There are at least four types of sexual fluidity in women, according to science

Lesbian couple kissing at a cafe

Lisa Diamond, a scientist who researches sexual behaviour and sexual fluidity, has conducted a study to assess how many types of sexual fluidity are out there.

Her findings? She says there are four in total.

Diamond has previously been renowned for her research into sexuality, having found that sexual fluidity can be influenced by a myriad of factors such as hormonal changes, physical experiences and sexual desires.

The study involved 76 women, between the ages of 19 and 37. The women were required to complete a survey about sexual attraction, identities and experiences over the previous 12 months. They were also placed in a controlled environment (a lab) for an arousal-inducing experience and wrote a daily diary for two weeks about their sexual behaviour.

The team, with Diamond at the helm, analysed the data from the study and identified four types of sexual fluidity as a result. Only two overlap slightly, with the others being completely distinct. Thirty-two per cent of the women identified as straight, 42 per cent identified as bisexual and 26 per cent identified as lesbians. 

sexual fluidity

How many types of sexual fluidity are there?

1. Situational fluidity 

This deals with “increased sexual responsiveness across different contexts”. In other words, these women’s arousal depends on the specific situation they find themselves in. There is less concern on who the person might be. Those with situational fluidity usually become sexually active at a younger age and have an increased number of sexual partners. 

2. Attraction vs behaviour

This was shown to be sexual attractions that were different to actual sexual experiences. This was self-reported by the women. It showed that a person who was attracted to men but pursued experiences with women and conversely attracted to women but only had sex with men were put into this category.

3. Temporal instability 

Diamond bases this type of fluidity on a model of dynamical systems that she has discussed before – if that goes way over your head, don’t worry, it simply means that patterns move, change and settle before changing again as time goes on. She applies this to sexuality: sexual attractions might change at certain times, meaning that their attraction to a person could change from one week to another. 

4. Responsiveness to less-preferred gender 

This is a very complicated phrase that Diamond equates to being bisexual. This type of sexual fluidity is where someone has the option and capacity for sexual attraction to partners of different genders – particularly the “less-preferred” one. But, for the individual and from a scientific standpoint, there is no clear preference for one or the other. 

Diamond’s study contradicted past research as it did not link any of the sexual fluidity types to a woman’s sex drive or her interest in open relationships. However, her study has been ground-breaking in clarifying the differences and similarities between being sexually fluid and bisexual. As this study only included women, and did not include men or account for non-binary and trans women or men, it is difficult to note how sexual fluidity varies across the LGBT+ spectrum. 

A previous study in the Journal of Sex Research found that sexual orientation is fluid and develops until they are in their late 20s. This study was conducted on 12,000 people but all were of a younger age than Diamond’s study, which could suggest that the development of sexual fluidity extends beyond that.