Archives of Sexual Behavior

, Volume 34, Issue 2, pp 173-183

First online:

Sex Differences in the Flexibility of Sexual Orientation: A Multidimensional Retrospective Assessment

  • Kelly K. KinnishAffiliated withDepartment of Pediatrics, University of Miami
  • , Donald S. StrassbergAffiliated withDepartment of Psychology, University of UtahDepartment of Psychology, University of Utah Email author 
  • , Charles W. TurnerAffiliated withDepartment of Psychology, University of UtahOregon Research Institute

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The flexibility of sexual orientation in men and women was examined by assessing self-reported change over time for three dimensions of sexual orientation (sexual fantasy, romantic attraction, and sexual behavior) across three categorical classifications of current sexual orientation (heterosexual, bisexual, and gay). The primary purpose of the study was to determine if there were sex differences in the flexibility (i.e., change over time) of sexual orientation and how such differences were manifested across different dimensions of orientation over the lifespan. Retrospective, life-long ratings of sexual orientation were made by 762 currently self-identified heterosexual, bisexual, and gay men and women, aged 36 to 60, via a self-report questionnaire. Cumulative change scores were derived for each of the three dimensions (fantasy, romantic attraction, and sexual behavior) of orientation by summing the differences between ratings over consecutive 5-year historical time periods (from age 16 to the present). Sex differences were observed for most, but not all, classification groups. There were significant sex differences in reported change in orientation over time for gays and heterosexuals, with women reporting greater change in orientation over time than did men. Bisexual men and women did not differ with respect to self-reported change in orientation.


sexual orientation homosexuality bisexuality sex differences