Eyes Wide Open: Pupil Dilation and Sexual Orientation

A new study from Gerulf Rieger and Ritch Savin-Williams confirms the relationship between sexual desire and pupil dilation. While this relationship has been known for some time, now it is possible to measure the dilation with precision. In doing so, the authors report significant relationships between self-reported sexual orientation and the way pupils dilate in response to sexual imagery.

Read a summary of the study here, and the open access journal report here.

The authors report that males are more clear in their preferences than women, meaning that whether gay or straight, the dilation of their pupils matched closely their stated preferences. Women were more likely than men to show pupil dilation to both preferred and non-preferred images. Bisexuals also showed dilation to both male and female sexual images.

The results are not perfect in that there is variability of pupil response within sexual orientation groups. These results say nothing about causes of orientation but they do provide more evidence that the attraction component of sexual orientation is mostly involuntary.

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  • David

    “These results say nothing about causes of orientation but they do provide more evidence that the attraction component of sexual orientation is mostly involuntary.”

    How so? How do you know that same-sex attraction is not learned/conditioned behavior that develops over time from environmental and volitional factors as opposed to being inborn? In the former case, pupil response may change over time as the condition develops to maturity.

    It would be interesting to measure heterosexual individuals such as prison inmates prior to incarceration, who while incarcerated engage in homosexuality, then abandon that practice once released. One might expect the above-discussed pupil responses after incarceration but not prior.

  • ken


    you don’t seem to understand what the term ‘involuntary’ means. It does not mean inborn or genetic. Nor did Warren claim or imply that it did.

    Further, you are likely correct that pupil response changes over time. I suspect the pupil response of children would be very different than of adolescents, which would be different than for older people.

    As far as testing for pupil changes over time, I’d prefer to see the results for people undergoing SOCE therapy. I.e. before, during, after and a long term follow-up (ex. 1, 5, 10 yrs after the end of therapy).