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.
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 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.
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.
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.