The way we think about sexuality is changing. Where once there was a single, well-known rainbow flag, a symbol of pride, today a wide range flies to show the diversity of sexual orientations.
People seem increasingly open to discussing their sexuality, and less conventional identities, even previously “invisible”, have become part of an increasingly dominant discourse.
Open dialogue, sexual identities they have become less rigid and more fluid.
But the most recent data shows that this change is more prevalent in one group: In many countries, women are now embracing sexual fluidity at much higher rates than in the past, and more significantly, than men overall.
How do you explain this difference?
Experts believe that there are many factors fueling this progression, especially changes in the social climate that have allowed women to break out of conventional gender roles and identities.
But in light of this, the question remains: what does it mean for the future of sexual fluidity for all genders?
A remarkable change
Sean Massey and his colleagues at the Binghamton Human Sexualities Research Laboratory in New York have studied sexual behaviors for about a decade.
In each of their investigations, they asked participants to report their sexual orientation and gender.
They had never looked at the evolution of that information over time, until they realized that, in fact, they had a treasure in their hands.
“We thought, my God, we’ve been collecting this data for 10 years,” explains Massey, associate professor of studies on women, gender and sexuality at Binghamton University.
“Why don’t we check it out and see if there is any trend to be seen?”
And so they discovered that between 2011 and 2019 college-age women they had moved further and further away from exclusive heterosexuality.
In 2019, 65% of the women consulted said they were only attracted to men, when that percentage had been 77% in 2011.
The number of women reported having sex exclusively with men also decreased in those years.
Meanwhile, men’s sexual attraction and behavior remained mostly static in the same period: about 85% reported being attracted only to women, and about 90% said they had sex exclusively with women.
Other surveys conducted in other countries, including the UK and the Netherlands, presented similar findings.
In general, more women have been reporting more same-sex attraction, year after year, than their male counterparts.
Power and freedom
“This is all too complicated to attribute to just one thing,” says Elizabeth Morgan, associate professor of psychology at Springfield College in Massachusetts, USA.
But gender roles and how they have changed and how not, can be an important factor.
Massey and his colleagues largely attribute evolution to cultural changes, such as the progress of feminism and the women’s movement, which have significantly changed the socio-political landscape in recent decades.
However, these changes affected men and women differently.
“There has really been progress around the female gender role and less on the male gender role,” says Massey.
While she doesn’t rule out the effect of the LGBTQ + movement on people who identify as sexually fluid today, Massy believes that feminism and the women’s movement play a role in why more women identify in this way than men.
And he especially believes it because no equivalent men’s movement has allowed men to step out of historical gender-based constraints in the same way.
“Fifty years ago, you couldn’t have a life if you didn’t marry a man and you could only establish yourself if he supported you,” Morgan adds.
In that sense, avoiding exclusive heterosexuality could be seen as part of the breakdown of women with traditional gender roles.
Meanwhile, as women have been able to find more freedom, men’s gender roles have remained relatively static as they continue to hold power in society.
“[Los hombres] They need to defend a very masculine gender role to maintain that power, and part of masculinity is heterosexuality. “says Morgan.
Sex coach and educator Violet Turning, 24, also points to the “fetishization” of two women having sex or kissing, specifically from the male gaze.
According to her, this has also contributed to making same-sex attraction among women more socially acceptable, albeit for the wrong reasons.
Meanwhile, people seem to find the idea of two men having sex much less enjoyable, he notes.
A 2019 study that looked at attitudes toward gay men and women in 23 countries found that, for participants overall, “gay men are more disagreeable than lesbian women.”
An open dialogue
The spaces in which women can speak openly about their sexuality has also multiplied.
When Lisa Diamond, a professor of psychology and gender studies at the University of Utah, USA, began studying sexual fluidity in the early 1990s, her research focused on men.
Many of the study participants, he says, came from gay support groups, mostly male members, so the men were “easier for researchers to find.”
But Diamond wanted to inquire about women’s sexuality.
Thus began an investigation that lasted a decade and for which he asked 100 women every two years about their sexual orientation and behavior.
Her book, “Sexual Fluency: Understanding Women’s Love and Desire,” was published in 2008.
In it he discusses how, for some women, love and attraction are fluid and can change over time.
This was at odds with the earlier line of thinking that described sexual orientation as rigid, a view that was arrived at from studies that had been conducted looking only at men.
Coinciding with the publication of the book, several famous Americans who until then had dated men, such as Cynthia Nixon and Maria Bello, made public your experience of same-sex attraction.
Star host Oprah Winfrey then asked Diamond to come on her show to talk about female sexual fluidity.
The concept and the practice had officially entered the general dialogue.
Likewise, Turning points out that language has evolved to recognize women as sexually non-binary.
For example, Turning says his lesbian partner belonged to a “gay heterosexual alliance (AGH)” at his high school, circa 2007.
That expression fostered the binary – the members were gay or straight, with no real options for those who might have identified somewhere in between, and it also didn’t contain any terms that specifically referred to female sexuality.
“Now, it’s like everyone has the option to identify themselves as queer, because it is widely accepted, “says Turning, who claims that the terminology has evolved to include people of all genders, including women.
What is the future of sexual fluidity?
Sexual fluidity may be on its way to entering more masculine spaces.
On TikTok he has become popular with young straight men pretending to be gay in his videos.
His followers, mostly women, enjoy it, according to an article by The New York Times on trend.
Regardless of whether these creators are really comfortable playing as queer or they do it to gain clicks, this trend suggests a shift in attitudes towards masculinity, which may pave the way for more men to embrace sexual fluidity in the future.
Sexually fluid women can also help pave the way.
More women talking openly about their fluent orientations means that more people will generally be arguing about alternatives to rigid sexuality.
“Our culture is very ashamed of sexuality,” says Diamond.
So, “anything that makes it easier and socially acceptable for people to reflect on desire without entering into judgment or being ashamed of it,” he adds, has the potential to get them to open up to the different possibilities or, at least, that consider the idea of doing so.
“We must start freeing men from compulsory heterosexuality [y] traditional masculinity, “adds Massey.
“It may have a different, or maybe the same, result (than it did with women) in terms of allowing for more diversity in sexuality.”
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