Straight people often more sexually fluid than they think, study suggests

Two men in football tops holding beer bottles

A study has found that straight people’s perceptions of their own sexualities can become more fluid when they are exposed to different theories of sexuality.

The study, published in Scientific Reports, was initially conducted on 180 university students, all of whom identified as straight.

Researchers showed participants an article which found that most people experience attraction to both men and women at some level. Evidence was included from multiple studies, including one which measured genital blood flow and pupil dilation among people watching erotic videos of men and women.

A separate control group of participants was presented with a different article on climate change

Among the group presented with evidence that sexuality is a spectrum and can change over time, fewer participants reported themselves as entirely heterosexual.

They also reported being less sure of their heterosexuality and more likely to engage in same-sex encounters in future.

This trend was less noticeable among participants who identified as politically conservative.

Following their findings, the group of researchers conducted a second experiment. This involved a larger pool of participants, with 460 people from varied walks of life. This latter experiment involved showing participants either the article about sexuality being a continuum, a control article, or an article which reported on sexuality as ‘fluid’, with the capacity to change over a lifetime.

After reading their respective information sheets, under 10 per cent of controls claimed to be non-exclusively straight. Of the group who read about sexuality being a continuum, 36 per cent answered as such, as well as 20.7 per cent of those in the fluid sexuality group. 

Just over 41 per cent of those who read about the continuous nature of sexuality also reported being uncertain about their heterosexuality, along with 34.8 per cent of participants who read about the fluid nature of sexuality, and 19.6 per cent of controls.

Unlike its predecessor, the second experiment didn’t find that political alignment had any bearing on participants’ answers at the end of the experiment. However, although those who had read on sexuality as a continuum reported being more open to same0sex experiences in future, the same was not true of those who read on sexuality’s fluidity.

“Did we change people’s sexual orientation via our interventions? Surely not,” said lead study author Dr James Morandini in a statement.

“I think our study may have changed how people interpreted their underlying sexual feelings. This means two people with identical sexual orientations could describe their sexual orientation quite differently, depending on whether they have been exposed to fluid or continuous ways of understanding sexuality.”