The UK's Daily Mail has announced "the dawn of the flexisexual"—a perceived increase of "straight women who flirt with bisexuality." It's a new phenomenon that started with celebrities and is now affecting "regular" women. Trend alert!
Hmm, but this "trend" seems so familiar and not-new and even not-trendy, doesn't it? To illustrate the article, the Mail includes a pic of Madonna and Britney Spears kissing at an awards show many years ago, and a portrait of Angelina Jolie—who dated Jenny Shimizu when Bill Clinton was president. The article quotes a psychologist who says women are more open to flexisexing-type situations "when they reach their 40s and are more confident with their sexuality," but neither Britney nor Jolie are in their 40s; both were in their 20s at the time of their flexisexing. And all the other celebs mentioned in the article—Lindsay Lohan, Drew Barrymore, Katy Perry—are under 40. (The article's author does say thirtysomething women are also jumping on the bandwagon.)
People have experimented with sexual identity since forever, so why is now "the dawn"? What is new here? Um, how about "nothing"?
It's often unclear where these so-called trends originate, but a possible inspiration source for this one is an article in the November issue of Company, a UK young-ladymag, that talks about the "rise" of the flexisexual. Company hasn't posted the piece on its website yet, but these readers allude to it on their blogs. Blogger Dora Daze is skeptical of the new term: "but surely the term flexi-sexuality is simply bisexuality with a fancy, new name attached?" Sure seems that way.
As for the word "flexisexual" itself, it's also not new, despite the Mail's headline ("the new word for the women who refuse to play it straight"). If we want to get liberal with our definitions (flexilingual), blogger Amy LeBlanc wrote a post dropping "flexisexual" back in March 2004, using the word as a potential synonym for a metrosexual vegetarian who ate free-range and organic meat ("flexitarian"). More relevantly, our friend the Urban Dictionary lists several like-minded definitions of flexisexual dating back to March 2008, when an anonymous Noah Webster-type defined it as a "straight, heterosexual person who flirts with gay homosexual people. Usually seen at clubs, part of the hipster scene." A few months later followed a new definition: "a girl that is bisexual only on weekends." Finally, a third person chimed in with, "a person of flexible sexual orientation." Apparently, flexisexuality isn't just for gals!
But the Mail would have us believe otherwise—and why? The tone of the article suggests that relationships between two women aren't to be taken seriously. Otherwise, why would Jolie's very real relationship with Shimizu, and her publicly declared bisexuality, be lumped into the same category as Perry's pop-song kiss? Also, Lohan's relationship with Samantha Ronson seemed to be a real relationship, so where does bisexuality end and flexisexuality begin? Maybe there is no such transition, because they are the same thing?
The title of the article is also strange: women are refusing to play it straight, as though it were a choice—or as though they are engaging in homosexual relationshipa as some sort of rebellion against men/society/their parents?/other parties. Remember, this is supposedly women in their 40s who are becoming flexisexuals. Just a little condescending.
Angelina, saint vs. sinner [NYDN]