Recently I did a short interview for BBC news regarding the new Rita Ora song, ‘Girls’. In the song she, with others, sing about how they drink red wine and kiss girls (girls, girls), but there has been some backlash from some in the bi community saying that the song is exploiting bisexuality. The song raised some serious concerns for me, because it seems to suggest that girls only kiss other girls when they’re drunk and because it’s sexy/cool/fun (particularly with the little giggle at the end) and that it’s just in order to get attention from men.
As a bisexual woman I have many times been at the receiving end of unwanted male attention when out with a female partner. Multiple times we’ve been jeered at or clapped and told how ‘hot’ it is; some men seem to think that when two girls are kissing in public it’s all in order to attract them, or as some kind of attention-seeking publicity stunt. As though there’s not chance that we could actually like or love each other, or that we might be in a serious relationship which has absolutely nothing to do with them. This obviously isn’t limited to bi women and it’s often the same for lesbians as well, however bisexuals are at a much higher risk of being over-sexualised.
Constantly being propositioned for threesomes and receiving comments such as ‘Oh… so are you one of those lesbians?’ or ‘Aren’t you a bit too fit to be gay?’ totally undermine bisexuality and can really affect one’s self-perception and mental health. It can feel that you’re only there to be the object of someone else’s desire and that you should change or hide how you act when in public, which in turn can also be detrimental to your own relationship. In 2018 you shouldn’t expect to hear things this, but it still happens.
Even more worryingly, bisexual women are at a significantly higher risk of rape and sexual assault and they are often seen as sexual objects rather than human beings. Studies show that 46% of bisexual women have been raped, compared to 17% of heterosexual women and 13% of lesbians. Often this is corrective rape, where someone is raped to ‘correct’ their sexual orientation. I have been a victim of sexual assault myself and it completely changed my life; I suffered with PTSD and depression for most of 2017 and it took me months of therapy to finally feel like myself again. Throughout my journey I realised how much my sexuality affected my mental health, people’s views of me and, very likely, how I ended up at the receiving end of sexual assault.
Studies show that 46% of bisexual women have been raped, compared to 17% of heterosexual women and 13% of lesbians.
Rita has since apologised and said that this song is in fact her “truth”; she said “I have had romantic relationships with women and men throughout my life and this is my personal journey”. While I appreciate her apology and I think it’s great if this is in fact her coming out publicly as bisexual, I still think that the way the song is presented sends the wrong message. Unfortunately songs like this reiterate the view that bisexuals are just sexual objects and is unsupportive of bisexual people (women in particular). It’s time for the music industry to lead the way with bisexual inclusion, not just re-affirming ancient, sexist and biphobic views.
Sam is the secretary at Bi Pride UK and is a Business Consultant (and occasional rugby player)