Many people are familiar with the dramatic show "True Life" on MTV. They cover all different challenging lifestyles in an attempt to inform and entertain TV viewers. In 2009, MTV did a true life on bisexuality. In this episode, the three characters display many of the stereotypes of bisexuals.
Sydney, 19, is searching for a boyfriend to be the one. However, every boyfriend that she has thinks she is secretly hooking up with every guy or girl she sees. Marquees, 23, defends his bisexuality from his mother, who thinks he just has low self-esteem, and his friends who think he is just secretly gay. Finally, Danielle, 20, likes to have a boyfriend and a girlfriend simultaneously. If either of her significant others can't learn to share, she can't continue the relationship with them. Although Sydney and Marquees both believe having two exclusive relationships at once, one with each gender, is considered cheating, Danielle believes she is entitled to a girlfriend and boyfriend simultaneously because she is bisexual.
The editor of Getting Bi: Voices of Bisexuals Around the World, Robyn Ochs, defines bisexuality as "a person [who] has the potential to be sexually and/or romantically attracted to more than one sex, but not necessarily at the same time or to the same extent" (1). However, many people define bisexuals as hypersexualized (2), attention whores, secretly gay, or people that just can't make up their minds. The three characters from the "True Life" episode both express and disprove these stereotypes.
Sydney's story begins with the break up with her boyfriend. In his angry text messages later, he sends "Can't turn a hoe into a housewife cuz hoes don't act right." Sydney expresses that she gets that type of attitude all the time; everyone thinks that she is sleeping around because she is a bisexual. She defends herself by disclosing to the audience "I love sex, but when I'm in a relationship, I have to have that emotional connection...I've never been unfaithful." With this, Sydney helps to disprove the stereotype that bisexuals are sexual addicts. The type of emotional connection that Sydney truly strives for is called emotional intimacy. Dr. Shaw and Dr. Lee describe this type of intimacy as "sharing aspects of the self with others with the goal of mutual understanding" (2). In addition, women are more likely to have sex to express love than men are (2). Based off of those two facts, it is easy to see that bisexuals aren't sexual deviants, they long for loving relationships the same as any other person, especially in Sydney's case.
Marquees has been dating men and women intermittently since the end of high school. He is confident in his sexuality despite his mother's disapproval and his friends disbelief. His mother thinks that his sexuality comes from his low self-esteem. In other words, she believes that his low self-esteem drives him to find acceptance from both men and women. Marquees' friends also do not understand his bisexuality. Most of them believe that he is actually gay, but is afraid to admit it. In the episode, Marquees says "I'm more attracted to guys but... [in] my future I see myself with a woman, as far as like settling down." This confession coincides with Ochs' definition of bisexuality stated above--"a person [who] has the potential to be sexually and/or romantically attracted to more than one sex, but not... to the same extent" (1). If this definition is true, then the fact that Marquees is more attracted to men, but still slightly attracted to women, still means he is bisexual. According to Wilhelm Fliess, every person has a masculine and feminine side, and this is why many people feel an attraction, even a slight one, to both sexes (1).
At the beginning of the show, Danielle is married to a man and has a girlfriend. Unfortunately, both of her relationships end fairly quickly. Both her husband and her girlfriend are unable to share Danielle, despite the fact that they said they could at the beginning of the relationship. She tells the audience "I can't just have one or the other. I have to have both." Danielle's polygamous relationship goes against some major beliefs of bisexuality. One such belief is that bisexuality is about falling in love with a person, regardless of gender (1). The key word here is person, as in one. Danielle justifies her lifestyle with the fact that she is bisexual, however, many scholarly definitions and first-hand opinions of bisexuality would not agree with her justification. Based off of the other characters on the show, Danielle's view of bisexuality is definitely an outlier. She fits into the stereotype that bisexuals can't make up their minds and they want attention from both sexes.
Obviously nobody is the same, and it makes sense that Sydney, Marquees, and Danielle have different lifestyles and different ways of expressing their sexuality. Due to some of the dramatizations from this "True Life" episode and the controversial characters chosen to represent bisexuality, one could argue this episode gives bisexuals a bad name. According to Jennifer Baumgardner, "many people who might feasibly be described as bisexual do not choose to describe themselves that way" (1). This may be from generalizations and over-dramatizations such as the "True Life" episode, or may be due to the title of bisexual. Buamgardner also argues that bisexuality is increasingly expressed due to past exposure to second-wave feminism. If a mother, aunt, or some other elder was a second-wave feminist, they most likely influenced a freedom to have same-sex relationships (1). This openness of expression leads to all different people coming out of their shell and showing the public their sexuality with general acceptance. Although this may be true, there is still a stigma today against bisexuals. Are they gay? Are they looking for attention? Are they unable to commit or settle down? There are some major points the general public should think about before passing judgment on bisexuality. One such point is that "sexual identity does not necessarily require sexual experience" (2). This helps to show that bisexuals are not necessarily hypersexualized. Another major point to heed is that bisexuality is highly stigmatized; few people actually fit into the stereotyped model.
"True Life: I'm Bisexual" http://www.mtv.com/videos/true-life-im-bisexual/1631964/playlist.jhtml
1 - What is Bisexualtiy? by Jennifer Baumgardner
2 - Sex, Power, and Intimacy by Susan Shaw & Janet Lee