July 14, 2008

MTV takes a “shot” at bisexuality

Posted in heteronormative, lesbian, queer, Sexuality Blogs and Resources, television at 12:00 pm by LB

Wow. So the other night I was just mindlessly watching “The Soup” on E! as I got ready to go out, and let me tell you, I needed a drink after that. Can I just say that I saw this coming long ago when my women’s studies students informed me there’d be a new romance reality show featuring a bisexual woman, and thus, both male and female contestants. (First aside, this show could have never happened with a male bisexual, which is so unacceptable in our culture.) Yes, I’m talking about Tila Tequila’s “A Shot at Love.”

And yes, I realize I’m actually spending time discussing the Myspace queen who stupidly takes credit for making gay marriage acceptable.

Now I didn’t see the whole show in question but I looked it up later to watch the relevant snippets. “The Soup” reported that the final episode of “A Shot at Love” had Tequila choosing between a woman and a man, and during the episode the woman has some sort of breakdown. Apparently, being chosen by Tequila must be a huge commitment because she is SOO torn over…wait for it…if she “wants a man or a woman.” (follow this link for the clip of the actual episode-the scene in question is at 1:05 remaining on the clip). As the host Joel McHale rightly comments, “I thought that was sort of implied when you said you were a bisexual.” Of course, Tequila chooses the woman, and, on cue, the woman declines.

“The Soup” posits that this was done to have a 3rd season of the show, which is very likely, but it also conveniently qualms our fears about the threat of lesbian sexuality and reiterates stereotypes about bisexuality to make it less threatening, more hetero-affirmative, and indeed co-opts it for male heterosexual desire. Tequila just couldn’t choose a woman and live happily ever after. The show being comprised of both guy-girl and girl-girl action was likely primarily intended to titilate the hetero male mind, not to actually show a loving caring relationship between two women external to any male pleasure. I mean, everyone knows that lesbians can only be seen if they’re heterosexually-validated as “hot”…and if we can watch. And bisexuality? That’s really just for bar games and threesomes. So of course, any serious attempt at an intimate relationship between two women must be thwarted.

(I do realize that I’m trying to ascribe a serious relationship to reality show couples, and how much that just seems goofy. But if they’re trying to make us think this is serious love, I’m going to treat it as such.)

And what better way to thwart the potential relationship of love and desire sans men? By having the contestant question her sexuality. You see, she doesn’t know if she wants to be with a man or a woman. If she dates a woman, she might “miss” men. (Don’t worry fellas, no bi woman is actually satisfied with women, and the possibility of missing the ultimate almighty penis is always lingering in the back of her mind.) She just can’t decide! This is the exact popular bullshit misunderstanding about bisexuality: That bi’s want to be with both as opposed to being with either. They don’t want to decide, they can’t commit because they like “both.” Sorry, wrong. Bisexuals like either. In other words, they’re attracted to people, not to genitals. They don’t need a penis-fix when they’re dating a woman, and they don’t break up with their partners because they “feel like” being with another gender. But the episode reiterates the idea that bis are basically failed straights and failed gays. And the female finalist says that throughout the show she was worried that she wasn’t “good enough” because she is bi and the other contestants were lesbian. WTF?! And what does it mean that the show’s producers (likely) scripted the conclusion this way? That the female Tequila chooses is the only bi out of all the women, and, surprise! She likes playing with women but doesn’t want a relationship with one–that this is how bisexuality is represented?!

Further, the woman says “this is more than a key, this is something I have to live up to.” As in, playing lesbo is fun and all, but I can’t live up to being a “real” woman-lover and “give up” men, even for a time. Again, this says don’t worry guys, women may say they’re bi and “have fun” with each other, and are fun to watch (wink wink), but don’t worry, “living up” to a relationship with a woman is too scary for them. No worries, women will always come back to the almighty phallus!

On their date, the female contestant tells Tequila that she is nervous about her lack of experience–she’s never been in a serious relationship with a woman although she’s had relationships with women. Tequila assuages her worries, but clearly, despite her “120% certainty” of her feelings for Tequila, for some unknown reason, her certain feelings cannot seem to translate into a relationship. And as we find out, these uncertainties are less about her experience and more about her ‘sexuality.’

It just seems awfully convenient that the only bi character is chosen as a finalist, and as it turns out, she doesn’t really want to date women, just play around with them, in a conveniently safe and nonthreatening representation of women’s bisexuality for heterosexual men.

This treatment of bisexuality also reiterates that there are “only two”: women, men; hetero, homo. Sexuality isn’t fluid, or changing, or multiple, or varied. Just either/or…and you have to choose. Now. For all time.

And I think that’s utter crap.

Recommended Reading: Looking Both Ways: Bisexual Politics

Check out the comments on this post on my feministing community page

4 Comments »

  1. Jamie B. said,

    I was confused at first by your description of the show. Turns out your link leads to Season 2 and I watched Season 1, wherein Danielle, the fairly kickass female finalist (yes, the other finalist was a dude) was ultimately rejected by Tila for the guy.

    Now that I’m all straightened out… Rock on analysis! That showed really bothered me (why I watched it, I have no idea. I guess I kept hoping that Tila would choose Danielle in the end), and you’ve put most of my qualms into well-written words. :) Great post!

  2. queerunity said,

    On one hand this is a major breakthrough and on the other it emphasizes our cultures lack of understanding and respecting for bisexuality
    http://www.queersunited.blogspot.com

  3. […] or desire. It plays on the exact stereotypes about bi or same-sex female desire that I discussed in my recent post about Tequila’s Shot at Love. The song’s message is that after a little alcohol, I can […]

  4. Lemur said,

    This breakdown rocks! I hate this show with a fiery passion because it’s always seemed to be about a self-centered porn-fantasy chick titillating teh menz, and everyone says to me “how can you not like the show? she’s bi, like you!” Can you imagine alllll the ways those statements drive me insane?


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