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Sexual Fluidity: Understanding Women's Love And...

She also explains that the biological foundation for romantic love evolved independently from sexuality. So while sexual orientation evolved to encourage mating, romantic love evolved from infant-caregiver bonding, which means that the biological underpinnings are not gender- or sex-specific, which explains why people might more easily fall in love with someone who does not match the sex they are usually attracted to. (These are systems that evolved separately, but they are connected, which is how romantic love might develop into sexual attraction and vice versa.)

Sexual Fluidity: Understanding Women's Love and...

I considered myself a sexuality researcher long before I considered myself a relationship researcher, and so when I first started studying the phenomenon of romantic love, it was in the context of studying sexual desire. My particular focus was on same-sex desire, a phenomenon that remains highly stigmatized in our culture and around the globe. My first research project as a new graduate student at Cornell University in the early 1990s involved interviewing young sexual-minority women.

Love and sexual attraction are complex. Sometimes things make perfect sense and it's easy to rationalize why we've fallen for someone. Other times, however, I'm hard pressed to put it any better than the French writer Michel de Montaigne. "If pressed to say why I loved him," de Montaigne once wrote, "I can only say because it was him, because it was me."

Bailey believes that "men's differentiated sexual arousal pattern makes them sexually rigid, and women's lack of one makes them flexible." As for the Times Magazine piece, he says, "It does not surprise me that Cynthia Nixon can choose to express sexual feelings for women but not for men. Maybe someday we'll understand why."

Christan Moran, a researcher who has studied midlife changes in women's sexuality, says the actress's remarks are "a great step forward in advancing the discussion about sexual fluidity. Those who are heavily invested in the idea that sexuality is set for life need to step back and recognize the enormous gendered difference in this area."

But an increasing body of social science research posits that a sizable number of people experience some degree of fluidity in their sexual and romantic attractions: being drawn to the same gender at one point in their life, the opposite gender at another. Researchers emphasize that this is not something that can be imposed from without, as "ex-gay" therapy would attempt to do, but something that occurs from within. Although our supporters already recognize that why we love who we love is irrelevant, embracing fluid orientations may call for a new approach in advocating for our rights.

Neither Diamond, who is lesbian, nor Savin-Williams, who is gay, was initially looking for fluidity when they began their research. Diamond noticed in the early 1990s that most of the research done on adult sexual identities was on men. "So my feminist instincts kicked in, and I just went into it trying to put women back into the picture," she says. In an open-ended study, she notes, "What I found, almost right away, was a really surprising amount of movement in women's identities."

"It doesn't mean we can necessarily corral women's sexuality into one form of expression," continues Chivers, who came to the study of fluidity through research on sexual response patterns in women. "Sexual variability is who we are as human beings."

How important are sexual attraction, desire and love in shaping our identities? How fixed are our sexual identities? How much choice do we really have in identifying our sexual orientation(s)? And how can we disentangle the biological, psychological and social contexts of our lives to answer these questions successfully? These are among the many problems that Lisa Diamond sets out to answer in Sexual Fluidity: Understanding Women's Love and Desire.

The robustness of the concept underpinning her thesis, that sexual fluidity characterises many women's experience of sexuality throughout their lives, needs closer scrutiny. Diamond argues that there is a particular set of assumptions that has remained unchallenged about the fixed nature of sexual orientation in both women and men that leads to categorisation as "heterosexual", "lesbian/gay" or "bisexual".

Diamond posits that perhaps women's sexuality is fundamentally different from men's and researchers have (mistakenly) been too inflexible in explanations of sexual behaviours and orientations. Despite evidence across cultures and time that male homosexuality is not necessarily an immutable concept either, Diamond considers that she has data to show that women's experience reflects even greater variability in the development of sexual orientation across the life span.

Does this mean that women have choice as to their sexual orientation? The idea, floated during the mid-1970s, that heterosexual relationships were inevitably deeply oppressive raised the possibility that sexual connections between women were the ultimate answer for a balanced, emancipated life. However, feeling passionate about feminist politics and the company of female friends failed to impact widely on women's sexual desire so that "political" lesbianism was a short-lived fad.

However, despite its accessibility I fear the potential market is small. Diamond herself indicates: " ... as I have repeatedly emphasised, women's sexual desires show more variability than do men's, both over time and across situations." This message is a difficult one to promote.

Our identities are not fixed. Falling in love has always been unpredictable. Attitudes towards lesbian, gay and bisexual women and men continue to change. The conundrum of whether a feminist can live in a heterosexual relationship without compromise has not been solved.

places equal emphasis on intrinsic orientations and the capacity for fluidity; emphasises the ongoing interactions between women and the diverse contexts within which sexuality is expressed; makes sense of the complex links between love and desire; takes seriously the capacity for novel forms of sexual and emotional experience that emerge unexpectedly over the life course; and makes no assumptions about authentic sexual types or normal developmental pathways.

Many women who were interviewed over the ten-year period by Diamond initially thought that they would not be a good example of a lesbian or bisexual women because of the movement of their sexual orientation. But what Diamond found was that these movement narratives were more common then she or her participants had anticipated. Diamond wrote the book Sexual Fluidity to communicate her research to the general public, including those who might think, as many of her interview participants did, that they are the only lesbian women to fall in love with a man, or the only heterosexual woman to suddenly fall in love with another woman. Her research illustrates that people with these experiences are really not on the periphery, rather they are in the majority.

Although Diamond is most famous for the sexual fluidity research, when asked what work she is most proud of she cited a journal article titled "What does sexual orientation orient?" The article discusses attachment theory as being the basis for love, and this attachment also spills over into the love system where the love can be for a woman or a man. Diamond merged attachment theory and sexual orientation theory in this paper. She also conducts psychobiological research where she studies how relationships can be good or bad for health. She also wants to study more same-sex couples and how intimate relationships impact their health. Diamond noted that more feminist researchers are needed in psychology, and that her work has benefitted immensely from the richness of feminist theory.

Now, it is time to dive deeper into the roots and meaning of sexual fluidity and get a better understanding of how it allows people to express themselves better and also understand their needs and sexuality better.

Erotic Plasticity essentially meant that a person's sexual attraction and behavior would be influenced by external factors such as social, cultural, and situational ones. These were key terms when it came to understanding the changes in sexual behavior and sexual attractions of different individuals from young adulthood to their older years.

These differences clearly show that human sexuality is more complex than people believed it to be and forming an attraction to someone can happen for many reasons. While you might be of any particular sexual orientation you can still experience sexual desire towards other genders and these sexual attractions can be the key to better understanding and accepting your sexual fluidity.

The whole concept of sexual fluidity is understanding one's sexual behavior and feeling good about it, whether they are attracted to one gender, in particular, the opposite sex or people of all orientations.

As she mentioned, understanding women's love is just as important of a concept, as heterosexual women are the ones that show romantic attraction to other genders more frequently. Her sex research has shown that, while they might be attracted to men, women might still exhibit a sexual response to the same gender under certain circumstances.

If you are starting to get a better understanding of your experiences and sexual preferences, you might wonder if there are any ways to label what you feel or experience. If that is something you need and you feel like it could help your mental health then definitely go for it. Discovering your sexual identity and feeling comfortable with who you are is a different experience for every person.

Young adults usually have a harder time coming to terms with it and understanding where they belong. The main thing you need to remember is that human sexuality is very complex and there is no right way to gender expression. Doing what you feel is right for you and not overthinking every single thing you experience might be the best option. 041b061a72


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