Bisexuality: Society and the Media

With statistics suggesting that bisexuality is on the rise it is important to consider the role  that the media has in the portrayal of bisexual people.

The Office for National Statistics recently reported that over the last three years there has been a 45% increase in those who identify as being bisexual in the UK.  The figures also suggested that identifying as bisexual was most common in those aged between 18 and 24.

Last year’s YouGov poll looking at bisexuality also had similar results.  This survey asked people where they would rate themselves on a spectrum, known as the Kinsey Scale.  The scale ranges from 0-6 from exclusively heterosexual to 6 exclusively homosexual.  The figures of this study showed that 43% of people aged 18-24 identified themselves as being in the bisexual area.  Although there are some criticisms as to how reliable the Kinsey scale is for measuring an individual’s sexual orientation, it nevertheless emphasises that more people, especially from a younger generation identify themselves as being bisexual.


 Image Credit – YouGov

With this apparent rise in those who identify themselves as being bisexual it could be argued that this may suggest that society is becoming more accepting.  However there are still a few negative stereotypes that are linked with being bisexual such as; they are promiscuous, likely to cheat and that they are confused and haven’t made up their mind as to whether they are gay or straight.

It can also be argued that the media has added to these stereotypes and continues to use them. The Bisexuality Report published by the Open University in 2012 argues that in films and television bisexual characters are perceived as being greedy, wicked and are also linked to tragedy.  Although this was published four years ago recent research suggests that this continues to be the case.

The GLAAD report which looks at the portrayal of LGBT+ characters found that “Of the 278 regular and recurring LGBTQ characters on scripted broadcast, cable and streaming programming, 83 (30%) are counted as bisexual” p24.

The study also found that there was a continuation of the negative stereotypes associated with bisexual people with them being depicted as untrustworthy, lacking a sense of morality and as duplicitous manipulators.  This helps to highlight that not much has changed in the way bisexual people are portrayed in TV and film.

The news is also guilty of this negative portrayal which can be seen in the way some news outlets covered the divorce case of Amber Heard and Johnny Depp.  Peter Ford, the media commentator for the Australian TV programme, The Morning Show, said “I probably shouldn’t say this, I’ll probably get in trouble but it’s not wise to marry a bisexual.”  From the rest of his comments in the video it suggests that he feels that bisexuals are more likely to cheat and leave their partners for someone else, with remarks such as “This is what Johnny Depp has done here, with Amber Heard, and she was in a very legally committed relationship, a marriage, a legal marriage, to another woman when Johnny came along, and she decided to travel across to the other side.”

AmberHeard09TIFFAmber Heard – image credit Creative Commons

He did issue a statement afterwards, saying that he had spoken to the psychologist, Dr Michael Carr-Gregg who told him that a relationship containing a bisexual person is no more likely to fail than one that doesn’t.

Video from The Morning Show Facebook page

The Sun had the headline Bye Bi Amber, with the first part of the article focusing on the sexual orientation of Amber Heard.  The article suggests that a source close to Johnny Depp claimed that he was jealous of the friendship she had with the model Cara Delevingne.  Only later in the article does it focus on the fact that she was seeking divorce due to domestic violence.

It appears that the media is a little slower to catch up with the way people in society are currently thinking but hopefully though time there will be a reduction in the negative way that bisexual people are perceived.

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