What’s Sex Got to Do With Cards?

We all know everything there is to know about straight people. They’re everywhere. Gay men and lesbian women … we know a little about them. Enough to get by, or at least not to horribly offend someone. Queer people… (is that term not offensive anymore???). Bisexual women are hot, obviously. Threesomes, am I right? But what if the person who is bisexual is… a MAN!?

Bisexuality as a sexual identity has definitely been contended throughout the years. At one point in time, bisexual people were completely made to be invisible. Women were attracted to men, and vice versa. Even as people came out as gay or lesbian, the realm of romantic love and relationships was always seen through a monosexual (attraction towards one sex or gender exclusively, whether hetero- or homosexual) lens.

So, what about those who identify as non-monosexual in general and bisexual in particular? As these people came out of the closet and self-identified as bisexual, the monosexual public placed many damaging stereotypes onto bisexuals. Because of their attraction to multiple genders, bisexual people were labeled as “confused,” “hypersexual,” “easy,” and “sluts.” However, because many of these labels were only placed on women, there was another form of erasure going on.

Men were, and are, almost never perceived or thought of as being bisexual. Male bisexuality, even more so than female bisexuality, is seen as fictitious. Men who come out as bisexual are thought of as actually gay and afraid to fully come out of the proverbial closet.

This is not the case of Frank Underwood, a powerful and prominent politician in the Netflix television show, House of Cards. Although it is never explicitly stated, Frank is perceived to be bisexual because of his marriage to his wife, Claire, and his sexual extramarital affairs with men. While this could be seen as a fine representation of male bisexuality, because his sexuality is never explicitly stated, it is left up to the audience’s imagination. Therefore, this is more along the lines of bisexual erasure because it plays into prominent stereotypes of bisexual people. Not only is the word bisexual completely stripped from the vocabulary of everyone in the show, Frank’s sexual behavior can be seen as promiscuous and immoral – two of the most cited stereotypes of bisexual people.

Are images alone enough to constitute adequate representations of an identity? Do you have to say everything so explicitly? Is interpretation enough, or a slippery slope into more stereotyping?

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