight people alike charged me with the moral imperative of “growing up” and “making a choice once and for all.” Having no friends who had a clue what it meant to be bisexual, it took me a lot of failed friendships and angry lovers to find some core of self. It took years of therapy for my supposed “fear of men” and my alleged “internalized homophobia” to arrive at the following insight: While be- ing bisexual seems to afford me more choices, I did not choose bisexu- ality itself. I belong in the contact zone. The borderland is my home. EN GARDE: SHARP FENCE Getting to that place of clarity was work. When I sought friend- ships–just friendships–with lesbians in college, I collided headlong into an unexpected, aggressively defended gay fortress. The queer commu- nity has opened and lightened up a lot since then, but this was the late eighties, and biphobia was still a force. The lesbians I met informed me that as long as I remained a bisexual, I could not be trusted. We bisexu- als have two faces and fork–tongues, I was told, because we can “pass.” We are the spoilsports who muck up the clean-fitting sexuality argu- ments, and who make it look as though the “ex-gay” programs “work.” They accused me of adding fuel to the hated “sexuality is elective” no- tion, yet ironically assumed my bisexuality was itself elective. Presumably to help me along in my “choice” to “get off the fence,” I was called a “tease” and a cowardly “social conformist” when I had to tell one lesbian or other that I wasn’t that into her. The fact that I prefer feminine women was blamed on my bisexuality, as though it were a form of cravenness or heterosexist Barbie™-worship. I was informed
  • Personal Perspectives on Bisexual Women’s Friendships 97 that as a bisexual, I didn’t deserve social intercourse with the gay com- munity without an equal share in the risk, without “full membership.” Both straight and gay people dismissed bisexuality as a dingy roadside attraction en route to the Carnival of Gay. I intellectually knew to blame the homophobic culture for such re- sentment, but it still stung. And they had a point, nobody can dismiss the endless social and legal eases bisexuals enjoy. But it’s been important for me, in roughing out a place for myself in the queer community over time, to fight back against the bi-phobia of other queers, even as I recog- nize it as a malformed defense against the violence of heterosexism. It’s been significant for me to learn to articulate that I don’t buy that “bisex- ual vs. gay” access to the closet adequately sums up the question of “full membership” or “risk,” if it ever did. And it’s been critical for me to join other bisexuals in helping to grow the queer culture, to get good at voicing distinctions, to argue that there are other nodes and lines of privilege, that, for example, natal fe- males–gay, bi and trans–all have far more cultural permission and lati- tude than queer men. Queers from traditionalist families always have it harder. Rich queers have it easier than poor and middle-class queers. Queers who work with kids have it harder. Urban queers have it easier than rural queers. Queers of color have it really rough sometimes. It isn’t that I don’t think the ire of the queer community should never be loosed upon its own. But I’ve argued that it should be unleashed upon the ones that are really hurting us, the ones who not only duck the slings and arrows of heterosexism, but who hurl them. There remain toxic manifestations of queer sexuality, and certain uses of the “bi” closet are poisonous to other queers. Indeed, some conservative bisexuals positively thrive in the closet, such as the “my wife and I quietly bring in a third for kink some- times”–type, or the “I only have gay encounters, never gay relation- ships”–type. In political circles, an insidious respect for the closet has grown out of the well-meaning fear of “outing” people, and has sup- pressed legitimate discussion of even publicly gay figures, like Mary Cheney, and turned a national blind eye to the most hypocritical and egregious disconnects between policy and behavior on the right. “Re- spect for the closet” has even quashed demands for investigation of the fact that the gay prostitute and fake journalist Jeff Gannon has visited the GW Bush White House on 197 occasions in a two year period, at odd hours, with hidden checkout times (Byrne, 2005). The temptation of the closet, and belief in the closet’s “place” in soci- ety, has done particular damage to bisexuals. It has injured “bi” credibil-
  • 98 BISEXUAL WOMEN: FRIENDSHIP AND SOCIAL ORGANIZATION ity. It has contributed to dysfunction and confusion both within and regarding the bisexual community, and to a clouding of its nuance. THE WHORE FACTOR I remember happening across the August 17, 1992, Time magazine story about bisexuality. The picture featured a bald, bearded man in lace, waltzing with a middle-aged woman. To me, there was something vaguely smarmy about the portrayal of this couple. I could not tell if the seedy undertone was a deliberate editorialization, or my imagination. The photo caption and article more accurately depicted “bi swingers” than “bisexuals” in general, and the article itself did not seem concerned with possible distinctions between “free love” and bisexuality: Happily married for 10 years, Richard Sharrard, a dance instruc- tor, and Tina Tessina, a psychotherapist and writer, blend in nicely enough with their neighbors in the middle-class community of Long Beach, Calif. But the couple’s life-style is far from ordinary: Sharrard and Tessina are openly and unapologetically bisexual. During their unusually flexible marriage, Sharrard has enjoyed li- aisons with half a dozen men, while Tessina has taken two female lovers. ‘It’s the best of both worlds,’ declares Sharrard, who thinks nothing could be more natural than bisexuality. (Toufexis, 1992) This version of bisexuality as “sex buffet”–not that there’s anything wrong with that–flattens the mosaic that bisexuality represents, and trivializes boundaries and commitment. Experiences of bisexuality can be vastly different from one another, can change over time, and encompass intricate and widely divergent combinations of sexual behavior, desire, and identity: “It’s not the sex/gender of the person, but the soul inside that attracts me”; “I can feel attraction to both sexes, but I tend to fall more so, or more often, in love with one sex”: “I don’t feel quite whole unless I have romantic relation- ships with both sexes” “Once I find a partner, whatever the gender, I am fully monogamous”; “I fall in love with women, but get more turned on by men” (or vice-versa); “With a woman I can be monogamously con- tent, but if I’m with a man, I need to also have a woman in my life” (or vice versa). After much diagnostic testing and some serious highway damage, I would characterize myself as the latter(est). My girlfriend is the for-
  • Personal Perspectives on Bisexual Women’s Friendships 99 mer(est). My husband is straight. It is complicated. Vertiginous, even. So surely I should not take it personally when other people–gay and straight–have trouble wrapping their brains around our situation, or if they perceive us as somehow dangerous. But we are distinctly not dan- gerous–we are in fact quite conventional and dull, and therein, ironi- cally, lay our own obstacles to finding community. We’ve at times felt isolated not just by those who are turned off by our situation, but the ones who are turned on by it as well. Morbid fascination is not fertile ground for support or understanding. I suppose interest beats rejection, but it got tedious after the third guy asked me to fulfill his threesome fantasies, as though my love relation- ships with women mean bonus kink for him. Now that I’m married to a man and also in an otherwise-exclusive relationship with a woman, both male and female acquaintances have presumed that we are swing- ers, or boundlessly polyamorous. Others assume that my bisexual girl- friend or I are “fair game,” easily stolen, or are at least comfortable with voyeurs. Friends who are “players” have taken to confessing their marital infidelities and deceits to me, as though I must sympa- thize. Both male and female acquaintances have acted positively gypped when they’ve discovered that our arrangement is not romanti- cally open to new partners. Experienced polyamours have suggested we are burdened with jealousy, because we have solid sexual parameters despite our unconventional situation. Others have gone so far as to try to haggle with me over our private agreement. Some people’s intrusion and intrigue have sounded like a quote from Homer Simpson: “I saw weird stuff in that place last night. Weird, strange, sick, twisted, god- less, evil stuff. And I want in” (Swartzwelder, Kirkland, Polcino, & Reardon, 1995). After years of academic and political activism, I’ve found myself wanting to retreat back into the closet, not because of bigots, but be- cause of sexual prospectors. I shift between wanting to maintain a Mid- west ethic of avoiding personal topics on the one hand, even to the point of leaving the heterosexual presumption intact or helping it along, and on the other, laying it all out–maybe on a pre-printed card–so there is no misunderstanding, and so I don’t go insane with discomfort wondering if there is an undertone of sexual pursuit working beneath new peoples’ attraction. I’m torn between wanting social connectivity and support given the complexity and relative fragility of our “triad,” and wanting certain others to fuck the hell off precisely because of that fragility. I know, what do I expect? Our situation is weird. But if it were me, I like to think I’d err on the side of presuming boundaries in other peo-
  • 100 BISEXUAL WOMEN: FRIENDSHIP AND SOCIAL ORGANIZATION ples’ relationships, rather than presuming an absence of them. And then there’s that other thing. The whore factor. That movie image of (non-client) men demanding sex from a prostitute, because she’s “just a hooker.” Or the 1950s film device where a man discovers that an un- married woman is not a virgin, so he expects sex from her too, since she’s “just a slut.” There’s also that scene in American Beauty (Mendes, Cohen, & Jinks, 1999) where the psycho military father next door, mis- construing Kevin Spacey’s character as queer, makes a pass at him. When he’s gently rebuffed, the military guy comes back and shoots Spacey’s character in the head. How dare a lowly faggot reject me? It’s the idea that those who act outside of sexual conventions are somehow ruined; “turned-out,” or are just public fragments of people whose main component is sex; that we aren’t whole, private beings with limits and integrity. I recall a time I filled in for someone at a lesbian kissing booth at UC Berkeley. I’d just gone through a ceremony on National Com- ing-Out Day, and I good-humoredly gave out dry kisses for cash in the Queer Campus fundraising drive. When I was relieved of my shift and walked down the square to class, one of the payers came back and grabbed me, trying to shove her tongue down my throat. “Hey!” I yelled. “Just making sure you know which side you’re on,” she said. I was visibly creeped out. Her 7-year-old, watching the whole thing, says, “You don’t like my mommy?” I almost went back to church after that. My point is–and this may be a “duh” revelation–a consequence of continuously being “out” with my bisexuality has not just been distaste from the straight community and unease from the gay community, but the unwelcome approach of the sexually “curious,” the sexually ambi- tious, or people with repressed or ragged-edged needs that can them- selves sometimes be traced to the closet. Dealing with these is particularly difficult now that my partners and I are trying to get our footing in a new, committed romantic configuration. WHAT WE MAY WISH FOR But if such potholes have been an indelible part of our uncommon road, other parts of the scenery have been surprisingly sublime. My partners and I have managed to find close friendships in academic and spiritual circles, among people with whom we share a civic and political vision. At the same time, I find myself hanging out with few other bi- sexuals or polyamours; fewer single lesbians and single straight men. Perhaps this just makes sense. But years ago, if someone would have
  • Personal Perspectives on Bisexual Women’s Friendships 101 told me that (all other things being equal) I’d shun polyamorous circles, that I’d avoid new-agey groups where people’s boundaries seem wa- tery, that I’d prefer the company of monogamous straight couples, or traditionally committed lesbian couples, or single straight women, I’d have thought I’d gone boring or chicken or just sold out. Maybe I have. But I find myself leaning hard on those old straight high school friends who didn’t altogether “get” me back then but who have stuck it out with love and loyalty. Family members and relatives have formed a true oasis for my partners and I. Long-term, solid, straight couples as friends are a breath of fresh air. Gay men–well, they’ve never stopped being fun, but they pose no threat to our stability. But it’s really not about who is male or female, straight or gay or bi, or who is single or poly or conventionally joined. It’s about cultivating bonds of friendship along lines that are not sexually charged, either with judgment or desire. It’s about appreciating folks who recognize and af- firm our commitment, and support our stability, and who can rely on us to do the same for them. It’s about finding friends who trust us to never impose upon their partnership bonds, and who would, in turn, remain friends, not try to become lovers with any of us were our triad to fail. Sometimes I fear I’ve abandoned the queer and poly communities. But a straight girlfriend assured me that I am simply seeking what queer and straight people everywhere look for–true support for our own per- sonal well being, and for the kinds of relationships we endeavor to build. And it is this that the closet, and the socially conservative man- date for it, makes impossible. My grandparents lived in a kind of closet also. They were fundamentalist Mormons, and lived polygamously (it’s a running family joke that I am their truest heir). Their life was strict, loving, religious, chaste in its own way, and scandalous. Their chil- dren–50 in total, of whom my dad was one–had to lie about their family, lest the parents go to jail. When townspeople learned of their situation, my grandparents were called names, socially harassed, and menaced by the cops. Their situation was fragile too. It took a lot of work. It took incredible patience and consideration of others in the polyhedron. The women sac- rificed exclusivity for community and a sense of being part of some- thing sacred. Despite the sincere religious grounding and austerity that went into such a life, in the public view they shared the margins with sex criminals and Jim Jones-style cultists. Many onlookers waited for the polygamous family to fall to pieces, to shred itself from within. It re- mained strong, largely due to support they found from open-minded and loyal “gentiles.” People who could identify with their values of hard
  • 102 BISEXUAL WOMEN: FRIENDSHIP AND SOCIAL ORGANIZATION work, integrity, and, pride, even if they could not identify with the form of their arrangement. People who could say, “I don’t get it, I wouldn’t choose it for myself, but I will support your effort.” Jack and Ennis wished for even less than that. They longed simply to be able to live and love together and to be left alone, which is not enough for anyone, not by a damn sight. But it still was too much for them to want. It’s been really humbling, watching Brokeback against the back- drop of our good fortune. Against the richness of the fact that not only do we enjoy the luxury of seeking something better than to be left alone, but we truly have found community and friends, if not acceptance within the greater culture. The juxtaposition with Brokeback has snapped our vision into clear perspective. And it makes the closet seem all the more confining, musty, and small. We’ll put in a second floor, and tall, un-shaded windows instead. With a view of the mountains. REFERENCES Ade, J., & De Nicola, P. (Creators). (2006, Spring). Brokeback to the Future [Internet video]. Retrieved March 29, 2006, from Chocolate Cake City. Website: http://chocolatecakecity.com/ Byrne, J. (2005, April 24). “Secret Service records raise new questions about discredited conservative reporter.” Retrieved March 29, 2006, from TheRawStory.com. Website: http://www.rawstory.com/exclusives/byrne/secret_service_gannon_424.htm Cosmatos, G. P. (Director), Misiorowski, B. (Producer), Misiorowski, J. J. (Producer), Jacks, J. (Producer), & Daniel, S. (Producer). (1993). Tombstone [Motion picture]. United States: Walt Disney Video. Lee, A. (Director), & Schamus, J. (Producer). (2005). Brokeback Mountain [Motion picture]. United States: Universal. Mendes, S. (Director), Cohen, B. (Producer), & Jinks, D. (Producer). (1999). American Beauty [Motion picture]. United States: DreamWorks. Ordona, R. (2006, January 13). Brokeback mountain–As gay as it gets: An interview with Ang Lee. Retrieved March 29, 2006 from gay.com. Website: http://www.gay. com/entertainment/news/?sernum = 1139, (p. 7). Poe, B. (Creator). (2006). Brokeback Hobbiton. [Internet video]. Retrieved March 28, 2006 from YouTube.com. Website: http://youtube.com/watch?v = CXVqdEQ2cY4 Swartzwelder, J. (Writer), Kirkland, M. (Director), Polcino, D. (Director), & Reardon, J. (Director). (1995). Homer the Great [Television series episode 12, season 6]. In A. Jean (Executive Producer), The Simpsons. United States: 20th Century Fox Tele- vision, Gracie Films. Toufexis, A. (1992, August 17). Bisexuality what is it? In the waltz of love, where do bisexuals fit in? Are they really straight or gay, or a category unto themselves? TIME, 140(7).
  • Invisible Cords and Ties That Bind: Queering Female Friendship Shoshana Magnet
  • Available online at http://jb.haworthpress.com © 2006 by The Haworth Press, Inc. All rights reserved. doi:10.1300/J159v06n03_07 [Haworth co-indexing entry note]: “Invisible Cords and Ties That Bind: Queering Female Friendship.” Magnet, Shoshana. Co-published simultaneously in Journal of Bisexuality (Harrington Park Press, an imprint of The Haworth Press, Inc.) Vol. 6, No. 3, 2006, pp. 103-106; and: Bisexual Women: Friendship and Social Organization (ed: M. Paz Galupo) Harrington Park Press, an imprint of The Haworth Press, Inc., 2006, pp. 103-106. Single or multiple copies of this article are available for a fee from The Haworth Document Delivery Service [1-800-HAWORTH, 9:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m. (EST). E-mail address: docdelivery@haworthpress.com].
  • Personal Perspectives on Bisexual Women’s Friendships 105 SUMMARY. This short piece rethinks compulsory heterosexuality through an examination of the invisibility of the erotics of female friend- ship. The author uses narrative to investigate the privileges of straight re- lationships and their impact on queer forms of relating. Heterosexism reifies the boundaries between platonic friendships and erotic relation- ships so that the contested space between the two is erased. What might the landscape of these in-between spaces look like? [Article copies avail- able for a fee from The Haworth Document Delivery Service: 1-800-HAWORTH. E-mail address: <docdelivery@haworthpress.com> Website: <http://www. HaworthPress.com> © 2006 by The Haworth Press, Inc. All rights reserved.] KEYWORDS. Bisexuality, female friendship, queer friendship, com- pulsory heterosexuality Seeing the way I look at you, at the invisible cord between us, people ask. We’re just friends I say. Strolling down the street, arm in arm, we didn’t feel so much like friends. Shopping for withered winter vegetables together. “Oranges are not the only fruit I said” I said when you stopped to look–hoping you would smile. They’re over a dollar a pound you said and sighed. Leaving the market–we passed two women laughing–one leaning on the other–pressing her mouth against the collarbone that rose like a phoenix from the curve of her lover’s neck. Just below the spot I most cherish on you. I turned to look for the hollow where three freckles come together in a triangle. The one that always makes me sing “these are a few of my favourite things.” Something else which used to make you laugh. Feeling my eyes your hand rose to your neck to cover my spot. You turned away from the oranges and said “let’s go home.” I longed longed longed for you to forget our situation. Longed for this morning, when I woke up sleepy with early morning sunlight from where it came through the crack in my curtains. When you wanted to get up I should have insisted that we stay in bed all day and eat nothing but cherries and forget the fact that I am supposed to be in love with some- body else. With my wandering hand–the one with the mind of its own that tends towards your body–I reached to tuck your hair behind your ear. You’re quiet I said to you. I’m sad you said–drawing your hair out of your face, out of my reach.
  • 106 BISEXUAL WOMEN: FRIENDSHIP AND SOCIAL ORGANIZATION My skin is supposed to hold the memory of four years of heterosex- ual bliss. Instead, it glows from the memory of your whispered touch behind my ear yesterday as you brushed the Toronto dust out of my hair and said: you look tired. I wanted to take your hand and press it against my heart and say: you are the person that I want to spend the rest of my life with. Instead I said–I was up late last night. Meaning I was up late thinking about you, remembering you, wish- ing that the unsympathetic pillow that I placed at my back so I could curl up next to something was your sleepy self. Facing the wall so I wouldn’t have to see my perfectly flat bed: no hollow left from your body. I don’t understand how we can be in love and it can still not work you said. I said nothing. Thought about four years of breakfasts in bed cooked for me but not eaten. Of tea grown cold with boredom and de- spair. Of a history of kind men I couldn’t/wouldn’t leave. “What are you thinking about?” you said. I longed for a distraction. Longed for the time when you still laughed at my jokes. When I was funny to you. When we stayed up till four a.m. and ate vegan ice cream and it all looked like it was going to work out. Laughing together at what someone once referred as our niche market humour. How many Jewish vegetarian dykes with gay moms does it take to screw in a light bulb? Thinking about the time when you turned to smile at me and how happy I was–the kind of happiness that is sup- posed to be cliché and best left to Hallmark. I wanted to say to you: “Can’t we find a way to talk this through, to really talk it through so it is solved. Where we change, not just process. Fuck feminist process anyway–I want something different, something new, something that works.” Instead, I tucked my hand into my pocket and said “I’ll walk you home.” Back home in my apartment, I will curl up with my back against the pillow that I will pretend is you, wishing it was warmer. Wishing I were braver. Wishing things were different. Knowing they won’t change.
  • Playing with Pieces of Paper: The Impact of Non-Labeled Spaces on Relationships Meaghan A. Overton
  • Available online at http://jb.haworthpress.com © 2006 by The Haworth Press, Inc. All rights reserved. doi:10.1300/J159v06n03_08 [Haworth co-indexing entry note]: “Playing with Pieces of Paper: The Impact of Non-Labeled Spaces on Relationships.” Overton, Meaghan A. Co-published simultaneously in Journal of Bisexuality (Harrington Park Press, an imprint of The Haworth Press, Inc.) Vol. 6, No. 3, 2006, pp. 107-113; and: Bisexual Women: Friendship and Social Organization (ed: M. Paz Galupo) Harrington Park Press, an imprint of The Haworth Press, Inc., 2006, pp. 107-113. Single or multiple copies of this article are available for a fee from The Haworth Document Delivery Service [1-800-HAWORTH, 9:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m. (EST). E-mail address: docdelivery@haworthpress.com].
  • Personal Perspectives on Bisexual Women’s Friendships 109 SUMMARY. This personal narrative explores some of the ways in which friendships and communities transform when sexual identity boundaries are changed and blurred. I will share parts of my journey to- ward a dynamic, unlabeled sexuality in an effort to illuminate some of the creative spaces that exist between, within, and outside sexual identity la- bels. I have found that locating my sexual identity within these creative, non-labeled spaces has had an enormous impact on my relationships, and I will explore some of the ways in which my “playful” approach to sexual identity has shaped my close friendships and social networks. Specifi- cally, I will explain the ways in which María Lugones’ (1987) concept of “playfulness” has helped me construct meaningful relationships across identity boundaries. [Article copies available for a fee from The Haworth Doc- ument Delivery Service: 1-800-HAWORTH. E-mail address: <docdelivery@ haworthpress.com> Website: <http://www.HaworthPress.com> © 2006 by The Haworth Press, Inc. All rights reserved.] KEYWORDS. Sexuality, labels, friendship, sexual orientation, social networks, sexual identity, community, feminism My trusty American Heritage Dictionary defines label as “anything functioning as a means of identification, especially a small piece of pa- per attached to an article to designate its origin, owner, contents, etc.” (1979, p. 395). In all honesty, this definition brings to my mind the im- age of a box in the attic–stagnant, unchanging, and dusty. This is not to say that labels are useless. I understand that labels serve as valuable heuristics that can assist people in communicating ideas, forming friendships, and building communities of like-minded individuals. I also recognize, however, that not all labels are useful or universally ap- plicable. In my own life, I have made an effort to bring a sense of “play- fulness” to my identity and the labels I choose to utilize. In this essay, I will explore the ways in which my journey toward the adoption of a dy- namic, unlabeled sexual identity has impacted my friendships and so- cial networks, and how “playfulness” has allowed me to develop deeper, more intimate relationships across identity boundaries. I used to think that I needed to be able to describe myself in a set of one-word labels–daughter, sister, friend, activist, student. I tried in vain to find a word to tack on to my litany of identities that would represent my sexual behavior and desires. I tried bisexual, but I found that people made horribly inaccurate assumptions about my sexuality. Most people as-
  • 110 BISEXUAL WOMEN: FRIENDSHIP AND SOCIAL ORGANIZATION sumed that I desired men and women equally at all times. Men often asked if they could join in with my girlfriend and I, wrongly assuming that I would welcome a man into my same-sex relationship. I eventually dropped the bisexual label, not because of other people’s assumptions and stereotypes, but because I couldn’t discuss with others what my bi- sexuality really meant. They heard “bisexual” and locked me into a par- ticular set of behaviors and desires that actually didn’t fit me at all. Just as people don’t generally expect a dusty box in the attic to contain anything more than its label indicates, so did people incorrectly suppose that my bi- sexuality was a predictable, unchanging part of my identity. I wanted to explain my sexuality on my own terms, so I began to search for a label that could offer me more room for exploration and self-construction. After my experiment with a bisexual identity, I began to investigate the possibilities that a homosexual identity could offer. I claimed the labels of lesbian, dyke, queer, and gay (the word I used often depended on my mood). All of these identities cast me as “not heterosexual,” which is ex- actly what I wanted. I surrounded myself with other people whose identi- ties ranged from lesbian to trans boi, and finally felt a sense of comfort and belonging among a community of outsiders. I was dating a woman at the time, and I was secure in my not-straight identity. I was still attracted to men from time to time, but I didn’t tell anyone about my desires. I was willing to ignore the parts of me that didn’t fit into my homosexual life and community; as far as I knew, no one in my social group shared my se- cret attraction to men. It was not until I had a conversation with a dear friend that I realized that my community, though comfortable, was silenc- ing me. My friend confessed to me (in a voice barely above a whisper) that she was going to visit a male friend that weekend. And that she was attracted to him. She didn’t want me to tell anyone; for fear that she would be ostracized from the group. Her status as a “real lesbian” would have been in question, and she didn’t want to lose the feeling of belonging and acceptance she had found within our shared community. This conversation with my friend marked a shift in my perception of sexual identity labels. Labels had meant a stable, comfortable construc- tion of who I was and who my friends were. I knew what it meant to lo- cate my sexuality within a lesbian identity–I knew how to interact with other lesbians, how to conduct myself around heterosexual people, and how to distinguish a safe space from a hostile environment. But what I did not know was how to embrace the parts of myself that existed out- side of the confines of a homosexual label. My safe, fairly predictable community only seemed stable. In actuality, our identities were con- stantly changing and shifting. Our labels kept things orderly, but they
  • Personal Perspectives on Bisexual Women’s Friendships 111 also kept us silent. How many of my close friends felt that they could not explore different parts of their sexuality because of the label they had chosen? I was troubled by the intolerant and unyielding ways in which my friends and I had built our connections. I wanted to explore my identity. I wanted to create a sexuality that reflected my true desires and needs. I wanted to turn all of the labels inside-out and upside-down, to unmask them for what they really were–simple ways to describe incredibly complex feelings and behaviors. I wanted to play. I discovered a kind of instruction manual for “playful” identity forma- tion during the course of my undergraduate exploration of feminist writ- ings. I learned that there were countless varieties of feminism, that sexuality and identity could be fluid, and that changes in perspective of- ten sparked creative responses to silence and inequality. With help from professors, feminist theorists, and fellow students, I began to give myself permission to deconstruct and reconstruct my sexual identity. One theo- rist in particular helped me create an unlabeled space for my sexuality. In her 1987 article, “Playfulness, ‘World’-Travelling, and Loving Percep- tion,” María Lugones writes about the essential characteristics of playful- ness. Her conception of play encourages shifts and changes in identity and labels that allow people to travel within one another’s experiences at a level deeper than simple words can provide. Play is about sharing and learning, and creating an environment where exploration is encouraged. To be truly playful, Lugones argues that we must accept uncertainty and be open to surprise, that we should explore different constructions of ourselves, and that rules, if they exist at all, should not be immutable truths. Lugones’ demand for active, creative participation in relation- ships resonated deeply with me. Though Lugones is primarily con- cerned with the navigation of racial/ethnic boundaries, I thought that her conceptualization of playfulness could just as easily be applied to ex- plorations of sexual identity. So I resolved to construct for myself a non-labeled, playful sexual identity–one that existed between, within, and outside the labels I had struggled with for so long. I can only begin to describe the sense of relief I felt when I began to realize that adopting a playful attitude toward sexual identity labels would allow me to explore anything and everything. I admitted and em- braced my attraction to men, while still maintaining that my relation- ships with women had been much more successful attempts at challenging sexism and patriarchal power structures. I dressed in drag, experimented with both hyper-masculinity and hyper-femininity, and challenged myself to explore different performances of gender. I had in- tense conversations with friends and acquaintances about the countless
  • 112 BISEXUAL WOMEN: FRIENDSHIP AND SOCIAL ORGANIZATION ways we had chosen to construct our sexualities. I explored, talked, studied, and wrote about sexual identity. Eventually, I began to develop the tools to explain my sexuality on my own terms, and to challenge others to examine their own sexual identities. María Lugones (1987) writes that, when we adopt a playful attitude toward human connection, we can “find [in] ambiguity and double edges a source of wisdom and delight” (p. 401). It can be powerful to travel between and among labels, as it can allow us to access more fully the unpredictable, inconsistent beauty of human sexuality. I have found that people are more likely to explain their own sexuality to me when they realize that I don’t expect or require them to place any particular la- bel on their behaviors. One discussion I had recently with a coworker comes immediately to mind. My coworker and I began to clash the moment after I walked through the door on my first day. He was everything that I had rejected in my four years at a women’s college: he was a political conservative, a wom- anizer, and a military man. We traded snide and sometimes hurtful com- ments with one another as a way to ease some of the tension between us. I hadn’t told him anything about my sexuality. I wasn’t sure if he thought I was heterosexual, or if someone else had already told him that I was dating a woman. One day, he told me he wanted to ask me a “per- sonal” question. He wanted to know if I was really a lesbian. It would have been easy to say yes, if only to avoid feeling vulnerable in front of someone who had offended me and hurt my feelings. Instead I said, “Not exactly. I’ll tell you about it later.” I explained later that night that I was dating a woman, but that I didn’t identify as a lesbian. Or as a bisex- ual. Or as anything for that matter. I told him that it was entirely possible that I might date a man someday. (Of course he thought this meant he had a chance, but I quickly informed him otherwise.) About a week later, we began talking about sexuality again. He told me about his three failed marriages, and about some ménages-a-trois experiences that he’d had. Immediately following his disclosure, how- ever, my coworker strongly reaffirmed his heterosexuality. He said he was completely, absolutely straight. Not gay at all. I decided to take the opportunity to challenge him and said, “But you’ve had threesomes. And you said there was another man involved. So does that mean you’re still completely straight?” He looked at me and told me he hadn’t ever thought about it that way, but that he supposed he wasn’t completely heterosexual. I realized that he hadn’t allowed himself to explore the spaces that exist between straight, bisexual, and gay identities. We be- gan talking about bisexuality, labels, and how most people fall some-
  • Personal Perspectives on Bisexual Women’s Friendships 113 where in between the straight-gay continuum. Our working relationship has improved dramatically since then, because that conversation cre- ated some sort of common ground upon which we could begin to build a friendship. I honestly think that if I had let him believe that I was a les- bian, we wouldn’t have had such an open conversation about sexuality. And we most certainly would not have found a place beyond our various labels where we could connect as people. This conversation with my coworker, and the other experiences I’ve shared in this essay, were only brief moments in my journey toward a playful, creative attitude toward sexual identity. So far, I’ve found that a non-labeled sexuality has helped me create spaces for deeper, more inti- mate connections with people. I have been surprised and amazed by the incredible multiplicity of sexualities that people have shared with me, and as I continue to explore my sexuality, I look forward to even more conversations and connections. As I see it, the following quote exemplifies the necessity of playful attitudes toward sexual identity: It should be clear by now that we do not do justice to people’s sexual orientation when we refer to it by a singular noun. There are homo- sexualities and there are heterosexualities, each involving a variety of different interrelated dimensions. (Bell & Weinberg, 1978) It saddens me that nearly 30 years later we still pressure one another to adopt labels that constrict and silence the full expression of our sexual- ity. The labels we use to describe sexuality are too often static, and can’t possibly encompass the diversity of human sexual behavior. We need to create space for all of the people who don’t fit into a predetermined cate- gory, and I think that playfulness has the capacity to radically alter our conceptions of sexual identity. REFERENCES Bell, A. P. & Weinberg, M. S. (1978). Homosexualities: A study of diversity among men and women. (p. 329). New York: Simon & Schuster. Davies, P. (Ed.). (1979). The American Heritage dictionary of the English language (Paperback edition). New York: Dell Publishing. Lugones, M. (1987). Playfulness, “world”-travelling, and loving perception. Hypatia: A Journal of Feminist Philosophy, 2(2), 3-20. In Anzaldúa, Gloria (Ed.). (1990). Making face, making soul: Creative and critical perspectives by feminists of color (pp. 390-402). San Francisco: Aunt Lute Books.
  • Relating the Personal Experiences of Bisexual Women to the Friendship Literature Marcia L. Pearl
  • Available online at http://jb.haworthpress.com © 2006 by The Haworth Press, Inc. All rights reserved. doi:10.1300/J159v06n03_09 [Haworth co-indexing entry note]: “Relating the Personal Experiences of Bisexual Women to the Friend- ship Literature.” Pearl, Marcia L. Co-published simultaneously in Journal of Bisexuality (Harrington Park Press, an imprint of The Haworth Press, Inc.) Vol. 6, No. 3, 2006, pp. 115-127; and: Bisexual Women: Friend- ship and Social Organization (ed: M. Paz Galupo) Harrington Park Press, an imprint of The Haworth Press, Inc., 2006, pp. 115-127. Single or multiple copies of this article are available for a fee from The Haworth Doc- ument Delivery Service [1-800-HAWORTH, 9:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m. (EST). E-mail address: docdelivery@ haworthpress.com].
  • Personal Perspectives on Bisexual Women’s Friendships 117 SUMMARY. Friendship research has only recently allowed an under- standing of the experiences of bisexual women. When bisexual women’s friendships have been considered, however, their experiences have largely been discussed in contrast to other sexual minority compar- ison groups. This paper provides an analysis of the literature related to the personal experiences of bisexual women in an effort to better under- stand the ways in which friendship may be experienced. Discussion will focus on three major themes related to bisexual women’s friend- ships: (1) definitions of friendship; (2) attitudes toward bisexuality mediates friendship experiences; and (3) friendship networks and com- munities. Suggestions are offered regarding how the research literature could better reflect the complex and diverse friendship experiences of bi- sexual women. [Article copies available for a fee from The Haworth Document Delivery Service: 1-800-HAWORTH. E-mail address: <docdelivery@haworthpress. com> Website: <http://www.HaworthPress.com> © 2006 by The Haworth Press, Inc. All rights reserved.] KEYWORDS. Bisexuality, bisexual women, friendship, bisexual com- munity Research on bisexual women’s friendships is limited and the current literature has yet to represent the complexity of the lived experiences of bisexual women. Bisexual women’s friendships have been largely un- derstood in relation to other sexual minority comparison groups. The re- sulting friendship literature, then, characterizes bisexual experience as relatively homogeneous. The present literature analysis will consider the lived experiences of bisexual women as a way to broaden the framing of bisexual women’s friendship research. The analysis will incorporate personal accounts included in this volume (Estep, 2006; Magnet, 2006; Overton, 2006) as well as those in Robin Och and Sarah Rowley’s (2005) anthology. Och and Rowley’s book is ideal for such an examination as it is both recent, and global in its discussion of bisexuality. The discussion pro- vided will focus on three of the major themes related to bisexual women’s friendships: (1) definitions of friendship; (2) attitudes toward bisexuality mediates friendship experiences; and (3) friendship net- works and communities.
  • 118 BISEXUAL WOMEN: FRIENDSHIP AND SOCIAL ORGANIZATION DEFINITIONS OF FRIENDSHIP Traditional definitions maintain that friendship exists outside of sex- ual experiences. The psychological literature has consistently assumed that friendships are non-sexual and this is particularly true for same-sex friends (Arseneau & Fassinger, 2006; Rose, 2000). Furthermore, Rothblum (1999) states that some flirtatiousness and sexual energy may contribute to a friendship, but without physical genital sexual activity the friendship is probably identified as a “nonsexual” one. Specifically, she identifies four categories of people: “(1) lovers (usually one lover); (2) enemies (hopefully none or few); (3) people we haven’t met; and (4) friends (that is, everyone else)” (p. 79). This definition illustrates that the term “friend” is broadly defined by what it is not–and therefore includes “almost anyone we know who is not a lover” (p. 79). Rose (2000) understands this nonsexual view of friendship as stem- ming from the cultural construction of friendship as it is centered on heterosexist norms and that have “reserved sexuality exclusively for cross-sex relations” (Rose, p. 323). She states “same-sex friendships are ‘found’ to be platonic because few or no questions are asked about sexuality. In turn, the available empirical evidence is taken to support the cultural construction of friendships as asexual” (Rose, p. 323). Re- cent research, particularly lesbian friendship research indicates that friendship may not be so discretely separate from sexual and/or roman- tic relationships (see literature on lesbians’ friendships, Rust, 2000, Weinstock, 1998). This research challenges the heterosexist notion of friendship as asexual. Lesbian Perspectives on Friendship Lesbians’ experiences of friendship do not always conform to the tra- ditional views of (heterosexual) friendship. Unlike heterosexual women, it is quite common among lesbians to derive both lovers and friends from their circle of same-sex acquaintances (Rust, 2000). In addition, Rose and Zand (2002) describe that lesbians do not routinely engage in the same dating scripts as do heterosexuals. Rather, a friend- ship script for dating tends to be both the most common and the most preferred way to enter into a romantic relationship for lesbians. Not only do lesbian women often count their lovers among their friends–and even best friends–but lesbians also frequently remain friends with ex-lovers (Becker, 1988; Harkless & Fowers, 2005; Rose & Zand, 2000; Rothblum, 1999). Specifically, Harkless and Fowers (2005)
  • Personal Perspectives on Bisexual Women’s Friendships 119 found that both gay men and lesbians reported higher levels of post-breakup connectedness in both attitude and behavior than their het- erosexual counterparts. Becker (1988) adds that friendships between ex-lovers may include the passion and eroticism of the prior sexual rela- tionship. On the whole, this research projects a developmental frame- work for lesbian friendship where friendship selection, development, and maintenance all include potential dimensions of sexuality. Bisexual Experience: Challenging the Definitions of Friendship Although the role of same-sex “passionate friendships” has been ex- plored in sexual minority youth especially in relation to emerging iden- tities (Diamond, 2000; 2002) the traditional definition of friendship as non-sexual has not been fully explored by researchers of bisexual women’s friendships (particularly for women who self-identify as bi- sexual). However, the idea that bisexual women may not neatly draw a line between their friendships and sexual relationships is supported in the personal narratives of bisexual women. In some cases, the ways in which friendships are defined mirror the research on lesbians’ friend- ships. For example, the heterosexist assumptions about friendship dis- cussed by Rose (2000) also influence the ways in which same-sex friendships of bisexual women are viewed. Shoshana Magnet (2006) explores this in her personal narrative. “Seeing the way I look at you, at the invisible cord between us, people ask. We’re just friends I say. Strolling down the street, arm in arm, we didn’t feel so much like friends” (p. 105). What is different for bisexual women, however, is that same-sex and cross-sex friendships (each with the potential for sexual attraction) are not similarly affected by heterosexist norms. For exam- ple, same-sex relationships are more likely to be “coded” as friendships (and therefore less significant) than cross-sex ones. The following quotations from Ochs and Rowley’s anthology (2005) also illustrate the ways in which sexuality is incorporated into friend- ship experiences for bisexual women. Angelica Ramirez-Roa, from Mexico, stated, “. . . we not only perceived women as friends, we could relate affectively and sexually to them” (p. 159). The fluidity between friendship and sexual relationships is shown in a quote from Matilde Bergenholtz Mansa, a resident of Denmark: She explains, “[her] hus- band respects [her] bisexuality . . . Until now [her] relationships with women have mainly been about sex, though two of [those sexual] part- ners have become close friends” (p. 125). And finally Elizabeth M. Hagovsky, from Maryland, discusses her desire to have friends like her
  • 120 BISEXUAL WOMEN: FRIENDSHIP AND SOCIAL ORGANIZATION where she states, “I have reached the point where I need to know other people whose skin is set on fire by multiple genders and sexes” (p. 155). Research has not examined the post-romantic friendship patterns of bisexual women and their ex-lovers. For example, are bisexual women (like lesbians) likely to consider their lovers to be their friends? And if so, does this inclusion of ex-lovers as friends apply to both male and fe- male ex-lovers? A quote from Iona Woodward, from New Zealand (in Ochs & Rowley, 2005), may partially speak to these issues: I’m sitting in a café with my boyfriend waiting to order breakfast. Tonight we’re going to the housewarming party of my ex-girl- friend and her partner. This is how my life is. This is normal. . . . My now-boyfriend is also my ex. . . . This is the second, even better time around. I’ve learned a lot about life and love in the in- tervening years, thanks to her, thanks to another him. (p. 129) While lesbian friendship research has provided a framework for un- derstanding friendship development, the research concerning bisexual friendship is not as fully developed. Considering friendship initiation, development, and resolution could potentially expand the definitions of friendships for bisexual women and better reflect friendship as a process (rather than an endpoint). One topic that has been completely neglected in the research litera- ture is the potential polyamorous aspect of bisexual friendships. Rothblum (1999) argued that friendships are polyamorous by their very nature, however “this permission to love more than one friend is in con- trast to the way we conceptualize romantic relationships” (p. 75). The potential complications to friendship for bisexual women were evident in the narratives. Polyamorous bisexuals are constantly faced with ex- plaining their behavior to others. Adri Van Den Berg, from the Nether- lands explains the simple way, “. . . we promise to be as slutty as we like, and remain faithful to each other” (In Ochs & Rowley, p. 120). But oth- ers might feel that in order to begin a friendship with someone– same-sex or other-sex–requires a bit more explanation. I don’t want to lie to these women, so I always have to explain for hours on end who I am, how my relationship to my husband works, why I don’t feel a lot of guilt, and why I don’t characterize this as being unfaithful. (Matilde Bergenholtz Mansa, from Den- mark, In Ochs & Rowley, p. 125)
  • Personal Perspectives on Bisexual Women’s Friendships 121 ATTITUDES TOWARD BISEXUALITY MEDIATES FRIENDSHIP EXPERIENCES Biphobia Bisexuals often experience isolation both during the coming out pro- cess and afterward. It is common for a bisexual to face criticism and re- jection from not only heterosexual friends, but also lesbian and gay male friends (Fox, 1996; Ochs, 1996). Ochs and Rowley mention, “Being un- able to find or connect with other bisexuals can exacerbate [this] strain. Sadly, [this] lack of community is a critical element in the experience of many bisexual people” (p. 147). Adri Van Den Pero, from the Nether- lands, provides evidence of this isolation from her personal experience: Too many gays only accept the same-sex aspect of bisexuals and neglect or disdain the other-sex part; and too many heteros do the reverse. I think that many more people are bisexual but are afraid to say so, and I hope I can stimulate their coming out and help cre- ate a safe environment in which they can do so. (In Ochs & Rowley, 2005, p. 120) Bisexual women have especially felt this criticism and isolation within the lesbian community. For example, Rust (1995) reported that lesbians prefer lesbian friends (over bisexual women) and Galupo (2007) has shown that bisexual women are more likely to find friendship outside of the lesbian, gay, bisexual community. While these demographic studies support the ways in which biphobia may structure friendship networks for bisexual women (Galupo, 2007), the personal narratives of bisexual women illustrate the real ways in which biphobia is enacted within friendships. Angelica Ramirez-Roa, from Mexico, provides her mem- ory of coming out to her lesbian friends as bisexual: When, in informal conversation, one of us would mention that men were not outside of our orbit of interest, our friends’ expres- sions changed suddenly from hospitality and flirtation to open re- jection. We were the objects of derision. Some women even stopped talking to us. The called us insultingly ‘bi-cycles’ . . . they stopped trusting us. (In Ochs & Rowley, 2005, p. 159) Bisexual Stereotypes Heterosexual undergraduate college students in Eliason’s 1997 study rated bisexual women and men as less acceptable than lesbians and gay men. The stereotypes reported by these heterosexual students included
  • 122 BISEXUAL WOMEN: FRIENDSHIP AND SOCIAL ORGANIZATION the idea that bisexuals are confused about their sexual identity, that they are gay or lesbian people who lack the courage to come out, that they are promiscuous, have more than one partner at a time, spread AIDS to heterosexuals and lesbians, and are obsessed with sex. (Eliason, 1997, p. 318) Although bisexual stereotypes have been discussed in depth elsewhere (Eliason, 1997; Fox, 1996) the personal narratives of bisexual women present these stereotypes as potential barriers to friendships. Bisexual “Confusion” Many people do not believe in bisexuality as a valid identity, assume that bisexual individuals are confused about their sexual identity, and are unable to choose between society’s dichotomous options of gay and straight. A common response to individuals who identify as bisexual is the pressure to “pick a side” (Ochs & Rowley, p. 147). Often this pres- sure comes from friends. Cisem Kundupoglu, a Turkish citizen cur- rently studying in the United States, explained that her best pal in Turkey “understood what I meant by ‘any form of love.’ However, to my other peers [in the United States], being bisexual meant being confused” (In Ochs & Rowley, p. 64). Another common misapprehension is that sexual behavior with both males and females is necessary in order to maintain a bisexual identity. Carla Imperial, from the United States, expresses this in her personal narrative: “Many of my friends did not understand bisexuality. They as- sumed that because I was with a woman, I should not feel the need to uphold the bisexual label” (In Ochs & Rowley, p. 130). Lesbians, and feminists in particular, also commonly reject bisexual women because they believe that these self-identified bisexuals are ei- ther confused or simply trying to avoid the shared struggle of the women’s movement. Rust (2000) states, “Among lesbians, the lesbian feminist construction of lesbian identity as a political identity cast bi- sexuality as a political cop-out.” More specifically, C. S. Gilbert, from Florida, explains, “Those were the early years of the modern women’s liberation movement, the 70s and early 80s. Lesbian feminist separatists didn’t trust straight women much–but they trusted bisexuals even less” (In Ochs & Rowley, p. 118). It seems that the inherent problem and barrier to bisexual friendship is not that bisexuals are confused about their identity, but rather that so- ciety is confused about bisexuality. It is common practice, especially in
  • Personal Perspectives on Bisexual Women’s Friendships 123 the United States, to label people in many situations. These labels can be appropriate in certain situations–and even necessary at times–but more often than not, labels only lead to broad generalizations that cause con- fusion and ultimately result in more harm than good. Meaghan Overton’s (2006) narrative addresses how the bisexual label stands in the way of meaningful social relationships and describes her personal solution for moving beyond bisexual stereotypes: I eventually dropped the bisexual label, not because of other peo- ple’s assumptions and stereotypes, but because I couldn’t discuss with others what my bisexuality really meant. They heard “bisex- ual” and locked me into a particular set of behaviors and desires that actually didn’t fit me at all. I wanted to explain my sexuality on my own terms, so I began to search for a label that could offer me more room for exploration and self-construction. (p. 110) Belief That All Bisexuals Are Promiscuous O’Boyle and Thomas (1996) outlined potential barriers to les- bian-heterosexual friendship. The barriers identified would theoreti- cally extend to bisexual-heterosexual friendships as well (e.g. heterosexism and fear of unwanted sexual advances). Eliason’s 1997 study of the prevalence and nature of biphobia led her to the conclusion that while many people who are biphobic may in fact also be homopho- bic, there are some underlying differences. Specifically, she states that, “Bisexuals are thought to be even more preoccupied with sex than gays or lesbians, and they are thought to have more flexible attitudes about sex than heterosexuals, gay men, or lesbians” (Eliason, p. 324). In support of Eliason’s speculation, the personal narratives of bisex- ual women illustrate this barrier-one that is likely, specific to bisexual- ity. “Where it gets tough is in the dating realm, as I am immediately pegged as an over-sexed dating machine” (Kathy Hester, from Louisi- ana, In Ochs & Rowley, p. 132). The stereotype that bisexuals are pro- miscuous is not only a barrier to friendship, but is also a nuisance according to Julie Estep (2006): Now that I’m married to a man and also in an otherwise-exclusive relationship with a woman, both male and female acquaintances have presumed that we are swingers, or boundlessly polyamorous. Others assume that my bisexual girlfriend or I are “fair game,” eas- ily stolen, or are at least comfortable with voyeurs. Friends who are
  • 124 BISEXUAL WOMEN: FRIENDSHIP AND SOCIAL ORGANIZATION “players” have taken to confessing their marital infidelities and de- ceits to me, as though I must sympathize. Both male and female ac- quaintances have acted positively gypped when they’ve discovered that our arrangement is not romantically open to new partners. (p. 99) Estep mentioned in her personal narrative that she occasionally contem- plates her options: avoiding situations where she might need to explain her personal relationships or avoiding misunderstandings by providing more detail than most potential friends might really want to hear. Both solutions, however, have the potential to isolate bisexual individuals from community. FRIENDSHIP NETWORKS AND COMMUNITIES Need for Bisexual Friendship Networks and Community Communities and friendship networks provide support and under- standing–two needs that often go unmet for many bisexual individuals. Simply put by Beth Firestein of Colorado, “Sometimes my bisexuality makes me feel like a permanent outsider” (In Ochs & Rowley, 2005, p. 149). And Estrela states, “Being bi in Poland is not easy. . . . If we had other similar people around us, we would know we are nor- mal and not alone!” (In Ochs & Rowley, p. 150) Julie Estep (2006) emphasizes both the need for bisexual community as well as a com- mon barrier to fulfilling that need: “We understand ourselves in the re- flection of community, and we define ourselves, often, by who we love. But bisexuality creates a ‘half-breed’ phenomenon; a sexual no-man’s-land where belonging anyplace can amount to belonging no-place” (Estep, 2006, p. 95). Bisexuality presents a difficult position for individuals looking for community. As stated by Robyn Ochs: Most bisexuals spend a majority of [their] time in the community that corresponds with the sex and sexual orientation of [their] ro- mantic partner. As a result, [they] may experience a sense of dis- continuity if [they] change partners and [their] partner is of a different sex, or if [they] shift back and forth between two differ- ing communities over time. (In Ochs & Rowley, 2005, p. 209) Furthermore, Estep explains that, “The closet, especially the default closet unique to a ‘bisexual lifestyle,’ doesn’t just deny us an open life
  • Personal Perspectives on Bisexual Women’s Friendships 125 with our true love. It denies us community. It denies us our true friends” (2006, p. 93). Community Development Despite the bisexual social movement which took place in the mid-1970s, bisexual individuals did not become nationally organized or create an identifiable community until the early 1990s (Udis-Kessler, 1995). When a bisexual individual is first discovering his or her identity without the support of a discernable community the already difficult process of coming out multiplies. As a result, bisexual individuals may often find themselves in a group or community that might not be a perfect fit, but might help them find their way: I was willing to ignore the parts of me that didn’t fit into my ho- mosexual life and community; as far as I knew, no one in my social group shared my secret attraction to men. It was not until I had a conversation with a dear friend that I realized that my community, though comfortable, was silencing me . . . [We] didn’t want to lose the feeling of belonging and acceptance [we] had found within our shared community. (Overton, 2006, p. 110) In addition, Nancy Leclerc, of Quebec, realized “. . . that in many cases people do not participate because they are scared. They are afraid to identify as bisexual in both the straight ‘mainstream’ society and the queer community” (In Ochs & Rowley, 2005, p. 161). Beth Firestein, of Colorado, adds, “I have always been afraid to come out, but every time I have chosen to take that risk, I have been rewarded with an increased sense of connection, acceptance and community” (In Ochs & Rowley, 2005, p. 149). Interestingly, for a minority group which has suffered and continues to suffer such outright rejection, One distinct feature of the bisexual community is its forthright ac- knowledgement that identifying as bisexual can be a temporary or transitional period for some people. The community extends its welcome to anyone willing to embrace the bisexual label, and also to those who may not. (Likewise, for many others, identifying as gay or lesbian may be a temporary stop on the road to bisexuality, but other communities are rarely as welcoming.) (Ochs & Rowley, p. 147)
  • 126 BISEXUAL WOMEN: FRIENDSHIP AND SOCIAL ORGANIZATION Weinberg, Williams and Pryor (2001) suggest that during mid-life, bisexual women and men may become less involved in the bi commu- nity “ . . . by midlife, changing life commitments among the participants were associated with . . . a move toward sexual activity with just one sex, a decrease in contact with the bisexual subculture, and a decrease in the salience of a bisexual identity” (Weinberg, Williams, & Pryor, 2001, p. 181). How community and the corresponding friendship net- works shift across the lifespan and across relationship status for bisexual women is a topic for future research. CONCLUSION Researchers have only recently begun to consider bisexual women’s friendships. Through this research, an outline of bisexual women’s friendships has emerged. The present analysis is intended to comple- ment current research by using personal narratives to illustrate the di- verse ways friendship is experienced by bisexual women. Selected examples related to definitions of friendships, bisexual stereotypes, and communities illustrate how attention to bisexual experience can shift and broaden current discussions of friendship. In particular, these shifts are certain to result in a more representative portrayal of bisex- ual women and are likely to change the way in which friendship is con- ceptualized more generally. REFERENCES Arseneau, J. R., & Fassinger, R. E. (2006). Challenge and Promise: The Study of Bi- sexual Women’s Friendships. Journal of Bisexuality, 6(3), pp. 69-90. Becker, C. S. (1988). Lesbian Ex-Lovers. Boston: Alyson Publications. Diamond, L. M. (2000). Passionate friendships among adolescent sexual-minority women. Journal of Research on Adolescence, 10, 191-209. Diamond, L. M. (2002). “Having a girlfriend without knowing it”: Intimate friendships among adolescent sexual-minority women. Journal of Lesbian Studies, 6(1), 5-16. Eliason, M. J. (1997, June). The prevalence and nature of biphobia in heterosexual un- dergraduate students. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 26(3), 317-326. Estep, J. (2006). Fencing on Brokeback: Intersecting Bisexuality and Women’s Friendship. Journal of Bisexuality, 6(3), pp. 91-102. Fox, R. C. (1996). Bisexuality in perspective: A review of theory and research. In B. A. Firestein (Ed.). Bisexuality: The psychology and politics of an invisible minority. (pp. 3-50).Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
  • Personal Perspectives on Bisexual Women’s Friendships 127 Galupo, M. P. (2007). Friendship patterns of sexual minority individuals in adulthood. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 24: 5-17. Galupo, M. P., Sailer, C. A., & St. John, S. (2004). Friendships across sexual orienta- tions: Experiences of bisexual women in early adulthood. Journal of Bisexuality, 4(1-2), 39-53. Harkless, L. E., & Fowers, B. J. (2005). Similarities and differences in relational boundaries among heterosexuals, gay men, and lesbians. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 29, 167-176. Magnet, S. (2006). Invisible cords and ties that bind: Queering female friendship. Jour- nal of Bisexuality, 6(3), pp. 103-106. Nardi, P. M. (1994). That’s what friends are for: Friends as family in the gay and les- bian community. In K. Plummer (Ed.), Modern Homosexualities: Fragments of Lesbian and Gay Experience (pp. 108-120). New York: Routledge. O’Boyle, C. G., & Thomas, M. D. (1996). Friendships between lesbians and heterosex- ual women. In J. S. Weinstock & E. D. Rothblum (Eds.), Lesbian Friendships: For ourselves and each other (pp. 240-248). New York: New York University Press. Ochs, R. (1996). Biphobia: It goes more than two ways. In B. A. Firestein (Ed.), Bisex- uality: The psychology and politics of an invisible minority. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. Ochs, R., & Rowley, S. E. (2005). Getting bi: Voices of bisexuals around the world. Bi- sexual Resource Center: Boston, MA. Overton, M. A. (2006). Playing With Pieces of Paper: The Impact of Non-Labeled Spaces on Relationships. Journal of Bisexuality, 6(3), 107-114. Rose, S. (2000). Heterosexism and the study of women’s romantic and friend relation- ships. Journal of Social Issues, 56(2), 315-328. Rose, S., & Zand, D. (2000). Lesbian dating and courtship from young adulthood to midlife. Journal of Lesbian Studies, 6(1), 85-109. Rothblum, E. (1999). Poly-friendships. Journal of Lesbian Studies, 3(1/2), 71-83. Rust, P. C. (1995) Bisexuality and the challenge to lesbian politics: Sex, loyalty and revolution. New York: New York University Press. Rust, P. C. R. (2000). Bisexuality: A contemporary paradox for women. Journal of So- cial Issues, 56(2), 205-221. Spalding, L. R., & Peplau, L. A. (1997). The unfaithful lover: Heterosexuals’ percep- tions of bisexuals and their relationships. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 21, 611-625. Udis-Kessler, A. (1995). Identity/politics: A history of the bisexual movement. In N. Tucker, L. Highleyman, & R. Kaplan (Eds.), Bisexual politics: Theories, queries, and visions (pp. 17-30). New York: Harrington Park Press. Weinberg, M. S., Williams, C. J., & Pryor, D. W. (2001, April). Bisexuals at midlife: Commitment, salience, and identity. Journal of Contemporary Ethnography, 30(2), 180-208. Weinstock, J. S. (1998). Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender friendships in adult- hood. In C. J. Patterson & A. R. D’Augelli (Eds.), Lesbian, gay and bisexual identi- ties in families: Psychological perspectives (pp. 122-155). London: Oxford University Press.
  • INVITED COMMENTARY Bisexual Women’s Friendship Experiences: Challenging Identities, Challenging Friendships, Challenging Research Jacqueline S. Weinstock
  • Available online at http://jb.haworthpress.com © 2006 by The Haworth Press, Inc. All rights reserved. doi:10.1300/J159v06n03_10 [Haworth co-indexing entry note]: “Bisexual Women’s Friendship Experiences: Challenging Identities, Challenging Friendships, Challenging Research.” Weinstock, Jacqueline S. Co-published simulta- neously in Journal of Bisexuality (Harrington Park Press, an imprint of The Haworth Press, Inc.) Vol. 6, No. 3, 2006, pp. 129-141; and: Bisexual Women: Friendship and Social Organization (ed: M. Paz Galupo) Har- rington Park Press, an imprint of The Haworth Press, Inc., 2006, pp. 129-141. Single or multiple copies of this article are available for a fee from The Haworth Document Delivery Service [1-800-HAWORTH, 9:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m. (EST). E-mail address: docdelivery@haworthpress.com].
  • Invited Commentary 131 SUMMARY. While filling in some gaps in the literature and success- fully expanding the discourse on friendships to include bisexual and bi-curious women’s friendships, Bisexual Women: Friendship and So- cial Organization also raises a diversity of issues and poses several chal- lenges for of research and theorizing on friendships. Three of these challenges are explored in this chapter: (1) conceptualizing sexual iden- tities in friendship dyadic research; (2) the potentially positive and nega- tive roles friends may play in each other’s lives and in the dynamics of privilege and oppression; and (3) narrowing the lines between friends and lovers. [Article copies available for a fee from The Haworth Document Delivery Service: 1-800-HAWORTH. E-mail address: <docdelivery@ haworthpress.com> Website: <http://www.HaworthPress.com> © 2006 by The Haworth Press, Inc. All rights reserved.] KEYWORDS. Bisexual, friendship, sexual identity development, op- pression, privilege, lovers A decade ago, my colleague Esther Rothblum and I published the ed- ited collection, Lesbian Friendships: For Ourselves and Each Other (Weinstock & Rothblum, 1996a), with the aim of expanding “the dis- course on friendship to include lesbians’ voices and the discourse on lesbians to more fully include friendships” (Weinstock & Rothblum, 1996b, p. 28). We also sought to give voice to some of the questions self-identified lesbians were posing in their writings and friendships re- garding the continuum between friends and lovers. A few years later I published a literature review on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals’ friendship experiences and conceptions of the roles friends play in their lives (Weinstock, 1998). At that time, I noted the limited literature available on bisexual and transgender individuals’ experiences of friendships. M. Paz Galupo’s edited collection, Bisex- ual Women: Friendship and Social Organization, fills in some of these gaps and successfully expands the discourse on friendships to include bisexual and bi-curious women’s experiences. In this com- mentary, I highlight three issues and related challenges for the future of research and theorizing on friendships that emerge from these writings: (1) conceptualizing sexual identities in friendship dyadic research; (2) the potentially positive and negative roles friends may play in each other’s lives and in the dynamics of privilege and oppres- sion; and (3) challenging the lines between friends and lovers.
  • 132 BISEXUAL WOMEN: FRIENDSHIP AND SOCIAL ORGANIZATION CONCEPTUALIZING SEXUAL IDENTITIES IN FRIENDSHIP DYADIC RESEARCH Before researchers can examine friendships as they are shaped by (and shape) sexual identities, we need to understand how women conceptual- ize and experience their sexual identities. Several of the authors in this volume highlight and challenge the limits of the dichotomous paradigm typically relied upon in studies of sexual identity and friendship; they also challenge the tendency for researchers to treat sexual identities as stable and to assume a consistent match between sexual behavior, sexual desire, and sexual identity. Thompson (2006, p. 62), for example, argues that we need to more carefully examine “contributors to bisexual and flexible sexual identities and more inclusive flexible sexual identity models,” “flexibility, fluidity, and inconsistency between identity, at- traction, and behavior,” and apply “more continuous models of sexual identity” in studies of sexual identity and friendship. Similarly, Arseneau and Fassinger (2006, p. 77) argue that “the variations of meaning of ‘bi- sexual’ render questionable the tendency in sexual minority research generally, and sexual minority friendship research specifically, to use comparative studies which attempt to make distinctions between sexual minority ‘groups’ using unitary self-identifications.” Meanwhile, Overton (2006, p. 109) questions the simplicity of using labels, because the dic- tionary definition of label she relies upon “brings to my mind the image of a box in the attic–stagnant, unchanging, and dusty. This is not to say that labels are useless. I understand that labels serve as valuable heuristics that can assist people in communicating ideas, forming friendships, and building communities of like- minded individuals. I also recognize, how- ever, that not all labels are useful or universally applicable.” The need for attention to the complexity and fluidity of sexual identi- ties may be particularly strong when women’s friendships are consid- ered. As Thompson (2006, p. 63) argues, because women ‘appear more likely to exhibit situational and envi- ronmental plasticity in sexual attractions, behavior and identification’ (Diamond, 2005a, p. 119), it is very likely that the current context in which young women are being exposed will contribute to a flexibility in sexual identity. It is this flexibility, this fluidity, this dual attraction (Weinberg et al., 1994) that characterizes many young women’s ex- periences that permits me to assert that intense same-sex friendships and recent shifts in popular culture have specific implications for flexible sexual identity development in women.
  • Invited Commentary 133 As researchers and theorists, we must rise to the challenge posed here and elsewhere (see, e.g., Diamond, 2000b; Klein, 1990; Savin-Williams & Diamond, 2000) to move beyond the treatment of sexual identity both as dichotomous and stable. This may be especially important when studying the intersection of sexual identity and friendship and the roles friends are purported to play in supporting positive sexual identity de- velopment. As Arseneau and Fassinger put it in their conclusion, “the scholarly work on bisexual women’s friendships can only be strength- ened by mirroring the rich complexity of the relationships and women it seeks to describe” (2006, p. 88). ROLES FRIENDS PLAY Fostering Positive Identities and Challenging Oppression In “Sexism, Heterosexism, and Biphobia: The Framing of Bisexual Women’s Friendships,” Galupo (2006) challenges researchers and friends to more fully recognize the various ways that bisexual women’s friendships in particular, and all friendships more generally, are influ- enced by the intersection of sex and sexual orientation. Indeed, a preva- lent theme in the sexual minority friendship literature describes the role of what Galupo refers to as “within community friendships” in support- ing sexual minority individuals as they develop and claim their sexual identities (see, e.g., Nardi, 1992, 1999; Weinstock, 2000). Galupo also emphasizes that such friendships provide a place for the participants to feel understood in a context of equality. In contrast with friendships across sexual minority identities (Galupo, 2006; see also, e.g., O’Boyle & Thomas, 1996; Weinstock & Bond, 2002), friends with shared sexual identities have little need to educate each other and work to overcome identity and related power differences, at least along the sexual identity dimension. Yet Galupo (2007) points out that in her prior research, bi- sexual individuals reported few friendships with other bisexuals and most of the cross-orientation friendships they reported were with het- erosexual identified individuals. Galupo (2007) notes that it is not sim- ply because there are fewer bisexual-identified people to choose from when forming friendships, but rather that biphobia appears to be a factor as well. For example, Rust (1995) found that lesbians in her study tended to prefer friendships with other lesbians and to articulate con- cerns about being friends with bisexual women. This biphobia would certainly make friendships with lesbians less attractive to bisex-
  • 134 BISEXUAL WOMEN: FRIENDSHIP AND SOCIAL ORGANIZATION ual-identified women. Internalized biphobia may also be operating, however, as Galupo (2007) suggests, leading bisexual women and men to form friendships outside the LGBT community. Similarly, Estep (2006) argues, “the closet, especially the default closet unique to a ‘bi- sexual lifestyle,’ doesn’t just deny us an open life with our true love. It denies us community. It denies us our true friends” (p. 93). She goes on to argue that heterosexism is an obstacle in bisexual-identified people’s friendships not only because of the behavior of non-bisexuals but also because of the “defensive positions queer people have learned to as- sume in their lives with each other” (p. 94). Whatever the reasons, we must ask, as Galupo does–why is it that bi- sexual women and men may have few same-sexuality friendships. We must also ask whether bisexual women’s friendships with heterosexual women provide a similar level and type of support for positive sexual identity development that is often assumed to be provided in friendships among bisexual women. At this point, unfortunately, there is a limited research base upon which to draw conclusions. Yet Galupo’s own re- search findings are quite suggestive. She notes that in her research (Galupo, Sailer, & St. John, 2004), bisexual and heterosexual women friendship pairs appeared to downplay their sexual identity differences compared to bisexual women and lesbian friendship pairs where sexual identity differences were more likely to be acknowledged and dis- cussed. More specifically, the pattern of emphasizing similarities in bi- sexual-heterosexual women’s friendship dyads varied depending on the bisexual woman’s current partner situation. When the bisexual woman was single or involved with a man, similarities were emphasized, but when she was involved with another woman, there was a greater focus on difference. Galupo concluded, “even in the realm of close friendships biphobia enacts real and meaningful consequences for social interactions” (p. 43). These findings raise questions regarding the extent to which hetero- sexual privilege and internalized biphobia operate in some bisex- ual-heterosexual women’s friendship dyads. They also make me want to know more about friendships across sexualities that do recognize and challenge prevailing patterns of privilege and oppression. Similarly, why do bisexual women and lesbians in friendships with each other at- tend more to their differences? Do such friendships only form between bisexual women and lesbians who have unlearned and challenged their own biphobia, or do the friendships themselves support this unlearning and challenging of oppression? If the latter is the case, are there particu- lar techniques or dynamics or conversations that might be useful for het-
  • Invited Commentary 135 erosexual and bisexual women to employ in their friendships with each other? These are the questions we must ask if we are to more deeply un- derstand and promote friendships across sexual identities that challenge rather than reinforce existing power inequities. The current volume raises these questions for future research, and challenges researchers to more carefully consider what it means to have similar versus different sex and sexuality identities, and how sex and sexuality may influence and be influenced by friendship experiences in contexts of external and internal privileges and oppressions. In this way this volume reinforces and extends the insight O’Connor (1992) presented in her critical re- view of women’s friendships. She argued that despite rhetoric to the contrary, our choices for friends and our enactment of friendships are not free. As Galupo (2006) put it, “the implications of friendship choice and experience are far reaching” (p. 43). Sexual Identity Exploration Several contributions in this volume highlight another role for friends–that of providing a context for exploring sexual feelings, behav- iors, relationships and identities. Thompson, for example, argues that increased media attention to same-sex images and greater societal rec- ognition and acceptance of sexual minorities may actually make it eas- ier for adolescent girls and young women to engage in same-sex sexual experimentation within their friendships and to do so at younger ages. This in turn may foster an earlier and more widely accepted questioning period for all women, including those who come to adopt a heterosexual identity. Morgan and Thompson (2006) directly consider the role of sexual at- traction and exploration in their study with 48 young college women who were identified as bisexual or bi-curious and who discussed “a sex- ual attraction to or sexual experience with a same-sex friend” as part of their “sexual self-defining memories and narratives about sexual orien- tation development” (p. 9). Their findings and related discussion pose a challenge to typical ways of thinking about friendships. It calls upon friendship researchers to recognize and attend to the possibility that for some women, friendships may be a site for discovering, exploring and developing same-sex attractions and related sexual identities. They may also provide practice for romantic relationships and for some, become romantic relationships. Finally, these works go beyond calling for friendship researchers to consider the role of friendships in sexual ex-
  • 136 BISEXUAL WOMEN: FRIENDSHIP AND SOCIAL ORGANIZATION ploration and identity development, and raise questions that challenge typical ways of distinguishing between friends and lovers. NARROWING THE LINES BETWEEN FRIENDS AND LOVERS Several of the selections in this volume highlight and investigate, as Shoshana Magnet puts it, “the invisibility of the erotics of female friendship” (2006, p. 105). These works build upon and extend the work of Diamond (e.g., 2000a, 2002) and Griffin (2002) who have argued that adolescent girls’ “passionate friendships” are similar in many ways to romantic relationships. Yet many of the young women in Diamond’s (2000a, 2002) research reported experiencing “passionate” friendships without or before questioning their sexual identities, experiencing same-sex attractions, or identifying as sexual minorities. Some also de- fended their passionate friendships by describing them as different from and devoid of underlying sexual energy (Diamond, 2002). These friend- ship experiences, coupled with the increased visibility of same-sex de- sires (Thompson, 2006) and the experience of sexual attraction and sexual behavior in some friendships (Morgan & Thompson, 2006), suggest the need for a deep shift in how we think about and study friendships. Indeed, as Arseneau and Fassinger note, “The heteronormative cul- tural assumption that ‘lover’ and ‘friend’ are two distinct categories of relationship is likely inaccurate or inadequate for bisexual (if not all) women” (2006, p. 82). Yet prevailing approaches, especially relied upon by heterosexual friendship researchers, distinguish between “re- lationships” that have the potential for romantic feelings and sexual behavior, and “friendships” that are devoid of these feelings and behav- iors. While researchers have recognized the possibility of sexual attrac- tion to friends, gender has typically been used to restrict this focus–it has been in heterosexual men’s and women’s friendships with each other that questions of sexual attraction and tension have typically been posed and explored. The study of same-sex, same-sexuality friendships has challenged this distinction. The current volume furthers this chal- lenge, but it complicates it as well by calling upon researchers to more clearly articulate what we mean by same-sex and same-sexuality friend- ships and by more fully attending to multiple and flexible sexual identi- ties (see Arseneau & Fassinger, 2006). What is clear from these contributions is that friendship researchers would be remiss if we con- tinued to accept unquestioningly the stereotypical divide between
  • Invited Commentary 137 friend and lover. This includes researchers of heterosexuals’ friend- ships who should not limit the study of sexual attraction in friendships to heterosexual men’s and women’s friendships with each other. There is much that can be learned about emotional intimacies, physical intima- cies, sexual feelings, sexual behaviors, friendship development and lover relationship development through the study of friendships. As someone who has reflected upon and written about the power of lesbians’ ex-lover relationships (see Weinstock, 2004), I am glad to see the challenges posed by the contributions in this volume to the fine line between friend and lover. So why, I wonder, did I find myself worried as I read and reflected upon several of the selections in this volume? My concerns were embedded in the questions I found myself asking, partic- ularly as I thought about adolescent girls and young women, the focus of the contributions in this volume that raised these questions. What does it really mean to extend our conceptions of friendship to include sexual identity exploration? Do narrower lines between friends and lov- ers make it easier or harder for girls and young women to question and explore their sexual identities? Do narrower lines make it easier or harder for them to form and sustain close friendships? How does the context of oppression influence the answers? Morgan and Thompson (2006) do note that there is potential for con- flict in a friendship when one friend expresses same-sex attraction or desire and the other friend does not reciprocate (either in feeling the at- traction/desire, or in the extent of the attraction/desire). Conflict may also arise when both friends feel attraction but only one friend is com- fortable exploring the attraction. I am not uncomfortable with the possi- bility of these (and other) kinds of conflicts in friendships; conflicts provide opportunities for relationship growth even as they pose chal- lenges to the friendships themselves. But there is something else that is nagging at me, something that may be reflected in Estep’s (2006) per- sonal reflections on her friendships and how it is difficult for her to have “sturdy friendships” when she does not know herself well. She suggests as well that this difficulty in coming to know oneself may be a special challenge for bisexual women who not only have to contend with biphobic and heterosexist messages but also sexist lessons that inhibit women’s learning what they even want, let alone feeling able to express their wants. Lessons about drawing and maintaining clear boundaries are also limited. All these factors contribute, Estep argues, to potentially problematic friendship experiences. That was just Estep’s experience in adolescence; she notes that her “inability to tease apart ‘friend’ and
  • 138 BISEXUAL WOMEN: FRIENDSHIP AND SOCIAL ORGANIZATION ‘crush’ regarding certain galpals turned me into one crappy friend– oversensitive, overinvolved, even manipulative” (p. 96). Years later, as a bisexual woman currently in a triadic romantic rela- tionship, Estep finds herself often having to deal with people who are sexually curious and want to watch or join in on their relationship. These experiences have led her to cultivate “bonds of friendships along lines that are not sexually charged, either with judgment or desire. It’s about appreciating folks who recognize and affirm our commitment, and support our stability, and who can rely on us to do the same for them” (p. 101). That is, she is looking for what I think many of us are: “true support for our personal well-being, and for the kinds of relation- ships we endeavor to build” (p. 100). Estep compares this kind of sup- port to what she sees the characters Ennis and Jack sharing in the movie Brokeback Mountain. She writes that they have a bond that is sweet and true. But lovers are not friends. Friends are the ones who celebrate our love affairs with and for us, and who help us to survive them. This is the closet’s darkest corner–the absence of someone who has our back, who sees by the same lights, and, who can help to blunt the sting of difference without being part of its cause. (p. 94) While I disagree with the broad claim that lovers are not friends, I am able to see in Estep’s writing the root of my concerns about the narrow- ing of the lines between friends and lovers–I am worried about the po- tential loss of “true support for our personal well-being” as adolescent girls and young women begin to explore their sexual feelings and attrac- tions. And I am worried about the impact of patterns of privilege and op- pression that may shape the experiences of friends who may differ in the extent of their attraction to each other and/or in the meaning they make of this attraction in terms of their self-defined sexual identities. Yet when sexual and identity explorations are shared and welcomed by friends, and even when they are not shared but the friends work through this challenge such that the connection is sustained, much may be gained. Perhaps, then, my concern is more about a felt need for addi- tional attention to teaching girls and women how to “tease apart ‘friend’ and ‘crush’” (Estep, 2006, p. 96), sexual feelings and intimate connec- tions, and providing them effective tools for exploring sexual attraction in friendships in ways that support individual sexual identity develop- ment and the relationship itself–be it mutually romantic, mutually sex- ual, mutually non-sexual, or imbalanced in desire. This is what
  • Invited Commentary 139 Thompson (2006) emphasizes in her conclusion, noting that “sexual de- sire and contact (no matter what kind) can ultimately result in a confus- ing identity-formation process,” but if we acknowledge and attend to this, “we will begin to provide safer spaces for understanding oneself and one’s sexuality in relation to others” (p. 63). I would add to this the need for us to recognize, understand and value the multiple dimensions of attraction and desire, and the emotional intimacies shared by many young women in the context of their close friendships. This would put us, I believe, in a better position to support both young women’s sexual identity explorations and their friendships. And just maybe what is also needed is the kind of “playfulness” Overton describes that “has allowed [her] to develop deeper, more intimate relation- ships across identity boundaries” (2006, p. 109). This notion of playfulness comes from María Lugones (1987, in Overton) who conceptualizes play as “encourag[ing] shifts and changes in identity and labels that allow people to travel within one another’s experiences at a level deeper than simple words can provide. Play is about sharing and learning, and creating an en- vironment where exploration is encouraged.” True playfulness, Lugones argues (in Overton) requires us to “accept uncertainty and be open to sur- prise, that we should explore different constructions of ourselves, and that rules, if they exist at all, should not be immutable truths. That’s not a bad way to think about–and experience–friendships! As of this writing, I have not resolved the tension I feel regarding the blurred lines between friends and lovers proposed by some in this volume. But I am glad for the opportu- nity to play with it. REFERENCES Arseneau, J. R., & Fassinger, R. E. (2006). Challenge and Promise: The Study of Bi- sexual Women’s Friendships. Journal of Bisexuality, 6(3), pp. 69-90. Diamond, L. M. (2000a). Passionate friendships among adolescent sexual-minority women. Journal of Research on Adolescence, 10, 191-209. Diamond, L. M. (2000b). Sexual identity, attractions, and behavior among young sexual-minority women over a 2-year period. Developmental Psychology, 36, 241-250. Diamond, L. M. (2002). “Having a girlfriend without knowing it”: Intimate friendships among adolescent sexual-minority women. In S. M. Rose (Ed.), Lesbian love and relationships (pp. 5-16). Binghamton, NY: Harrington Park Press. Estep, J. (2006). Fencing on Brokeback: Intersecting Bisexuality and Women’s Friendship. Journal of Bisexuality, 6(3), pp. 91-102.
  • 140 BISEXUAL WOMEN: FRIENDSHIP AND SOCIAL ORGANIZATION Galupo, M. P. (2007). Friendship patterns of sexual minority individuals in adulthood. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 24: 5-17. Galupo, M. P. (2006). Sexism, Heterosexism, and Biphobia: The Framing of Bisexual Women’s Friendships. Journal of Bisexuality, 6(3), pp. 35-46. Galupo, M. P., Sailer, C. A., & St. John, S. C. (2004). Friendships across sexual orien- tations: Experiences of bisexual women in early adulthood. Journal of Bisexuality, 4(1-2), 39-53. Griffin, C. (2002). Girls’ friendships and the formation of sexual identities. In A. Coyle & C. Kitzinger (Eds.), Lesbian and gay psychology: New perspectives (pp. 45-62). Malden, MA: Blackwell. Klein, F. (1990). The need to view sexual orientation as a multivariable dynamic pro- cess: A theoretical perspective. In D. P. McWhirter, S. A. Saunders, & J. M. Reinisch (Eds.), Homosexuality/heterosexuality (pp. 277-282). New York: Oxford University Press. Magnet, S. (2006). Invisible cords and ties that bind: Queering female friendship. Jour- nal of Bisexuality, 6(3), pp. 103-106. Morgan, E. M. & Thompson, E. M. (2006). Young Women’s Sexual Experiences within Same-Sex Friendships: Discovering and Defining Bisexual and Bi-Curious Identity. Journal of Bisexuality, 6(3), pp. 7-34. Nardi, P. M. (1992). That’s what friends are for: Friends as family in the gay and les- bian community. In K. Plummer (Ed.), Modern homosexualities: Fragments of les- bian and gay experience (pp. 108-120). New York: Routledge. Nardi, P. M. (1999). Gay men’s friendships: Invincible communities. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press. Overton, M. A. (2006). Playing With Pieces of Paper: The Impact of Non-Labeled Spaces on Relationships. Journal of Bisexuality, 6(3), pp. 107-114. O’Boyle, C. G., & Thomas, M. D. (1996). Friendships between lesbian and heterosex- ual women. In J. S. Weinstock & E. D. Rothblum (Eds.), Lesbian friendships: For ourselves and each other (pp. 240-248). New York: New York University Press. O’Connor, P. (1992). Friendships between women: A critical review. New York: The Guilford Press. Rust, P. C. (1995). The challenge of bisexuality to lesbian politics: Sex, loyalty, and revolution. New York: New York University Press. Savin-Williams, R. C., & Diamond, L. M. (2000). Sexual identity trajectories among sex- ual-minority youths: Gender comparisons. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 29, 607-627. Thompson, E. M. (2006). Girl Friend or Girlfriend?: Same-Sex Friendships and Bisex- ual Images as a Context for Understanding Flexible Sexual Identity among Young Women. Journal of Bisexuality, 6(3), pp. 47-68. Weinstock, J. S. (1998). Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender friendships in adult- hood: Review and analysis. In C. J. Patterson & A. R. D’Augelli (Eds.), Lesbian, gay, and bisexual identities in families: Psychological perspectives (pp. 122-153). New York: Oxford University Press. Weinstock, J. S. (2000). Lesbian friendships at midlife: Patterns and possibilities for the 21st century. Journal of Gay and Lesbian Social Services, 11, 1-32.
  • Invited Commentary 141 Weinstock, J. S., & Bond, L. A. (2002). Building bridges: Examining lesbians’ and het- erosexual women’s close friendships with each other. In S. M. Rose (Ed.), Lesbian love and relationships (pp. 149-161). Binghamton, NY: Harrington Park Press. Weinstock, J. S., & Rothblum, E. D. (Eds.) (1996a). Lesbian friendships: For our- selves and each other. New York: New York University Press. Weinstock, J. S., & Rothblum, E. D. (1996b). What we can be together: Contemplating les- bians’ friendships. In J. S. Weinstock & E. D. Rothblum (Eds.), Lesbian friendships: For ourselves and each other (pp. 3-30). New York: New York University Press. Weinstock, J. S. (2004). Lesbian FLEX-ibility: Friend and/or Family connections among Lesbian Ex-lovers. In J. S. Weinstock & E. D. Rothblum (Eds.), Lesbian ex-lovers: The really long-term relationships (pp. 193-238). Binghamton, NY: Har- rington Park Press.
  • BI FILM-VIDEO WORLD Bisexuality and Friendship in A Home at the End of the World Clare E. French
  • Available online at http://jb.haworthpress.com © 2006 by The Haworth Press, Inc. All rights reserved. doi:10.1300/J159v06n03_11
  • Bi Film-Video World 145 SUMMARY. This review critiques and comments on the film A Home at the End of the World. The film depicts the interwoven lives of three in- dividuals and the intersection of their friendships and sexual encounters. The examination outlines a framework for which this film fits into the broader societal picture of the sometimes blurred line between bisexual- ity and friendship. [Article copies available for a fee from The Haworth Docu- ment Delivery Service: 1-800-HAWORTH. E-mail address: <docdelivery@ haworthpress.com> Website: <http://www.HaworthPress.com> © 2006 by The Haworth Press, Inc. All rights reserved.] KEYWORDS. Bisexuality, friendship, film, sexual identity, media A Home at the End of the World is a film about the interlocking lives of four people who all share one thing in common: an open heart in the conventional world of the 70s and 80s. Bobby Morrow, played by Colin Farell, is the youngest child born to hippie parents who becomes or- phaned at the age of 14 after his entire family dies over the course of five years. Fortunately, Bobby is warmly welcomed into the rather pedes- trian family of his fast-friend, Jonathan Glover (Dallas Roberts), where he is able to offer a break from their monotony. Before long, Bobby and Jonathan develop an intensely emotional relationship that turns physi- cal when Jonathan’s curiosity gets the best of him and the two soon begin exploring their sexuality together. Meanwhile, Bobby comes to understand motherly love in a new light from Alice Glover, the pleasantly ordinary matriarch of Jonathan’s fam- ily played by Cissy Spacek. A uniquely complementary relationship de- velops between Bobby and Alice. Bobby is able to find the once absent but now bracing love of a mother and in return she is able to catch a buzz from his free-spirited, although ill-fated, demeanor. Although the two are so oddly juxtaposed, they make an organically genuine match. With the revitalization that Bobby brings along, he inadvertently helps Jonathan and Alice attain a seemingly impossible level of their re- lationship. The three of them come to know and appreciate their place in the world through understanding each other. However, this cohesive- ness is tested when Alice finds Bobby and Jonathan making out. Alice tells Bobby she’s “not innocent in all of this” and feels responsible for allowing such a casual environment in which to raise her boys. How- ever, she seems able to accept the indelible nature of Bobby and Jona- than’s relationship at face value. This event becomes a pivotal point for
  • 146 BISEXUAL WOMEN: FRIENDSHIP AND SOCIAL ORGANIZATION Bobby and Alice as they each escape a potentially embarrassing situation unashamed. Unfortunately, Jonathan finds himself in an uncomfortable predica- ment, which was probably exacerbated by his own uneasiness about his sexual orientation. He tells Bobby that he thinks they “got carried away” with their physical attraction and thinks they “should stop,” a hasty proposal that Bobby reluctantly agrees to. Interestingly, we never seem to get a clear grasp on Bobby’s sexual orientation. The omission of this detail seems to be a clear testament to his unique ability to be comfortable wherever he fits in, guided by his heart and not his head. The next sequence of the film opens in the year 1982. Bobby, now 24, gets a taste of tough love when Alice and husband, Ned, retire to a warmer climate. Like a young animal being pushed out of the den, he is forced to face the world on his own. Not knowing where else to go, Bobby calls on his trusty friend, Jonathan, who is now living in New York. Jonathan welcomes him once again into the life he has estab- lished for himself. We learn that Jonathan is gay but wants to have a baby with his roommate, the quintessential punked-out, hippie fag-hag, Clare (Robin Wright-Penn). The three make a snug but comfortable fit together, however, it’s not long before Bobby and Clare indulge in their budding attraction and they embark upon a relationship of their own. They get off to an awkward start as we learn that Bobby has never been with a woman before, and has presumably not been intimate with any- one since Jonathan broke off their physical relationship. When Jonathan discovers that his roommates have become attracted to each other, he finds himself feeling squeezed out, but is quickly reassured by Bobby. The fire is quelled, but not for long as Jonathan continues to struggle, a slight discord that eventually culminates in the disappearance of Jonathan after Bobby gives him what he called, a “kiss between broth- ers.” The trio is once again a duo, but this time Bobby fills Jonathan’s slot. He and Clare manage to limp forward with the pain of Jonathan’s ab- sence apparent. They are reunited several months later when Ned dies. The three are all happy to be together again, however, each laments the circumstance in a different way. All differences are immediately shelved when Clare bemoans that she’s pregnant and soon the three leave together refreshed and reenergized, off to start a new life in the country. Bobby opens the aptly titled Home Café where he cooks while Jonathan serves, leaving Clare at home with the baby. When Alice co- mes to town for a visit we get reacquainted with her sincere and ongoing love for her family, no matter what form it takes on. Alice confides in
  • Bi Film-Video World 147 Clare that she admires her bravery and wishes that she could have seen more opportunity to have a family the way she wanted to rather than conforming to the standards of her time. Conversely, Clare becomes less convinced that she is cut out for living such a nontraditional life and we see her yearning for a taste of the mediocrity Alice has embodied. A new conflict clearly comes to light with Clare as she grapples with find- ing her own identity away from Bobby and Jonathan. The storyline takes a downturn in mood after this point, from which it does not re- cover. However, the bitter end neither detracts from the overall charac- ter of the film, nor adds to it. Rather, the film reminds us that being different can hurt. CENTRAL CONFLICTS Within the character of Bobby lies a complex array of underlying themes. He has been so deeply touched by tragedy that he spends the rest of his life trying to eradicate any further possibility of pain. At times Bobby’s mystique overwhelms both Clare and Jonathan. In one scene, Clare says to Bobby, “Is there anything you can’t do?” She likens him to a chameleon, able to adapt and overcome just about anything. The only tension that exists between Bobby and Jonathan revolves around Jonathan’s parents, particularly Alice. It is Bobby’s carefree spirit that allows Alice to reveal the life she really wanted. It becomes subtly apparent by the end of the film that the central conflict deals with each supporting character’s deep-seated desire to be the center of Bobby’s world. A Home at the End of the World falls into a unique niche of being on the line somewhere between very refreshing and totally depressing. Bobby, Jonathan, and Clare each create a unique bond with the other in a way that is only seldom seen in life yet totally believable and even en- viable on film. They seemed to make such a great trio by virtue of the fact that each one had something special to offer the other two and, when separated, there was actually a lack of balance in their lives. Alice provided necessary grounding as the matriarchal overseer, but in the end we find that it doesn’t work because it just can’t; there is too much at stake. Either way, while this film serves as a great reminder that any- thing is possible, it was a bit unnerving to see that at its conclusion, no- body could make it work and it was entirely up to fate. This bitter ending made it very possible to lose sight of the important message behind the
  • 148 BISEXUAL WOMEN: FRIENDSHIP AND SOCIAL ORGANIZATION film: love can take on many forms, but should always transcend and conquer, even if it is a bit idealistic. BISEXUALITY AND FRIENDSHIPS IN THE MEDIA In the climate of today’s media structure we all too often see bisexu- ality heated up and glorified in the arms of two desirable women. A Home at the End of the World presents sex in the way that it was in- tended, without boundary and without classification. However, the film also gracefully parallels attraction driven by emotional connection with attraction driven by physical connection by transposing Bobby between totally straight Clare and totally gay Jonathan. To Bobby, their respec- tive sexual orientations were incidental–he just loved them both for who they were and what they meant to him. The first sexual encounters Bobby had with Clare and Jonathan out- line this concept rather certainly. Bobby and Jonathan began fooling around after Jonathan cozied up to him in bed one night some time after Bobby moved in; conversely, Clare talked him into cutting his shoul- der-length hair and then she seduced him. Although Bobby was sexu- ally comfortable with both people, his relationship with Jonathan seemed more natural because there was such deep-seated emotional commitment already present. In fact, this bond Jonathan and Bobby shared was so powerful and in- tense that Clare could not reconcile that with herself in Bobby’s life–he was just too potent for her to emote to. Despite loving Jonathan more, Bobby loved her enough, but whether she couldn’t see that or didn’t want to did not matter in the end. The tragedy between Bobby and Clare was that their demise could not have been prevented; there just wasn’t the kind of friendship between them that could outweather the elements. To Jonathan and Bobby, friendship was always enough to keep them to- gether, where Clare always wanted more than that. She would never be able to open her home up to the orphan inside of him like Jonathan, which meant that she would always come second. A Home at the End of the World breaks up the bisexual monotony by not only showing us that men are bisexual too, but also by reminding us that, even in companionship, rules of attraction still apply. In fact, the film explores sexuality in a way that is comfortable and safe–through the bonds of friendship. All in all, it was refreshing to see sexuality from this particular angle. A Home at the End of the World showed that the heart, when stripped down of societal norms, will ultimately rely on af-
  • Bi Film-Video World 149 finity, not just desire. Although this concept may still seem foreign to the nature of humanity, a few more incantations of the sort provided by A Home at the End of the World would be warmly welcomed to say the least by this reviewer. REFERENCE Hulce, T., Vachon, C., Roumel, K., Koffler, P., Wells, J., Hart, Jr., J. N., & Sharp, J. (Producers). (2004). A Home at the End of the World [Motion picture]. United States: Warner Home Video, Inc.
  • BI BOOKS Getting Bi: Voices of Bisexuals Around the World Angela L. Breno
  • Available online at http://jb.haworthpress.com © 2006 by The Haworth Press, Inc. All rights reserved. doi:10.1300/J159v06n03_12
  • Bi Books 153 Getting Bi: Voices of Bisexuals Around the World. By Robyn Ochs and Sarah E. Rowley. Boston: Bisexual Resource Center, 2005. Bisexuality has primarily been conceptualized in two ways through- out literature and among people. Experiences of bisexually identified individuals are either discussed as synonymous to those of lesbians and gay men or their identities are portrayed as nonexistent (as merely con- fusion or sexual immaturity, but not as a valid or stable identity) (see Rust, 1995). Getting Bi: Voices of Bisexuals Around the World is a col- lection of first-person narratives that serves not only to affirm the exis- tence of bisexuality, but also to define bisexuality by its diversity. Through biographical accounts and attaching faces to these stories, re- nowned bisexual activist Robyn Ochs, along with LGBT domestic vi- olence activist Sarah E. Rowley, strive to show the diversity of bisexuality across the globe along with mitigating the isolation too often felt by bisexual individuals. CONTENT AND ORGANIZATION The book consists of two sections entitled “Voices” and “Articles and Resources,” which balance personal experience and insight into the lives of bisexual individuals and includes directed readings about the nature of bisexuality. “Voices” is comprised of nine chapters consisting of 184 biographical accounts from bisexually identified individuals rep- resenting 32 countries. “Articles and Resources” consists of six articles, a list of quotes, and a list of bisexual resources. The book’s structure has several unique characteristics that set it apart from past literature on bisexuality. Most noticeably, Getting Bi does not have to be read in a linear fashion. The book’s structure allows readers to skip around without losing critical information. Additionally, photos accompany the narratives make available a visibility of bisexual individuals that depicts the diversity of bisexual women and men. Un- like previous compilations of this sort, Ochs and Rowley have brought faces to the many voices. Also, throughout the book, without providing commentary on individual pieces, the editors have highlighted specific passages in the narratives by placing them in a bold font style. While past literature on bisexuality has discussed, described, and de- fined bisexual people as a homogenous group, the narratives that form this book instead paint a vivid picture of diversity. Ochs and Rowley
  • 154 BISEXUAL WOMEN: FRIENDSHIP AND SOCIAL ORGANIZATION have included narratives of women and men from all across the age spectrum–those identifying early in life, such as the adolescent high school youth, and those “chronologically gifted” individuals who come to identify much later in life. The voices within the book also reach across gender and sex spectrums–women, men, those who are tran- sitioning or have transitioned, and those who no longer identify with their sex. In addition, cross-cultural voices within this text come from those who have spent their lifetime in a single country and those who have traveled between various cultures. Each essay provides a glimpse into the individual’s evolving definition of bisexuality, which is often shaped within the context of their larger culture. Specifically, some of the factors interacting with the authors’ bisexual identities included race, religion, and the progress of the women’s movement. The complex issues surrounding the “coming out” process for bisex- ual individuals are discussed throughout the book’s personal narratives. Self-identification appeared to be the most widely discussed aspect of “coming out.” Rejecting categorization into a heterosexual and homo- sexual identity permitted the authors to define what bisexual identity meant to them and also allowed them to embrace such an identity for themselves. The narratives also tackled societal issues surrounding bi- sexual identity. The authors explored the ways in which sex, gender, and sexual orientation are dichotomized in larger society and how con- ceptualizations of bisexuality are forced to fit into those rigid frame- works. As one author put it, “. . . the word [bisexual] implies the existence of only two genders or sexes, when I believe there are many more” (p. 53). This anthology also provides the authors with a medium through which to develop and record a distinct bisexual identity. Many authors describe the telling of their life stories as an essential avenue for maintaining the visibility of a bisexual identity that is based on their own descriptions, not on their perceived sexual orientation. CONCLUSION Unlike past books on bisexuality, this anthology of personal narra- tives transcends a single audience. For academics, it illustrates the unique experiences bisexual individuals face personally, intimately, and as a community. These stories make tangible the way bisexual in- visibility, homophobia, and biphobia structure the lived experiences of bisexual women and men. Getting Bi is also a fitting read for members of the LGBT community and for those entirely new to the topic that
  • Bi Books 155 would like to better understand bisexuality. Ochs and Rowley’s ground- breaking anthology has successfully transformed an invisible popula- tion into a vast image that superbly portrays the diversity of bisexual individuals and their experiences. REFERENCES Ochs, R., & Rowley, S. E. (Eds.). (2005). Getting bi: Voices of bisexuals around the world. Boston: Bisexual Resource Center. Rust, P. (1995). Bisexuality and the challenge to lesbian politics: Sex, loyalty, and rev- olution. New York: New York University Press.
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