Intimacy-positive week is continuing with a guest post from my bisexual friend Sana Al-Badri. My own comments are in the footnotes
Welcome to my very bi dating advice, from a bi woman to bi women (and of course, to readers who are curious about bisexual dating). This article is about authentic encounters with the same sex. I will outline what behaviors and mindset will help you improve communication as well as eliciting attraction. I will also outline the current dating landscape for bisexual women and help you set clear expectations. My focus is to address bisexual women, who are already out and are looking to date women.
Because I believe that data orientates us towards the truth, here in quantitative terms a quick picture of female bisexuality:
- 3-5% of women identify as bi, a number that has been on the rise in recent surveys. In addition, around 2% of women identify as lesbian. This means that your likely dating pool is around 5-7% (at most) of the female population.
- Only 9% of bi women date women, 84% date men.
- In about half of bisexual female/straight male relationships, bisexual women continue to have sexual encounters with women. This shows a comfortable degree of non-monogamy in bisexual female/straight male relationships.
- 17.4 % of women have had same sex contact and this number is on the rise.
- Specifically 9.3% of ALL women aged 15-44 reported having had oral sex with another woman.
These numbers tell you a few things, in particular: Your dating pool is small!1
Further, it seems that a degree of non-monogamy can increase your chances for sex, meaning that other bisexual women may have a male partner and/or want to continue to date men. Overall it seems realistic and more likely for a bisexual woman to have a sexual experience with a woman in her life (as compared to romantic relations).
Whether you will find a woman will heavily depend on your own initiative, because women generally don’t ask others out.
Although you can’t change how other people act, you can shape up and make an effort to stand out in the competition for women. This will be a fierce competition. I believe it’s good to be aware that your opportunities in life are probabilistic encounters, so let’s max out the ones you have!
Now that we covered the stats, let’s go over some evolutionary theory, as this helps illuminate many underlying motivations and desires at play. I’m also specifically not covering socio-cultural dynamics because I know that many of you bi girls are fit on feminist literature.
Further theories of the evolution of homosexuality clearly show it is advantageous to survival on a kin-selection level. It is different from heterosexuality in many aspects and manifests differently in different contexts. Scientists have found that homosexuality in men can be predicted from epigenetic tags that are preparing the individual for a family with older brothers and/or very fertile female relatives. Such gay men, it seems, were meant to support the child rearing of their relatives rather than have children of their own.
Bisexuality unfortunately is not studied well enough to outline its adaptiveness in such detail but I would assume that the co-parenting hypothesis would hold true. According to that theory, bisexuality has evolved to reduce tension and increase cooperation between women in polygamous arrangements, which humans are mildly predisposed to. These polygamous arrangements were the framework under which several women, some of whom had romantic relationships with each other, would help raise each other’s children, often from the same men. Researchers have also found that men (from a cross-cultural sample) prefer women with same sex attraction over straight women. This also seems to support the adaptiveness of cooperative and romantically affiliated women when raising a man’s child.2
Just to note, regardless of the adaptiveness of bisexuality in women, consenting individuals should be free to love however they desire. However, the fact that there is an evolutionary backbone will make dating same-sex individuals a lot more intuitive. The key here is that women being attracted to other women is very natural and has its place in human mating. That should make it much more easily to harness and cultivate in your life. Despite this, same sex dating in women is still so rare for mostly social and structural reasons. However, as with most revolutions, private and public, you have to start with your very own liberation.
In the current dating environment, dating women will require you to change and grow genuine confidence and assertiveness. Skills that will not only help you attract hot babes but will, as a nice side-effect, also raise your salary and career prospects.
So here is what has worked for me:
Dating men exclusively is not an option (well it is, but many of you, my bisexual friends, are unhappy about this.)
The best thing about being a bi girl is that you can date men and the worst thing about it is that you can date men. This will make sense, just follow me here: Most bi girls have never seriously dated a woman. Just think about how nervous and awkward you felt when you were a teenager starting out with your first boyfriend. And then imagine you are an adult and similar feelings start creeping up when you are with a woman. It scares you even more now because you should be all grown up and more confident about sex and romance. These feelings of doubt and confusion are difficult to handle, they throw you out of the moment and into a state of anxiety.
This is when most women quit. Secretly and not-so-secretly, dating men is the easier option. For the bisexual women that don’t get over their fears, dating men is their only option. However, it’s important to realise that these feelings are normal at the beginning and that you can grow to become the woman women really want (ahh, doesn’t sound as catchy!)
The avoidance coping mechanism works a bit like this: Your system is trying to avoid negative feelings (perceived punishments) and seek pleasure (perceived rewards). This is our most basic motivational structure.
Let me illustrate this in the case of dating men compared to women. Dating men means that you feel a lot more confident in your skills, in pleasuring them sexually and knowing how to attract them. Your social circle will be more open and you get to be straight passing and experience hetero privileges. And on top of it, finding willing men is easy, they are basically all waiting in line trying their luck. When you even show the slightest interest they reward it tenfold with even more interest.
With men the rewards are neatly lined up. Your brain will just choose the path of least resistance and with the greatest rewards, aka immediate gratification.
Compare this to women. You feel insecure about your abilities in attracting them. You don’t really know how to be sexual with them, nor what will turn you on. Your social circle will be confused and society will find your relationship less valid. On top of it, women rarely reply to your messages and you will have to deal with a lot of rejection. At this point you might question your level of interest in other women. As you can see, the rewards are not clear and the effort required is high. It’s only normal that you are less motivated to seek out romantic relations with a woman.
Let’s look at the same scenario again, but now imagining that you’ve grown in confidence and experience. At that point you know what dating women is like and you have developed strategies to make the most out of every message you send and receive. In particular, you will start to notice how many bisexual women are starved for attention from women who can reciprocate their attraction. You learned how to please same sex partners and what you desire from them. Your friends and family have come to terms with your bisexuality and protect you from judgement you may receive.
This is a very different picture, in which there are plenty of touch-points for rewards.
Being aware of your current pleasure to pain ratio can help you get over the initial hurdles. Continuing to date only men won’t help you get any better at dating women and will not allow you to grow within the spectrum of your sexuality.
I want to highlight that I really have empathy for those who are just beginning their journey. Confidence really doesn’t grow on trees, it’s something you have to earn through practice and experience. It takes a serious time investment to improve your dating skills with women. Keep in mind that it often took the men you date today several years and relationships to become the attractive person they are today.
If it helps to hear, I will gladly share my first experience. I remember my first date with a woman. I was so nervous, more nervous than I’ve ever been on any date before. When I saw her, she was this petite blonde girl, even smaller than me. I found it so strange to feel bigger when holding hands. It felt unfamiliar and thus confusing. I honestly didn’t know how to flirt and whether my advances were understood as flirting at all. Was this romance or just friendship? I was lucky that she was quite forward which sometimes made me even more insecure. Despite it all, I kept on making sure we see each other and she turned out to be my girlfriend for over a year.
From my conversations with bisexual women I know they are looking for both emotional and sexual connection to other women. But they are scared and they don’t know how. My advice here is, feel the fear and do it anyway.
She is attracted to you and wants you to approach her
If you encounter a woman who is looking to date women (say online) and she replies to your messages or has even messaged you first, then she is interested! If she wants to meet you, I can assure you: SHE IS INTERESTED IN YOU.
I know this seems hard to accept. In most cases she is not initiating conversation, barely complimenting you, and might be hesitant to meet up. And then there is the lack of female suitors — there aren’t dozens of other women matching you… I know it looks like women aren’t interested but trust me they are!
Just for reference, this is how most straight men feel when online dating, so expect to encounter the same. Tinder online experiments and academic studies show that similarly attractive men compared to women get far fewer messages and matches. So in order for them to find someone they HAVE to message first. Additionally, those who message (or approach) you first, often think you are more attractive than themselves. As such it also makes strategic sense to move first.3
I am very well aware that as a woman, you usually learn to say ‘no’ and to fend off unwanted attention from men – catcalling, staring and being followed in clubs – showing any sign of friendliness gets easily confused for attraction. Understandably, we learn to be very careful in showing our interest. Often a smile towards a man is more than enough to get his attention.
What dating has taught most women is that you have to be receptive to advances (if you wish) but you don’t have to GO OUT THERE and sweat and fret not knowing what to say first.
So a bisexual woman will display a higher degree of coyness than you are used to from men. She will look to select among her suitors, so you have to stand out at minimum by making clear you exist and are interested. Definitely don’t be scared to initiate kissing and sex. Above all else, show persistence!
So my advice here: Keep going! Message first, initiate first, suggest things to do first. Don’t be disheartened by the lack of replies, this is normal.
You ARE bisexual enough
As bisexual women, we are often grouped together with either straight or gay people. This frequently occurs in media representation as well. Daenerys Targaryen from Game of Thrones who in the books has sexual relations with both men and women is portrayed as exclusively straight in the TV production.
I “discovered” I was bi in my early twenties. By that point I had almost exclusively dated men and feared that I wasn’t bisexual enough to date women and to proclaim my attraction publicly. This felt especially true because I’ve never seen a vagina other than my own up close. It seemed “unfair” to date women unless I was absolutely sure.
In the LGBTQAI+ community, acceptance and awareness of bisexuality is not a given. We are often not accepted among lesbians. They can be afraid of dating us and many simply refuse to. In part this is understandable, given that many bi women are fearful and uncertain about their desires.
On the other hand, we are also not understood by heterosexuals. When men realize I’m bisexual they usually view it in purely sexual terms or feel threatened when my attraction to women is just as strong. So we feel like we are not “allowed” to be bisexual. As a result, some of us feel the need to hide and suppress our desires which makes us a contributor to the erasure of our own identities.
This is not to mention that with men, we are “allowed” to experiment. Failed relationships and loss of attraction to a man is not seen as questioning our very attraction to men entirely. With women the stakes are very high, as each and every woman we meet seemingly has the power to define whether we are truly bi or not.
These worries can place heavy weights on our feelings of romance and attraction, often stifling them as soon as they arise. It’s easier just not being bisexual at all. However, research shows that bisexual women remain bisexual throughout their lives. Knowing this might give you confidence in your sexuality. It’s really not just a phase.
So my advice here is to go out and date a woman. It’s absolutely normal to meet a woman and then not feel attracted to her, in the same way you can meet a man for the first time and don’t feel any attraction to him. Discovering your taste in dating is a journey. And your bisexual journey will also be about discovering what kinds of women you find attractive. Don’t worry, you are definitely bisexual enough for that.
Making someone laugh is very important! So if you are a bi woman making her laugh is key. Being able to joke shows off confidence; unfortunately many women I’ve met don’t attempt to make jokes. I think this is because we believe that being silly and outspoken is too embarrassing. We will stand miles away from anything that might detract from our physical beauty. We rather laugh at jokes (and only make sarcastic comments in our heads).
The gender expectation is that men have to be funny and women need to laugh at good jokes.
Being entertaining, of course, is more than just cracking jokes. It also means being a good conversationalist and telling compelling stories. In my experience, women I’ve dated are on average quite shy, leaving me to guide the conversation. It’s no debate, many of the women I dated were interesting, but how can anyone possibly know how interesting you are if you don’t show it?!
Put differently, if you want to captivate a woman’s attention you HAVE to show her very clearly what you’ve got going for you. Be it your creativity, humor, kindness, intellect, sexiness, or all of it combined. So if you find yourself on a date, and there is silence between the two of you, ask her something about her life. Give a compliment, or share more of yourself, especially if you’ve noticed that you haven’t been sharing very much. You can also use this space to validate shared values or interests by asking her opinion on topics you care about. My advice here, feel free to voice your clever comebacks, share your thoughts and show your passions openly!
Further, being entertaining company is a skill you can learn and the men that have wooed you on dates have for sure done a lot of work on themselves. They have probably spend countless hours talking to their mates, watching videos, listening to talks and reading books about what women find attractive. Some of the best advice I’ve received on how to be fun and interesting on dates came from my boyfriend. I recommend speaking to men in your life about their dating experiences. Further there’s a lot of good dating advice out there, specifically looking at sources aimed to improve men’s dating experience with women. A book I can recommend is Mate: Become the Man Women Want (2015) by Tucker Max and Geoffrey Miller.
Really walk out of the closet
In Western society we strongly believe that we are self-directed individuals. We like to think we don’t care what others say or do. To each their own. Whatever floats your boat, live and let live. Be yourself. Find your own way.
This is definitely incorrect, as social psychologists will gladly tell you. If you haven’t ever introduced a woman as your girlfriend, you might be still insecure about what others think of your bisexuality.
Most likely, you know that introducing a woman to your friends and family will elicit curiosity and surprise. You might have to explain yourself and others might have the need to assure you that they, of course, love you regardless of your choices. Introducing a man won’t result in these social dynamics. The focus will be on getting to know him rather than dealing with shattered expectations.
For these reasons, many bisexuals only tentatively come out, they are comfortable going to pride, twittering on bi visibility day and may occasionally have casual sex with women. However, they usually don’t fall in love with a woman. This leads to an unfortunate cycle in which bisexuality is something people never see, and thus are not open towards, which in turn compels bisexual individuals to minimize their same sex attractions. Exposing others to bisexuality, by simply being openly bisexual, is exactly what will help in shifting romantic norms.4
My advice here is to notice yourself. Notice whether you put up boundaries between yourself and other women in a situation that would lead to greater intimacy. Consider allowing yourself to truly experience feelings of romance.
Find acceptance in both your feelings and actions
I know that for many bi girls hearing that they don’t have to be with a woman to know that their feelings of attraction are real and valid is a relief and a revelation. To be bisexual is to simply be attracted to both men and women. You don’t need to kiss a woman, sleep with a woman or date a woman to be bisexual. This narrative implies that bisexuality can be entirely epiphenomenal and not connected to our actions. I see merit in this view, as it can be important for young women to learn that their attractions are meaningful. I remember how important this was for me to hear, at a time when I felt uncertainty and doubt.
But as I grew in both my dating experience and confidence, this narrative was no longer helpful nor was it illuminating. There are situations where this view of bisexuality is limiting and harmful to genuine self-expression. At times I pointed out the limitations of this view and was frequently labelled as biphobic. I have witnessed situations where bisexual individuals “excuse” their lack of dating experience by finding comfort in their bisexual identity. However those very same individuals feel extremely insecure about their desires, insisting that they don’t need to act on same sex attractions for them to be genuine. They feel the need to blame society, be it lack of diversity, openness or media representation.
This is not entirely false of course, but I believe that if we want society to be really open to our bisexuality, we need to be comfortable and fearless with our sexual and romantic attractions first. This is not an easy process, but after going through it, I’m so glad that I did. You will make sense of the basics (like you did with men) and then you can live the rest of your life dating women to the extent that you want. Learn to listen to what you want; as women this will be very liberating.
Sana studied psychology and cognitive sciences at the University of Sussex and works in the field of UX design and product development. Her knowledge in psychology and user research manifests itself in all aspects of her life. She spends a lot of time analyzing relationships and human behavior, especially polyamorous love and bisexuality. In addition, she has published blog articles for various online magazines, as well as start-up blogs in Berlin.
Currently, she is founding her own start-up in the fintech sector, using her knowledge of human nature to help people make better financial decisions. She also models for independent fashion and lifestyle photographers in Berlin.
 These numbers paint a picture of female bisexuality that is more of a fluid spectrum than a clear category. It also means that within selected groups, the dating pool for a woman seeking women can be much larger than 7%.
In my survey, 32/85 women (38%) were romantically attracted to women. This number reached 20/36 (56%) among non-monogamous women.
 In my interview with Diana Fleischman she elaborated on the theory that homosexual intercourse is used for affiliation — making friends. Bisexuality and non-monogamy are strong correlated of sociosexual orientation, which seems to be a general measure of the inclination to use sex as a tool for connection and exploration outside a long-term romantic relationship.
 As I wrote before, being proactive with messaging is almost always a good idea, regardless of how many messages you receive. There are advantages to being the first one to apply selection criteria, rather than just choosing among people who selected you first.
 I think that the same is true of polyamory. Like bisexuals, poly people can live for a long while pretending to be “normal”, which looks like frustrating serial monogamy. They rarely “have to” come out, and many don’t, and then they are left wondering why there is so little representation or acceptance of polyamory. This realization is part of the reason why I decided to be more publicly out there about being poly.