A Scientific Study Suggests There's No Such Thing As "Straight" People

In the past few years, our understanding of human sexuality has grown by leaps and bounds. New studies on human sexuality indicate the way people can experience attraction is much more complex than was previously thought. Putting people into a box of being either straight or gay is no longer enough to describe how people experience attraction. And now, a study suggests that there's no such thing as being straight.

According to research on sexuality, basically every human experiences at least some degree of same-sex attraction. That could mean a fleeting thought about a person who happens to be of the same gender, or it could mean actual desire to be with that person. The two can easily be mistaken or conflated, however, often leading to harmful stigmatization or labeling.

The research goes along with other things we're learning about sexuality, including the science behind sexual practices, the reasons for sexual fetishes, and facts about asexuality. And now we're learning that 100% straight people don't exist, and the other details revealed by these studies are just as fascinating.

  • A 2015 Study Said All Women Experience Some Attraction To More Than One Gender

    In 2015, researchers at Cornell University and the University of Essex studied the arousal of women when viewing sexually explicit material. In the study, researchers studied female-identifying volunteers and determined if they were experiencing arousal by observing eye dilation. The women were shown sexual stimuli, some featuring men and some featuring women. The result? All of the women, whether reporting to be gay, straight, or somewhere else on the spectrum, experienced some degree of attraction to both men and women. This indicated that individual women tend to range in their sexuality, at least when gauged on "male-typical sexual response" stimuli, on which the study was premised.

  • The Study Showed That Gay-Identifying Women Are More Attracted To Women Than Straight Women Are To Men

    The 2015 study from Cornell University included 345 women who were shown videos of either attractive men or attractive women engaged in sexual acts. While both heterosexual-identifying and homosexual-identifying women in the study experienced some degree of arousal to the two genders, there was an ultimate difference. For the homosexual women in the group, they experienced arousal to their preferred gender (other women) 68% of the time. However, heterosexual women experienced arousal to their preferred gender (men) only 28% of the time.

  • The Kinsey Scale Introduced The Idea That Sexuality Is A Spectrum To Modern Western Audiences

    The Kinsey Scale Introduced The Idea That Sexuality Is A Spectrum To Modern Western Audiences
    Photo: Alfred Kinsey / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    Western society's understanding of sexuality changed greatly starting in 1948, with the creation of The Kinsey Scale. Developed by Drs. Alfred Kinsey, Wardell Pomeroy, and Clyde Martin through their work entitled Sexual Behavior in the Human Male and their 1953 follow-up, Sexual Behavior in the Human Female, the scale goes from zero to six. Zero means completely heterosexual, and six is completely homosexual. This means that spots 1-5 are for different levels of same-sex attraction in between. 

    So, someone who is a three would experience equal attraction to men and women, while one and two would be closer to straight, and four to five would be closer to gay. It was a remarkable revelation at the time, but sexuality has proven to be far more complex than that.

  • Lesbians Tend To Have Higher Self-Esteem Than Straight Women

    One of the directors of the 2015 study of women's sexual attraction was Dr. Ritch C. Savin-Williams, psychology professor at Cornell. Based on the study, he observed, "If you look at women, the self-esteem of lesbian women tends to be higher than that of straight women." He thinks one reason for this is that gay women "feel like they have more freedom (to be who they really are)." While women who identify as straight might feel societal pressure to not acknowledge if they also experience some attraction to women.

  • For Years It Was Believed The Idea Of Being 'Mostly Straight' Only Applied To Women

    The Kinsey Scale introduced many to the concept of human sexuality as a spectrum, with many people not being completely straight or completely gay. However, there appeared to be an imbalance along gender lines when it came to people reporting themselves as "mostly straight." Dr. Savin-Williams (one of the researchers of the 2015 study) said:

    We've always recognized mostly straight women, that is, women who mostly are straight but if the right woman comes along, well maybe she'll try it out. We used to think that was only a female phenomenon.

    So while the 2015 study focused on women's sexuality aligned with pupil dilation and traditionally "masculine" stimuli, researchers acknowledged that a separate study needed to be conducted to observe sexual attraction in men to see if it matched up — a hypothesis Dr. Savin-Williams refers to as the "mostly straight male" idea.

  • Fluid Sexuality Is Being More Widely Acknowledged

    In 2017, Dr. Ritch C. Savin-Williams published a book, "Mostly Straight: Sexual Fluidity among Men." In the book, he observed a growing tendency of men to identify themselves not as completely straight, but as "mostly straight." Savin-Williams mentioned a poll that found, among men in the US age 18-24, that 6% said their sexual attraction was directed toward "mostly opposite sex."

    However, when these men were asked to identify as either straight, gay, or bi, about three-quarters of the representation identified themselves as straight. Savin-Williams said this indicated that these men felt the term "bisexual" implied more of an even split than what they experience in real life, so they chose straight, with potential caveats.