“Should I have lied and said I am bi?”: Jessie J’s bisexuality was ‘just a phase’

Jessie J recently called her bisexuality ‘a phase’ in an interview with The Mirror.Jessie_J_in_NYC1

Her words aroused bitter disappointment despite my having very little interest in her music or personality. Yet, everyone’s sexuality is fluid. It is valid to rise and fall on the Kinsey scale over the course of your life. Everyone should acknowledge their own feelings.

So why did this inspire anger?

Initially, it was more the phrase than the sentiment. Jessie J’s wording trivialises her previous relationships with women. It seems dismissive and all too reminiscent of the kind of criticisms that bisexual people face from all sides. Her words will give ammunition to people who say that bisexuals claim their identity either for attention, in a rebellious ‘phase’, or as a prequel ‘phase’ before fully coming out.

On further reflection though, there was more to it than semantics. Whether she likes it or not, as a celebrity, Jessie J has taken on the role of spokesperson. She may well be the only bisexual woman some people have heard of. I have written previously about the value of celebrities coming out – it can be as powerful as if it were a friend or family member. So what damage might be done by a celebrity referring to her relationships with women as ‘a phase’? What will people think to see bisexuality used in what appears to be a publicity stunt? What might the consequences be for a bisexual person seeing the casual dismissal of their sexual identity?

So back to Jessie J’s question – should she have lied and said she she is bi?

In short – no. I couldn’t condone wanting anyone to lie about their sexuality. However this wasn’t Jessie J speaking honestly and openly about the evolution of her sexuality. These inflammatory comments were clearly a shameless attempt to interest the media in her and her 3rd album. There are better ways to approach the complex subject of fluid sexuality which is still widely misunderstood by many.

A more frank, thoughtful and above all tactful, discussion of her feelings and experiences might have caused less anger. It might even have gone some way to opening up the discussion around female sexuality.

Maybe this is too much to hope for. It is, of course, unfair to hold Jessie J, of all people, to a higher standard than the rest of us. She never claimed to be a role model or a champion for bisexual women. However, from a woman who still claims to care about her LGBT fans, a bit of tact was be hoped for.

Representation of bisexuality in the media is poor at best. Even nominally LGBT friendly shows like Glee continually get it wrong when it comes to bisexuality. This makes it worse when someone who has publicly come out as bi appears to be using their sexuality as a publicity stunt.

All is not lost, there are other bisexual celebrities out there – Anna Paquin and Evan Rachel Wood spring to mind – but this is still a blow, particularly to the public perception of bisexual women and bisexuality more widely.



Porn actresses are more psychologically healthy than you

IMG_0159 - Stoya

IMG_0159 – Stoya (Photo credit: Anime Nut)

According to a study in the Journal of Sex Research anyway. In the largest study of it’s type porn actresses had “higher levels of self-esteem, positive feelings, social support, sexual satisfaction, and spirituality compared to [other women]”. Their psychological health was measured against established external scales (Rosenberg self esteem scale and quality of life by WHO). Their responses were also measured against a matched set of women surveyed in airports and universities and found to have significantly more self esteem than those women. Researchers suggested a reason for this: these women are comfortable with their own naked bodies. They cited a previous study that found correlation between a woman’s willingness to go topless on the beach and her levels of self esteem.

This makes perfect sense to me. Women should be more comfortable with their bodies in general – it’s the only one you have so you might as well get comfortable with it. I know we’re all constantly comparing ourselves to the conventionally attractive movie stars and becoming comfortable with yourself is easier said than done but its something women should aim for. We need to get over the shame we feel about nudity in general and our bodies in specific. Your body is weird, there’s no getting around it, but here’s a secret: everyone’s body is weird. You know what? everyone’s body is beautiful too.

But back to the porn actresses. A Jezebel article was quick to celebrate this study as a blow to the 2nd wave feminist ‘damaged goods’ view of porn stars. As a sex positive feminist I applaud this – we slut shame too much as it is and hopefully this is a step in a direction that proves a woman doesn’t have to be damaged to enjoy sex and nudity even on film. The article particularly attacks Andrea Dworkin and Catherine McKinnon’s view that all pornography is rape and institutionalised gender inequality. This is where, for me, Jezebel goes too far.

While it is patently insulting to both rape survivors and porn starts to say that performing in a porn film is the same as rape the gender inequality aspect should not be dismissed so quickly. Pornography is still primarily made for men and the male gaze. As such it propagates the idea that women are there to be looked at, touched, fucked and generally objectified by men. Even when a woman is shown to be enjoying herself it is primarily for the gratification of men. Porn does not cause gender inequality but it does reinforce a lot of the gendered stereotypes that continue to lead to slut shaming and sexism.

All this is not to say that women don’t enjoy porn or that there isn’t female friendly porn out there or even that porn must be bad. All I want to say is that while on the one hand there are feminist porn actresses like the inimitable, intelligent and enchanting Stoya (pictured above) who should be celebrated that doesn’t give you or anyone a pass to ignore the sexism and misogyny that remains a huge part of the porn industry.