Female characters on the tube are turning bi-curious at a rate that must be making the heads of the religious right spin like Linda Blair’s in “The Exorcist. ” But are these depictions realistic or just a new ratings grab for sweeps?
No one disputes the reality of bisexuality. But that is not what these characterizations are about.
“House’s” Thirteen (Olivia Wilde) was purportedly bisexual. She talked about it a lot. In a few episodes she was seen having soft-porn sex with one-night stands — all women. But when it came to having a “real” (more than just sex) relationship, Thirteen had an affair with a fellow (male) doctor.
On “Grey’s Anatomy,” Callie (Sara Ramirez) has been playing the field at Seattle Grace, but the sex scenes we’ve witnessed have all been with men. That may change with her latest crush, Arizona, but she still talks sex with Mark Sloan on a regular basis.
TV’s longest-running soap opera, “Guiding Light,” recently began exploring the lesbian side of Olivia Spencer (Crystal Chappell). Olivia is both the sexiest and previously most vampishly heterosexual woman on the show — so what turned her into an other-woman-kissing lesbian wannabe?
Hard to say. It could have been her close relationship with Natalia (Jessica Leccia). It could have been the sparring with Doris the D.A. (Orlagh Cassidy). Perhaps she just ran through all the men in Springfield and only women are left.
Susan (Terri Hatcher) on “Desperate Housewives” has made more than a few mistakes with men over the years. So was it time to give women a try, or was Swoosie Kurtz simply irresistible?
The fact is, some women and men do realize they have latent queer tendencies as adults. But those realizations tend to come as they did with Brian (Laurence Lau) on “As the World Turns” — as a continually repressed desire that becomes more difficult to shut down over time.
Where “ATWT” carefully explored Brian’s conflicted bisexual feelings, “House” and “Grey’s Anatomy” totally glossed over those conflicts. On “House,” Thirteen shrugs off the shift in partners as if she were choosing an ice-cream flavor (her words). On “GL,” there’s no explanation for Olivia’s changing sexuality. It’s as if she’s taken a new job — lesbian. On “DH,” Susan just falls into the arms of another woman with no thought whatsoever.
In real life, true heterosexuals don’t experiment with same-sex relationships. That’s not how sexuality works. We are attracted to one gender — or both — pretty consistently.
And TV is one-sided in these sexuality switcheroos. No show is presenting men having crushes on or flings with other men. In fact, gay-male characters on TV have been nearly neutered.
While TV shows may think they are breaking ground with all this bi-curious sex play among women, the fact is, they are undercutting real queer relationships. The fluidity of these women’s sexuality solidifies the stereotype that queer sex is a phase, not a true sexual orientation. Because in nearly every circumstance, the women involved revert to their “true” sexuality — hetero — after dabbling in same-sex dalliance.
Sexual orientation is just that — an innate orientation — whether it is heterosexual, bisexual or homosexual. Homosexuality is not a “lifestyle choice.” Rather, it is as definitive for queers as being attracted to the opposite sex is for heterosexuals. If TV shows really want to break ground, they will show the full expanse of lesbian, gay and bisexual relationships instead of ignoring gay-male sexuality altogether and using lesbian sexuality as a ratings grab. True sexuality is a lifelong orientation, not a casual option or lifestyle choice, like Jimmy Choos or Manolo Blahniks.