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Bi: The Hidden Culture, History, and Science of Bisexuality

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Despite all the welcome changes that have happened in our culture and laws over the past few decades in regards to sexuality, the subject remains one of the most influential but least understood aspects of our lives. For psychologist and bestselling author Julia Shaw, this is both professional and personal—Shaw studies the science of sexuality and she herself is proudly an Despite all the welcome changes that have happened in our culture and laws over the past few decades in regards to sexuality, the subject remains one of the


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Despite all the welcome changes that have happened in our culture and laws over the past few decades in regards to sexuality, the subject remains one of the most influential but least understood aspects of our lives. For psychologist and bestselling author Julia Shaw, this is both professional and personal—Shaw studies the science of sexuality and she herself is proudly an Despite all the welcome changes that have happened in our culture and laws over the past few decades in regards to sexuality, the subject remains one of the most influential but least understood aspects of our lives. For psychologist and bestselling author Julia Shaw, this is both professional and personal—Shaw studies the science of sexuality and she herself is proudly and vocally bisexual. It’s an admission, she writes, that usually causes people’s pupils to dilate, their cheeks to flush, and their questions to start flowing. Ask people to name famous bisexual actors, politicians, writers, or scientists, and they draw a blank. Despite statistics that show bisexuality is more common than homosexuality, bisexuality is often invisible. In BI: The Hidden Culture, History, and Science of Bisexuality, Shaw probes the science and culture of attraction beyond the binary. From the invention of heterosexuality to the history of the Kinsey scale, as well as asylum seekers trying to defend their bisexuality in a court of law, there is so much more to explore than most have ever realized. Drawing on her own original research—and her own experiences—this is a personal and scientific manifesto; it’s an exploration of the complexities of the human sexual experience and a declaration of love and respect for the nonconformists among us.

21 review for Bi: The Hidden Culture, History, and Science of Bisexuality

  1. 5 out of 5

    Meike

    Wow, this is by far Shaw's best book - although, let's be honest, I didn't expect much from a criminal psychologist writing about gender and sexuality. But as it turns out, Shaw, herself bisexual, went deep into the history, science and politics of bisexuality, and crafted a highly interesting text full of studies, stats, historical episodes and personal anecdotes relating to her personal experiences. It's once again pop psychology, but well done, especially as I have to admit that I never reall Wow, this is by far Shaw's best book - although, let's be honest, I didn't expect much from a criminal psychologist writing about gender and sexuality. But as it turns out, Shaw, herself bisexual, went deep into the history, science and politics of bisexuality, and crafted a highly interesting text full of studies, stats, historical episodes and personal anecdotes relating to her personal experiences. It's once again pop psychology, but well done, especially as I have to admit that I never really thought much about the lived experiences of bisexual people - now I'm smarter, so thanks, Julia Shaw. I liked Shaw's The Memory Illusion: Remembering, Forgetting, and the Science of False Memory, but I really disliked Evil: The Science Behind Humanity's Dark Side, so to me, her work is hit and miss - this one's clearly a winner though. Good reading for Pride Month. You can also check out an interview with the author here.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Casper

    Book Blog || Twitter || 25+ Book Discord Thank you to NetGalley and Abrams Press for an advanced readers copy in exchange for an honest review.Why yes, I would like more bi visibility, please!See my full discussion of this book here: https://casperintherye.wordpress.com/...Shaw's book on bisexuality shines a light on everything from the etymology of sexualities as a whole and the science behind things like the Kinsey Scale and Klein Grid to the author's personal experiences with her sexual awake Book Blog || Twitter || 25+ Book Discord Thank you to NetGalley and Abrams Press for an advanced readers copy in exchange for an honest review.Why yes, I would like more bi visibility, please!See my full discussion of this book here: https://casperintherye.wordpress.com/...Shaw's book on bisexuality shines a light on everything from the etymology of sexualities as a whole and the science behind things like the Kinsey Scale and Klein Grid to the author's personal experiences with her sexual awakening. I would categorize this almost as half memoir and half scientific nonfiction.The entire book's contents are very well-researched with each chapter ending with a list of references, which is useful because there were some topics I wanted to delve into a bit deeper and it gave me a great starting point. But Shaw includes enough of her own experiences with sexuality and the culture of sexuality.What I really loved about this book is that it's so inclusive of all sexualities. For every data point regarding bisexuality, there is further research into how that data point connects to or compares to other sexualities. There was a lot in this book about bi erasure and how society views bisexuality. These are things that are SO important and SO overlooked. Reading this book felt so validating. I can only hope it gets into the hands of people who need to read it the most. Everyone who reads this book stands to learn something, regardless of sexuality and I appreciate that so much. At times the level of thoroughness can get to be a lot, but that only speaks to Shaw's passion about the subject which shines clearly through on each page.4.5 stars rounded up to 5.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Leire Lazurtegui Asmussen

    I was initially going to give this book five stars, but after the final chapter, I can't wholeheartedly say it deserves it. Trust me, as a bi girl in a long-term relationship with a man, I understand feeling like you need to reaffirm your sexuality- but you already wrote a whole book about it! There's no need to backtrack your argument about how bisexual people are overly sexualised by telling your reader, "you and I both know they sound hot!" when talking about threesomes. There's no need to in I was initially going to give this book five stars, but after the final chapter, I can't wholeheartedly say it deserves it. Trust me, as a bi girl in a long-term relationship with a man, I understand feeling like you need to reaffirm your sexuality- but you already wrote a whole book about it! There's no need to backtrack your argument about how bisexual people are overly sexualised by telling your reader, "you and I both know they sound hot!" when talking about threesomes. There's no need to include the reader in this statement, especially under the assumption that they're bi. Is that not playing into the negative stereotypes you just criticised?Other than this (maybe skip the last chapter unless you're super interested in nonmonogamy), it is such an affirming and interesting book; there are so many aspects to bisexuality that surprised me, so I would still strongly recommend it, especially if you or someone important to you is bi :)

  4. 5 out of 5

    Sierra Lynn

    okay I am a little emotional rn so I will keep this brief haha, I thought Shaw had an excellent writing style that really engaged you despite the very content heavy nature of this type of book. I enjoyed reading this and would recommend it to others interested in this type of work.

  5. 4 out of 5

    ➸ Gwen de Sade

    I used to not want to believe it when I read somewhere that bisexual people have to deal with the biggest stigma, but now I do.I'm not the biggest fan of labels because we always have to remember that it's only an intermediate step towards equality. An intermediate step that is necessary, but also one where we shouldn't dwell too long - ideally.For this reason, I couldn't do much with the first third of the book, but from then on I learned a lot, especially about myself, but also got food for th I used to not want to believe it when I read somewhere that bisexual people have to deal with the biggest stigma, but now I do.I'm not the biggest fan of labels because we always have to remember that it's only an intermediate step towards equality. An intermediate step that is necessary, but also one where we shouldn't dwell too long - ideally.For this reason, I couldn't do much with the first third of the book, but from then on I learned a lot, especially about myself, but also got food for thought about my environment. I absolutely recommend it, I don't know any work in this direction!

  6. 5 out of 5

    Danielle Russell

    This book is unlike what I typically read. Not because of the topic or genre, but rather from the topic and genre together. I prefer to read fictional stories with LGBTQ+ rep, versus from an educational, Nonfiction perspective. But I am so glad that I decided to pick up this book!While I am not exactly out with my bisexuality, I wouldn't say I'm closeted. (If you know me and are reading this, and I haven't told you yet --- SURPRISE!) So my review comes from a baby bi's perspective. The book tack This book is unlike what I typically read. Not because of the topic or genre, but rather from the topic and genre together. I prefer to read fictional stories with LGBTQ+ rep, versus from an educational, Nonfiction perspective. But I am so glad that I decided to pick up this book!While I am not exactly out with my bisexuality, I wouldn't say I'm closeted. (If you know me and are reading this, and I haven't told you yet --- SURPRISE!) So my review comes from a baby bi's perspective. The book tackles so many difficult topics about what it means (and doesn't mean) to be bisexual... it ranges in topics of the history of bisexuality being studied, where bisexuality can be found in nature, the difficulties of coming out and bi-erasure, and political steps forward (and backwards) of various countries around the world. The book is a wealth of knowledge, and Julia Shaw did a fantastic job with the information she puts forth. It's not a quick read by any means, and it's not one to devour in a weekend. Rather, it's a book to read at a slower pace, too really appreciate the information within. Thank you to Netgalley for providing me with a free advanced copy of this title in exchange for an honest review.

  7. 4 out of 5

    sara

    Huge thanks to netgalley and Abrams books for the chance to share my thoughts and read an arc of this early!The amount of time and research that clearly went into putting together this book is, as someone who’s a massive research nerd, impressive. There’s discussions on topics from bisexual history to understanding the different experiences/stereotypes bi folks can see, while still staying inclusive to other identities. this book is essentially a deep dive that doesn’t sneak around hard topics a Huge thanks to netgalley and Abrams books for the chance to share my thoughts and read an arc of this early!The amount of time and research that clearly went into putting together this book is, as someone who’s a massive research nerd, impressive. There’s discussions on topics from bisexual history to understanding the different experiences/stereotypes bi folks can see, while still staying inclusive to other identities. this book is essentially a deep dive that doesn’t sneak around hard topics and doesn’t just focus on the “good parts” of bi history (and queer history as a whole) but instead faces them head on in an honest way.From the first to the very last page, I felt so so validated in my own experience as someone who identifies as bisexual. I’m in no way an expert on the topic, but I will say that this book is very important. It showed me the nitty gritty sides to being bi, it showed me how amazing it is to be bi and it let me understand that just because you identify a certain way that doesn’t mean you’re not worthy of feeling validated. Everyone, no matter who they are or who they have silly little crushes on, deserves to feel accepted and understood.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Ashley

    literally a buzzfeed article

  9. 5 out of 5

    Erika

    Please read this books. Whichever identity or label you see yourself represented by, read this book.It was personally wonderful to see myself, to read my story, the story of those who, like me, call themselves bisexuals, but this book is more than that. Its reason to be is not just to validate bi individuals but to tell our story and teach something about us beyond the stereotypes.I loved every page.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Camille

    I voluntarily read and reviewed an advanced copy of this book from NetGalley. All thoughts and opinions are my own.Bi was very insightful and informative, and was presented in such an engaging and easy format. I have a great appreciation for the perspectives and different angles that Shaw provides in Bi. It proved that the journey to understand one's sexuality is not straight (lol) or linear. Was also exciting to see that she does not shy away from the heavier topics and misconceptions that are I voluntarily read and reviewed an advanced copy of this book from NetGalley. All thoughts and opinions are my own.Bi was very insightful and informative, and was presented in such an engaging and easy format. I have a great appreciation for the perspectives and different angles that Shaw provides in Bi. It proved that the journey to understand one's sexuality is not straight (lol) or linear. Was also exciting to see that she does not shy away from the heavier topics and misconceptions that are typically associated with bisexual folks. The book overall was extremely validating to experience. I hope all folks, queer or not, get the opportunity to read Bi.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Tiasha ~ maestratiasha

    Bi by Julia Shaw has the potential to change the world. I highly recommend you pick this up. I will be buying a physical copy for myself and all my friends.Bi is extremely well researched and covers a wide variety of topics relating to sexuality. The content is novel, a lot of the research has not been extensively explored before. Shaw discusses the unique problems that bisexuals around the world face, legally, emotionally, in the media. There are so many interesting subjects that you might have Bi by Julia Shaw has the potential to change the world. I highly recommend you pick this up. I will be buying a physical copy for myself and all my friends.Bi is extremely well researched and covers a wide variety of topics relating to sexuality. The content is novel, a lot of the research has not been extensively explored before. Shaw discusses the unique problems that bisexuals around the world face, legally, emotionally, in the media. There are so many interesting subjects that you might have wondered about, from homosexuality/bisexuality in animals and what it says about humans, to the homosexuality/bisexuality in the prison system, for prisoners that normally identity as straight.This is such solid writing. Shaw doesn’t deify historical figures, and has no issue pointing out their flaws as well as their contributions. Her voice is strong, and personal, as she is bisexual herself. Despite being full of research, the language isn’t excessively academic, but very approachable for everyone. Shaw sees all perspectives, and makes connections to many other systems of oppression besides that related to sexual orientation.This book is relevant to bisexuals and non-bisexuals alike, and it will force you to reconsider the standards that are in place in our world - evolutionary beliefs, monogamy, asylum and who receives it.Bi comes out next month!Thank you to NetGalley and Abrams Press for an advanced readers copy in exchange for an honest review.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Seth

    "Bisexuality isn't mysterious, threatening, or performative, or even cool, woke, or transcendental," author Julia Shaw says. "It is a normal part of human sexuality." Yet there is a dearth of actual information on bisexuality -- research, history, culture and otherwise. Bisexuality can easily be rendered invisible, misconstrued, stereotyped or misunderstood. And according to a 2019 Pew Research poll, it's estimated that 74% of bisexual people were not out to most or all of the important people i "Bisexuality isn't mysterious, threatening, or performative, or even cool, woke, or transcendental," author Julia Shaw says. "It is a normal part of human sexuality." Yet there is a dearth of actual information on bisexuality -- research, history, culture and otherwise. Bisexuality can easily be rendered invisible, misconstrued, stereotyped or misunderstood. And according to a 2019 Pew Research poll, it's estimated that 74% of bisexual people were not out to most or all of the important people in their lives. So, what Shaw does in this book is important: It's an excellent overview of the history, research, culture and politics of bisexuality. I particularly appreciated the history section and political sections. This book is FILLED with academic research, polls and numbers. It took me awhile to get through it because of that -- and at times I had to take a break from the book. Sometimes the book felt a little too littered with academic language that made the book dense. I definitely learned a lot, though. And I think no matter who reads this book, bisexual or not, they will learn more about the constructs of sex, love, and relationships. I think this book is important for the bisexual community in terms of visibility and understanding. To speak for myself, I wish I had this book when I was younger, confused and didn't know where to look for information. To love, accept and understand yourself is perhaps the most powerful thing we can do in our lifetime. And this book can act as a way to be seen, to be empowered. I find that pretty cool -- and why I recommend this book.

  13. 4 out of 5

    agata

    Getting to read Bi this Pride month was the best gift I could’ve given myself. As someone who spent most of my life believing that I was just a really committed ally, I appreciated how Shaw approaches bisexuality from many different angles and proves that the road to understanding one’s sexuality can be a winding one. It’s so exciting and refreshing to read a book that deals with all the misconceptions about bisexuality like bisexuals being promiscuous (whatever that means!), or bisexuality bein Getting to read Bi this Pride month was the best gift I could’ve given myself. As someone who spent most of my life believing that I was just a really committed ally, I appreciated how Shaw approaches bisexuality from many different angles and proves that the road to understanding one’s sexuality can be a winding one. It’s so exciting and refreshing to read a book that deals with all the misconceptions about bisexuality like bisexuals being promiscuous (whatever that means!), or bisexuality being a stop on the way to becoming straight/gay. It’s truly validating to read about such a personal and intimate subject written by someone who understands it perfectly. I loved learning more about the people who studied bisexuality in the past, and feeling that sense of connection with others in a community that is often overlooked. It was a 5 star read for me until the last chapter: a section of the book focused on non monogamy, which to me felt a little bit out of place. Shaw focuses a lot on the way bisexual people get over-sexualized, so then writing about how hot threesomes are (jokingly, yes, but still) undermined her own work. TLDR: Bi is a well researched and informative book about what it means to be bisexual. It presents the struggles and the violence that the bisexual community faces, but it also makes space for the joy and beauty of being true to oneself.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Ian Cleary

    Probably as close as you’ll come to a “bi-ble.” Julia Shaw does an excellent job of explaining bisexuality at the beginning of the book which, even if you don’t finish it, should be mandatory reading for anyone who may be curious or questioning or doubting themselves and their identity (or those just interested).I thought the chapter “Invisi-bi-lity” was really interesting. About how bis don’t have a visual language the same way other LGBT groups do, the privilege of passing for straight and the Probably as close as you’ll come to a “bi-ble.” Julia Shaw does an excellent job of explaining bisexuality at the beginning of the book which, even if you don’t finish it, should be mandatory reading for anyone who may be curious or questioning or doubting themselves and their identity (or those just interested).I thought the chapter “Invisi-bi-lity” was really interesting. About how bis don’t have a visual language the same way other LGBT groups do, the privilege of passing for straight and the issues that can cause, the sense of not belonging to one group or another, all make for fascinating reading. I also found her highlighting the plight of bi asylum seekers heartbreaking. Shaw also includes a vast number of bi experiences and voices across the gender spectrum (a tough ask in a short book), and should be applauded. Overall, I think if you’re looking for a sort of one-stop-shop (if there could be such a thing!) book on bisexuality this is probably it. There are enough references included for those who’d like to jump off into more academic discussions of the topics mentioned. It remains accessible throughout and more than worth the time you spend with it.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Brittney

    *5 stars*This book needed to be written! If every person in my life would read this, I would give everyone a copy. The novel touches upon not only the scientific side of bisexuality as well as its history, but the dark social side of this sexuality and how it is demeaned and discarded as a perversion or a performance.I think some could find the book a bit dry, but I personally enjoyed how it was very scientific, well-researched and thorough. Shaw uses concrete examples without bogging down the n *5 stars*This book needed to be written! If every person in my life would read this, I would give everyone a copy. The novel touches upon not only the scientific side of bisexuality as well as its history, but the dark social side of this sexuality and how it is demeaned and discarded as a perversion or a performance.I think some could find the book a bit dry, but I personally enjoyed how it was very scientific, well-researched and thorough. Shaw uses concrete examples without bogging down the narrative and the small anecdotes interwoven with her own experiences explaining a topic. This is a fantastic resource for the LGBTQIA+ community, and I sincerely hope this book acquires the fame and praise it deserves for what it does for the queer community as well as bisexuals everywhere. Reading Nonfiction: https://youtu.be/3eGoslHGKt4

  16. 5 out of 5

    Bryan Myhr

    I didn't know I needed to read this book. I recently decided to be open about my bisexuality and this book taught me so much about what I thought I already understood about myself. It also taught me a lot of new things. I especially appreciated the history and modern conjecture relevant to each topic. I realized that I had felt many of the things she described, about prejudices from the gay and straight communities. I realized I have even done my own bi-erasure in my life and in way I thought ab I didn't know I needed to read this book. I recently decided to be open about my bisexuality and this book taught me so much about what I thought I already understood about myself. It also taught me a lot of new things. I especially appreciated the history and modern conjecture relevant to each topic. I realized that I had felt many of the things she described, about prejudices from the gay and straight communities. I realized I have even done my own bi-erasure in my life and in way I thought about my previous partners. I was quietly out before, but now I really want to be out and proud! The audiobook was well done and now I need a hardcover for my bookshelf.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Kayla Crone

    Okay so I never read nonfiction. When I do I would not like to rate it because I feel what is weird since it’s real life and not fiction. Just my personal thoughts and reasons. One of my goals is to read more nonfiction this year. I also want to learn more about bisexuality for personal reasons. I found this book very powering and it spoke to me on an emotional level. I loved learning about the history and the authors personal aspects on her bisexuality. I feel like this was very informative and Okay so I never read nonfiction. When I do I would not like to rate it because I feel what is weird since it’s real life and not fiction. Just my personal thoughts and reasons. One of my goals is to read more nonfiction this year. I also want to learn more about bisexuality for personal reasons. I found this book very powering and it spoke to me on an emotional level. I loved learning about the history and the authors personal aspects on her bisexuality. I feel like this was very informative and interesting.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Alanna Catlin

    As a bi woman who is trying to catch up on her queer history and theory, this was a perfect book. I loved that this book came across as very accessible even as it referenced scientific research. I found myself zipping through it, which I don't expect from non-fiction. That Julia Shaw is herself a bisexual woman shows in the text. My questions were answered as I read and I felt understood in a way that made me cry happily. Thank you Ms. Shaw for acquainting me with so much of my queer ancestry an As a bi woman who is trying to catch up on her queer history and theory, this was a perfect book. I loved that this book came across as very accessible even as it referenced scientific research. I found myself zipping through it, which I don't expect from non-fiction. That Julia Shaw is herself a bisexual woman shows in the text. My questions were answered as I read and I felt understood in a way that made me cry happily. Thank you Ms. Shaw for acquainting me with so much of my queer ancestry and thank you to NetGalley and Abrams Press for giving me the chance to read and review.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Kara Harte (KattitudeReads)

    I’m typically not a nonfiction reader, but this one popped out at me and I had to read it. This was a book that needed to be written and is greatly appreciated by many. Full of history, science, and culture 𝘉𝘪 by Julia Shaw is informative, validating, and really, really interesting. Highly recommend! 𝘐 𝘸𝘢𝘴 𝘱𝘳𝘰𝘷𝘪𝘥𝘦𝘥 𝘢𝘯 𝘦𝘈𝘙𝘊 𝘤𝘰𝘱𝘺 𝘰𝘧 𝘵𝘩𝘪𝘴 𝘣𝘰𝘰𝘬 𝘣𝘺 𝘕𝘦𝘵𝘎𝘢𝘭𝘭𝘦𝘺 (𝘵𝘩𝘢𝘯𝘬-𝘺𝘰𝘶!). 𝘈𝘭𝘭 𝘰𝘱𝘪𝘯𝘪𝘰𝘯𝘴 𝘦𝘹𝘱𝘳𝘦𝘴𝘴𝘦𝘥 𝘢𝘳𝘦 𝘷𝘰𝘭𝘶𝘯𝘵𝘢𝘳𝘺 𝘢𝘯𝘥 𝘮𝘺 𝘰𝘸𝘯.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Nina

    very interesting studies and discussions on all things bisexuality, loved the historical and science parts bc ive never really read anything this comprehensive on sexuality that isnt “this is what lgbtq+ means. queer people are people too.” some parts of her trying to be witty were annoying and cringe, i dont understand why pop science authors try so hard to be funny or relatable, its unnecessary. liked it a lot though, good pride month (and any month) read for bisexuals and other people alike

  21. 4 out of 5

    Amanda

    Thank you, Julia Shaw. As the author says herself, this book needed to be written because it didn’t exist. The lack of academic and scientific research about bisexuality should be well-known and it has added to the bi-erasure in society and culture. The “B” has been silent for way too long and I’m very proud to be part of the bisexual community who refuses to let that continue. I recommend this book for those curious and passionate about sexuality, culture and politics…queer and non-queer alike.

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