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5 September 2005
Bisexuality Still A Mystery
by George Atkinson

Bisexual men - those who choose to have sex with both men and women - clearly do exist, but sex researchers have long wondered whether there are specific differences in the arousal patterns of bisexual men. The differences in these arousal patterns, say researchers, would perhaps help explain the nature of bisexuality and establish how it is distinct from gay and straight sexuality.

Now, a new study published in the journal Psychological Science reports on just such an investigation, looking at whether bisexual men exhibit their own unique arousal patterns when compared to straight and gay men. The study measured genital arousal, as well as self-reported sexual arousal, to erotic stimuli.

All the participants in the study had previously identified themselves as either gay, straight or bisexual. The participants watched three videos - an introductory non-sexual clip, followed by two sexually explicit films featuring two men having sex with each other and then two women engaging in sex acts with each other. The participants pressed on a lever to self-report their level of arousal while other equipment measured their actual penile erection.

The researchers found that, in the main, the bisexual men did not have a strong genital arousal to both the male and female sexual stimuli. Rather, they had strong genital arousal to one or the other, but not to both. The researchers noted that, generally, bisexual men had a genital arousal pattern similar to that of gay men, with stronger genital arousal to the male stimuli. But a subset of bisexual men demonstrated a genital arousal pattern similar to that of straight men.

Interestingly, in contrast to the penile arousal patterns, the self-reported sexual arousal of bisexual men was substantial for both videos. The researchers believe the results might indicate the lack of a defining bisexual arousal pattern. "They [the bisexual men] seem to be interpreting or reporting their arousal patterns differently than other men do," said the researchers (Gerulf Rieger, Meredith L. Chivers and J. Michael Bailey).

The distinctly bisexual pattern of subjective (self-reported) arousal, contrasting with the actual results from the genital arousal measurements, left the researchers somewhat perplexed. "Male bisexuality is not simply the sum of, or the intermediate between, heterosexual and homosexual orientation. Indeed, with respect to sexual arousal..., it remains to be shown that male bisexuality exists," they said in conclusion.




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