views updated


The term switchhitter is slang for bisexual. It is an epithet to describe an individual who is attracted to both sexes and implies that the individual is either indecisive in his or her sexual orientation or self-serving in his or her sexual behavior. Among users of American English, baseball is a metaphor affirming sexual prowess: the act of running each base suggests increased sexual activity between individuals in a relationship. Switchhitter as a metaphor, however, is not affirming. Whereas in baseball a switchhitter is a batter who can hit from both the right and left sides of the plate—a skill of versatility that is an asset to a team because the batter can strategize against both left- and right-handed pitchers—switchhitter as a metaphor has a negative connotation regardless of the community in which it is used. When employed by members of the gay community, it often describes an individual who treats same-sex relationships as temporary. Within heterosexual communities, switchhitter often describes an individual who deviates from hetero-sexuality either experimentally or temporarily. Both uses suggest a switchhitter will assert his or her heterosexual privilege eventually. As such, the epithet reinforces binary categories of sexual identity and reveals a social anxiety with bisexuality.

Other epithets used interchangeably with switchhitter include swings both ways and AC/DC (a metaphor based on electricity). The Oxford English Dictionary cites the year 1956 as the earliest published use of switchhitter in literature, and the word first appeared in the Dictionary of American Slang in 1960.

see also Bisexuality.


Angelides, Steven. 2001. A History of Bisexuality. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Conner, Randy P.; David Hatfield Sparks; and Mariya Sparks. 1997. Cassell's Encyclopedia of Queer Myth, Symbol, and Spirit: Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Lore. London: Cassell.

Garber, Marjorie. 1995. Vice Versa: Bisexuality and the Eroticism of Everyday Life. New York: Simon and Schuster.

Hall, Donald E., and Maria Pramaggiore, eds. 1996. Representing Bisexualities: Subjects and Cultures of Fluid Desire. New York: New York University Press.

                                              Johanna Frank