Her Bisexuality Made Him Do It: Amber Heard, Johnny Depp and excusing abusing bi women

In the dissolution of Amber Heard and Johnny Depp’s marriage, I’ve been hearing a lot said about Heard. Including this: Heard’s bisexual ‘tendencies’ (not that he may have been violent towards her) caused the downfall of their marriage. I’m not sure what they mean by a ‘tendency’. Heard has been out since at least 2010 and as far as I can see didn’t try to hide her orientation or relationships before that. When Depp started seeing her he knew this.

But I’m reading that he was driven insane by jealousy over Heard’s orientation. Which he knew about when they started dating. Because everyone knew. Because she was out. Publicly. And by the fact that she has lesbian friends. Not to mention the advice to simply not ever marry bi people.

So here’s what bi people shouldn’t do:

  • be bi, continue to be open about their orientation while in a relationship
  • have queer friends
  • have friends who someone else might think she was attracted to
  • Never do anything that someone might construe as flirting
  • get married at all

Does this seem reasonable to you?

She has queer friends. Of course she does.

Heard has a bunch of lesbian and bi women friends. From a cishet perspective, not having close friends you could be mutually attracted to makes a kind of sense. It’s not terribly unusual for straight women and men to avoid having close friends of a different gender, or to limit the types of interactions they have with their different-gender friends. A quick google of “can men and women be friends” brings up a ton of people arguing that it’s simply not possible to have a platonic friendship with someone of a gender you’re attracted to.

By the way? What I’m getting from those articles is:

  • Creeped out. Really, really creeped out.
  • Women are far better at boundaries than men. In almost all of those examples it’s a case of women being open about wanting to just be friends, and men not taking their words for it and trying it on the first moment they think they might get a chance to. Classy, men. Classy. (And by the way? I know I’m risking the fire of a thousand douchebags by even saying this out loud but guys? Don’t do that.)

But let’s leave off the creepiness and stick with what’s practical. If you’re straight it may make a twisted kind of sense to simply make close friends with people of your own gender. It’s not like you’ll be short of options. And to be honest, if you’re a woman and any of those links above indicate what you think will happen if you dare to be platonic friends with a straight guy? I wouldn’t blame you.

If you’re queer, though? Things get more complicated. You don’t assume that you can  easily distinguish potential friends and potential partners from a distance. They’re the same group of people. Even if you’re a monosexual gay or lesbian, you’re going to run into some trouble when you want to hang out with more than one person at once. I guess you could restrict yourself to only having ace friends of a gender you don’t fancy, or only spending time with different-gender gay friends one-on-one. While that might work for some people, though, it feels like an awfully restrictive way to live your life. And I’m pretty sure your ace friends are going to feel more than a little used. But if you’re bi? If you’re gonna have friends at all, sometimes you’ll fancy ‘em. You can’t get around that. So, since this is literally the way it’s been all your life, you get on with things and you figure out your own boundaries.

Having queer friends is about more than attraction. Being queer in a heteronormative world- and bi in a mononormative one- is a really particular experience. Like everyone, queer people tend to gravitate towards others we have things in common with. Specifically, we build queer communities- both formal and informal- where we can hang out with others who get us. While I love my straight friends, there are times when I just want to be around other queers. Or other bi people. Of course Heard does too. Of course she has queer friends. Like every minority group, we gravitate towards each other.

And yeah, if you’re a famous actress it’s likely that all of your friends- of any orientation- are more conventionally attractive than the average. Conventional attractiveness is pretty explicitly selected for in Hollywood.

She has women friends. They’re good-looking. Of course they are.

But, you might say: it’s one thing for Heard to have women friends. Queer women friends. It’s another thing for her to be obviously flirty with her beautiful bi women BFFs. Isn’t that crossing a line?

Maybe. If you haven’t ever met women or watched how we interact with our close friends. In case you’ve been hiding on the far side of the moon for the last few millennia: women friends tend to get expressive. Not everyone, of course. But it’s accepted that we tell each other how beautiful we are. That we are physically affectionate with one another. That we have long, deep conversations. Women rely on each other for emotional support in ways that our society just doesn’t accept men doing with each other. The line between friendly and flirty can be blurry as all get-out. In fact, ask any queer woman you know about trying to work out if a woman fancies her or if she’s just being friendly. I’ve got platonic friends who’ve rhapsodised about my butt. Others who I’ll snuggle and spoon with at the drop of a hat. This is normal, and if straight women interact this way nobody thinks twice.

But we have different standards for bi women, don’t we?

It seems to me that the only way for bi women in relationships with men to ‘acceptably’ behave is this: deny our queerness in our everyday life. Maybe show up at a fundraiser or a gala every so often. Don’t correct people if they say that you’re straight now or that your partner has ‘converted’ you. Leave the queer community. Delete your queer women friends from your phone and unfriend the lot of them. Definitely don’t spend time with them in person and if you do, don’t hug them, laugh, have in-jokes, or show any appreciation or affection towards them. Never be attracted to anyone other than your spouse.

And if you don’t? If you don’t allow your friendships and the shape of your life to be determined by the gender of the person you’re in a relationship with right now? If you don’t change your entire personality to suit their jealousy? Well, then. I guess you must be asking for whatever comes to you, don’t you.

Does that seem reasonable to you? Or does it seem like someone excusing abuse my grabbing onto the first biphobic tropes they could find and hanging onto them for dear life, knowing that most people will agree with them? Sounds a lot like the latter to me.

Oh, and by the way? If you don’t believe me? Take a look at the domestic violence rates, broken down by sexual orientation and gender. Look at it. Look. And tell me again that the problem is with Heard:

The CDC’s 2010 National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey, released again in 2013 with new analysis, reports in its first-ever study focusing on victimization by sexual orientation that the lifetime prevalence of rape, physical violence, or stalking by an intimate partner was 43.8 percent for lesbians, 61.1 percent for bisexual women, and 35 percent for heterosexual women, while it was 26 percent for gay men, 37.3 percent for bisexual men, and 29 percent for heterosexual men

Yeah.

Tell me again that this was her fault.


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Her Bisexuality Made Him Do It: Amber Heard, Johnny Depp and excusing abusing bi women
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5 thoughts on “Her Bisexuality Made Him Do It: Amber Heard, Johnny Depp and excusing abusing bi women

  1. 1

    Thank you for this article. The whole idea of someone excusing Mr Depp’s behavior on this basis has been infuriating me!

    My wife is bi. She was bi when we met. She was bi when we got married. She’s been bi this entire time (17 years). She had been faithfully monogamous for our entire marriage and I know there were times in the past when she was feeling more into women. What I did not understand was how rough this was on her. She did not love me any less but it hurt her to deny her queerness. We had never discussed the fact that marriage meant she had to deny part of herself. It was just assumed.

    About 3 years ago she came to me upset. She had been feeling unable to be her true self more and more in recent time and it finally reached a point where she needed to talk it over. She was hesitant because I had been part of an abusive hinge before we were together and it left me very hurt.

    It took a night of fitful sleep to realize that I care more about her as a person than I do for any preconceived and patriarchy enforced forms of relationships.

    The fact is, that I know my wife loves me. I don’t care that she needs to also love and be with someone else of her gender. It takes nothing away from me and gives her so much! We’re open although I think I am naturally monogamous. She’s everything I need in a partner but because she is bi – I can never be everything she needs, and I’m more than okay with that.

    Her being her true self has done nothing but improve our life quality. We are authentic in our relationship and that’s an awesome thing!

    I get the fact that people want to excuse Mr. Depp. I loved his movies. He’s been a very popular person for a very long time. But just like Dawkins, Harris, and many of my once-admired people, I set aside that and look at the fact.

    * * * Women don’t claim to be raped or abused for any other reason than they were raped or abused. * * *

    The court of public opinion is extremely harsh towards women that claim violence towards them.

    Mr Depp is a small person. He is weak and faulty. I will no longer watch his movies or support him in any way I can prevent.

    Marriage does not give you ownership over a person. It puts you in partnership with a person.

    1. Ken
      1.1

      Jerry. You an I are twins. Naturally monogamous, with Bi wife who feels unable to be a full person somehow. And bored with the small box that culture places every relationship in. I smiled when you referenced Harris. My wife showed this to me and has drawn a lot of comfort from your comments. Thank you for that.

    2. 1.2

      I think it’s also important to acknowledge that there are naturally monogamous bi women. Yes, there is a feeling of losing part of your identity if you commit to a lifelong partnership with a man, but I don’t believe that every woman who does will eventually want to open the relationship to fulfill some kind of undeniable need to be with a woman again. If that is the need of a specific person, and it works for the partnership, that’s great. But this idea that bi women are inherently unable to be monogamous and committed is damaging to the reputation of bi people in general, and hurtful to those who are perfectly happy being devoted to one person.

      1. Yes! This, yes, absolutely!

        I’ve been in several poly relationships in the past- it was something I actively sought out for a long time. However, at this stage in my life I’m feeling more and more strongly drawn towards the possibility of monogamy, and drawn more strongly away from open relationships and poly.

        Which is, by the way, very much just a thing that’s happening with me. I don’t think for a second that everyone who’s poly will find themselves wanting monogamy eventually- and I’m saying this cause I know it’s something people assume a lot.

        But I’m bi and yeah, when I think of the relationships I’d prefer to be in in the future, monogamy is something I really specifically want. Which won’t affect a single thing about the people who catch my eye on the street. Or the fact that I’ve had wonderful relationships in the past with people of a variety of genders. 🙂

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