Social media platforms, for many, have been a godsend when it comes to understanding ourselves—allowing us to learn about gender identities and sexual orientations we otherwise may not have heard of before, and find the communities that support one another. For my fourteen-year-old self, everything clicked into place when I found bisexuality online. However, the discovery was not all rainbows and kittens—bisexuality is shrouded in stigma, which is something I have previously explored.
Feeling the constant need to prove the validity of your sexuality is an exhausting reality for bisexual women. If you date another woman, you are using bisexuality as a ‘cop out’, and keeping ‘one foot in the closet’. If you date a man, you are deemed to be faking your sexuality, or probed at for threesomes and other sexual endeavours. Biphobia has enough stereotypes to play off of as it is, which is why the rise in labels like ‘spicy straight’ is so harmful to the bisexual community.
In order to really get into the thick of it and dissect the fiery implications the recent trend has had on the bisexual community, I reached out to some Midlands-based bisexual students and asked them a few questions about the term ‘spicy straight’, what their understanding of the label is, and how it makes them feel. We spoke about the detrimental implications of endorsing this term on the bisexual and LGBTQIA+ community more widely, and whether all types of labels have the same influence.
When discussing the use of the term with Ell, they first stated that it feels “incredibly invalidating, almost as if it’s a way to try and push bisexual people, especially bisexual women, out of the LGBTQ+ community.” They added that ‘spicy straight’ implies that “bisexual/pansexual/lesbian women are not actually attracted to the genders they are attracted to, and are just doing it for clout.”
Georgina, a 20-year-old student, shared the view that ‘spicy straight’ is an invalidating term, and suggested it may be used by straight women who have little understanding of their own sexuality. “I feel like calling yourself ‘straight’ with an edge of spice just implies that you can choose elements of a sexuality that you like, or that ‘spicy straight’ is acceptable but calling yourself bisexual is too extreme.”
‘Spicy straight’ as a label and trend has increased in popularity on social platforms such as TikTok and Reddit. For those unacquainted with the term, it is used by (predominantly younger) girls who feel attracted to other girls, but would not date them. Many of the TikTok videos featuring #spicystraight often list in the caption that ‘drunkenness and horniness’ is the reason behind this attraction—with the video below also including #bestievibesonly. While the casual use of the term may be seen as an innocent joke for some, the general promotion of ‘spicy straight’ and what it stands for is incredibly harmful.
The central idea of ‘spicy straight’ lies in physical attraction and an unwillingness to form a romantic connection beyond sexual fantasy. This directly feeds into the fetishisation of woman-on-woman intimacy, and further emphasises the stereotype that bisexual people are sex-obsessed and struggle with commitment or monogamy. Women have been consistently overly sexualised throughout modern history, and so playing into this concept—regardless of how innocent your intentions are—is massively ignorant and compliant in harming bisexual and lesbian communities and continues to invalidate sapphic relationships as real ones.
Doctor Catherine McCall, MS, wrote in Psychology Today about the findings from a 2006 study conducted by the American Psychological Association (APA), which highlighted components of sexualisation that should be set apart from ‘healthy sexuality’. A key finding here is that sexuality is inappropriately imposed upon a person, particularly in the media. We have known the harmful implications of imposed sexualisation for well over a decade—likely even before this report—yet this is still highly prevalent on social media platforms when it comes to woman-on-woman intimacy, even towards queer couples that are just innocently existing online.
While labels like ‘spicy straight’ may not seem all that harmful to some, the term essentially acts as a stepping-stone for more stereotypes and misunderstandings to arise—building up until we are stuck with largely problematic platforms exploiting feminine sexuality. Just look at the porn industry.
Of course, not all labels have negative impacts. For example, Ell explained that specific labels “give me a sense of belonging in spaces I want to belong to. They also help me find people who are like me, who have had similar problems and experiences.” That being said, and although they feel that social media can be a useful tool for people that grew up in small towns like them, they also worry that it can become too much of a ‘trend’. “The more these terms become memes and jokes, the less they become people’s identities, and it becomes too easy to be desensitised from the people who use them.”
Following that thought, Georgina argued that while TikTok has helped people discover their true selves earlier in life, some labels are made a mockery of or gatekept—creating a community that tears others down rather than supporting them. “I believe labels are up to you to explore and decide upon. For me, I think TikTok has helped me to express my sexuality and identify with a label that I feel fits best.”
So how have people online reacted to the term ‘spicy straight’ so far then? Some TikTok content creators have vigorously rejected the label, with this user stating that “being ‘spicy straight’ is bisexual erasure and you’re invalidating those of us who would actually be with a girl.” Similar approaches were taken in a thread of comments I found in the subreddit r/bisexual. One user commented, “You’re not spicy straight, you’re straight. Why do straight people want to be a part of the LGBT community so badly?”
Niamh, just like others, shared a strong dislike for the term ‘spicy straight’. “I think it undermines the difficulties I had to go through with finally being comfortable with myself. It’s not just something you can switch on and off when it suits, you know?” She outlined that this is particularly disheartening when you’re from a small city, and ‘zesty straight’ girls mingle among LGBTQIA+ people in gay clubs. “We had spent the whole night together, for her to say ‘oh I’m definitely not gay, I just wanna try it’. I was so shocked I just walked away.”
On the other hand, some people have been more understanding of the term, despite its potentially harmful implications. This TikTok user said, “Hi, this is me letting you know that ‘spicy straight’ isn’t a thing, you’re just bi-curious and that’s fine. Thank you for coming to my TedTalk.” Another user on r/bisexual considered if “it’s a result of internalised homophobia trying to hide oneself from their true identity.” We all know that finding and accepting yourself—regardless of your gender or sexual orientation—is a long, tough journey for any young person to experience.
Keeping this in mind, some might argue that this may just be young people being naive, and most of us can appreciate and even relate to this reasoning. However, it is important to draw a line between exploration and exploitation. When a label invalidates an entire community, it is unjustifiable to argue for its innocence.
While exploring your sexuality is something that should always be encouraged and praised, there are ways to do this that are not detrimental to LGBTQIA+ people. Promoting labels online when you are not 100 per cent confident in your identity is incredibly harmful, particularly when they emphasise stereotypes that already burden a community. Bisexuality is a valid identity that should be respected, not continuously undermined time and time again. ‘Spicy straight’ really is not the hot take on sexuality that some people think it is.
Yesterday saw a monumental—and much needed—step in the right direction for the LGBTQ+ community. As of 14 June 2021, more gay and bisexual men will be able to donate blood due to a historic change in legislation in England, Scotland and Wales. Under the new rules, all genders will be asked about their sexual behaviours in a gender-neutral manner. Donors will be allowed to donate their blood if they’ve had the same sexual partner for the last three months, leading gay and bisexual men who are sexually active and in monogamous relationships to be able to legally donate blood for the first time in British history.
The original policy, which disproportionally impinged on LGTBQ+ individuals’ freedom to give blood, was first changed in 2011—allowing gay and bisexual men who hadn’t had sex in the past 12 months to donate blood. Further revisions came in 2017, where gay and bisexual men were allowed to donate if they hadn’t had sex in the past three months—excluding sexually active men in monogamous relationships.
Now, in 2021, individuals can donate blood if they have had the same sexual partner for the last three months. The revisions came into effect 14 June 2021, on World Blood Donor Day, meaning for the first time ever sexually active gay and bisexual men in monogamous relationships can donate potentially life-saving blood and plasma in Britain.
The changes are thanks to countless LGBTQ+ rights campaigners who have pushed for a fairer policy in relation to blood donation—arguing that the previous policies did not reflect current risk levels. One of the countless activists, Ethan Spibey, founder of FreedomTo Donate, told GAY TIMES, “After many years of campaigning, and working with [the] UK’s blood services, we are delighted that this change is now coming into effect.”
Campaigners like Spibey have welcomed the revision of the policy to a risk-based, individual assessment of a donor instead of an assessment based on a person’s sexuality. The activist also highlighted how this change, which now means England, Scotland and Wales have one of the most progressive blood donation policies in the world, is “thanks to the work of dedicated individuals and charities alongside NHSBT.”
He continued: “The work of the FAIR steering group shows that simply being a man who has sex with men is not a good enough reason to exclude someone from donating blood. For me, this process started after I vowed to repay the donor who saved my grandfather’s life but was prohibited from donating due to my sexuality. But this is more than just about a fairer and more inclusive system, it’s about those who rely on blood, and giving blood literally saves lives. I can’t wait to finally repay that first pint. I would encourage anyone who is able to safely donate blood to register to do so.”
Although the changes are welcomed by many in the LGBTQ+ campaigners, the Terrence Higgins Trust also stated that the government’s plan to keep the “discriminatory restriction” in England will negatively and disproportionately impact the donation of blood within black LGBTQ+ communities.
In a statement, the Trust highlighted how the restriction to a three-month deferral period of anyone who has a “partner who has, or you think you may have been, sexually active in parts of the world where HIV/Aids is very common” is still problematic. In particular, because these terms specifically cite “most countries in Africa.”
Chief Executive at Terrence Higgins Trust, Ian Green, argues that “it’s great news that far more gay and bisexual men can safely donate blood from today—but the excitement of that announcement is significantly dampened by another discriminatory question being retained by the government in the blood donation process in England, which presents a significant barrier to black donors, in particular, giving blood.”
“This is despite it being removed in both Scotland and Wales, and the blood service actively encouraging black communities to donate plasma and blood due to shortages,” the charity added. Yes, it’s a step in the right direction for the rights of LGBTQ+ individuals to donate potentially life-saving blood, however, still more needs to be done. Yes, arguments can be made that caution needs to be taken to reduce the spread of HIV and Aids. However, Scotland and Wales have both removed this blatantly discriminatory restriction against black gay and bisexual men, recognising the risk of transmission does not outweigh the cost of discrimination—so, why not England?