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Female sexuality may be even more complex than we realized

Human sexuality has always been a complex issue. When biologist Alfred Kinsey declared all humans fall somewhere on a six-point scale between straight and gay, things got even more hairy.

While Kinsey said you could technically be a zero (100 percent straight) or a six (100 percent gay), a new study is saying otherwise, that is, if you’re female.

The University of Essex decided to delve deeper into exactly what turns women on, whether they’re gay or straight. So they gathered 345 women of varying sexuality, hooked them up to monitors and recorded the effects different types of porn had on them. What they found was on the more exciting end of sexual discovery, even for a porn study. The straight women were just as aroused by the attractive women on screen as they were by attractive men.

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In contrast, the gay female subjects displayed responses more typical to that of heterosexual men, meaning they were measurably more attracted to the women on screen than men. However, these gay women did not necessarily display more masculine traits outside of sexual preference. Dr. Gerulf Rieger who conducted the study said, “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.” Well we already knew that, right?

Now while I totally accept that human sexuality is fluid, and that many people fall somewhere in between zero and six on the Kinsey scale, I don’t think it’s accurate to say that all women do. For one thing, while this study was the first to look at gay and straight women’s sexual responses side by side, that doesn’t mean it was conducted perfectly.

As Women’s Health points out, their volunteers were white, college-educated women from a more liberal area of the United Kingdom. They were also willing to let a bunch of strangers monitor their sexual reactions, so it’s likely they’re all more sexually open than the average woman. As such, it might be difficult to next to impossible to get a truly accurate representation of the female population, since the control groups need to be consenting volunteers.

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It’s difficult to declare what exactly the straight women were being aroused by in the various scenes they were made to watch. For example, even if it’s two women on screen being physical, it may simply be the sexual act that’s arousing, not the fact that they’re women.

That said, in recent years people overall are becoming more willing to admit the possibility of their own sexual fluidity. One YouGov survey looked at where different generations say they fall on the Kinsey scale, and found over one third of millennials (male and female) think they’re less than 100 percent straight. That’s quite a difference from their baby boomer parents, 80 percent of whom declared they were “completely straight.”

And yes, it has been shown by several different studies that women tend to be more sexually fluid than men (even though that doesn’t mean we’re all floating in the middle of the Kinsey scale). According to a recent British study, sexual experimentation among women has risen 400 percent since 1991. What this proves is that a more accepting society allows women to publicly embrace sexual fluidity more so than in the past, not that all women are bisexual, as this study implies.

Bottom line: We should stop drawing a hard and fast line between gay and straight. Sex just isn’t that simple.

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