About forty years ago, bisexuality rather suddenly became considered quite stylish in America and much of Europe, a symbol of sophistication and confidence. As gays did a decade or so earlier, bisexuals were “coming out” en masse in the mid-seventies, no longer assigned to the margins of society. “It has become very fashionable in elite and artistically creative subgroups to be intrigued by the notion of bisexuality,” said Norman Fisk, a psychiatrist at Stanford University, thinking it could very well be “a sociological phenomenon.” The feminist movement was no doubt playing a role in the increasing popularity of bisexuality, as was the greater recognition of the “clitoral orgasm.” Widespread use of the birth control pill had also helped to propel bisexuality by encouraging a climate of recreational (versus procreational) sex, this one more legacy of the sexual revolution.
Popular and consumer culture both reflected and helped to shape what was commonly called “bisexual chic.” Bisexuality was viewed as two different things: a sexual attraction to men and women and androgyny. Each could be easily detected in the hipper pockets of American culture, with bisexuality now shorthand for au courant style. Threesomes could be found in Vogue fashion spreads, for example, while more trend-forward cosmetic marketers featured young women and men wearing make-up in their ads. Pop song lyrics occasionally referenced bisexuality, and some celebrities were not shy in pronouncing they enjoyed the company of both men and women. “Bisexuality is in bloom,” announced Newsweek in 1974, thinking its flowering was likely inevitable given the recent overlapping of gender identities. With both style and social roles blending along gender lines, “the only thing left to swap was sex itself,” the magazine observed, a new ethos of “anyone goes” taking hold among the creative set. On some college campuses, the prom queen’s date was turning out to be another prom queen, while the prom king was showing up wearing eye shadow. Rock stars like Mick Jagger and David Bowie were serving as inspiration for some men to get in touch with their feminine side, and hipper clubs like Max’s Kansas City in New York and the Bistro in Chicago were hotbeds of androgyny. Some bisexuals saw themselves as neither entirely male nor female, a new and different “breed” of human. With all kinds of sexual permutations popping up, the owner of Le Jardin, a trendy discotheque in New York, joked that “trisexuals” could be found at his club, not too much of an exaggeration.
Although many bisexuals were delighted that their “best of both worlds” lifestyle was now being celebrated, there were problems with having sex with both men and women. Relationships with friends of the same gender often changed when someone announced he or she was bisexual, the dimension of sexuality now added to the dynamic. The homosexual community was not entirely receptive to bisexuals, with some gays feeling the latter felt superior to them. Others gays were skeptical about the entire concept of bisexuality, thinking it was simply a steppingstone to coming out as one of them. Many lesbians did not entirely trust bisexuals, thinking they would prefer to be with a man if the opportunity presented itself. The general consensus was that bisexuals were typically sexually capricious, pursuing relationships with each gender with little apparent emotional involvement. Psychologists saw deep meaning in bisexuals’ fickleness, thinking they were developmentally challenged and were likely to lead lives of instability and chaos. Bisexuals argued that having more options was the whole point, however, the limiting of oneself to just one-half of the population the thing that did not make much sense.