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Bisexuality and the Challenge to Lesbian Politics: Sex, Loyalty, and Revolution

Paula C. Rust
Copyright Date: 1995
Published by: NYU Press
Pages: 388
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  • Book Info
    Bisexuality and the Challenge to Lesbian Politics
    Book Description:

    The subject of bisexuality continues to divide the lesbian and gay community. At pride marches, in films such as Go Fish, at academic conferences, the role and status of bisexuals is hotly contested. Within lesbian communities, formed to support lesbians in a patriarchal and heterosexist society, bisexual women are often perceived as a threat or as a political weakness. Bisexual women feel that they are regarded with suspicion and distrust, if not openly scorned. Drawing on her research with over 400 bisexual and lesbian women, surveying the treatment of bisexuality in the lesbian and gay press, and examining the recent growth of a self-consciously political bisexual movement, Paula Rust addresses a range of questions pertaining to the political and social relationships between lesbians and bisexual women. By tracing the roots of the controversy over bisexuality among lesbians back to the early lesbian feminist debates of the 1970s, Rust argues that those debates created the circumstances in which bisexuality became an inevitable challenge to lesbian politics. She also traces it forward, predicting the future of sexual politics.

    eISBN: 978-0-8147-7151-8
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-x)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  3. Foreword
    (pp. xv-xviii)

    Despite the efforts of lesbian and feminist publishing houses and a few university presses, the bulk of the most important lesbian works has traditionally been available only from rare-book dealers, in a few university libraries, or in gay and lesbian archives. This series intends, in the first place, to make representative examples of this neglected and insufficiently known literature available to a broader audience by reissuing selected classics and by putting into print for the first time lesbian novels, diaries, letters, and memoirs that are of special interest and significance, but which have moldered in libraries and private collections for...

  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xix-xx)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-6)

    Bisexuality touches very sensitive personal and political nerves among lesbians. The very idea sparks heated debate. Does bisexuality really exist, or is it a phase one goes through while coming out as lesbian? Are bisexuals women who have succeeded in casting off the repressive strictures of our sex-phobic society in order to express the full range of their sexuality, or are they lesbians suffering from an internalized homophobia that prevents them from recognizing their true sexual nature? Is bisexuality a sign of political cowardice among those who are unwilling to give up heterosexual privilege, or is it the next step...

  6. 1 Debate in the Lesbian Press: Introducing the Issues
    (pp. 7-24)

    What does The Lesbian Community think about bisexuality? Before we can answer that question, we have to determine who The Lesbian Community is, and who speaks for It. The truth is that there is no single, monolithic Lesbian Community. At the very least, there are many different lesbian communities. Lesbian communities exist in many towns and cities. Even within a single town or city, there are often several lesbian communities. There might be communities of African-American lesbians, Euro-American lesbians, Asian-American lesbians, and Latina lesbians. Younger and older lesbians, lesbians who are politically active and lesbians who are closeted, working class,...

  7. 2 “Experts’ ” Voices: Lesbianism, Bisexuality, and the Social Sciences
    (pp. 25-35)

    We live in an age of science and technology. It is the era of computers, laser surgery, space travel, fax machines, and hydroponics. We look to science to answer our questions and solve our problems. We have learned that science is objective. According to my high school textbook, the scientific method involves asking a question, designing a study to answer the question, and then doing the study to find out the answer. Values, biases, and power do not enter the picture.

    As a society, we are quickly finding out the hard way that this sterile image of science is false....

  8. 3 Behind the Scenes: How the Study Was Done and Who Participated in It
    (pp. 36-45)

    Chapters 4, 5, and 7 will present the findings of research in which I explored lesbian and bisexual women’s opinions on the topic of bisexuality. But before I present the findings it is important for you to know something about the women who participated in the study. The odds are that you and your friends were not among the women who participated, so you might be wondering how the findings could possibly be relevant to you, much less reflect your own opinions. This chapter will answer that question, and it will give you information that you need in order to...

  9. 4 Lesbians’ Voices: What Do Lesbians Think about Bisexuality and Its Role in Sexual Politics?
    (pp. 46-101)

    A few of the women who participated in this study might have, on occasion, written a letter toOut/Lookor an article for a regional lesbian newsletter, but most have not. The women who participated in this study are the women who read these letters and articles and respond to them privately. If they care about the issues raised, they might discuss them with personal friends; if they do not care, they might never finish reading the article. Whatever their thoughts and opinions, they do not appear in print and do not become a matter of public record. Yet, these...

  10. 5 Who Believes What? The Impact of Lesbians’ Personal Politics and Experiences on Their Attitudes toward Bisexuality
    (pp. 102-122)

    One thing is clear: lesbians have a variety of attitudes, beliefs, and opinions about bisexuality. This variety is interesting in and of itself because it shows how diverse lesbians are and how many different ways there are to understand sexuality. Merely describing this diversity—which I did in chapter 4—provides insight into the controversy over bisexuality within the lesbian community because it shows the exact points of agreement and disagreement. If we can isolate these points, we can begin to understand each others’ points of view.

    But understanding each others’ points of view also means that we must understand...

  11. 6 The Pink and Blue Herring: The Issue Is Lesbianism, Not Bisexuality
    (pp. 123-200)

    Why is the topic of bisexuality so controversial among lesbians? Why does it arouse such passion in us, sparking heated debates in our newspapers and magazines? Why do most of us prefer to keep our distance from bisexual women, avoiding romance and even friendship with them? Although we often couch our arguments in political or intellectual terms, the emotional force behind them suggests that bisexuality touches a nerve in us. In fact, the question of bisexuality strikes to the core of our being because it is intimately related to the question of who we are as lesbians. As individuals and...

  12. 7 Bisexual Women’s Voices: What Do Bisexual Women Think about Bisexuality and the Role of Bisexuals in Sexual Politics?
    (pp. 201-229)

    In chapters 4, 5, and 6 I explored lesbians’ attitudes toward bisexuality and bisexual women and showed how the controversy about bisexuality among lesbians reflects lesbians’ historically rooted disagreements about whom they are as lesbians. In this chapter and the next, I turn my attention to bisexual women and the effects of lesbians’ attitudes on them. As marginal members of the lesbian community, bisexual women are exposed to lesbians’ various attitudes and beliefs about bisexuality. Although these attitudes and beliefs are varied, negative attitudes are more widespread and have greater symbolic presence in the lesbian community than positive ones; therefore,...

  13. 8 Another Revolution on the Political Wheel: The Politicization of Bisexuality
    (pp. 230-260)

    Since the study described in this book was done in the mid 1980s, bisexuals have made great strides in the process of building a political movement of their own. In the space of a few years, a few isolated bisexual support groups and local resource centers—similar in purpose to the homophile groups of the 1950s that predated gay liberation—have been replaced by an international network of groups ranging from support groups to publishing collectives, archives, and political action groups. Bisexual political activists, once nearly nonexistent, now communicate with each other via electronic mail and conference calls, meet each...

  14. Appendix A: Figures
    (pp. 261-308)
  15. Appendix B: Tables
    (pp. 309-320)
  16. Notes
    (pp. 321-344)
  17. Bibliography
    (pp. 345-356)
  18. Subject Index
    (pp. 357-364)
  19. Author Index
    (pp. 365-368)
  20. Back Matter
    (pp. 369-369)