Sex Roles

, Volume 32, Issue 11, pp 821-834

First online:

Accounts of sexual identity formation in heterosexual students

  • Michele J. EliasonAffiliated withCollege of Nursing, The University of Iowa

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Very little research has focused on the ways that heterosexual people perceive their sexual identity. This paper explores heterosexual identity from the standpoint of an established identity model, that of James Marcia. Twenty-six heterosexual undergraduate students (14 men: 3 African-American, 1 Latino, and 10 White, and 12 women: 3 African-American, 1 Latina, and 8 White) wrote two-three page essays on how their sexual identities formed and how they influence their daily lives. Students could be categorized into all four of Marcia's identity statuses. Additionally, six common themes were noted in their essays: had never thought about sexual identity; society made me heterosexual; gender determines sexual identity; issues of choice versus innateness of sexuality; no alternative to heterosexuality; and the influence of religion.