Several of the comments about the post on sexual fluidity in women wondered about sexual fluidity in men.
This is another one of those posts where I bang on endlessly about how women are different, more complex, etc etc, and I know it’s a fairly unpopular point of view to have, among the liberal, lefty, progressive, feminist types I tend to hang out with. I know people are thinking, “If our culture were more equitable, it would be more the same for men and women.”
Well. No. I mean maybe some, but ultimately no. Women are different, from their gametes to their orgasms, they’re different. If we can be intellectually honest about those differences – including being honest about how little we understand about from whence the differences emerge – we can begin to study them.
That’s what remarkable about Diamond’s book after all – she’s studying a group of people who are deliberately excluded from most science on sexuality! Bisexual, queer, and unlabeled women don’t fit into a nice tidy category, so they aren’t included in studies of sexuality. Too much variability. But we need to understand them in order to understand human sexuality – and we’ll never understand them if we don’t acknowledge that they’re a legitimate, important part of the human sexual landscape, rather than statistical noise on the edges of sexual variation.
Well. Anyway. One of the differences between men and women (allowing for the time being the categories to stand, even though they’re really not the whole story) is sexual orientation. This is a subject Diamond canvasses quite thoroughly in her book, so for details I’ll refer you to her chapter 1. But, just briefly, because people asked:
- The genetic factors associated with sexual orientation have been found in men and NOT in women
- Heritability of sexual orientation (as measured by twin studies) has been found to be greater in men than in women.
- There’s some interesting (though not conclusive) evidence around birth order and sexual orientation in men, but none in women.
- There’s even less conclusive research about the relationship between gender atypicality in childhood and sexual orientation, but even that is more typical of males than females
- Women’s identification as lesbian or bisexual reflects ideological, cultural, and social roles than men’s, while men’s identification as gay is more about the sexual component
- Women’s experience of sexual orientation are more discontinuous and variable than men’s, which more typically emerges early and stays the same over different situations.
This last one is very important, from my point of view. The whole concept of LUG is grounded in the idea that the only REAL sexual orientation is one that is continuous and relatively unvarying. In other words, REAL sexual orientation is like MEN’S sexual orientation. Relatively simple. Relatively linear.
Making space for fluidity as a LEGITIMATE part of sexual orientation would help women, but it surely couldn’t hurt men. Men have some fluidity too, just not as much.
So why do I honk on so incessantly about this “different for girls” thing? Because it’s true and, even more, recognizing the ways it’s true creates room for more and better science, policy, products, messages, and health outcomes.
It’s different. It’s okay that it’s different. But yeah. It’s different for girls, this sexual orientation thing.