Under the Hood

Everyone Is A Little Bisexual, Even If They Claim Otherwise, Study Finds

In recent years, more and more people are perceiving sexual orientation as a spectrum rather than a rigid label or identity.

The concept of the sexual orientation continuum was first suggested by American biologist Alfred Kinsey who published influential works on sexology during the mid-20th century, stirring a controversial reaction at the time. He also developed the Kinsey Scale, which measured sexual orientation on a scale of 0 to 6 (with 0 being exclusively heterosexual and 6 being exclusively homosexual) as opposed to a black-or-white approach.

In a published paper on human sexuality, researchers from Cornell University and the University of Essex brought more findings to light, suggesting absolute, rigid heterosexuality may not exist. Male and female volunteers were examined as they watched pornographic videos featuring either gender. Researchers specifically observed the dilation of their pupil, which is an indicator of sexual arousal. 

"You can't control your eye dilation. Essentially, that's what the whole project attempts to get at, another way of assessing sexuality without relying on self-report," explained co-author Ritch Savin-Williams, who is a professor of developmental psychology at Cornell. "Another way, of course, is genital arousal, but that gets a little invasive."  

Interestingly, the study found women who identified as lesbians showed a stronger response to attractive women than attractive men. But women who identified as straight were aroused by both genders to some degree. Co-author Gerulf Rieger, from the Department of Psychology at the University of Essex, points out that evidence failed to show that the most masculine-behaving lesbians showed the most male-typical sexual arousal patterns.

"Although some lesbians were more masculine in their sexual arousal, and others were more masculine in their behaviors, there was no indication that these were the same women," Dr. Rieger explained. "This shows us that how women appear in public does not mean that we know anything about their sexual role preferences. Men are simple, but women’s sexual responses remain a mystery."

Previous research also suggested female sexuality tends to be a lot more fluid than its counterpart. Among male participants, dilatation was experienced when watching either women or men masturbate, regardless of how they identified in terms of orientation. Observations on any significant differences between the gay male and straight male participants were not made available.

Savin-Williams added that aspects of male sexuality can exist "along a continuum," just as numerous prior studies have recognized with women. He believes toxic ideas of masculinity have been propagated by society for decades, suppressing men so much that "even if a man does have some sexual attraction to guys, they would never say it."

The author, who recently published a book titled "Mostly Straight: Sexual Fluidity Among Men," acknowledged that the changing norms in society have already helped loosen boundaries for the current generation.

"Straight women and straight men feel much more comfortable than ever before in going into the realm of the other sex in terms of gender role and how they act," Savin-Williams said.

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