How Monogamy Works

Every once in a while, I’m reminded that there are people who think that bisexuality and monogamy are inherently incompatible. That bisexual people are incapable of maintaining successful monogamous relationships, because being attracted to more than one gender means that we need to be in a sexual relationship with at least one member of every gender to which we are attracted.

For the longest time, I had no clue where people got this idea. I was utterly baffled by it. I eventually came to understand that some people have this idea that bisexuality is basically an overabundance of lust. They construe bisexuals as essentially being so lustful that we can’t limit our attraction to just one gender, like ‘normal’ people do.

Ancient Greeks thought that’s how homosexuality worked. They were wrong too.

This assumption is really quite tiresome. A bisexual person telling you a basic fact of their identity or history is not inviting you ask invasive questions about their sex life, but people do it all the time. People will say things like “But–aren’t you married?” Or “So do you switch back and forth between being attracted to men and women?”

I still remember the high school peace studies class where someone said they thought that bi people were “greedy,” and I was suddenly expected to have a ‘class discussion’ about this, as if their small-minded, ugly, ignorant bullshit deserved equal consideration with my personal experience of what it was like to live my life.

Like I said. Tiresome.

So here’s a little thought exercise, for those of you who experience sexual attraction to one gender (hereafter, monosexuals) and who are confused on this point.

Think of someone you find sexually attractive. Could be your significant other or a celebrity. Doesn’t matter.

Okay. Now think of someone else you find sexually attractive.

Still with me? You probably are, because most people are capable of finding more than one person sexually attractive at the same time.

People who are capable of this when they’re single tend to remain capable of it if they become monogamously-partnered in some way. Most of those people are capable of maintaining successful monogamous relationships, even if they happen to find someone other than their partner sexually attractive.

So now, here’s the kicker. This is the part that apparently blows people’s minds. Ready?

It works the same way for bisexuals.

Obviously, not all bisexuals are monogamous. Some bisexuals are polyamorous, meaning they have consensual romantic and/or sexual relationships with more than one person at a time. But guess what? Some monosexuals are polyamorous, too. Poly folks are poly because that’s what works for them, not because their underlying sexual orientation is wrongly associated with an overabundance of lust.

But for those of us who are monogamous, and who are capable of finding more than one person sexually attractive at the same time, it doesn’t affect our ability to maintain monogamous relationships any more than it affects a monosexual person’s ability to do the same.

We do not need to ‘turn off’ our attraction to people who are not the same gender as our monogamous partner, any more than monosexual people need to ‘turn off’ their attraction to other people of the same gender of their monogamous partner(1).

Like anyone else in a monogamous relationship, we may occasionally experience a sexual attraction that tests our commitment to our partner, but that has nothing to do with being bi. Infidelity among monosexuals has been a thing since pretty much always.

But even if there was a much higher incidence of non-monogamy among bisexuals. If someone indicates that they’re in a monogamous relationship, shouldn’t you assume that they, you know, want to be? Absent any direct evidence to the contrary, shouldn’t you assume that it’s something they have chosen for themselves, and that they probably chose it in good faith and with every intention of keeping their promises to their partner?

Shouldn’t you then also assume that monogamy is probably compatible with their sexuality, since they’re choosing to be monogamous?

People are actually pretty good at being the bosses of their own lives.

For those that aren’t good at being bosses of their own lives–that’s probably a thing you know about them already, if you’re close enough to them that the manner in which they conduct their relationships is your business.

And if you’re not that close to them, you should probably assume that they’ve got it handled. Because even if they don’t, it’s no concern of yours, and asking invasive questions about who they sleep with and how they manage the staggering feat of keeping their word is really quite rude.

(1)Also, ‘turning off’ sexuality isn’t really a thing, because sexuality is not a choice. If you’re a gay man or lesbian woman who beats that ‘not a choice’ drum in the march for your own rights but then treats bisexuality like it’s the ability to choose which gender to find attractive, you should maybe think about that for a little while, and then knock it off.