In 2005, J. Michael Bailey, a sexuality researcher at Northwestern University, and two colleagues showed men who identify as bisexual brief pornographic clips featuring men or women, while measuring their subjects’ self-reported arousal and change in penis circumference. The results, when compared to men who identified as straight or gay, led them to conclude that the men identifying as bisexual did not actually have “strong genital arousal to both male and female sexual stimuli.”
A New York Times headline covering Bailey’s 2005 study on men declared: “Straight, Gay, or Lying? Bisexuality Revisited.”
But the paper also spurred more research into the subject — some of which has now led Bailey to revise his conclusions… Bailey and 12 colleagues reanalyzed data from eight previously published studies of bisexual-identified men, including the 2005 paper. The new review finds that men who reported attraction to both men and women do in fact show genital arousal towards both male and female stimuli. The data, the authors conclude, offers “robust evidence for bisexual orientation among men.”
The PNAS study has drawn positive coverage and received praise from some activists, who see it as valuable confirmation for an often-marginalized sexual identity. But it has also received backlash from other scientists and many bisexual people, some of whom argue that in attempting to prove, based on genital arousal, that bisexuality exists, researchers are discounting bisexual people’s lived experiences.