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Are We Moving Past Orientation Labels?

Some reflections on sexual orientation lables and the show Skins over at Bitch Magazine:

I started watching Skins recently, and I am blown away by the show’s liberal approach to sexuality. It’s a show in which teenagers have lots of sex, and while it’s not always as sex-positive as I had hoped (one episode I watched, involving a girl engaging in casual sex to get over a break-up, featured a disturbing amount of slut-shaming dialogue), it does have a very flexible and progressive outlook on sexuality and, at least since Franky’s been on the show, gender. Non-monosexuality is fairly commonplace in the Skins universe, and it is rarely labeled as anything at all, let alone “bisexual.” […]

So does Skins’ approach indicate that we’re moving past a need for labels—or, at least, traditional labels like straight, gay, and bisexual? Well…not necessarily. At the start of this series, a commenter asked me why I choose to call myself “bisexual” rather than “pansexual.” The reason isn’t because I’m only attracted to two genders, because I’m not. It’s also not because I think “bisexual” is a perfect label, because I don’t. For a while, I preferred to use “queer,” but I started to phase that out and transition to using “bisexual” when I realized that the concept of “queer” can be confusing for a lot of folks. Initially, I liked “queer” specifically for its vagueness, but when I became more invested in finding a word that would convey a consistent meaning when people heard it, the label became more challenging. So I went with “bisexual,” since as of now, it is the most commonly understood expression of non-monosexuality (to the degree that non-monosexuality is commonly understood, of course). And while this may not be important to everyone, it is important to me to use language that easily places myself in the context of a broader movement. Politically, I believe it’s critical to represent non-monosexuality in the LGBT movement. Because we exist, and there are lots of us. Among the self-identified LGB population, more than 50% identify as bisexual. […]

So are we post-bi? No. I don’t think we’re post-anything, honestly. Earlier this week, I heard someone use the term “post-feminist,” and it made my skin crawl. As long as oppression exists, we aren’t post-anything. And biphobia is alive and well, so, no, we aren’t post-bi. But maybe someday we will be. I’m okay with that. I’m not married to this label. And Skins shows us that none of us ever have to be.

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About Jen

Have been a jack of all trades. I'm a former philosopher who specialized in ethics and political philosophy. I'm a sex positive feminist.

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