History of bisexuality

The history of bisexuality concerns the history of the bisexual sexual orientation. Ancient and medieval history of bisexuality, when the term did not exist as such, consists of anecdotes of sexual behaviour and relationships between people of the same and different sexes. A modern definition of bisexuality began to take shape in the mid-19th century within three interconnected domains of knowledge: biology, psychology and sexuality. In modern Western culture, the term bisexual was first defined in a binary approach as a person with romantic or sexual attraction to both men and women. The term bisexual is defined later in the 20th century (for example by Robyn Ochs) as a person who is sexually and/or romantically attracted to both males and females,[1][2][3] or as a person who is sexually and/or romantically attracted to people regardless of sex or gender identity, which is sometimes termed pansexuality.[4][5][6]

The bisexual pride flag was designed in 1998 by Michael Page

In English the word was used in 1892 by American neurologist Charles Gilbert Chaddock when he translated the seventh edition of Krafft-Ebing's book Psychopathia Sexualis. The first use of the word bisexual with the meaning of sexual attraction to both men and women dates back to the 19th century, when the German psychologist Richard von Krafft-Ebing used it to refer to the gender of individuals whom he believed exhibited both feminine and masculine behaviours. Prior to Krafft-Ebing, bisexual usually meant having both female and male parts as in hermaphroditic or monoicous plants, or in the sense of mixed-sex education, meaning inclusive of both males and females.

From the 1970s onwards, bisexuality as a distinct sexual orientation gained visibility in Western literature, academia and activism.[7] Despite a wave of research and activism around bisexuality, bisexual people have often been marginalised in literature, film and research.

Societal attitudes towards bisexuality vary by culture and history; however, there is no substantial evidence that the rate of same-sex attraction has varied across time.[8] Prior to the contemporary discussion of sexuality as a phenomenon associated with personal identity, ancient and medieval culture viewed bisexuality as the experience of homosexual and heterosexual relationships.[9][10] The cultures of ancient Greece and Rome accepted that adult men were involved in homosexual relationships, as long as they took the active role of penetration.

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