JOSH DARE investigates the rising trend of bisexual chic.

Maybe it was Madonna and Britney sharing a snog on the 2003 MTV Video Music Awards. Maybe it was Sharon Stone’s portrayal of an ice-pick wielding maniac. Or maybe it was channel 10’s shameless flogging of “GIRL. ON. GIRL. ACTION.” when a bit of same-sex romping happened on the OC last year. Whatever the case may be, on thing is for sure: bisexuality is in vogue.

For chicks, at least. The barometer of culture at its most simple level – Big Brother – has latched itself on to the trend so heavily that this year, the only woman who will not kiss another in the house – Claire – has been the subject to intense interrogation about her refusal. At the other end of the spectrum, the boys haven’t even considered the topic – in fact, when John was pushed into answering the question by Big Brother, he squirmed for more than a few minutes before declaring he’d choose to kiss Ash because it would “disgust him as much as it disgusts me.”

So why is female bisexuality a media darling while male bisexuality is still relegated to the ‘deviant’ basket in the eyes of the public?

Far more than a simple spring / summer trend, bisexuality – in both sexes – has been flirted around popular media since the early 70s; the birth of the sexual revolution. It’s in those days that the term bisexual chic was first coined to describe a cultural trend towards sexual ambiguity in the shadow of musical acts like Elton John, Mick Jagger, Lou Reed and David Bowie; and female celebrities such as Janis Joplin. Glam rock and disco brought about a new androgynous fashion trend later in the decade, both of which contributed to bisexuality’s new status as a perceived form of sexual liberation in both men and women.

However sexual liberation took a very serious buck during the 80s with the discovery of the AIDS virus, causing a heightened sense of fear within all orientations concerning sexual health.

Just in time for it to be ‘shocking’ again, bisexual chic made a triumphant return – in female form only, possibly thanks to continued gay fear of AIDS. The second time around, it was most vocally in the guise of Madonna, who not only flaunted it in her music videos but even published a graphical tome, Sex, dedicated to sexual liberation, including bisexuality. Even a female character on sitcom Roseanne was openly bi. This tone carried through the 90s, reaching a crescendo in the new millennium with Britney Spears and Madonna swapping saliva on stage. Heck, even Russian act Tatu faked lesbianism to get through Eurovision, such is the pop appeal of ‘girl on girl action’, as Ten so eloquently put it.

Only, it’s just hard to imagine – oh, I dunno, Justin Timberlake and Nick Carter pulling the same stunt. Before it was even seen, the movie Alexander was slammed and denounced in its country of origin, Greece, due to the threat of his bisexuality being alluded to on the big screen. The scenes were reportedly shot, but never shown.

The gender imbalance of bisexual chic in pop culture is definitely influencing sexual behaviour. According to survey by the American Center for Health Statistics, the number of males (of any orientation) experiencing same-sex contact rose from 4.9% in 1992 to 6.2% in 2002 – a number that is shadowed by the staggering jump of females experiencing same-sex contact, from 6.2% in 1992 to 11.5% in 2002. However, this anomaly could be attributed to the fact that it is simple more acceptable for women to report their same-sex encounters, as opposed to men who may still fear biphobia, whether perceived or real.

Truth is, bisexual chic as it is being celebrated is entirely grounded in heterosexuality; in that its basis is pleasing straight men. It’s a form of passive sexual liberation, where women act sexually liberated in order to titillate blokes. To them, the ends justify the means, and these pseudo-bisexuals willingly engage in homosexual behaviour in order to reach their heterosexual desires.

And therein lies the problem: the celebration of a façade which is in essence a mockery makes it harder for those trying to champion the cause of genuine bisexuals, such as BiNet and its spokesperson, Denise Pell, who stresses, “'It's important to take bisexuality as a serious identity.”