Why is bisexuality becoming mainstream?
Grey’s Anatomy, a TV series set in a Seattle hospital, has a senior female surgeon hopping into bed with a male colleague and then hopping into bed with a female colleague, whom she eventually marries. Scandal, a TV series set amongst the politics and backstabbing of the Washington DC elite, has the president’s male chief of staff get married to his long term male lover. He was once married to a woman.
Their conversion to homosexuality is open and non-controversial. Sometimes they are straight, sometimes they are gay. Both lead characters are, in fact, bisexual.
TV has always both reflected society and has shown it how it ought to be. The original Star Trek series was controversial in its portrayal of blacks and women in senior officer positions. Interracial relationships happened on screen, in an era where most of the US south still had laws preventing blacks and whites from marrying. TV and movies had black Presidents long before Obama and female Presidents on screen are still waiting for their female real world counterparts. Hillary Clinton is likely to become the first female US President.
Attitudes to homosexuality are changing. If you split society into four groups, those aged 20, 40, 60 and 80, you would see greater levels of acceptance of homosexuality at the younger end and greater levels of intolerance at the older end. People in their 80s are generally horrified, people in their 60s are split between those who are uncomfortable and those who want to be seen as “progressive”, people in their 40s are generally okay with it, but would rather their children did not turn out gay, and people in their 20s are extremely tolerant and not bothered at all.
If you extrapolate this trend twenty years into the future and move all of the age cohorts up 20 years, allowing for a new group of young adults in their 20s, you should expect the bulk of society to be either extremely tolerant or generally tolerant of homosexuality by 2033, if not earlier.
Being gay is no longer such a big deal. This is a relief for so many who have had to hide their feelings from not only their friends and family but also from themselves. Clearly there are many parts of society that are horrified by the ease at which people can switch their sexual orientation. They claim that this is a slippery slope that will lead to widespread social acceptance of bestiality, pedophilia, incest, polygamy and any other bedroom sin that they can imagine.
Sex, gender and race
Sexual orientation and preference, however, has always been heavily linked to what was socially acceptable at the time.
Greek men, during the classical period, started off with homosexuality and then, as they got older, become bisexual or heterosexual. This was normal behaviour and was not just tolerated but was encouraged, institutionalised and celebrated in literature and art. Alexander the Great was an incredible soldier and general. A strong, masculine, man in all ways. He also had a homosexual lover, his boyhood friend Hephaestion, who led Alexander’s cavalry. Achilles was also a tremendous warrior and leader of men. His homosexual lover was Patroclus and his death was the trigger that sent Achilles back into battle against the Trojans. Nothing effeminate about any of those men.
Sexual relations with African Americans and Anglo-Americans was heavily frowned upon until not that long ago. It was illegal for blacks and whites to marry each other in many parts of the United States until 1967. Today interracial marriages and children are becoming very frequent. People are no longer confining themselves to sexual partners who share the same skin colour or general facial characteristics. http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2013/10/changing-faces/
Gays today, however, are still discriminated against. In most countries gays are not allowed to marry, have their partner’s pension rights, have automatic legal authority in the event of a medical emergency and so forth. Church weddings are generally a no no. However, the law is changing. A few states in the US have allowed gay marriages to be recognised legally. Other European countries have also removed anti gay laws over the past 10 years.
In the past people restricted their sexual partners for other reasons, ranging from caste (which still is a problem in India today), socio-economic levels and religion. While it is clear that people still generally marry and have sexual relations with people of the opposite sex that are of similar backgrounds, going outside of these boundaries is no longer socially taboo.
From history we can thus conclude that what was considered normal during one time period can later be deemed disgusting and what was deemed disgusting can later be deemed normal.
Humans are extremely adaptable.
Sex, work, home and kids
Part of the reason for an increasing acceptance of homosexuality is thanks to huge strides towards gender equality. The difference between men and women has started to blur.
Men and women in their 60s today grew up in a world where women were rapidly gaining access to roles in society that they had previously been denied on the basis of their gender. As a result there are now many women in senior positions in society, ranging from government to corporations. But these women are generally trend setters. Many had to be better than men in order to get to where they are.
By contrast, women in their 40s today grew up in a world where there were many female role models who were already successful. They knew that the glass ceiling was breakable and could go through it, if they chose to do so. As the workplace has evolved there are more roles today that seem to be better suited for women than “traditional” men, who have seen dirty and dangerous factory and mining jobs disappear to other parts of the world and to automation.
For women in their 20s there is almost nothing that they cannot do that a man can do. Health and safety legislation means that there is no premium on the only physical advantage that most men have over most women: physical strength. In addition, greater numbers of working women has spurred a number of innovations to make it easier for women to remain in the workplace and for their households to continue to run in their absence.
Many dual income professional couples have a lot of home help, ranging from nannies to cooks and cleaners. As the West’s economy gets further hollowed out you should expect to see increased levels of personal service for those who have well paid internationally focused jobs by those who do not. This should help to reduce some of the problems associated with working parents today: if you have school aged children juggling a job with kids can be a logistical nightmare. While you can get to work by 9am, after the school drop off, you may have to leave work to pick them up again at 2:30pm. That does not leave much time for work and do all of the regular chores needed to keep a household going.
Women can also embark on their careers without worrying about their biological clocks. There is not only a thriving business in fertilised egg storage and IVF treatment but also in surrogate wombs, where wealthier women hire surrogates mothers, frequently in countries such as India, to carry their fertilised eggs to term, nine months later. Cheap DNA sequencing technologies – which once cost millions of dollars – now allow prospective parents to test for diseases and make preferences in selecting which fertilised eggs they want to implant. Instead of randomly implanting two or three it would make sense to select those that are least likely to have any genetic problems. All of these technologies extend a woman’s ability to have children well into their forties and fifties.
Historically men could work long hours without worrying about childcare. They knew that they would have a comfortable home to go back to, that their child would be literally grown in someone else’s womb and would be raised by someone who loves them. This allowed them to continue their careers without stopping. These changes in the workplace, at home and in sexual reproduction have a profound impact on how easy it is for women to become fully “equal” to men.
You should expect all of these innovations to continue and to be more widely adopted throughout western society over the next twenty years.
Young adults are more likely to have good friends of both sexes than they were in previous generations. If you are in your 60s or 80s it is likely that if you had a hen party or stag party it would have been only with your same sex friends. If you are in your 40s there were probably a few friends that you had of the opposite sex that you wanted to invite but it felt odd to do so. If you are in your 20s the concept of only having a stag party with your male friends or hen night with your female friends will feel even more peculiar. While tradition says that these events should be held with those of the same gender the reality is that young people have an increasing number of good friends from both genders.
In part this is because boys and girls have the same career and social expectations for the future. They also like to do many of the same thing. Computer gaming, for example, has become huge. If you are in your 40s, it was the preserve of slightly geeky nerds. For those over 40 they did not really exist as a child. Yet if you are in your 20s it is a major part of socialising where there is no physical difference between male and female abilities. This is different from sport, which is still physically separated by gender.
Camera equipped phones, tablets and computers have also increased the amount of casual nudism and sex. Every teenager is a click away from free, high definition porn, wherever they are. Sexting, sending short nude pictures or videos of yourself, is also popular. Exposure to this seems to be affecting the ways that young people think of sex. It is more about casual recreation than procreation. Something fun to do, rather than as the culmination of an emotional bond.
Young adults also live together in mixed houses for prolonged periods of time, in a way that you would be familiar with if you are in your 40s, but quite unfamiliar with if you are in your 60s or 80s. Many young people are locked out of the housing market due to high prices and so will share housing with friends until their late 20s or early 30s.
This gives rise to two peculiar extremes. First is that many housemates become such good friends with members of the opposite sex that it makes the thought of having sex with any of them odd – almost incestuous. Second is that they are so used to having a fulfilling emotional life with these friends that finding someone outside their circle to have a relationship with gets, ironically, harder. Friends may hook up, occasionally, to fulfil casual sexual needs (despite the ‘incestuous yuk factor’), but remain firmly “not an item” for the rest of the time. The lack of good jobs and resulting inability to buy your own home will push back the average age that women have their first child.
Androgyny: the lack of gender distinction
Historically there was a significant gap between what was expected of women and men. Laws have traditionally discriminated against women: restricting them on what they could own, inherit, wear and even say. When mass education started it was boys who had access to it first. Not women. In many non western societies these restrictions and discrimination still exists.
In rural communities the actual level of discrimination was generally less than what was officially sanctioned. Not for ideological reasons but for practical ones. White skinned, delicate women that needed “protection” may have been the ideal for a rich landlord but a tenant farmer needed a wife who was robust and hard working – who could have several children without complaint, or dying, and could then go out and work under the hot sun in the fields the next day. Many women did not survive childbirth, resulting in many re-marriages between older men and younger women. As the men got older and more frail it is hard to imagine the younger woman not dominating the relationship.
Once upon a time boys were clearly supposed to go out with girls and girls were supposed to go out with boys. Peer pressure pushed the opposite sexes into each others’ arms. Today, however, the distinction between boys and girls has gotten much narrower. Whereas you would have had gangs of boys and gaggles of girls doing things separately now you have rabbles of boys and girls doing things together. Young women go out on “the piss” and beat up unsuspecting bystanders, just like young men. Equality is sometimes not that desirable.
This intermingling of people happened with race previously – black skinned and white skinned people were once artificially separated. Now they mingle together. They are no longer separated on the basis of skin colour and facial morphology. If boys and girls are now essentially the same, in interests, aspirations, hobbies, clothing, hairstyles, and friendship the distinction between boys and girls starts to fall away. They become androgynous.
If sex is no longer necessary for procreation – thanks to advances in IVF and surrogacy – then the difference in sexual organs between men and women is no longer that important. Two men can have a baby – as with the TV show Scandal. Two women can have a baby – as with the TV show Grey’s Anatomy. The only real sexual difference that remains is, crudely speaking, that that women have two holes and men have one hole and a protrusion. Is that difference any greater than skin colour, hair colour, eye colour, nose and eye shape? Sexual orientation becomes a matter of choice, which may change in the same way that one person might like to play football but then may want to switch to playing tennis. Casual homosexuality also reduces the likelihood of pregnancy.
If the distinction between gender falls away and young people become androgynous then all sex between them is homo (“same”) sexual. Since homosexuality has fallen away as a taboo bisexuality, the act of hopping into bed with the same or different gender and then back again, is also no longer taboo.
So what does this mean?
Does this mean that everyone is going to become bisexual? Clearly not. Human reproduction is based on millions of years of evolution that has hard wired humans to reproduce with the opposite sex. The urge for reproduction will still result in more relationships being with the opposite sex. Our brains want it and it will remain significantly cheaper and easier as a reproductive option than IVF and surrogacy.
Richer people, however, could start to opt for more extra uterine fertilisation. This will enable them to ensure more healthy, “perfect”, children and for two high income parents surrogacy could potentially be more desirable. Certainly affordable. In North America more and more women are opting for Caesarian section delivery of their babies. It is more convenient – it can be scheduled – less painful – in the short term – and doctors believe it to be safer, reducing the likelihood of them being sued for malpractice for bad vaginal deliveries. Over time this could result in extra uterine fertilisation becoming something that less well off people aspire to and save up for.
If this does become more “normal”, and that is a big if, the driver for normal sexual reproduction could become repressed. In Japan and Korea this already seems to be an issue where the reproductive rate for women has plummeted. They just don’t want kids anymore.
If that happens you should see a significant drop in the number of children born in that society and an increase in homosexual or bisexual relationships. For some this is to be celebrated – greater equality for all. Others will find this frightening.
Will this trend last?
“Traditional” families, however, are likely to have the last laugh. The trend towards bisexuality and homosexuality is likely to swing back the other way. The simple reason is that the number of children had by rich dual income couples, bisexual couples and homosexual couples is likely to be smaller than by heterosexuals in more “traditional” families.
Relatively speaking traditional heterosexual couples – who include large numbers of immigrants from developing countries – will breed like rabbits, resulting in a society that is more likely to be in their image than not. For conservative Muslims and Christians this may be a source of comfort in a Western world that they will find increasingly abhorrent.