- In a recent experiment, researchers found that both straight and gay women become sexually aroused when exposed to various stimuli.
- Women from both groups are found to have bisexual tendencies whether they identified as heterosexual or homosexual
ENGLAND, ESSEX – Human sexuality is extremely complex. Traditionally, sexuality and gender are perceived only in two forms. However, gender binaries and structures are increasingly being questioned. Heterosexuality and homosexuality have been at the forefront of debate concerning human sexuality and desire. The study of female desire and sexuality is a polemical topic that researchers for years have been unable to conclusively examine. However, recent studies has since suggested that female sexuality is more fluid than believed.
A recent study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology has revealed that both heterosexual and homosexual women who participated in an experiment became similarly aroused when exposed to stimulating images of attractive females, implying that women could be inherently bisexual.
In a study led by Gerulf Rieger, a psychology lecturer at the University of Essex, researchers have found that both straight and gay women became sexually aroused when exposed to images of attractive males and females. The study surveyed a total of 345 participants. The group of participants consisted of women who identified as lesbians and those who identified as heterosexual. The research measured the women’s responses to various stimuli, such as the dilation of their pupils while looking at images of attractive men and women. The study aimed to determine whether one’s sexual preference is a direct measure of a woman's sexual desire and attraction.
Rieger and his team discovered that even though heterosexual women’s responses to women were those of women who identified as lesbians, they were nevertheless similarly sexually aroused. The experiment revealed that most of the women responded to the videos of both attractive men and women with genital arousal and pupil dilation. Despite their sexual identification, both groups of women revealed bisexual tendencies.
"Even though the majority of women identify as straight, our research clearly demonstrates that when it comes to their physiological sexual arousal, they are either bisexual or gay but never straight,"
- Gerulf Rieger, Psychology lecturer at the University of Essex
However, it was unclear as to whether the women from either category had a substantially stronger or more obvious arousal response to male than females.
This discovery of women’s bisexual tendencies however, is not new. In 2007, a psychology professor at Queen’s University, Meredith Chivers, previously conducted a research to reveal that women are more susceptible to being aroused by a wide range of stimuli.
Like Rieger’s research, Chivers’ experiment also included both heterosexual and homosexual women. The women were hooked up to a plethysmograph, an instrument which measures blood flow to the vagina, a by-product of sexual arousal. The experiment revealed that both straight and gay women exhibited levels of arousal after being exposed to footages of heterosexual and same-sex couples copulating. Regardless of their identified sexual preference, the women were turned on.
Chivers, nevertheless, suggested that sexual arousal is not necessarily an accurate indicator of one’s sexual preference or attraction. Female desire is a lot more complex than we think. Chivers’ research drew critical attention to the multi-dimensionality of female sexuality that is often overlooked.
Rieger suggested that the reason behind why women might be more easily aroused as compared to men might be due to a wired evolutionary mechanism that is meant to prevent genital trauma. Over the course of human evolution, females have encountered many situations where sex was forced on them. An accelerated arousal mechanism would allow the female to produce genital lubrication, which would in turn help reduce the physical pain of sexual violation.
In a similar vein, Chivers also speculated that the production of genital lubrication would have helped to reduce discomfort and possible infliction of injury during forced or involuntary vagina penetration. Easier sexual arousal might have been an evolutionary adaptation that precedes this necessary behaviour.
A new perspective to explain this phenomenon would be a sociological one - the media’s sexualisation of women affecting women’s sexualised perception of them. Sexualised portrayals of women have led to the objectification of women’s bodies as sexual objects by both heterosexual and homosexual women. On the contrary, men’s bodies are not regarded in the same way.
Another sociological perspective is that the existence of bisexual tendencies in women is more culturally accepted than they are in men. Cultural influences have also fetishised instances of women copulating with other women. This factor, together with society’s objectification of women’s bodies, combine to play a huge role in conditioning women’s sexual responses towards other women, regardless of their sexual identities.
Instead of attempting to define the labels of sexuality, perhaps the largest takeaway from theses studies is the fluidity of human sexuality and how differing gender and sexual identities should be embraced.