And today is Celebrate Bisexuality Day. Sadly, this post will be about the degree to which bisexual people are not celebrated in the United States.
I first learned about the startling rates at which bisexual, pansexual, and fluid people experience violence from LGM commenter JL (JL uses “bi+” to encompass all these categories).
Sexual Violence and Stalking, Except by Police/Corrections
Bi+ women are 2.65 times more likely than straight women and 3.52 times more likely than lesbians to experience attempted or completed rape*, with a lifetime rate of nearly 1 in 2 (CDC NISVS 2010).
Bi+ women are 1.73 times more likely than straight women and 1.61 times more likely than lesbians to experience some form of sexual violence, for a total of about three quarters of bi+ women. Bi+ men are 2.28 times more likely than straight men and 1.18 times more likely than gay men to experience some form of sexual violence, for a total of nearly half of bi+ men (CDC NISVS 2010).
Bi+ women are 2.36 times more likely than straight women (number not reported for lesbians) to be stalked (CDC NISVS 2010).
Bi+ women who are incarcerated in state prisons are 1.38 times more likely than straight women and 1.41 times more likely than lesbians to be sexually assaulted by fellow inmates. Bi+ men in state prisons are 9.63 times more likely than straight men, though less likely than gay men, to be sexually assaulted by fellow inmates (Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2008).
Intimate Partner Physical Violence, Sexual Violence, and Stalking
Bi+ women are 1.75 times more likely than straight women and 1.39 times more likely than lesbians to experience physical violence, rape, or stalking from an intimate partner, with more than 3 in 5 bi+ women having experienced this. Bi+ men 1.29 times more likely to experience it than straight men and 1.43 times more likely than gay men. Bi+ women were much more likely to experience this from men, and bi+ men from women (NISVS 2010).
Bi+ women are 2.09 times more likely than straight women and 1.68 times more likely than lesbians to experience what the CDC characterizes as “severe” physical violence from an intimate partner. To pull out a couple of examples, a full 15% of all bi+ women have had a partner attack them with a knife or gun, and more than a quarter have been choked or suffocated by a partner. Unsurprisingly given all this, bi+ women were the most likely group of women to have ever been phyically injured by partner violence (more than a quarter of all bi+ women) or had PTSD symptoms because of partner violence (nearly half of all bi+ women) (NISVS 2010). These stats are backed up by the NCAVP, a coalition of LGBTQ-serving anti-violence programs across the US, which reported in 2013 that their bi+ clients who reported partner abuse (including all genders) were 1.6 times more likely to be sexually assaulted by a partner, 2.2 times more likely to experience physical violence from a partner, and 2.6 times more likely to be injured by a partner, than their entire sample of LGBTQ clients who reported partner abuse (NCAVP 2013).
Bi+ women are 3.31 times more likely than straight women to have a partner who tried to get them pregnant when they did not want to become pregnant (NISVS 2010). Just throwing this out there, I wonder if the stereotypes of bi+ people, and especially female-presenting bi+ people, as promiscuous cheaters who will inevitably leave their partners, have anything to do with this – if the partners are trying to use pregnancy to anchor the bi+ person to the relationship.
Not only did this surprise and dismay me, it made me wonder about the reasons why. JL notes stereotypes that bisexual people are promiscuous cheaters. Stereotypes that bisexual women are less likely to say and mean no are another possible cause for higher rates of sexual violence against bi women. I’m a bisexual woman, and I’ve heard men make smarmy remarks along the lines of, “bisexual women are so much more sexually open,” as if their prejudgement of my availability was a compliment to me. This offers no explanation for the high rates of intimate partner violence against bisexual men, unless similar stereotypes obtain.
This recent report from the Movement Advancement Project, BiNetUSA, and the Bisexual Resource Center also includes information about class and health disparities experienced by bisexual people. On economic disparities:
Approximately 25% of bisexual men and 30% of bisexual women live in poverty, compared to 15% and 21% of heterosexual men and women respectively and 20% and 23% of gay man and lesbians.
Of course it’s possible that some of the same causes are behind violence, health, and economic disparities; for instance, PTSD does not make it easier to function in the workplace.