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

Matt Manser
1.2k views 13 items

In the past few years, our understanding of human sexuality has grown by leaps and bounds. New studies on human sexuality indicate that that 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. Could this be true?

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 have 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 Both Sexes

A 2015 Study Said All Women Ex... is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list A Scientific Study Suggests There's No Such Thing As "Straight" People
Photo:  Nicholas Andrew/Flickr/Public Domain

In 2015, researchers at Cornell and the University of Essex studied the arousal of women when viewing sexually explicit material. In the study, researchers got female 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 in between 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 Study Showed That Gay-Iden... is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list A Scientific Study Suggests There's No Such Thing As "Straight" People
Photo:  Orange Is The New Black/Lionsgate

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 both 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 BBC, in reporting this study, stated: "The University of Essex study concluded that no woman is 'totally straight.'"

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

The Kinsey Scale Introduced Th... is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list A Scientific Study Suggests There's No Such Thing As "Straight" People
Photo: Alfred Kinsey/Wikimedia Commons/CC0 1.0

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 0 to 6. 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 3 would experience equal attraction to both men and women, while 1 and 2 would be closer to straight, and 4-5 would be closer to gay. It was a remarkable revelation at the time, but sexuality has obviously proven to be far more complex than that.

Lesbians Tend To Have Higher Self-Esteem Than Straight Women

Lesbians Tend To Have Higher S... is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list A Scientific Study Suggests There's No Such Thing As "Straight" People
Photo:  The L Word/Showtime

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.