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9 May


The Disappearing B, Literally: The Issue with Language

8 May

Reflection: Identity, Media, Cultural Capital, Language and Its Constant Change

            I decided to look more into the emergence of the Down-Low and the debates surrounding the term. I thought it would go along very nicely with our debate over the disappearing B.  I feel like the main debate over this term, like many other terms, has to do with language. On the positive side, I liked the fact that the Down-Low identity was presented by some researchers as a way for individuals to express their identity and be understood quickly. For example, as Jake showed us online, the implications of saying “Down-Low” on your profile, how would that draw/push away viewers, would this make it easier for individuals to communicate with others with this identity? In addition to this, my research showed how the term was very common during the 1990s, which leads me to compare the use of language/terms and its interpretation at different times in our history; 1990s vs. today. How does the creation of this term in the 90s affect our interpretation/portrayal of it today? Despite the lack of focused research specifically analyzing the impact of the Down Low and the HIV epidemic, I do see the correlation between them. However, I believe the media has blown it out of proportion to negatively affect men who have sex with men.

On more negative sides, I see how the term Down-Low has become associated with crime and urban pathology, affecting a specific group in society negatively. As Gonzalez explained, “The Down-Low debate has the necessary ingredients to sell: Concealed non-normative sexualities, a subaltern genre of explosive culture (hip hop), a pandemic caused by a sexually transmitted agents, innocent victims (heterosexual women) and a population often accused of misbehavior (men of color). Based on my research, I observed that Latino and African American males and the Down-Low were used excessively to explain the increase in HIV cases in these communities. These individuals are portrayed as the SOLE reason for this increase: leaving out social issues of poverty and lack of government prevention services that have also been key to the spread of HIV as well.

Finally, the main issue I had during all of my research was the constant interchange of terms used for identification. For example, the Down-Low was associated with MSMW, yet, in my research, the term MSM was used to explain concerns with HIV. Bisexuality was used so often when analyzing individuals who identified as heterosexual and had sex secretly; identity v. action, is this okay? When critiques emerged of the absence of the term bisexuality in academia because of the Down-Low, MSM, and MSMW, I understood the point because bisexuality was used to define all the terms but never used to see how bisexuality solely affected HIV rates for example. I even found a different bisexual definition, coined “Latin Bisexuality,” should there be a difference? So much term confusion pushed me to question the issue with language we encounter and how imposing a term without concrete definition can lead to the creation/misinterpretation of identities not just by researchers, but also by the popular media. What do you all think? My brain hurts.  Here’s a brief summary of my findings!

Where did it come from, the Down-Low?

           Social repercussions due to sexual orientation has led many Latino and African American gay and bisexual men to identify as heterosexual while secretly engaging in sex with men (Brooks). The notion of keeping a “low profile” characterized Latino and Black bisexuals in United States. Bisexually identified men of various ethnicities are less connected to a gay community and less comfortable with their sexuality, have fewer family and friends who know about their sexual behavior (Brooks).  Based on my research,it seems that the label of the Down-Low emerged in African American and Latino urban communities approximately ten years ago. The connection between youth of color was consistent with linguistic assessment that placed it emerging in the early 1990s, and delineated the sexual identity and behavior of a population at a specific historical moment (Gonzalez, 27).  Although the first journalistic reports about the Down-Low included Latinos, they quickly faded from discussion and focus shifted to African Americans. The lack of participation by Latino communities and HIV awareness groups are heavily accounted for the absence of the Down-Low in relation to Latinos. (Gonzalez)

The Increase in Media Involvement

            Published articles described the Down-Low as young men unfazed by the tension between their non-normative sexualities and their otherwise conventional Black & Latino working-class male identities. The core of their secrecy was their refusal to politicize their intimacy that is, to adapt a public gay identity (Gonzalez, 26).  To many, men who said they were “on the Down-low” had sex with other men without self-identifying as gay, homosexual, or bisexual, and strived to maintain a low profile of their sexual activities or attraction to same gender patterns (Munoz, 773). On April 16, 2004, the Oprah Winfrey Show aired, A Secret World of Sex: Living on the Down Low. The show featured a married African American man who had sexual encounters with other men secretly (Dodge, 1). Few could have known the impact a single episode would have on the sexual culture in the U.S. Essence magazine expressed DL as a common interpretation of bisexuality. Jet magazine argued that their refusal to identify as “gay” prevents these men from heeding prevention methods to the gay community.  Health experts explained it was a learned lifestyle in prison, which continued after being released. In 2002, Paul Baker’s Fantabulosa: a Dictionary of Polar and Gay Slang published in London, “defines DL, as initials of Down-Low and an adjective in African American slang referring to Black men who appear heterosexual in public, but have gay sex”  (Gonzalez, 27). A concrete definition of the Down-Low was never created.

The Down-Low versus Bisexuality versus MSM versus MSMW

            To some, labels such as “men on the down low” or “DL” and the negative attention that these labels have received in the press reflect our general lack of understanding of sexualities that operate outside the traditional accepted binary between heterosexual and homosexual (Munoz, 773).  The term men who have sex with men, MSM, came into existence as an acknowledgement of the fact that there are men who engage in sexual activity with other men who still identify as heterosexual. This term, MSM, has led to absence of any recognition of bisexuality in academia, with a focus on behavior rather than sexual orientation (Dodge, 6) It is impossible for bisexual men to “not exist” and simultaneously be the driving force of disease transmission between hetero and homo.

HIV Statistics in Relation to These Identities

            Despite making up 13% of the United States population, Black women disproportionately make up 72% of all women with HIV/AIDs. The highest HIV positive group among Black men is Black MSM making up 30 – 50% of all Black male cases. In terms of HIV risks, Black MSMW are 30 times higher at risk to get HIV and 13 times higher for Black MSM.  Evidence of the Down-Low phenomenon in the HIV epidemic among African American rates is lacking while Black male bisexuality in association with HIV transmission hasn’t adequately described these behaviors and associated risks. Bisexual Black and Latino men are at significantly higher risk for HIV infection and transmission in comparison to both exclusively heterosexual and homosexual/MSM men. (Dodge)

Posted by Maria L”

ASEXY: Part 2.2

4 May

Miss E and Caity Stardust finally finish installment 2.2 of A Fireside Chat where the discussion focuses on asexuality representation in ABC Family’s Huge.

100% Bisexual

29 Apr

A few weeks ago on Glee, gay character Blaine questioned if he might be bisexual after kissing a girl during a drunken game of spin the bottle. At the end of the episode, they kissed again – this time sober – and Blaine declared himself “100% gay.”

I’ve been thinking about that a lot lately. It was a funny moment, but I want to challenge the idea of a sliding scale of queerness or a spectrum of sexualities, with gay on one end and straight on the other. These conceptions of sexual orientation erase or minimize all other sexualities, turning them into simply variations on homo- and heterosexuality.  But if bisexuality is supposedly in the middle of gay and straight, where does pansexuality fall? Or asexuality?

There is a meme, reminiscent of the Kinsey scale, which asks bisexuals to say what percentage gay and what percentage straight they are. But how does one quantify sexual and romantic attraction? Who does the quantifying? And more importantly, what is the point?

The sliding scale leads to bisexuals having to prove our queerness, as well as bisexual erasure: other people (usually gay men and lesbians) get to decide if we’re queer enough or even queer at all. Look at Lady Gaga. She is constantly called a friend or ally to the LGBT community or criticized for co-opting the LGBT rights struggle for her own fame and profit.  But Lady Gaga is bisexual.  Some people, however, have decided that the way that she expresses and discusses her sexuality has made her straight – that while she has openly and publicly identified as bisexual for quite a while, she is not quite queer enough or queer in the right way to be allowed under the queer umbrella.

Listen. My sexuality is not some combination of gay and straight. It is its own sexuality.  I experience some things that both lesbians and straight people experience, but they are viewed through the lens of my bisexual identity.  In addition I experience things that are unique to bisexuals.

I am 0% gay. I am 0% straight. I am 100% bisexual.

Posted by Kelsey Foster

ASEXY: A Fireside Chat, Part 2.1

24 Apr

The Big Bang Theory G-Chat  

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“The Bizarre World of the Bisexual” – A Satirical Comedy on Stereotypes

24 Apr
Saw this satirical comedy and loved it so I thought I would share!

What I like about it specifically is that I think it does a great job of showing just how ridiculous labels can be and what is stereotypically associated with them. In addition this video clip fantastically points out myriad arguments used for discounting bisexuality…a few of my favorites that were briefly touched on are listed below:

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I Like Dick and Jane

21 Apr

I Like Dick and Jane

(lyrics after the jump)

Laya Fisher’s  lyrics are explicit and reflect the openness she  feels about bisexuality. I had to go out and search for a song that spoke to bisexuality, which is a shame. Many songs talk about sex and become very popular as noted in sales and top 100 charts, however, these songs very rarely talk about non-heterosexual identities. If heterosexual sex lyrics can sell why can’t bisexual lyrics sell too? It wasn’t until Katy Perry’s, “I Kissed a Girl” that I can remember a notable connection to non-heterosexual relationships in the top 100 billboard charts. There have been many artists that produce songs that deal with bisexuality but they don’t typically get popular support. Not only that, but there isn’t easy access to retrieve these songs either. It’s important that pop culture and music in this case represent all aspects of society. Music begins shaping people at a very young age, and the lyrics are entwined in the lives of much of our generation now. Simply by making non “normal” sexual identities more visible in music can help shape the attitudes of a generation. To put it simply, there needs to be better representation of all identities to help fight the prejudices of minority groups.

Posted by Anonymous

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Bisexuality in Black Swan

21 Apr


Natalie Portman plays the role of Nina Sayers, a ballerina with the lead role in the Black Swan. While there are a multitude of things that occur in this movie, I only wish to touch on the bisexual tendencies portrayed by Nina Sayers. Bisexuality is seen as a sort of dark sphere of sexuality in this movie, it is only once Nina is trying to master the dark side of the swan that there is explicit portrayal of bisexuality. Nina only “acts” upon same-sex attractions after a scene with heavy drug and alcohol use. The feeling I got when watching the movie was that this exploration of sexuality was forbidden and mysterious. What does this mean for bisexuality? Is this going to lead the audience to believe that bisexuality is a bad thing? I feel like since Black Swan is a mainstream movie with a main stream actress (Natalie Portman) this may have influenced how bisexuality was shown. While it may have given the director the courage to depict bisexual tendencies in the movie, it may also have hindered him from portraying bisexuality as mainstream and normal.  Also, since it was a female bisexual this further problematizes the issue of bisexuality. Typically the general population is more open to seeing a female bisexual than a male, so why not portray a male bisexual to start knocking down these barriers?  Furthermore, the filmmaker, Kyle Schickner, identifies as bi and acknowledges the problems with the representation of bisexuality in the movie. So why wasn’t there a greater attempt to portray bisexuality differently? While I understand that Nina’s rise into womanhood and evolution of her character paralleled the evolution of her ballet number, it still complicates the notion of bisexuality. It isn’t often that “non-normative” sexualities are portrayed on the big screen and when they are, poor representation only further complicates the issue. Maybe the bisexual tendencies of Nina Sayers opened doors to some viewers who haven’t been exposed to bisexuality previously, but on the other hand, should the only mainstream portrayals reveal bisexuality as dark, mysterious and forbidden?

Posted by Anonymous 

“Boy, Girl, Boy, Girl…” Bisexuality in Sex and the City

12 Apr

I want to look at a clip that always plays in my mind when discussions of bisexuality and pop culture arise. It’s a scene from an episode of Sex and the City from its third season that aired in the summer of 2000, nearly 11 years ago, titled “Boy, Girl, Boy, Girl…” The main plotline of the episode revolves around Carrie (a 30-something) dating a 20-something guy who is openly bisexual. After he casually brings his sexuality up by listing the names of his exes, including one named Mark, he asks “is that a problem?” In this scene Carrie summits with her girlfriends at the coffee shop.

(This YouTube clip isn’t the best quality, but it’s the only version of the scene I could find. The coffee shop scene is from 2:49 – 4:20)

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11 Apr

I will have to admit, as a heterosexually identified woman, I was initially intimidated by the thought of posting on our blog. For the most part, I have intentionally stayed in the background, inputting my ideas here and there, for the reason of feeling out of place. Don’t get me wrong, I feel completely comfortable in our class. But the thought of posting on our blog on something unfamiliar to me (in terms of my personal life) such as bisexuality or asexuality seemed very daunting. Nevertheless after stressing about what I could contribute to our blog for about a week, I had an epiphany about an hour ago, bisexuality and art. I like to consider myself as an artist. Sure it is not my area of study, but I do have my own collection of pieces and have a great appreciation for artistic works of assorted mediums.

After developing some sort of idea about what I wanted to post, I searched. And searched. And searched some more, for the perfect artist. What I found, to my surprise, was a whole website dedicated to for the recognition of bisexuality in the arts and in the media, This website is considered to be “An Artistic Project Of The American Institute of Bisexuality” and features multiple sections on artistic outlooks by bisexual individuals. Although most of the artists featured are bisexual, there is something for everyone, no matter your gender, sex, sexual orientation, etc. etc. etc. If you have an appreciation for the visual arts, music, books, poetry, film, or any kind of artistic outlet, you will enjoy this website. I wont blab on and on about how amazing this website is, because you should totally check it out for yourself.

So,, Check it out. I will warn you, some sections are a little out-dated (only by a few months).

I know this post is not the most witty or well put together thing, but for my first post… I am comfortable with this.

Oh yes, and the picture posted here entitled “Harder” by Sonya Gallardo. It is of two women engaging in foreplay. I chose this image because Gallardo created this piece through photography, paint, and digital imaging. What I enjoy most is her use of various mediums to create an image that is somewhat abstract and very stimulating for the eye.

Posted by: A_Sanz