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Tila Tequila’s Bisexual Dating Show Is More Than Just Trashy Fun

MTV's reality dating show <i>A Shot at Love With Tila Tequila</i> takes on some of society's worst stereotypes about gender and sexuality.
 
 
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For those of you who haven't noticed, we bisexuals finally scored our own show -- A Shot at Love with Tila Tequila . Unfortunately, it's a reality program made by a former producer of The Bachelor that places Tequila, an exotic Asian American femme with plenty of tattoos, cleavage, and low-cut halter tops, at the center of a battle between sixteen straight men (who have the maturity of frat boys on Jägermeister) and sixteen trashy lesbians (many of whom resemble strippers much like the woman they're pursuing). Despite the contestants, the show proves to be trashy fun that grows less superficial -- mostly due to the maturity of its star -- with each episode. A surprising feat considering that most of us, that is most of us over the age of twenty-one, didn't even have a clue who Tequila was until MTV aired this show.

Known for having two million MySpace friends, writing provocative songs like "Fuck Ya Man" and "Stripper Friends," and being a Maxim cover girl, Tequila (for obvious reasons) isn't the ideal bisexual poster child. During the first episode Tequila's slutty behavior and ignorant commentary made me want to hurl things at my television. Aside from her penchant for approaching the contestants in the house and randomly making out with them then walking away, Tequila also reinforces another major bisexual stereotype -- she keeps her sexuality a secret from her potential suitors. When they arrive at the house, Tequila hasn't told any of the men or women that she's bisexual, let alone that they will be competing with members of the opposite sex for her affections. Even worse, when she tells them her sexuality in a dramatic ending to the first episode, she says, "I'm a bisexual," not "I'm bisexual." That's like Ellen DeGeneres saying, "I'm a gay." Not exactly confidence inspiring. Neither is her admission that she's a complete horndog. Tequila confides to a male Italian contestant that she has to masturbate nine times a day in order to be satisfied. Not exactly helping our image there, either, lady!

Despite claiming that both men and women have broken her heart, Tequila's clearly a new bisexual, which makes her comments and influence somewhat dangerous to seasoned members of the bi community like me. In earlier episodes she has a proclivity for turning to the camera and saying unintentionally damaging things like, "This show's the perfect experience because it's really going to help me figure out -- do I really like a guy or do I really like a girl?" Umm, the point isn't to determine whether you're straight or gay. You're allegedly bisexual, you idiot!

The point of a bisexual dating show shouldn't be to prove that we all eventually develop a preference, abandon our fence-sitting ways, and settle into a heterosexual or homosexual lifestyle. And it definitely shouldn't be to center an entire show around a bi-curious straight girl who'd make out with a woman at a nightclub after a few cocktails for the pleasure of her boyfriend. And after watching the first few episodes of the show, I wasn't entirely sure Tequila wasn't that girl. When she screams things like, "I don't know about you guys but I love strip clubs. Are you ready to party?" I can't help but miss Ani DiFranco.

The competitions on the show are designed to highlight gender roles and thus help Tequila better decide whom to eliminate. In many cases she behaves like a straight man. In the first episode she makes the female contestants play dress up and walk a runway in maid, Catholic school girl, and dominatrix-style outfits so she can objectify them like a dude, then eliminate the least sexy ones. She eliminates the male virgin for inexperience in the first few episodes, but keeps the female virgin around, excited about exploiting her innocence. She doesn't hesitate to scream, "Look at that ass!" as both men and women slither around in a tub full of bath bubbles looking for chips that will grant them alone time with her. But as the season progresses Tequila also proves to be genuine and multi-faceted despite her superficial packaging and dirty talk.

After the first few episodes Tequila stops consoling the lesbians with comments like, "I'm just trying to figure it out right now," and starts saying intelligent things like, "It just depends on the person, it's not 'a guy' or 'a girl.'" She puts looks aside, opting to eliminate pretty boys in order to keep goofy guys with senses of humor around and drops most of the trashy, self-centered lesbians, one of whom physically attacks another contestant when she isn't chosen to stay in the house. But Tequila's openness and lack of superficiality truly shines when despite her claim that she only likes "lipstick lesbians," she falls for a warm-hearted soft butch who puts on no airs and refuses to dress in the skimpy outfits chosen by the producers. As the number of contestants is narrowed and Tequila truly begins to get to know the men and women, even traveling to meet their families, she encounters a very bisexual dilemma -- the former Playboy model starts to connect emotionally and fall in love with both the men and the women.

Getting to observe this on television is a first. I, too, have fallen simultaneously for a man and a woman, and if you're not bi, you'll never understand the unique challenge it poses. I've never had the opportunity before to watch a fellow bisexual woman struggle on national television with the disadvantages and advantages of dating both sexes, and for this reason alone, the show is truly groundbreaking. It also exposes the common prejudices and assumptions straight men and lesbians have about bisexual women.

Some of the guys on the show predictably say they want to be Tequila's primary relationship but admit they are open to threesomes. Other men express anxiety and insecurities about competing for a woman with other women. One lesbian is so repulsed after she learns Tequila is bi, she quits the show, while other lesbians try to undermine each other by telling Tequila they believe other female contestants are "confused" and not sure they're only into women. These are all realistic scenarios most bisexuals encounter while dating monosexuals, and I truly feel Tequila's frustrations as she tries to sort through the drama. But I don't have a lot of sympathy for her given the venue where she's chosen to come out. Perhaps the most frustrating element of the show is why a bisexual woman would close herself off from the possibility of dating another bisexual. It would seemingly solve a lot of problems but not Tequila's own insecurities. Early in the show she expresses her concern that the contestants will lose their focus on her and start hooking up with each other. The concern proves valid when a "lesbian" contestant fools around with a man and another woman, showing viewers much to my delight that even static sexuality can be fluid in the monosexual community, let alone when the cameras are rolling.

But after Tequila ultimately gets real and eliminates the contestants who cheat on her or who don't seem capable of a genuine connection, she impresses me again by realizing her original assumptions about bisexuality were wrong. She admits, "You know when I first started out it was more 'do I want to be with a girl' or 'do I want to be with a guy?' and that was it. But now that I'm involved, I have two girls left and one guy. They're people that I really love and in this case, love has no gender." Pretty evolved commentary for someone who hasn't even come out to her own parents.

Who will Tequila ultimately pick? Who cares? I, along with bisexuals everywhere who bothered to watch this far, are just breathing a collective sigh of relief that she actually goes both ways -- not just in her loins, but in her heart.

 
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