How to explore your bisexuality in a relationship
This Pride month, we speak to a sex and relationships therapist about how to fully explore your queer identity when you’re coupled up
image Gossip Girl, 2021, HBO Max
words Megan Wallace
Hiya shaggers. I'm Megan, and for the past five years I've written about all things sex and relationships: heading to sex parties, reviewing dildos and navigating non-monogamy to find out what's new and exciting in the world of the sexually delighting. Every month, I'm coming to you with sexpert advice: my picks of the best ~sexual wellness~ bits from the world of woo, the science of sex and my (sometimes unhinged) musings from the dating wilderness. Today, we're talking about how to feel validated in your bisexual identity when you’re in a monogamous relationship
Like any veteran queer, my gayby friends love to ask for some gentle hand–holding as they navigate everything from polyamory to Pride to pegging for the first time. And in these instances, the answers to their queries roll easily off the tongue: “read Polysecure”, “go for the biodegradable glitter”, “lube, you need lube.”
But, recently a friend came to me with a conundrum that led to a lot of head-scratching. After a lot of grappling with and suppressing the truth, she’s come to the realisation that she’s bisexual. This is something she wants to embrace and celebrate - it’s Pride month after all - but there’s a catch: she’s in a long-term, committed relationship with her cis-het boyfriend. Fortunately for her, he’s a gem and a supportive, totebag-carrying member of the Straight Boyfriends of Bi Girlfriends (SBoBG) brigade, who hugged her when she came out to him and made it clear he was there for her, in any way she needed.
In fact, he’s so great that she can imagine marrying him and thinks he may well be her forever person. And while she wants to explore her sexuality, she categorically doesn’t want to open up the relationship - she loves their life as it is. But there’s a voice in her head that worries about the possibility of settling down with this guy and of never knowing what it’s like to be with a woman, or of how it feels to be a part of a queer community.
My friend’s dilemma, of being a queer person in what might outwardly look like a “straight” relationship, is far from uncommon. In fact, studies have suggested that the proportion of bi people with opposite-sex partners could be as high as 84% while a study published this year showed that bi Gen Zers in the US are twice as likely to have had an opposite sex sexual partner in the past year as opposed to a same-sex one. While we should all know that someone’s relationship status or sexual experience doesn’t make them any less or any more bi, it can be difficult for bi people themselves to feel like their queerness is fully validated in monogamous relationships.
This, at least, is what sex and relationships therapist Miranda Christophers argues. “As bisexual people are attracted to more than one gender they may feel their sexual identity is not affirmed or becomes less visible in a monogamous relationship,” she says. So, how do you go about connecting with your identity even when you are in a closed relationship?
There are some key things that any bisexual, sexually fluid or pansexual person could try - starting with your solo sex practices. When you masturbate it can be hugely queer-affirming to fantasise about all ranges of genders when in the act - and, if you need a bit of extra stimulation, to watch porn or read erotica which allows you to explore scenarios out within your relationship. But bisexuality is more than a sexuality - it’s an identity, with a long cultural and political legacy. Some of the best ways to feel your bisexuality is through embracing your community - whether heading to Dalston Superstore or passionately following the arcs of bi characters on TV. “You may enjoy celebrating your bisexuality and being part of a community through attending events and meeting others, and enjoying films, books and culture related to your sexuality,” adds Chrisophers.
No bisexual is an island - which is why you can also look for validation from members of your close circle. The first step to this is ensuring that your identity is affirmed by the people in your life: having it “discussed, acknowledged and understood as your sexual identity by your partner, family or others,” she explains. Not all people will want to or be safe to come out in all areas of their lives - and that may be your situation, too. However, it is important that your relationship - whoever it may be with - is a space where you can be open about who you are and have that accepted by your partner.
This is why some of the work of connecting with your bisexuality actually needs to come from within the relationship - in the form of support from your partner. Especially if you’re newly out, they might have questions about what this means for you and them, and that’s more than understandable. However, it's important that they don’t let their own ego or insecurities get in the way of you living your life authentically and, instead, focus on how they can help you on this journey.
While it can be difficult for partners to know where to begin, there are plenty of concrete steps they can take. Firstly, it’s a case of self-education. There are plenty of books about the subject (go on Amazon and search “bi identity”) as well as articles and posts online (Google is free!) but really, the main point is an eagerness to learn about different experiences without expecting a gold star for it.
Then, it’s a simple case of acknowledging that their partner’s bisexuality exists rather than just ignoring - and therefore erasing - it. This could mean going to Pride together, watching queer films on date night, speaking about your mutual appreciation for Megan Fox…whatever works for everyone in the relationship. But it’s not just about being prepared to enjoy the “fun” bits of queer culture - it’s also being prepared to “speak out, educate around, defend and celebrate” bisexuality if anyone, for example, drops a biphobic comment. After all, you should always be able to count on your partner - no matter their sexuality - to have your back.
Sometimes, you need a sex toy that’s been made to look like a beauty blender. Yep, this vibrator from the angels over at Roam (you know, that company that does really, really good lube?) have come up with a totally discreet toy that wouldn’t look out of place on your makeup shelf. And that’s not even the best bit - it also features nine vibration modes and four speeds, so you’ve got plenty to play with. Given its rounded shape, it’s ideal for external, all-over stimulation over not just the clit but also the labia and all the lovely bits in between.
Letting us into the details of a week in their sex life is a 26-year-old who’s recently moved back home and is exploring a forbidden hookup with a family friend. Here's a little sneak peek below...
_**After a long drug-fuelled drinking session, I find myself spending my morning bent over a kitchen counter having sex with a guy called Mike*. I’ve known Mike for years as he’s a friend of the family (my brother specifically), and my time at home has seen me socialising a lot more with my brother and his friends. After a few pints at the pub, the three of us head back to my brother’s for an afters.
Despite knowing Mike for years, he only recently caught my attention. I’ve been warned off him as his best friend, who happens to be my brother, describes him as a serious Lothario. After expressing interest in me recently, he’s also been warned to keep away from me due to one of their golden rules of friendship: ‘no fucking the family.’ Since we’re both selfish, sex-driven people we do it anyway.
We don’t limit it to kitchen surfaces either. Mike carries and kisses me around every room while my brother sleeps upstairs. Due to stopping and starting after every suspicious noise from above, neither of us finish and we give up altogether once my brother wakes up and rejoins the after party.**_
After several secret kisses and touches whenever my brother leaves us alone for a few minutes, we kiss goodbye and part ways. Once I make it home, I spend the night masturbating to the thought of the whole experience.
Read the full entry in our next monthly sex diary, as our anonymous diarist dives into erotica, faithful FWBs and lacklustre sexting convos.
After a brief decline during the pandemic - when UK-wide lockdowns put paid to sneaky links - sexual health experts are warning that common STIs are once again on the rise. In fact, recently released official Government statistics showed that STI diagnoses in England increased by 23.8% between 2021 and 2022 - with gonorrhoea in particular spiking by 50.3% and rising most noticeably in the 15 to 24 demographic.
The ways to avoid STIs are clear - using condoms whenever you’re unsure of your STI status, undergoing regular STI screenings, and full sexual health transparency with new sexual partners. When we look beyond the obvious (post-pandemic horniness, ofc) what’s less certain, however, are the reasons why our STI rates are rising.
For Cecile Gasnault, brand director at sex toy company Smile Makers, it’s a case of there not being enough reliable sexual health information for younger generations. “The rise of STIs is the starkest for 15-24 year olds,” Gasnault says. “There needs to be more education around sexual health, and not just fear-based sex ed. Studies have shown that comprehensive, pleasure positive sex education fosters safer sex behaviour and promotes a more inclusive society. “
The lack of comprehensive sexual education which Gasnault highlights is exacerbated by online misinformation. “As young people spend more time online, stats show that they turn to their platforms of their choice such as TikTok as a source of information. It’s been shown that a third of Gen Zers trust the information given to them on TikTok over the information provided by their own personal doctor,” says Hope Flynn, Sexual health content creator at sexual health app iPlaySafe. With social media, however, information isn’t always verified or fact-checked. “With anyone having access to platforms such as TikTok and instagram, anyone is able to post their own information around sex and STIs,” Flynn continues. “So much misinformation is being passed around”
For Flynn, the solution to the spread of sexual health falsehoods on social media could be prevented if tech companies learned to work with - rather than against - sexual health experts. “More pressure needs to be applied to platforms such as TikTok, Instagram and YouTube to verify credible sex educators and sexual wellness brands as a source of information and education,” Flynn says.
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