In-depth study examines sexual behaviors of bisexual individuals
Recently, a pair of researchers from Indiana University (IU) conducted a study in which they explored the health issues, behaviors and experiences of bisexual men and women. What they found is that categorizing these individuals may not be so simple.
In order to reach their conclusions, lead researcher Vanessa Schtick collected online survey responses from 2,578 women who had previously been sexually attracted to or engaged in intercourse with another woman, while associate professor Brian Dodge interviewed 75 bisexual men aged 19 to 70.
The findings on women
One of Schtick's main findings was the women whose recent sexual history aligned with how they identified – whether they viewed themselves as lesbian or bisexual – reported being in good health. However, the researcher noted that the finding doesn't necessarily indicate that women need to match their behavior to their identity, but rather that society should view labels more flexibly.
For example, she said that women who identified as "queer," which is a term used by individuals who reject traditional labels, tended to report good sexual health.
"Unlike the other women in the study, the mental, physical and sexual well-being of queer-identified women was not related to the gender of their recent sexual partners," said Schtick. "This suggests that, instead of encouraging women to adopt labels that are more descriptive of their behavior, we should be more flexible in the behavioral expectations that we attach to these labels."
The findings on men
In his research, Dodge conducted in-depth interviews with 75 bisexual men, exploring how stigma, misunderstanding and fear may affect men's sexual health and how they label themselves.
Dodge found that society's phobia of bisexuality may lead to feelings of isolation and stress for men with attraction to both men and women. The associate professor and associate director of IU's Center for Sexual Health Promotion reported this effect in several of the subjects he interviewed. A lack of community among bisexual individuals may contribute to these feelings of social stress and isolation, as well as adverse mental health.
The researcher also discovered that bisexual men used condoms with other men to prevent sexually transmitted diseases (STD), while they chose the contraceptive when having intercourse with women to reduce the risk of pregnancy. The bisexual men reported that they felt less likely to contract an STD from a woman than a man.
These findings provide some clarity on men's sexual behaviors, which may help researchers and experts develop better health campaigns specifically tailored for bisexual people, Dodge noted.