There are no bisexual women on OKCupid. There are thousands of bisexual women on OKCupid. If you find that contradictory, well, welcome to the paradoxical world of bisexual OKCupid. The popular dating site, which previously listed only gay, straight and bisexual as possible sexual orientations, has recently rolled out new options -- queer, pansexual, heteroflexible, etc. -- so the population of bisexual women on OKCupid is likely to dwindle. For now, though, a basic search ("bi women only," between the ages of 18 and 99, within 25 miles of me) turns up hundreds of profiles for the New York area alone. And if you click on them, you'll find that they all have one thing in common: they are not really bisexual.
"P.S. I don't identify as bisexual, but I'm interested in men and women." -Melodie7, 23, New York
"Also, I'm not bisexual but OKCupid won't let me identify as queer." -NorahSimone, 23, New York
"In addition, like most others here I identify as queer, not bisexual." -wrldismyashtray,
These clarifications are usually prefaced with "also," or "P.S.," or "side note," or nested in parentheses, as though it's a minor point that only just occurred to them: let's see, I'm busy on Tuesday nights, and, oh yes, I'm not really bisexual. This is, of course, a pure affectation: the not-really-bisexual disclaimer is a standard convention among the bisexual women of OKCupid. But why? What's the difference? Most of them hedge on this point ("I don't identify as 'bisexual' -- queer will do just fine. If you want to know the difference, look it up on a website, on the Internet"
-peachripekarma, 27, Astoria), often using elaborately academic language that's surprising to encounter on a dating site:
"Like many others on here, I'm not bisexual. I'm really fucking queer... I'm exclusively interested in queer identified people/people who can conceptualize queer identities, those who understand non-monogamy, people void of gender role stereotypes in their own mind."
-JenMarie726, 28, Rutherford, NJ
Sometimes the gender binary, or the belief in a lack thereof, is invoked as an explanation:
"Also, don't really care for the word 'bi' -- don't think of gender as a binary." -kiwifruits, 30, Brooklyn
"So apparently, the only way to list one's sexuality on this site is by conforming to the gender binary. Therefore, I'm listed as bisexual. In reality, I identify as queer." -jolirouge, 25, New York
I rarely see the gender binary discussed by gay people on OKCupid, and certainly never by straight people -- even though, of course, the concepts of homosexuality and heterosexuality imply a gender binary as well. Gay people and straight people simply don't seem to worry that their sexual orientation is inherently offensive to the people they'd like to date. Bisexuality alone is cause for this anxiety, and even I am not immune to it -- this is what it says on my own profile: "Bisexual not in the 'gender binary' sense, but in the 'my gender and other genders' sense (so come at me, all you non-binary folks!). 'Queer' is probably better, but sometimes I worry I don't deserve the label because I haven't done enough to dismantle the kyriarchy."
It's a joke, and it's not a joke. However we phrase it, we're all communicating the same subtext to each other: I'm one of the good ones. I'm not one of those other bisexual women -- don't confuse me with them.
So, who are they? This brings us to the other major category of bisexual-women-who-aren't-really-bisexual-women on OKCupid: couples looking for threesomes.
"Hi, we are a couple looking to have fun with a third... You should message me if you are a woman, you are into both sexes, you want to have fun with a great couple." -Funshine4you, 33, Astoria
"Hot, intelligent, playful couple looking for fun... She likes girls and guys, he likes girls and more girls." -JammiesBond, 40, Brooklyn
"We are a fit, respectful, happily married couple, looking for a fun, attractive girl to join us for fun." -nycfuncouple, 35, New York
Yes, OKCupid is full of straight couples in search of bisexual women to join them for "fun" (unnecessary code for threesomes), and they all list themselves as individual bisexual women, hoping you'll accidentally click on their profiles when searching for a woman to date. These profiles are all weirdly generic and interchangeable, with names like nastycouple, You-Me-And-Him, usplusyou and WillMakeUCum4Us. Most crop out their faces in their photographs, or include no photographs at all, and describe themselves in the same vague terms: "fun," "hot," "sexy," "attractive," "fit," "professional." They never use the word "queer." Indeed, it is only on couple profiles that you'll ever encounter the peculiar phrase "very bi," which is always synonymous with "horny," as in: "Extremely kinky, vocal, very bi and knows all the right buttons to push" (nastycouple, 26, New York). Generally, though, the emphasis is not on the bisexuality of the woman in the couple, but on the bisexuality of the hypothetical woman they seek:
"We are looking for a girl that wants to have the pleasure of both a man and a mistress... He, however, is the primary focus, so you should be as much into men as women." -nycfuncouple
"Be open sexually. We want you to participate with both of us. (From kissing to oral to penetration.)" -You-Me-And-Him, 23 (her) and 39 (him), New York
"Looking to have a good time with a girl who can be naughty AND nice." -usplusyou, 28, Astoria
These couples are convinced that what they want is naughty, not nice, and as a result, their profiles are suffused with shame. They're paranoid about safety and hygiene on a level that seems beyond the usual STI worries ("We are safe and clean. You should be drama free, safe and clean as well"), and the word "discreet" comes up over and over again, often misspelled as "discrete" ("We are very discrete, what we do stays between us... We are super discrete and hope you are looking for the same"). The misspelling feels like a Freudian slip: "discrete" means "individually separate and distinct," which is exactly how these couples seem to view bisexuality -- as a dirty secret entirely removed from the rest of their lives.
Couple profiles are the target of endless scorn among bisexual women on OKCupid. Many profiles contain specific preemptive rejections to these couples, often attached to the "not really bisexual" disclaimer:
"I identify as bi/queer (but don't believe in a gender binary)... and a HARD pass to threesomes." -sushita, 24, Brooklyn
"I identify as queer, not bisexual. This does not mean I want to have a threesome with you and your significant other, so please don't ask." -JRigsss, 23, New York
You can't blame them. Who would want to be associated with the picture of squalor these couples represent? Who would want to belong to the dismal world of WillMakeUCum4Us? If that's what bisexuality looks like -- if that's what it means to be "very bi" -- we want no part of it. Give us another word, any word, to separate us from those cropped-out faces. Don't confuse us with them.
And yet our dirty secret is that we're not so different, us and them. Those fun-seeking couples may act appallingly entitled, but they're not delusional: thanks to OKCupid, bisexual women are in fact threesoming enthusiastically all over the place. To be clear, not all of them are doing so; many would never even think of it. But if they do think of it -- and a surprising number do -- OKCupid makes it ridiculously easy. Sometimes they refer to themselves as "unicorns" ("Increasingly interested in unicorning for the sex positive and uncreepy couples" -shazzerz, 26, Brooklyn), a tongue-in-cheek reference to their supposed rarity. But more often, they don't advertise this on their profiles. Generally, you can't tell whether a bisexual woman on OKCupid is a unicorn unless she messages you privately to tell you so.
My first OKCupid threesome was five years ago, and I initiated it myself, messaging one of the less noxious couple profiles on the site. Since then, OKCupid threesomes have been a regular part of my life, and not just my sex life; if you come to a gathering at my house and ask me how I know my friends -- any given friend -- I will probably hesitate and stall and eventually lie, because the chances are, this is how we met. We are all listed as bisexual women on OKCupid. And we are all, if you ask us, not really bisexual.
"I identify as gay, actually," said Angie (25, Westchester), who dated me and my boyfriend, and then just my boyfriend, and has only dated boys since then. "I just occasionally make exceptions."
"I like girls in all shapes and sizes," said Colleen (25, Bronx). She's one of my closest friends now; first we dated, then she dated me and my boyfriend, then she went back to dating just me. But for the past year, she's been exclusive with a man, and recently she confessed to me, "He doesn't know I like girls." That's how she puts it, always stumbling slightly over the phrase, like she's about to say "I'm..." but then switches at the last second to "I... like girls." Not love, just like; not women, just girls; not something she is, just something she does.
"Oh, please don't use that word," said Lana (27, Brooklyn) with a shudder. "Bisexual makes me think of straight girls who make out at bars for male attention." We were at a bar right then, actually, on our second date. I really liked her, and though we both had boyfriends, we had their blessing to do this. Still, it felt weird.
"Can I kiss you?" I asked her.
Nervously, she looked around the bar. "I want to," she said. "But what if they think we're just a couple of fake bisexual girls?"
As for me, I've spent much of my life declaring that everyone is bisexual -- or, better yet, everyone is "a little bit bisexual" -- which is another way of saying that no one is really bisexual, let alone "very bi," and certainly I am not. Lately, though, I've been trying to break this habit. I'm coming to realize that rejecting the word "bi" will not magically unify what's bifurcated about my life. Which is not the gender binary. If only it were just the gender binary! I can -- I do -- refuse to believe in the gender binary. It's harder to deny the existence of the straight world -- a hideous place full of politicians and bachelor parties and fun, fit professionals who live in terror of being insufficiently clean -- which claims you as a citizen if you're a woman with a boyfriend, regardless of your views on the gender binary. As much as we wish it weren't so, the queer world still exists apart -- discrete, you might say -- from the straight world, and to be a bisexual woman on OKCupid is to travel back and forth between them, bicoastal, bilingual, bicultural, always apologizing to one on behalf of the other.
It's good that OKCupid is adding additional ways for users to describe their sexual orientation; like so many other bisexual women on OKCupid, I've been demanding it for years. Still, now that it's finally happening, I find myself oddly sad at the prospect of bisexual OKCupid becoming a thing of the past. It's a strange little country of its own, a place where radical pansexuals and gender outlaws bump up against closeted conservatives and old-fashioned swingers, where the queer underworld intersects with the straight underworld -- where everyone is bisexual and no one is bisexual. It's a constant contradiction. It feels like home.
Frankie Thomas is a writer born and raised and currently living, studying, and working in New York City. You can read her fiction in The Toast and At Length. Ask her about her pets.
This post originally appeared on The Hairpin.