Compulsory bisexuality? The challenges of modern sexual fluidity

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88 Scopus citations


Although Adrienne Rich once posited that "compulsory heterosexuality" required women to identify as heterosexual to comply with implicit social norms, this study examined the possibility of compulsory bisexuality in light of increasing reports of heterosexual-identified women engaging in homoerotic behavior with other women, usually in front of men and in social settings like fraternity parties, bars and clubs. Forty qualitative interviews were conducted with women of diverse backgrounds to explore women's narratives about performative bisexuality. Although younger women reported more performative bisexual experiences in public, older women reported more pressure to perform as bisexual in private (e.g., pressure for group sex). Further, experiences with performative bisexuality did not consistently predict political attitudes that supported full civil rights for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, queer (LGBTQ) community, indicating a disconnect between behavior and attitudes. Implications of performative bisexuality as "compulsory," as well as considerations about whether performative bisexuality indicates acceptance of bisexuality for women and/or exploitation of women's same-sex desires were explored.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)431-449
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Bisexuality
Issue number3-4
StatePublished - Jul 2009


  • Female bisexuality
  • LGBTQ rights
  • Normative pressures
  • Performance
  • Political attitudes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Gender Studies
  • Cultural Studies


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