You can’t have it ‘Both Ways’: the fetishisation of bi women needs to end

Liam Payne’s new album track is tone deaf but not surprising


A song from Liam Payne's album LP1 is being dragged on Twitter for containing biphobic and objectifying lyrics.

Both Ways details his desire to have a threeway in poetic language like: "My girl, she like it both ways. She like the way it all taste / Couple more, we’ll call it foreplay / No, no, I don’t discriminate" and "Flipping that body, go head, I go tails / Sharing that body like it's our last meal".

The hashtag #LiamPayneIsOverParty was trending on Twitter with users criticising both these lyrics and his previous homophobic comments about former bandmate Harry Styles.

As well as just being generally a bit grim, this is yet another example of the music industry failing bi women. Both Ways follows a long line of songs that buy into some very questionable stereotypes – starting with Katy Perry's I Kissed A Girl. It may be a bop but even Katy Perry herself acknowledged in an interview in 2017, saying: "Lyrically, it has a couple of stereotypes in it".

Similar controversy affected Rita Ora's Girls, a collaboration with Cardi B, Charli XCX and Bebe Rexha last year. Lyrics such as: "Red wine, I just wanna kiss girls, girls, girls" were branded "tone deaf" by lesbian pop star Hayley Kiyoko for doing "more harm than good for the LGBTQ+ community".

Unfortunately, the narrative surrounding what it means to be a bi woman in 2019 is not set by bi women but by straight men. As Hayley Kiyoko points out in her tweet, these songs are yet another example of queer women being seen through the male gaze.

How does the male gaze affect queer women?

According to a guy I was (briefly) seeing, many straight men see bi women and lesbians as the ultimate sexual fantasy because it "doesn't involve any other dudes". Queer women become exotic creatures in the minds of straight men, with 'lesbian' being Pornhub's most watched genre since 2015.

This may not seem too different from the good ol' fashioned misogyny and sexualisation faced by straight women. But, it is important to point out it overlaps with biphobia. This is how bi women become a fetish. It is a combination of sexualisation and being intriguing in the eyes of straight men. Sex gets falsely equated with sexuality when it is far more complicated than that.

Sure, this sounds frustrating, but what's the harm?

If (straight) male narratives about bisexuality go unchallenged, it pushes bi women further back into the closet. It's much harder to be open about who you are if the people you want to tell might have a completely false idea about what that means.

The fetishisation of bi-women also finds its way into a number of seemingly everyday things. Some of them, admittedly, are kind of harmless. It is very easy to just ignore the ridiculous numbers of straight couples on Tinder with female profiles "looking for a third". But this isn't always the case.

One experience that always sticks out for me is being stared at intensely on the dancefloor of Big Cheese in first year when I was with a girl I was seeing. This random guy wouldn't leave us alone, even when politely asked. It's only looking back I realise just how creepy this actually was. Most girls I know have experienced harassment of some form whilst out clubbing. But this had the added ingredient of biphobia.

This toxic combination of misogyny and biphobia might seem like it comes from a different place from homophobia. Fundamentally, they both come from queer people not being socially acceptable in the eyes of some straight people. Only, queer women get given a free pass if they perform to the standards set for them by straight men. If they refuse, the consequences better resemble other forms of homophobia. Just look at the savage attack on a lesbian couple this summer after they refused to kiss while on a London night bus.

It's small and everyday things that contribute to these standards we set for queer women. And this includes a song by the least successful former member of One Direction. His homophobic comments in the past show how homophobia and the fetishisation of queer women are two sides of the same coin.

Maybe my fave was always Niall anyway, or maybe queer women deserve better. Either way, just because #LiamPayneIsOverParty is trending on Twitter doesn't mean the fetishisation of bi women is over too.

Cover photo: @liampayne