Eight Myths About Pansexuality, Debunked

downloadIt’s hard to deny that ignorances and misunderstandings about pansexuals exist, and the bisexual community is not immune – despite facing plenty of myths of our own.  Myths around bisexuality and pansexuality overlap, but pansexuality also attracts some unique prejudices. It’s time to put them all to bed, starting with eight of the most common panphobic myths.

MYTH: Pansexual is a new term

FACT: We’ve been seeing the word pansexual since at least 1924. It’s shifted in meaning since it was coined, of course, just like the words ‘bisexual’, ‘homosexual’ and even ‘furniture’, ‘girl’ and ‘manufacture’. That’s just how language works.

It was first used by contemporary critics of Freud such as Otto Rank and Wilhelm Reich in derision, as an ironic validation of Freud’s suggestion that “that the sex instinct plays the primary part in all human activity”; or that our libidos either directly or indirectly, drive everything we do.

Today the word is generally understood as denoting potential sexual and romantic attraction to all genders, but is a new definition for an existing word.

See also: Pansexuality was made up by Tumblr.

MYTH: ‘Pan’ means ‘all’, so pansexuals are attracted to everything

FACT: Just like the ‘bi’ in ‘bisexual’ doesn’t refer to two genders, the ‘pan’ in ‘pansexual’ does not refer to all things.

Sexual attraction to inanimate objects does exist, it’s called Object Sexuality, and research suggests it occurs mainly in women but it’s not a form of pansexuality.

MYTH: ‘Pan’ means ‘all’, so pansexuals are attracted to everyone

FACT: Just because pansexuals have the capacity to be attracted to multiple genders, it doesn’t mean they’re are attracted to every being that crosses their path. Firstly, pansexuality shouldn’t be understood to include specific paraphilias like bestiality and attraction to minors, and secondly, when it comes to sexual and romantic attraction it’s different strokes for different folks and while we might not have a specific type, we’re all drawn to different things.

MYTH: Bisexuality and Pansexuality are entirely different things

FACT: This one depends on who you ask, but the generally accepted definitions of pansexuality and bisexuality occupy much the same space; they are ways of expressing a potential for attraction to genders across the spectrum. You will find plenty of bisexual people who also define as pan, and naturally vice versa, while others might use different labels in different contexts.

Some people prefer to define pansexuality as distinct from bisexuality because it implies gender is not a significant factor in attraction, but historically bisexuality has been understood similarly.

Outside of the rigid boundaries provided by formal definitions, there are other reasons people choose one label for themselves or another, from the political to the purely pragmatic. Many people choose ‘pansexual’ because it is more clearly inclusive of gender variance, others because it just ‘feels right’. By contrast, the term ‘bisexual’ might be chosen simply because it is more widely understood.

Most bisexual advocacy groups consider pansexual to be just one label under the bi umbrella, along with labels like ‘fluid’ and ‘polysexual’. We have significantly more similarities than differences, and there is value in standing together.

MYTH: All pansexuals are biphobic

FACT: Some pansexuals do and say biphobic things. Some monosexual do too. Pansexual shouldn’t automatically mean biphobic any more than Christian should automatically mean Episcopalian.

Some pansexuals contend that bisexuality is by definition transphobic (it isn’t) because the prefix bi- always means ‘two’ (it doesn’t), but it’s important to remember that ignorance is not confined to one sexuality. Biphobia is found in people of all sexualities, including bisexual.

MYTH: Pansexuality was made up by Tumblr

As we covered above, the term ‘pansexual’ has a much longer history than Tumblr, but the site does have a reputation as the home of pansexuality online. Here are two clues as to why that might be:

The concurrent rise of of pansexuality was, says EverydayFeminism, ‘almost certainly tied to the [growing awareness of gender variance] since pansexuality would not exist without these identities’.

Just as Tumblr was becoming the biggest site on the planet with those the right age to be exploring their sexuality, a new conversation about gender- and sexual identity was taking place. In other words: in a place where people were talking, people were… well, talking. Those conversations happened in the relative privacy of meatspace, and online in obscurity or behind passwords, we didn’t see those. We saw Tumblr.

MYTH:  Pansexuals are polyamorous  and oversexed

FACT: You’ll find examples of every mode of relationship in the pan community. A Pansexual person is as likely as any other to choose monogamy, ethical (and unethical) non-monogamy or something else as their preferred style. As with bisexuals, the myth of a majority of non-traditional relationships is unfounded.

Regardless of relationship style, sexual identity is a poor indicator of sexual behavior, and just like the rest of the population, there’s a whole bunch of asexual, celibate and abstinent pan-identified people, who get forgotten in sweeping statements  like this.

‘Oversexed’ is the whack-a-mole of phobic myths – just as one community is getting over the collective delusion that they are all nymphomaniac predators, it pops up somewhere else. First gay people faced it, then bisexuals, and now pansexuals. Accusations of hypersexuality, and the moral judgement that usually accompanies them represent a reaction to the perceived threat of queerness to heterodoxy and they are largely without foundation.

See also: Pansexual is just a Politically Correct way of saying ‘slut’.

Pansexual is just a Politically Correct way of saying ‘slut’

FACT: There is no politically correct way of saying ‘slut’.
Have you heard another myth? Or have we got these wrong? Let us know in comments….

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Libby Baxter-Williams

Libby is a 30-something Londoner, who spends more time reading picture books than is seemly. She became a bi activist entirely by accident, but now she can't imagine living any other way. In the event of an emergency, she'll have a large gin and tonic, thanks.

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