A new research suggests that women's sexuality is more flexible and adaptive than men's and romantic opportunities appear to influence women's sexual identities more than men. "Women have a greater probability than men of being attracted to both men and women which gives them greater flexibility in partner choice," said Elizabeth Aura McClintock, assistant professor of sociology at the Indiana-based University of Notre Dame.
Having flexible sexual attractions may grant greater importance to contextual and experiential factors when it comes to sexual identity, she added. For her study, McClintock tracked 5,018 women and 4,191 men as they moved from adolescence to young adulthood.
Confirming previous research, McClintock found that women were more likely than men to report bisexuality while men were more likely to report being either "100 percent heterosexual" or "100 percent homosexual."
She also found that women were three times more likely than men to change their sexual identities. "Men are less often attracted to both sexes. Men's sexuality is, in this sense, less flexible. If a man is only attracted to one sex, romantic opportunity would little alter his sexual identity," she emphasized.
The results showed that women with more education and women who were more physically attractive had higher probabilities of identifying as "100 percent heterosexual" than other women.
In addition, women who had a child were less likely than other women to identify as "100 percent heterosexual." Women who avoided young motherhood, were physically attractive or highly educated may have been less likely to explore relationships with same-sex partners because they had more romantic opportunities with male partners.
"In other words, their social position facilitated a hetero-conformist identity and thus discouraged alternative sexual identities," McClintock noted.
Sexual identity is a social construct. "Social context and romantic experience might influence how they [women] perceive and label their sexual identity," she concluded. The findings are scheduled to be shared at the 110th annual meeting of the American Sociological Association (ASA) during this week.
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