“It’s pretty astonishing when we look at the numbers,” says Dr. Nicole Johnson, a professor at Lehigh University who studies violence against women and people with marginalized sexual or gender identities. “It still hasn’t become a national conversation, a national concern of, ‘What’s going on, what do we do about this?’ … The general conversation around sexual violence and intimate partner violence is just so heteronormative.”
Heard’s sexuality was not an explicit part of the trial, and while experts say they were glad to see that her bisexuality wasn’t used against her, they wished coverage could have done more to address the ways in which a person’s sexual identity can contribute to vulnerability.
Experts say bisexual women, who face biphobia from both the straight and queer communities, are particularly vulnerable to violence, both because of discrimination that suggests their sexual orientation is invalid or unbelievable, as well as hypersexualization, which erroneously positions bisexual women as promiscuous. This can be used as an excuse for sexual perpetration, and among intimate partners can manifest as jealousy, because of the belief that both men and women are a threat to the relationship.