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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Bisexuality and /s/ production

  • Author(s): Willis, Chloe Marie
  • Advisor(s): Zimman, Lal
  • et al.

The folk linguistic notion that there are systematic differences in speech production as a function of sexual orientation has given rise to a vast body of work investigating the acoustic correlates of sounding queer. Although gay-sounding voices and to a lesser extent lesbian-sounding voices are well represented in this literature, bisexuality is conspicuously absent. The current study addresses this gap through an acoustic analysis of bisexuals' read speech vis-à-vis lesbian, gay, and straight speakers, specifically attending to three measures of the fricative /s/: center of gravity, skew, and duration. The results suggest that bisexual women and men do not form a cohesive group in terms of /s/ production. Moreover, the results indicate that bisexual women differ from lesbian and straight women in a way that is distinct from how bisexual men differ from gay and straight men. Given these results, I argue that (1) grouping bisexual speakers with either straight or lesbian/gay speakers is not empirically justified and (2) the lack of uniformity among the bisexual speakers is potentially explained by the different ways in which bisexual women and men experience the intersection of sexuality and gender normativity. Overall, these findings trouble the stereotype that bisexuality is simply an amalgam of lesbianness/gayness and straightness and shed light on the intersectional experiences of bisexuals.

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