We’ve all heard of her. The girl who pretends to be bisexual so guys will be into her. The girl who kisses girls, but only when she gets drunk. The “barsexual.”

I’m here to tell you that the barsexual is an absolute and utter myth. It’s a story we tell ourselves in order to vilify women who feel that the only time it’s safe for them to express same-gender attraction is when they’re drunk. The ultimate reality is that the vast majority of women made out to be “faking bisexuality” really aren’t faking at all. After all, people really don’t tend to make out with people they don’t find at least a little attractive, regardless of inebriation status – and the majority of so-called barsexuals really do experience same-gender attraction. It’s just that there is not an abundance of spaces where it is safe to express same-gender attraction if you are a woman. It’s absolutely no wonder that women turn to situations where they’re drinking in order to let these feelings and urges be communicated. Alcohol will lower your inhibitions, making it easier to express feelings you may have been hiding or perhaps not even realized you had when you were sober. Being drunk also gives you plausible deniability, and creates an environment where if you are later attacked for expressing same-gender attraction, you can pardon yourself with the “I was drunk, I didn’t mean it” excuse. All in all, the bar seems like a “safer space” to show some attraction to other women because it’s an environment where our actions carry less weight than they do when we’re sober.

And women do need this “safer space” to express same-gender attraction, because the reality is that it simply is not condoned or even sometimes possible for women to safely express these feelings without fear of harassment. We have created a climate in our society where same-gender attraction among women is either vilified or trivialized. The implication that the majority of society imposes on women who experience same-gender attraction is that you are weird, wrong, disgusting, and worthy of hatred and violence for being a women who is attracted to women – but if you’re doing it so guys can watch, then it’s okay, because it’s “sexy.”

The myth of the barsexual is harmful not just to the women it supposedly describes, but also to women who identify themselves as gay or bisexual. By perpetuating this idea that women only feign attraction to other women, the identities of gay and bisexual women are belittled, invalidated, and mocked. The further implication that attraction and physical affection between two women is only ever allowed when it is to turn guys on removes autonomy and identity from women who experience same-gender attraction, making them nothing more than toys that men think they get to ogle at and then immediately turn around and condemn when they are no longer fulfilling some bizarre, fetishizing male sexual fantasy.

Maybe you know a so-called barsexual. Maybe you think they’re just pretending, and that they’re actually straight or just doing it for attention. But you cannot preclude the thought that just because they aren’t out as bisexual or pansexual or gay, their same-gender attraction may not be completely false. It simply isn’t fair or right to attack women we might perceive as “faking it,” no matter how you look at it. Each woman has their own reasons for their behavior – painting them as sluts or liars and fakes certainly won’t help any issues they might be working through, should those issues exist. I’d urge you to stop demonizing women for the choices they make when they oftentimes don’t have much of a choice at all.

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