Browsing in a charity shop, I recently spotted a copy of Doing It: Let's Talk About Sex… by Hannah Witton and published this year.* I hadn't heard of her or it before, but I am not a big user of YouTube where she is, according to the back cover, "a sex-positive vlogger".
There is lots to like about the book. There's plenty on consent and there are chapters on sexting and sex shaming.** Penis in vagina sex isn't particularly privileged in it, and there's an emphasis on pleasure for all participants.
And, obviously, there's a chapter on LGBTQ+ issues. Hannah is out about being a 'hetero-flexible' cis woman and so most of the chapter is written by other people, typically also with YouTube channels. So there are a couple of pages on being gender fluid by someone else, for example…
.. which is immediately followed by:
Sexual orientation or Sexuality
This refers to who you're sexually attracted to, who you get turned on by and you can imagine being with sexually
.. so it's going for attraction rather than identity or behaviour
Here are the basics:
heterosexual = attracted to people of the opposite gender to your own
homosexual = attracted to people of the same gender as your own
bisexual = attracted to two genders
pansexual = attracted to all genders
Suddenly there's an 'opposite' gender. Then it's a binary definition of bisexual, even though seconds ago, the book was talking about gender not being binary.
She then manages to get the Kinsey Scale wrong: it goes from 0 (completely heterosexual) to 6 (completely homosexual), not 1 to 6. So, according to this book, it's not 3 that's in the middle of the scale, but 3 1/2.***
Then we get to the two pages on 'Being Bisexual'. They're written by Alayna Fender who is, apparently, a vlogger from Canada.
As a woman who finds herself attracted to men, women, and everyone in between, the identifier I use is bisexual. However, there are a couple of labels that I could fall under. By definition, I am pansexual. I am also part of the queer community. The identifier I use most often is 'bi', because I find it the simplest, and the easiest for others to understand. However the bi on bi-sexuality indicates two.
"However the bi on bi-sexuality indicates two"?!?
Hello?!? How on earth does an otherwise good book get, in 2017, to spell bisexuality wrong and have the section on bisexuality, written by someone who identifies as bi, get the definition so wrong?
Particularly as it turns out that it's not even Alayna's definition:
Why then do I choose to identify as bi? Because my personal definition of bisexuality includes being attracted to my own gender, as well as other genders.
It's not exactly the same as the one used by the bi communities in the UK or USA – neither of which insist on attraction to your own gender – but it's better than 'attraction to two and only two genders'.
I just skimmed most of the rest of the book. I did note that the resources at the back have three listings for further info on LGBTQ+ issues: Stonewall, (the formerly known as The London Lesbian and Gay) Switchboard, and the Terrence Higgins Trust. All three have been extremely patchy on bisexuality, if not actively awful, even if at least two of them are trying to improve.
But it's typical of the book really. Had it not been overpriced, especially as it had been squiggled in by someone as annoyed about the coverage of bisexuality as I am, I might have bought it but I am over my addiction to buying sexuality books, even the bad ones.
Given how much good stuff there is, it's a shame it's an example of what erasure looks like.
* One of the joys of print publishing is that bits are already out of date: she kicks off by saying 'Sex and relationships education is still not on the national curriculum in the UK' – it was announced in March that it would be by September
** When it comes to the latter, she's against.
*** Given how many people identify as a 'Kinsey 3', it's almost erasure to shift it to being not 'in the middle'.