|Women's Intellectual Contributions to the Study of Mind and Society|
Students, as part of an advanced seminar, examined and wrote about the lives of these women, their intellectual contributions, and the unique impact and special problems that being female had on their careers.
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by Marie Koesterer
Paula C. Rodriguez
Rust describes herself as a "white, able-bodied, lesbian-identified feminist
sociologist" (Rust, 1995, p. 4). Her work has provided a means for understanding
the understudied population of bisexual women and men. Through her studies,
the social science community has gained important information about the existence
and nature of bisexuality and, ultimately, about sexuality itself.
Partner: Lorna Rodriguez Rust (18+ years)
Children: 2 girls, 1 boy
|Bisexuality & the Challenge to Lesbian Politics: Sex, Loyalty & Revolution|
Dr. Rodriguez Rust's interest in bisexuality began in graduate school when she had an affair with a man, while still identifying as a lesbian (Rust, 1995). She felt that she had to hide the relationship, much like women who have relationships with other women hide it from their heterosexual friends (Rothblum, 1999). As a result of this experience, she decided to include in her dissertation a study of the controversy surrounding bisexual women in the lesbian community.
Dr. Rodriguez Rust's 1989 Dissertation, When Does The Unity of A "Common Oppression" Break Down? Reciprocal Attitudes Between Lesbian and Bisexual Women, was her first work regarding non-heterosexual women's attitudes toward bisexuality. To recruit participants, she contacted a diverse cross-section of females living in the United States and Canada. Targeted participants included active members of the lesbian community, active members of bisexual organizations, women of color, women who did and did not live in metropolitan areas, older women and women who were not publicly open about their sexual preference. To provide the best opportunity to collect information from the participants, a questionnaire response method was used. Dr. Rodriguez Rust relayed approximately 948 questionnaires to potential participants via friends, assistants, members of lesbian and bisexual communities, political meetings, friendship organizations and newsletter advertisements. The questionnaire was addressed to "women who consider themselves to be lesbian or bisexual, or who choose not to label their sexual orientation, or who are not sure what their sexual orientation is" (Rust, 1995, p. 41). The results of the study were compiled from the 427 usable questionnaires that were returned.
In 1995, as part of The Cutting Edge: Lesbian Life And Literature Series of books, Dr. Rodriguez Rust reconceptualized the results of her dissertation in her book, Bisexuality And The Challenge To Lesbian Politics: Sex, Loyalty and Revolution. The book is accessible to the general reader and provides a context for the study and its results. Rust begins the book by detailing the evolution of the bisexuality debate as presented in magazines such as The Advocate and Lesbian Contradiction. She explains how bisexuality was initially invisible in popular gay and lesbian media, or conceptualized as lesbians and gay men having heterosexual sex. Rust notes how the politics of the readership of each publication is reflected in this print debate and how the continuing controversy in the lesbian press reflected the strength of the identity challenge bisexuality represented. To help readers understand the nature of the heterosexual/homosexual dichotomy behind the identity challenge, Rust presents an overview of the history of sexology in The United States and the emergence of studies that indicate that for many people, lifetime sexuality is fluid and gender encompassing.
Dr. Rodriguez Rust (1995) examined both the attitudes of those participants who self-identified as lesbians and the attitudes of those who self-identified as bisexual, questioning or unwilling to label their sexuality. Among lesbian participants, Rust found that attitudes toward bisexuals was strongly related to feelings about bisexuality. When bisexuality was regarded as behaviorally defined (i. e., related to the practice of having sexual contact with both men and women), lesbians felt more negatively toward bisexuality and, consequently toward bisexuals. For those lesbians who regarded bisexuality as related to feelings of attraction to both men and women, without necessarily involving sexual contact, greater acceptance of bisexuality and positive feelings toward bisexuals were present. A third variable, in the form of attitudes toward a bisexual identity also emerged. Lesbians' positive or negative attitudes toward bisexuality related to whether or not they viewed bisexuality as a separate sexual identity or as the failure to assume a more appropriate identity. Some lesbians felt that bisexuals were attempting to avoid the negative social consequences of adopting a lesbian identity. Others believed that bisexuals were confused lesbians who had not fully completed the coming-out process.
Dr. Rodriguez Rust (1995) found that bisexuals' feelings about themselves were strongly reflective of the attitudes of lesbian participants. Although more bisexuals than lesbians had positive attitudes toward bisexuality, there was significant evidence of negative attitudes toward bisexuality among the bisexual participants. This included the self-report of some bisexuals who indicated that they preferred to build social and intimate relationship with lesbians rather than other bisexuals.
Few bisexual participants in Rust's (1995) study felt the need to argue for the existence of a bisexual identity. Rust also found that few bisexual participants viewed bisexuality as a sexual orientation that is distinct from heterosexuality or homosexuality. Instead, these bisexual participants indicated that they felt that all people were truly bisexual, but that the dichotomous nature of sexuality as perceived by society forced people to choose a sexual preference.
Additionally, Rust found that few bisexual participants supported the idea of a bisexual politic. Bisexual participants seemed to feel that their political issues were already being represented by the politics of the lesbian community or they wished that their politics would find inclusion there. Most importantly, some bisexuals identified a unique form of oppression that they experienced as rejection from both the heterosexual community and from the lesbian community.
|Bisexuality In the United States: A Social Science Reader|
At the request of an editor for Columbia University Press, Dr. Rodriguez Rust began the research necessary to produce a "quick" anthology of the best previously printed works from the social sciences on bisexuality in the United States (Rust, 2001a, p. xix). After four years and countless literature searches, Bisexuality In The United States: A Social Science Reader was born. Dr. Rodriguez Rust edited, introduces each section of, and is a contributing author to Bisexuality In The United States.
The book is divided into two parts. Part One, entitled "Paving The Way for Research on Bisexuality", introduces criticism of the social science literature for not recognizing the existence of bisexuality and introduces literature aimed at determining how many bisexuals there might be in The United States (Rust, 2001a). In an article entitled "Alternatives to Binary Sexuality: Modeling Bisexuality", Rust details the use and adaptation of the Kinsey scale of sexuality for bisexuality research.
In Part Two, Rust (2001a) and other contributors discuss the history of the social science literature on bisexuality. This includes rereading past literature to recognize references to bisexuality that were described by different names. Included is an article by Rust entitled "Heterosexual Gays, Heterosexual Lesbians, and Homosexual Straights" in which she reveals terms used in research instead of bisexuality and sexual practices that were previously not considered as bisexuality, such as the heterosexual and homosexual sex of male prostitutes, and heterosexually married men and women who also have sex with same-sex partners. Part Two also includes articles regarding the growing recognition of bisexuality and the subsequent scapegoating of bisexuals, particularly in HIV education.
A complete listing of works by Dr. Rodriguez Rust in Bisexuality In The United States: A Social Science Reader (Rust, 2001a) follows:
|The International Bisexuality Identities, Communities Ideologies & Politics Study (IBICIP)|
The International Bisexual Identities, Communities, Ideologies and Politics Study is the first large, international study of bisexuals and bisexuality conducted through in-depth interviews, participant observation and self-administered questionnaires (Rust, 2001c). The full IBICIP study contains 917 male and female participants (including male and female born transgenderists) who live in the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Belgium, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.
The Journal of Bisexuality issued its first publication in November 2001. In it, Dr. Rodriguez Rust (2001b, 2001c) published two articles that result from The International Bisexual Identities, Communities, Ideologies and Politics Study: "Two Many and Not Enough: The Meanings of Bisexual Identities" and "Make Me a Map: Bisexual Men's Images of Bisexual Community". Dr. Rodriguez Rust hopes to create another book for laymen and social scientists from findings and conclusions drawn from its data (Wedge, 1994).
In "Two Many and Not Enough: The Meanings of Bisexual Identities", Rust (2001c) discusses her findings regarding US participants' responses to questions about how they describe their sexual self-identity. Questions included, "When you think about your sexual orientation today, what term do you use most often to describe yourself?" and "What does your sexual identity mean to you?" (Rust, 2001c, p. 37). Participants were given a selection of twenty-one identity terms to select from, as well as "Other", "I prefer not to label myself" and "I am not sure what my orientation is." (Rust, 2001c, p. 37). Participants could select multiple terms to describe their identity, and could combine terms.
Rust (2001c) found that most participants used more than one label to identify their sexuality. Included among those who did so were participants who used a qualified form of bisexuality to define their sexuality (such as "lesbian-identified bisexual") or those who used a complex combination of terms (Rust, 2001c, p. 39). Rust's findings regarding the self-reported meaning of participants' sexual identities illustrates how bisexuals viewed their sexuality as defying the simplicity inherent in popular conceptions of sexuality. Many self-identified bisexuals felt that actual sexual experience with both sexes was not a requirement for a bisexual identity and indicated that their current or future potential desire to participate in same and other sex sexual relationships was enough - even if their same or other sex sexual feelings were never acted upon.
When most social scientists study human populations, they tend to use population demographics, surveys, interviews, observation or experimental methods. As part of the IBICIP study, "Make Me a Map: Bisexual Men's Images of Bisexual Community", Rust (2001b) used similar methods but also obtained information about bisexual men's perceptions of a bisexual community (or lack thereof) in a novel, visual way.
The results of "Make Me A Map" were compiled from the responses of 200 males who identified as bisexual or with a combination sexual identity that included bisexuality (Rust, 2001b). The questionnaire that participants responded to provided both a verbal and a visual way to communicate. Participants were given the opportunity to express their perceptions of bisexual community in response to the question: "Would you say that there is a 'bisexual community'? Explain why or why not? (That is, what does 'bisexual community' meant to you, and in what ways does it exist or not exist for you?)" (Rust, 2001b, p. 52). Twenty-two additional questions regarding their feelings about bisexual communities followed.
The last question that participants encountered encouraged them to draw a map of their bisexual community and provided an outlined square in which to draw "what your bisexual community is like and, how it looks to you" (Rust, 2001b, p. 52). Participants were also asked to draw their perception of how the lesbian, gay and heterosexual communities related to their bisexual community and to "trace the path at which you entered the bisexual community and arrived at your current location in it" (Rust, 2001b, p. 53). Rust found that even though the map was presented as an optional response, most respondents completed the question.
Rust (2001b) also found that many participants' verbal and visual representations contradicted. Among participants who indicated that they believed in a bisexual community, drawings of the community would reflect a collection of individuals, but no defined community. Among other participants who did not support the existence of a bisexual community, Rust found that their drawings showed a clearly labeled bisexual community with community participants. Rust interprets these results to reflect bisexuals' (and most people's) confusion regarding exactly what constitutes a "community".
Rust found that many bisexuals did not believe that a bisexual community existed and felt isolated (Rust, 2001b). Even among those bisexuals who did not feel isolated, there was doubt regarding the existence of a true bisexual community. Respondents' reasons for their doubts included believing that bisexuals were often included in the more organized and visible gay and lesbian communities and that bisexual organizations lacked political activism. Many respondents also indicated they were unsure that a bisexual community would naturally develop in time. Reasons that bisexual men provided for their concerns included feelings that the natural diversity of the bisexual community worked against unity, that bisexuality is ill-defined and that sexuality wasn't enough of a structure on which to build a community.
Paula C. (2001b) Make Me a Map: Bisexual Men's Images of Bisexual Community.
|Additional Works By Dr. Paula C. Rodriguez Rust|
Dr. Rodriguez Rust has been published under the following names:
Following is an alphabetical list of additional works by Dr. Rodriguez Rust. I have included all of those publications of which I am aware and all of the information about the publication that I have. If you are aware of an item that is not on this list, please email me: