When women leave men for women: Sexual fluidity

CNN reproduces an Oprah article on sexual fluidity that is of interest.

Here is the money:

Over the past several decades, scientists have struggled in fits and starts to get a handle on sexual orientation. Born or bred? Can it change during one’s lifetime?

A handful of studies in the 1990s, most of them focused on men, suggested that homosexuality is hardwired. In one study, researchers linked DNA markers in the Xq28 region of the X chromosome to gay males. But a subsequent larger study failed to replicate the results, leaving the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Psychological Association to speculate that sexual orientation probably has multiple causes, including environmental, cognitive, and biological factors.

Today, however, a new line of research is beginning to approach sexual orientation as much less fixed than previously thought, especially when it comes to women. The idea that human sexuality forms a continuum has been around since 1948, when Alfred Kinsey introduced his famous seven-point scale, with zero representing complete heterosexuality, 7 signifying complete homosexuality, and bisexuality in the middle, where many of the men and women he interviewed fell.

The new buzz phrase coming out of contemporary studies is “sexual fluidity.”

“People always ask me if this research means everyone is bisexual. No, it doesn’t,” says Lisa Diamond, Ph.D, associate professor of psychology and gender studies at the University of Utah and author of the 2008 book “Sexual Fluidity: Understanding Women’s Love and Desire.”

“Fluidity represents a capacity to respond erotically in unexpected ways due to particular situations or relationships. It doesn’t appear to be something a woman can control.”

Furthermore, studies indicate that it’s more prevalent in women than in men, according to Bonnie Zylbergold, assistant editor of American Sexuality, an online magazine.

In a 2004 landmark study at Northwestern University, the results were eye-opening. During the experiment, the female subjects became sexually aroused when they viewed heterosexual as well as lesbian erotic films. This was true for both gay and straight women.

Among the male subjects, however, the straight men were turned on only by erotic films with women, the gay ones by those with men.

“We found that women’s sexual desire is less rigidly directed toward a particular sex, as compared with men’s, and it’s more changeable over time,” says the study’s senior researcher, J. Michael Bailey, Ph.D. “These findings likely represent a fundamental difference between men’s and women’s brains.”

This idea, that the libido can wander back and forth between genders, Diamond admits, may be threatening and confusing to those with conventional beliefs about sexual orientation.

But when the women she’s interviewed explain their feelings, it doesn’t sound so wild. Many of them say, for example, they are attracted to the person, and not the gender — moved by traits like kindness, intelligence, and humor, which could apply to a man or a woman.

Most of all, they long for an emotional connection. And if that comes by way of a female instead of a male, the thrill may override whatever heterosexual orientation they had.

It is so old skool to talk about sexual orientation change without bringing male-female differences into the conversation. Advocates who use females to talk about male sexuality and vice versa should be fined and sent to the penalty box. It is also old skool to talk about sexual orientation like it was one experience for all people. Just because some people experience change doesn’t mean all people can (in fact, most apparently don’t) and just because some people experience change doesn’t mean it occurs because of therapy, affect-focused or otherwise.

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  • Katie

    Joe Kort, a gay therapist, also posted this article on his blog — straightguise.

    I’d have to read it more carefully again — but my impression is that several things are getting mixed up here, not least of which is confusing behavior and choices and goals — with with feelings and fantasies.

    The article doesn’t address whether the women who go from men to women always experienced lesbian fantasies to begin with, even if they had satisfying heterosexual relationships.

    I know women who primarily have lesbian fantasies, but feel very content in heterosexual relationships — and vice versa.

    It seems to me that one of the differences between men and women is that women tend to obsess less about whether their fantasies match up to their behavior/choices. Then again, women obsess less over all kinds of sexual things — just not as prone to strict fetishes, etc…

    Katie

  • Lynn David

    As I – we – have known about Bailey’s conclusions for some several years now, I am not sure what there is that is ‘new’ that such an article brings to light. I’ve always been sure that women were more fluid than men in their outlook due to their emotional needs. One filters sexuality through a maze of other emotions whether male or female. And, LOL, I’m going out on a limb and suggest that emotional maze is more convolute for a woman than it is for a man. That would make for a more fluid sexuality in women rather than men.

    So…. what have I added to the discussion….. nothing!

  • David Blakeslee

    An interesting story that fits the fluidity theory: Carol Leifer.

    Choice is involved, even as late as 40, when changing one’s sexual attraction from opposite to same gender.

  • Marty

    Many of them say, for example, they are attracted to the person, and not the gender — moved by traits like kindness, intelligence, and humor, which could apply to a man or a woman.

    Most of all, they long for an emotional connection.

    This fits with what I’ve long suspected. The idea that one person cannot love another solely because of that persons gender strikes me as extremely bigotted and sexist.

  • Debbie Thurman

    Ah yes, but women can and do have deep and meaningful emotional connections to other women in a nonsexual way. Do you believe the women referred to who were reacting in an erotic way to lesbian films (or to hetero erotica, for that matter) were having an emotional connection? They were responding to their base nature, the capacity for sexual sin.

  • Lynn David

    Debbie Thurman:: They were responding to their base nature, the capacity for sexual sin.

    Exodus says daddy/mommy issues or other psychological mumbo-jumbo, but you say a base nature. So it is truly human nature and not nurture? Or is this just an answer steeped in superstition?

  • Debbie Thurman

    Maybe you should consult the other Exodus. It’s a Daddy God issue. Makes no difference what the orientation is. It’s all lust. Sin nature, redeemed by God nurture.

  • Lynn David

    Yeah, I thought so…..

  • Pathia

    Aaah, Bailey again. Bisexual men don’t exist, don’t you know. Bisexual male to female transsexuals don’t exist either, and female to male’s are never attracted to men.

    I’m sorry Warren, I cringe whenever I see him quoted. *laugh*

  • frankop

    many women today are lesbians because they feel more comfortable being with other women today.women know how to please other women today. this is very sad for good men like me that are trying to meet a normal woman today. i consider myself an average good looking man and i never thought i would have to compete with women today to find a woman. this explains why so many men like me are single today.

  • Matthew

    I have read tha “men are less sexually fluid” and yet from age 18 – 28, I dated men and women openly and very fluidly. This has come largely by being in an art and theater world where more openness of sexuality was permitted and LGBT culture was permissive in sexual expression. I then dated a woman monogomously for five years and then another for one. These break ups were difficult because of our codependecy and I was also struggling with PTSD and in therapy. Afterwords I tried to be celibate and went to Sex and Love Addict Anonymous. I slipped and during those years and had sex with 2 women and 3 men. But returning to meetings and tried to be less impulsive. But now that there is no traumatic affect at all I still feel very bisexual. I started dating again. I dated a woman who was upset when I told her I was bisexual. The relationship was monogomous as all of mine were. Then I dated a man and it was great but did not last. Now a woman who is also bisexual and it is a very affirming relationship. I have talked to many “straight” men who have come out to me telling me of their homoerotic feelings and fantasies. And I have talked to gay men who confess that they are sexually turned on by women. I really think that what may really be true is men are probably more fluid but constantly shamed and harassed to stay in the box of gay or straight.

  • Matthew

    I also must say in the last several years I have gotton more outright harassment and negativity for saying I am bisexual, mainly from gay men, and in professional contexts. I have known many bisexual men. And have also met men like Susie Bright’s husband an openly bi guy in a poly relationship. He had an another girlfriend and boyfriend at the time. I think mainstream culture including sexolgists and psychologists really have their head in the sand when it comes to male bisexuality. It really seems like it is something so taboo that it must be illegitimized at all cost. But it is also something that is so common that many bisexual men are basically now coming out despite the cultural taboo and forming bisexual community. The real question that should be asked is what does male bisexuality threaten in our culture?

  • Craig

    Warren, you frequently include a footnote like this:

    “Just because some people experience change doesn’t mean all people can (in fact, most apparently don’t) and just because some people experience change doesn’t mean it occurs because of therapy, affect-focused or otherwise.”

    Perhaps to be balanced you should also include the reminder: “But people can change with or without therapy and therapy may help”.

  • frankp

    this seems to be the big trend today, women leaving men for other women. this is very disgusting to me, and i cannot except that. as a straight man that has been married twice, i was a very good, caring, loving husband and never cheated on them, but they cheated on me. both of them cheated on me with other men. now that i go out a lot i seem to meet the ones that are lesbians, instead of the straight ones, just my luck. i hate being alone, at my age now, so i go out every night, just to be around other people. i hope someday to be at the right place at the right time to meet a good woman. when i see other families together, this makes me very upset, and sometimes i break down and cry. they are very lucky to have each other. i always wanted a family of my own years ago, but i never met the right woman. i feel that god is punishing me for a reason i do not know. i consider myself a good looking man, and i would have never thought i would have this problem. i do not want to be alone for the rest of my life, that would be terrible. i know other men like me that have the same problem, at least i am not alone. i wonder if there are any women out there that like men, and feel the same way. i would like to hear from you.


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