The rebel. The rogue. The wayward femme fatale who constantly throws caution to the wind when it comes to her actions and fashion choices, preferring to live life on the edge and be scantily clad while she’s doing it. Everything about her is hardcore, from her form-fitting yet unrestrictive leather to the air of mystery she so easily exudes. She does what she wants, and who she wants, and you damn well better not have a problem with it. We all know her. She is… The Bisexual Woman™.
At least, that’s the trope. And as I, a bisexual woman, sit at home in my denim-collared woollen sweater, sipping coffee and humming showtunes, I can’t help but feel like this representation that people seem intent on perpetuating – especially in AAA titles – just doesn’t cut it. While it should be celebrated that the number of female bisexual characters in AAA titles would take more than one hand to count these days, it can often be hard to appreciate that small win when all those characters share a set of very similar traits.
For some reason, when it comes to fictional representations (because this problem is certainly not limited to games), being interested in more than one gender has been conflated with wanting to sleep with everyone. Not only are they often oversexualised, but bisexual characters are usually also confident or wildly angry, in both their sexual activities and their everyday lives. Being bisexual apparently means that we’re sexually adventurous, or are pirates that casually hint at threesomes, or wear entirely inappropriate clothing for battle (yes, Dragon Age 2’s Isabela – I’m looking at you). Where’s the anxious bisexual character who struggles to flirt, or who is unlucky in love without it being due to her bisexuality-induced commitment issues?
It’s flattering that game designers seem to think that bisexual women are all brave, wild, and inherently charming. I wish that were the case. I look at Peebee, Mass Effect Andromeda’s ‘rogue academic’, and I think about how much cooler that must be than being a regular academic. But in real life, being bisexual doesn’t necessarily mean having a fun descriptor before your name. Sometimes it means being a little more conservative and getting genuine enjoyment out of following the rules. Sometimes it means being anxious and unable to approach people. Sometimes it means (shockingly) that you don’t have a whole string of romantic and/or scandalous stories to tell about past encounters with numerous partners. Sometimes, it means that you’re not Chloe, Life is Strange’s much loved rebel with a rough past and a mouth that could run for days, but instead you’re Max (without the whole time travel thing). You can be quiet and awkward and lead a perfectly normal life and still be bisexual – but video games haven’t worked that out yet.
As games become more diverse, it would be great to see bisexual characters in particular becoming more diverse with them. On paper there are loads of characters whose sexual identity I should relate to, yet in reality they are few and far between. So in the near future, I’d love to see more bisexual characters that aren’t just there to be cool with being one of several partners, because it isn’t their monogamous jam. I’d like to see bisexual characters who, like me, don’t love the nightlife, and don’t love to boogie, but instead like to spend their time reading or smashing through some crossword puzzles. Sure, there are absolutely some bisexual women out there who are rebels, or who have great stories about their sexual history, or who radiate confidence – and those women are all absolute badasses. But we’re not all badasses. Some of us are boring as heck, and it would be cool to be able to play as someone a little less cool, and a little more like me.