For many years sexual attraction has been grouped into the binary categories of “gay” or “straight”. When we view sexuality this way, we understand it as concrete and unchangeable, and this can be detrimental and confusing for many people. Researchers have discovered that sexuality is actually fluid, meaning that it is flexible and can fluctuate in different situations throughout the lifespan; this is not to be misinterpreted as being bi-sexual or “confused.” Being sexually fluid does not alter one’s sexual orientation; rather it allows sexual attraction to be variable.
To understand the concept of sexual fluidity, you must first understand what sexuality means. Sexuality describes who a person is attracted to and how they express that attraction. It is also important to know the distinction between sex and gender while discussing this topic. Sex can be described as the biological anatomy present at birth, both internal and external; gender is the social role of a man or woman in society (i.e., “gender roles”), and gender can differ from a person’s biological sex.
Before the term “sexually fluid” was introduced, there was the Kinsey Scale. Alfred Kinsey was one of the earliest people to acknowledge that sexuality wasn’t necessarily fixed. The scale consists of ratings (0-6):
0. Exclusively heterosexual
1. Predominately heterosexual, only incidentally homosexual
2. Predominately heterosexual, but more than incidentally homosexual
3. Equally heterosexual and homosexual
4. Predominately homosexual, but more than incidentally homosexual
5. Predominately homosexual, only incidentally heterosexual
6. Exclusively homosexual
It’s important to note that every experience has a place on the scale, so people who label themselves as heterosexual but have attraction to the same sex aren’t automatically considered bi-sexual (unless they want to be).
How can sexual fluidity present itself in real life and not just on a scale? Lisa Diamond conducted a study looking at women’s sexual identities. While collecting data she found that many women who identified as heterosexual also had some amount of attraction to the same sex. One participant had been in a relationship with a man for a number of years and then realized she was attracted to her best friend, but no other women. Diamond found that many of her participants had varying sexual attraction throughout the years, and this was true for women that identified as straight, lesbian, bisexual, and even those who never labeled themselves.
Being sexually fluid isn’t exclusive to one sex, one gender, or even gender non-conforming people. As mentioned in the above study, it also isn’t limited to one sexual orientation. When we think about sexuality we should be as adaptable as sexuality itself.
If you would like to learn more about this topic or need help regarding your own sexuality, contact us. We’re here to help!