What's With All These Kinky, Pagan Bisexuals?

A number of years ago I was sitting in a lounge space of a Wiccan church¹s main congregation and I suddenly realized that all the women around me identified as bisexual. I turned to one of the gals there and asked, "Are there any women you know of here who aren't bi?" The witchlet I was talking to looked around the room, mumbled to herself, consulted with a friend and replied saying that she could only think of one completely straight woman in the group. She added that there are some bi men, but mostly they're straight. I thought that was quite interesting and filed it away for later.

I've been a member and leader of a number of kinky groups over the past 18 years. I've observed that amongst kinky folks, the vast majority of women are at least open to playing with other women and many are bi-identified. While some of them only play or have sex with women because it's what their (mostly male) dominants want, few of them really object to it. Some of them have threesomes that include their male partners on a regular basis. Many of them play with other women regularly. Sometimes these men play with other men, though seeing sexual activity between men amongst the 'pansexual' kink community is fairly rare.

It's often been pointed out to me, as a person known for championing bi visibility, that the women in the kink community really don't seem to need bi community, since they have each other. Not having a bi-only community means not having to hide being kinky, since bi community is open to kink but it's not necessarily a given that the people there are understanding of kinky folks.

But it's not just about pagans and kinky people. There are many outcast groups that have a higher number of bisexual people than the Œregular¹ population. There is a strong prevalence of bisexuals (especially women) amongst role playing gamers, Goths, sci-fi fanatics, members of the Society for Creative Anachronism (SCA), community theatre folks, people very much into body modification and tattooing, and a huge number of other outcast groups too numerous to single out.

As for polyamorous folks, it should be unsurprising that most of them are bisexual, even if they choose not to use the label for a variety of reasons. Polyamory is about fluidity in relationships and sexuality, and that includes fluidity regarding sexual orientation and gender identity.

So why is bisexuality so common for people in these 'outcast' groups? Why do they find each other so easily and therefore lack a need for a community built specifically around bisexuality and its challenges?

When I was asked this question a number of years ago I felt that the answer lay in the idea of open-mindedness. If you've already become a member of one 'outcast' group such as goths, pagans, kinky people, etc., then it becomes easy to be accepting of other aspects of life that are socially unaccepted, such as same-sex relationships. But I felt that may not be the whole answer.

I took the question to a workshop at the 8th International Conference on Bisexuality, Gender and Sexual Diversity (8ICB) in Minneapolis in 2004, and asked the participants what they thought. I first asked them to come up with other groups they felt had a large population of bisexual people. Then we drew out the similarities in each of those groups. Finally, we talked about what drew bisexual people to them. The result was very interesting, but rather than consider that the final answer, I did the same workshop two more times, in 2005 and 2006. Each time there were some similarities in the answers, but the result went further.

At 9ICB in Toronto in 2006, I conducted this workshop with some of the ideas of the previous workshops already in my head wanting to delve further in to the heart of the matter. I think we finally hit the nail on the head there.

All of the outcast groups that we identified as having a fairly high population of bisexuals were noted for having challenged the norms of belief systems, relationship structures, values and ethics. These are the people who've thrown off the societally-imposed ideas of having a nuclear genetic family unit. They've rejected the judgements of their elders, which they view as unnecessarily restrictive in favour of the judgement of their peers, which is often more accepting. They have chosen to build their family amongst the people in the various outcast communities because their friends understand why they have rejected the standard values and ethics.

Specifically, people in these outcast groups have often challenged‹and then rejected‹the monotheistic ideal of North American judeo-christian notions of right and wrong. Most of them have also rejected ³traditional² religion. One of the strongest moralistic messages they reject is that of sex as sin. Once you can embrace it as a joyous, unshameful thing, sexuality can be viewed as more fluid and less restrictive. From there it's easy to consider homophobic rhetoric as a method of religious control for the purpose of furthering religion through the doctrine of procreation. Acceptance of or experimentation with same-sex attractions or sexual activity is a natural next step. Rather than rejecting homosexual behaviour, one can embrace it when the question of sex as sin is no longer an issue. It's no longer immoral, but natural.

There's more than just giving up on the idea of sex as sin and therefore homosexuality as sinful to there being so many bisexuals amongst these outcast groups. There's also the idea of shrugging off societal values of family and relationship structures in general. From there, it becomes easy to see heteronormative family structures as a construction of religion, which led to the construction of the family unit as sacred. Without the sacred family unit, you can accept any person or group as family by choice.

Suddenly we¹re no longer restricted to male-female relationships for the purpose of procreation and passing on the religious and societal ideals. We can choose whatever relationship structures we wish, unrestricted by whether or not they produce children and who raises them. It no longer matters how many mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers and whether or not they're genetically related. It's all family because we choose it to be so and we reinforce that by declaring this to whomsoever comes into contact with these intentional families.

Even where there are no children, families can come to mean "my community" or "my friends" or even, "my partners and their partners". This need not be restricted by gender, and thus, bisexuality is a natural outcome of having challenged and rejected the idea of the 'normal' family unit.

But why is it that there are so many more women who seem drawn to bisexuality than men in these outcast groups? Why is it not as common to see men going at it right next to the women? Why is it that many of these groups espouse openness to homosexuality but seem to be only accepting of it amongst women?

Even if you reject the ideas of heteronormative behaviour, there are some aspects of socialization that are very difficult to overcome. Despite the idea of male homosexuality being accepted in principle, men are so deeply socialized to reject expressions of affection amongst themselves that they have a hard time accepting it as natural. They've had it drilled into them from a very young age that men don't touch each other, shouldn't see each other touching and shouldn't want to be in physical contact except in expressions of mock combat (sports and organized competition) or true combat (struggles for dominance). The idea of being in physical contact for some other reason that isn't based on strength or posturing has been socialized as abhorrent, and rejecting that deeply ingrained socialization is as difficult as rejecting the idea that one shouldn't pass gas in front of the Queen of England. It's just simply 'not done'.

Women have it easy because we're socialized to be open to touching each other, dancing together, kissing and flirting. Add the male-dominated pornographic sexualization of women having sex together for men's entertainment and it stands to reason that women engaging in homosexual acts‹that sometimes do and sometimes don't include men‹is considered perfectly acceptable. We see it everywhere in our society.

So if that's the case, why is it that bisexual folks are able to be so comfortably 'out' as bisexual and engaged in multi-gendered relationships in these outcast groups and not in the general population? It's a simple matter of 'me too'.

In the general population it's not safe to express same-sex attraction because the expectation is that we conform to the societal norms of straight and valuing the ideal of the genetic nuclear family. Being in an outcast group means having already rejected those ideals as incompatible with one's value system. It makes it easier to behave in ways that challenge the existing structures. Once one person successfully challenges the heteronormative assumptions, it becomes very easy for others to follow, agreeing with the newly espoused of values around sexuality and relationships and accepting these as normal.

So.... back to the question. What's with all these kinky, pagan (and other outcast groups) bisexuals? Quite simply, it's because we've already chosen that this reality is normal... for us.