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Bi: The Hidden Culture, History, and Science…

Bi: The Hidden Culture, History, and Science of Bisexuality (original 2022; edition 2022)

by Julia Shaw (Author)

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371593,628 (3.5)1
A personal, scientific and historical examination of bisexuality, from the internationally bestselling author and co-host of the podcast Bad People.
Title:Bi: The Hidden Culture, History, and Science of Bisexuality
Authors:Julia Shaw (Author)
Info:Harry N. Abrams (2022), 240 pages
Collections:Your library

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Bi: The Hidden Culture, History, and Science of Bisexuality by Julia Shaw (2022)


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Rating: 4.5* of five

The Publisher Says: Despite all the welcome changes that have happened in our culture and laws over the past few decades in regards to sexuality, the subject remains one of the most influential but least understood aspects of our lives. For psychologist and bestselling author Julia Shaw, this is both professional and personal—Shaw studies the science of sexuality and she herself is proudly and vocally bisexual.

It’s an admission, she writes, that usually causes people’s pupils to dilate, their cheeks to flush, and their questions to start flowing. Ask people to name famous bisexual actors, politicians, writers, or scientists, and they draw a blank. Despite statistics that show bisexuality is more common than homosexuality, bisexuality is often invisible.

In BI: The Hidden Culture, History, and Science of Bisexuality, Shaw probes the science and culture of attraction beyond the binary. From the invention of heterosexuality to the history of the Kinsey scale, as well as asylum seekers trying to defend their bisexuality in a court of law, there is so much more to explore than most have ever realized. Drawing on her own original research—and her own experiences—this is a personal and scientific manifesto; it’s an exploration of the complexities of the human sexual experience and a declaration of love and respect for the nonconformists among us.


My Review
: I've contended publicly that bisexuality is the disrespected stepchild of the QUILTBAG community. When one says "bisexual" without the modifier "man/male" the presumption is one's referring to a woman/female. And that's what Author Shaw has set out to correct...that sense of non-inclusion that heteronormative society, whether straight or gay, attaches to labeled people. No one ever explains to you, "oh, I'm straight" because we assume they are unless they make a point of not being. And bisexuality, being by its nature focused on sexual activity, is simply not an acceptable identity in the heteronormative prescriptivist world.

Author Shaw, who also includes a lot of other identities in her discussion, corrects this misperception with an assertion that bisexuality is in fact an identity and to diminish that is to indulge in bi erasure. When that erasure comes at you from all sources and angles, including the one with a letter for your identity in its public face, that can feel disheartening and rejecting.

What Author Shaw does is build a good case, based on research and science, for the existence and validity of the identity "bisexual" as a separate thing. It's an equal to "gay" or "lesbian" or "straight" (which term I dislike because its connotation is "as opposed to 'bent'" and that doesn't thrill me) not a way-station on a road heading one way or the other. Thinking outside binaries is the great revolution in consciousness of this century. It's a giant gift to our descendants to recognize, affirm, and support their outside-our-experience identities. That does mean, however, learning what those identities are as well as what they want to be called.

Learning about bisexuality is not the challenge it was in the past. When I was a teen and wondering what to call myself ("faggot" wasn't gonna cut it for internal monologues, but it's accurate) I found a book called Loving Them Both: A Study of Bisexuality by Colin MacInnes, son of Angela Thirkell and her first husband. "Maybe that fits," I thought after reading it. It didn't, but at least I found something to help me try on an identity that just does not exist in pop culture. That book existed for me; it gave me information I'd never have found otherwise (though it was written in 1970 and was very much of its time); and the newcomers to adolescence and adulthood need the same help I found. That's Author Ward's book.

That she is a psychologist, with a special interest in criminality, makes me believe her research chops are top-notch even if I don't know what sources she's used. Consulting the Notes will disabuse anyone of the notion that she's just makin' it up. This is someone who makes a living as a psychologist, there's no way in heck she doesn't cite her sources. And they're impressively complete and diverse.

What's all this in aid of? It's a sad fact that, like most people who are bisexual, Author Ward wasn't really sure what that meant or if it, as an identity not a sexual desire, really existed. Unlike most people, she set out to do something to help people in their own searches for identity when they're feeling surer and surer that "straight" is for jackets not for them. There's always a process in developing an identity. In most cultures it's called "growing up." In modern Western culture, we're possessed of both a bewildering freedom to decide for ourselves and a grim paucity of examples for anything outside heteronormative society. Remember I said the author was a psychologist? Bet you can't guess what she did....

These are Author Ward's "Six Stages of Bidentity Development."

  1. Stage 1. Loneliness: I must be the only one who feels this way, no one ever talks about it.

  2. Stage 2. Euphoria: I'm NOT the only one! Say hallelujah and bring the jubilee!! Now I can start living!

  3. Stage 3. Disappointment: What do you mean, I'm not queer/activist/leftist/whatever enough?! I'm just ME! What's with this judgment?

  4. Stage 4. Mourning: How can anyone stand to be so cruel/ignorant/prejudiced? I'm a real person!

  5. Stage 5. Anger: HOW DARE YOU?!? We are valid, real people with feelings and needs!

  6. Stage 6. Peace: Wait...I am real, I have loved ones and others who accept me and are like me, and nothing the jackanapes do or say will make that different. (I call this the "It's not what you call me, it's what I answer to" stage.)

If you take no other thing away from reading this review, I hope it is that there is something out there in the world that can support and guide those not satisfied with the heteronormative world's offerings towards a different, possibly more comfortable and complete, identity. If you know someone who's on that journey, if you might be yourself, or if you're just curious about what the hell all the fuss is about, read Author Ward's enjoyable, informative, and authoritative prose.

No one needs to feel alone. Not when Author Ward's here to show a new path. ( )
  richardderus | Jun 26, 2022 |
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» Add other authors (2 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Julia Shawprimary authorall editionscalculated
Grosz, DevinCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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A personal, scientific and historical examination of bisexuality, from the internationally bestselling author and co-host of the podcast Bad People.

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