A recent study has undermined long-held beliefs surrounding human sexuality, suggesting that our preferences our more fluid than we once thought.
The study looked at gender expression amongst women and measured their physiological response viewing a variety of pornographic material.
The bottom line of the findings was that regardless of how women self report their sexuality, their bodies respond positively to both hetero- and homosexual sex. Basically, women’s sexuality is complex and not within the bounds of strict hetero- or homosexuality.
Ritch C. Savin-Williams is the Director of Developmental Psychology and the Director of the Sex and Gender Lab in the Department of Human Development at Cornell University. He spoke to Vice about this study being part of a larger project uncovering true human sexuality.
“It’s basically a study that assesses sexual orientation by looking at the eyes and whether they dilate or not. 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. Another way of course is genital arousal, but that gets a little invasive.
Popular logic has long dictated that sexuality falls into two categories, straight or gay. The idea behind this study explores the complexities that tackle the traditional thought process.
“I’m certainly not surprised,” says Savin-Williams.
“We’re trying to get at the way people really are. Sometimes, it seems people are one way but believe they have to report themselves in another way, and that’s not good.”
He puts down people’s motivation to inaccurately self-report sexuality down largely to social influence.
“We’ve always recognised mostly straight women, that is, women who mostly are straight but if the right woman comes along, well maybe she’ll try it out. We used to think that was only a female phenomenon.
We show straight men a picture of a woman masturbating and they respond just like a straight guy, but then you also show them a guy masturbating and their eyes dilate a little bit. So we’re actually able to show physiologically that all guys are not either gay, straight, or bi.
There are aspects [of male sexuality] along a continuum, just as we have always recognized with women. Men have gotten so much cultural crap put on them that even if a man does have some sexual attraction to guys, they would never say it.”
Despite the social pressures, Savin-Williams went on to discuss changes in attitudes towards sexuality.
“I do see this loosening of the boundaries,
I think that’s happening for both sexes. It’s probably a good thing, because it gives kids growing up more diversity, more options, so they don’t feel like they have to fit in [at all costs]. 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.”