Most adults identify themselves as heterosexual, meaning they report being attracted to, and engaging in sex with, only members of the other sex. However, women ages 18 to 29 are increasingly rejecting exclusive heterosexuality and describing their sexual orientation in other ways. These changes in women’s sexuality are not mirrored by their male peers.
That’s the primary finding in The Conversation‘s most recent report on nine years of surveys at the Binghamton Human Sexualities Research Lab, just published in “Sexuality in Emerging Adulthood.” Together with our Binghamton University colleagues Richard E. Mattson, Melissa Hardesty, Ann Merriwether and Maggie M. Parker, we conclude that changes in young adults’ sexual orientation are not just as a result of increased social acceptance of LGBT people – but also are related to feminism and the women’s movement.
Our study goes beyond the Gallup poll results that show American adults are increasingly identifying as LGBT, showing that young American adults are shifting away from heterosexuality not just in how they identify themselves when asked about their identities, but also how they describe whom they are attracted to and with whom they have sex. That indicates something more is happening than an increasing willingness to “come out” and identify as LGBT.
The fact that these differences are larger among women than men indicates, we believe, that feminism and the women’s movement have, in fact, begun to change female sex and gender roles.
Our research indicates that one outcome of more than a century of feminist activism and progress may be women’s increasing resistance to compulsory heterosexuality and its consequences. As a result, more women under 30 are moving away from exclusive heterosexuality than men in the same age group.
In a related development, we found that women in this age group are also reporting more open attitudes toward sex than previous generations of women. They are separating sex from traditional love relationships, describing themselves as enjoying casual sex with different partners and more likely to have sex with a person before being sure the relationship would become serious or long term. These attitudes are more akin to those of their male peers.
The shift is more pronounced among women who are moving away from exclusive heterosexuality, and less obvious among women who report they are exclusively heterosexual.
Full story at The Conversation.