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Interdisciplinary Seminar Q & A

Fall 1997


The question below is based on a seminar presented October 10 by Professor Martin S. Weinberg as part of The Kinsey Institute's Interdisciplinary Seminar Series. Weinberg is a professor of sociology at Indiana University Bloomington.

The foundation for this talk is research presented in the book Dual Attraction: Understanding Bisexuality, by Martin Weinberg, Colin Williams, and Douglas Pryor (Oxford University Press, 1994), and a continuation of that research.

How do you determine whether a person is bisexual?

Sexual preference or orientation is a complex phenomenon. Often individuals are at different places in terms of their sexual activites, sexual feelings, and romantic feelings. Some people, for example, engage in sex with people of both genders, but have romantic feelings only for one gender.

We also find that many people change their sexual focus over time. Does a person have to be attracted to, or having sex with, both sexes at the same point in his or her life to qualify as bisexual? What if the individual fluctuates in an exclusive orientation toward men and women in different years? Should that person be labeled according to an exclusive orientation at a particular point in time (gay, lesbian, or straight) or should the person be considered bisexual (or sequentially bisexual)?

People who are experimental by nature tend to experience more changes in their sexuality. Since 1983, we have studied one group of women and men who identify themselves as bisexual. From this group, we see that people can be very flexible in their sexuality over time, depending on changing circumstances, availability of sex partners, and other factors. In many ways, these people have rejected the traditional gender schema in sexuality. It is difficult ot draw boundaries and say that people are heterosexual, homosexual, or bisexual. People -- and their sexuality -- are much more complex than that.

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