Bisexuality (Encyclopedia of Psychology)
Sexual orientation defined as sexual involvement with members of both sexes concurrently (within the period of one year) or any sexual attraction to or involvement with members of both sexes at any time in one's life.
There is no single accepted definition of bisexuality. Some define it narrowly as sexual involvement with members of both sexes concurrently (within a twelve-month period or less). Others define bisexuality more broadly as any sexual attraction to or involvement with members of both sexes at any time in one's life. However, few people qualify as bisexual in its narrow definition. A comprehensive study, "Sex in America," conducted in 1992 by the University of Chicago, found that less than 1% of either males (0.7%) or females (0.3%) had engaged in sexual activity with both males and females within the previous year. While no statistics exist on the numbers of Americans who fit the broad definition of bisexuality, estimates range from the millions to tens of millions.
Sigmund Freud believed that bisexuality was a "disposition" common to all humans. He contended that every individual has a masculine and feminine side, and that each side is heterosexually attracted to members of the opposite sex. Most people, however, according to Freud, repress one side, becoming either hetero- or homosexual. Alfred Kinsey...
(The entire section is 937 words.)
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Bisexuality (International Dictionary of Psychoanalysis)
The notion of bisexualityccording to which all human beings simultaneously possess both masculine and feminine sexual dispositionsas introduced into psychoanalysis by Freud.
It should be noted that the notion of bisexuality has always existed, as witness its mention in most religions. The idea of a primeval divine couple that is demonstrated by myths and rituals of human androgyny, is based on the existence of a supreme androgynous divine being from whom the couple are separated (Eliade, 1964).
The idea of bisexuality was already present in philosophical and psychiatric literature at the end of the 1880s, but its importance within the psychoanalytic movement begins with the influence of Wilhelm Fliess. In 1901, convinced of the scope of psychical bisexuality, Freud informed Fliess of a project that unfortunately did not see the light of day: "My next book, as far as I can see, will be called 'Bisexuality in Man'" (1950a, p. 334).
Freud based his theory on anatomical and embryological data: "a certain degree of anatomical hermaphroditism occurs normally. In every normal male or female individual, traces are found of the apparatus of the opposite sex" (1905d, p. 141). This observation resulted in his conception of an "originally bisexual physical disposition [that] has, in the course of evolution, become modified into a unisexual one, leaving behind only a few traces of the sex that has become atrophied." But he did not apply this conception to the psychical domain: "It is impossible to demonstrate so close a connection between the hypothetical psychical hermaphroditism and the established anatomical one" (p. 142).
Freud did not give these biological facts the same scope as did Fliess, who believed that the psychic mechanism of repression has a biological foundation. For Freud, it is not the apparent anatomical sex that represses the opposite sex: "I am only repeating what I said then in disagreeing with [Fliess's] view, when I decline to sexualize repression in this wayhat is, to explain it on a biological grounds instead of on purely psychological ones" (1937c, p. 251).
Throughout his career, Freud emphasized the importance of bisexuality in mental phenomena: "[W]ithout taking bisexuality into account I think it would scarcely be possible to arrive at an understanding of the sexual manifestations that are actually to be observed in men and women" (1905d, p. 220). Nor would it be possible to understand the conflicts that result from it: "In order to explain why the outcome is sometimes perversion and sometimes neurosis, I avail myself of the universal bisexuality of human beings" (1950a, p. 179). And it was through the analysis of the psychoneuroses that Freud found confirmation of the "postulated existence of an innate bisexual disposition in man" (1908a, p. 165-166).
Nevertheless, it is noteworthy that there were some hesitations in his considerations of this question. In 1923, he attributed the difficulty of disentangling the problem of object choice in the first sexual period to "the triangular character of the Oedipus situation and the constitutional bisexuality of each individual" (1923b, p. 31). Thus he suggested that bisexuality is independent of the processes of identification. Next he argued that identification with the father or mother is the result of the oedipal situation and is strictly linked to bisexuality, because the identifications are simultaneously masculine and feminine. However, when he saw the child's ambivalence toward its parents as deriving from an origin other than identification, he insisted on the weight of innate bisexual dispositions: "It may even be that the ambivalence displayed in the relations to the parents should be attributed entirely to bisexuality" (p. 33). On the one hand, then, the notion of bisexuality makes it possible to explain, in both boys and girls, the oedipal identifications with the parent of the opposite sex, thus feeling the Oedipus complex from any form of determinism. But on the other hand, if bisexuality does not have a biological-anatomical origin, the question of its origin remains obscure: Is it a consequence of anatomy? The result of identifications with both parents? Freud's answer, especially around the time of The Ego and the Id, was that bisexuality was an intrinsic aspect of sexual differentiation itself.
Be that as it may, the concept is constantly invoked and continuously used in day-to-day psychoanalysis. The role played by bisexuality in the different stages of psychosexual development helps to determine the various modalities of the subject's attachment to objects.
It must also be emphasized that even if Freud never abandoned the notion of psychical bisexuality, he considered the difficulty in connecting the concept to the theory of drives as a serious lacuna in psychoanalytic theory. Thus the "theory of bisexuality is still surrounded by many obscurities" (1930a , p. 106).
Finally, a supplementary problem must be introduced: A deeper understanding of the concept of bisexuality necessarily would not facilitate an understanding of the ideas of masculinity and femininity. For as Freud warned us, to give any new content or attach any mental qualities to the concepts of masculine and feminine only gives way to anatomy or to convention: "The distinction is not a psychological one" (1933a [19320, p. 114). This indicates that as long as a satisfactory psychoanalytic definition of masculine and feminine cannot be found, the notion of bisexuality "embarrasses all our enquiries into the subject and makes them harder to describe" (1940a , p. 188).
PAULO R. CECARELLI
See also: Aggressiveness/aggressiveness; Dark continent; Cryptomnesia; Femininity; Femininity, refusal of; Homosexuality; Masculinity/femininity; Object, choice of/change of; Pregnancy, fantasy of; Sex and Character; Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality
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