Individuals who identify as heterosexual but engage in same-sex sexual behavior fascinate both researchers and the media. We analyzed the Online College Social Life Survey dataset of over 24,000 undergraduate students to examine students whose last hookup was with a same-sex partner (N = 383 men and 312 women). The characteristics of a significant minority of these students (12% of men and 25% of women) who labelled their sexual orientation “heterosexual” differed from those who self-identified as “homosexual,” “bisexual,” or “uncertain.” Differences among those who identified as heterosexual included more conservative attitudes, less prior homosexual and more prior heterosexual sexual experience, features of the hookups, and sentiments about the encounter after the fact. Latent class analysis revealed six distinctive “types” of heterosexually identified students whose last hookup was with a same-sex partner. Three types, comprising 60% of students, could be classified as mostly private sexual experimentation among those with little prior same-sex experience, including some who did not enjoy the encounter; the other two types in this group enjoyed the encounter, but differed on drunkenness and desire for a future relationship with their partner. Roughly, 12% could be classified as conforming to a “performative bisexuality” script of women publicly engaging in same-sex hookups at college parties, and the remaining 28% had strong religious practices and/or beliefs that may preclude a non-heterosexual identity, including 7% who exhibited “internalized heterosexism.” Results indicate several distinctive motivations for a heterosexual identity among those who hooked up with same-sex partners; previous research focusing on selective “types” excludes many exhibiting this discordance.
This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Price includes VAT for USA
Subscribe to journal
Immediate online access to all issues from 2019. Subscription will auto renew annually.
This is the net price. Taxes to be calculated in checkout.
Amadio, D. M. (2006). Internalized heterosexism, alcohol use, and alcohol-related problems among lesbians and gay men. Addictive Behaviors, 31, 1153–1162.
Armstrong, E. A., England, P., & Fogarty, A. C. K. (2009). Orgasm in college hook ups and relationships. In B. Risman (Ed.), Families as they really are (pp. 362–377). New York: Norton.
Baumeister, R. F. (2000). Gender differences in erotic plasticity: The female sex drive as socially flexible and responsive. Psychological Bulletin, 126, 347–374.
Baunach, D. M. (2012). Changing same-sex marriage attitudes in America from 1988 through 2010. Public Opinion Quarterly, 76, 364–378.
Bleich, S., & Taylor-Clark, K. (2005). Black men on the “down-low” and the HIV epidemic: The need for research and intervention strategies. Harvard Journal of African American Public Policy, 11, 13–20.
Blumstein, P. W., & Schwartz, P. (1977). Bisexuality: Some social psychological issues. Journal of Social Issues, 33, 30–45.
Bogle, K. A. (2008). Hooking up: Sex, dating, and relationships on campus. New York: New York University Press.
Bower, J., Gurevich, M., & Mathieson, C. M. (2002). (Con)tested identities: Bisexual women reorient sexuality. Journal of Bisexuality, 2(2–3), 23–52.
Boykin, K. (2005). Beyond the down low: Sex, lies, and denial in Black America. New York: Avalon.
Brady, S., & Busse, W. J. (1994). The Gay Identity Questionnaire: A brief measure of homosexual identity formation. Journal of Homosexuality, 26(4), 1–22.
Budnick, J. (2016). “Straight girls kissing”? Understanding same-gender sexuality beyond the elite college campus. Gender & Society, 30, 745–768.
Cass, V. C. (1979). Homosexuality identity formation: A theoretical model. Journal of Homosexuality, 4, 219–235.
Cass, V. C. (1996). Sexual orientation identity formation: A western phenomenon. In R. P. Cabaj & T. S. Stein (Eds.), Textbook of homosexuality and mental health (pp. 239–266). Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Press.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2010). HIV among African American gay and bisexual men. Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/hiv/risk/racialethnic/bmsm/facts/index.html.
Chandra, A., Copen, C. E., & Mosher, W. D. (2013). Sexual behavior, sexual attraction, and sexual identity in the United States: Data from the 2006–2010 National Survey of Family Growth. In A. K. Baumle (Ed.), International handbook on the demography of sexuality (pp. 45–66). Dordrecht: Springer.
Cole, S. W., Kemeny, M. E., Taylor, S. E., & Visscher, B. R. (1996). Elevated physical health risk among gay men who conceal their homosexual identity. Health Psychology, 15, 243–251.
Collins, L. M., & Lanza, S. T. (2010). Latent class and latent transition analysis: With applications in the social, behavioral, and health sciences. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.
Diamond, L. M. (2003). Was it a phase? Young women’s relinquishment of lesbian/bisexual identities over a 5-year period. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 84, 352–364.
Diamond, L. M. (2005). “I’m straight, but I kissed a girl”: The trouble with American media representations of female-female sexuality. Feminism and Psychology, 15, 104–110.
Diamond, L. M. (2008). Female bisexuality from adolescence to adulthood: Results from a 10-year longitudinal study. Developmental Psychology, 44, 5–14.
Dworkin, S. H. (2001). Working with gay, lesbian, and bisexual clients. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 57, 671–680.
Eisenberg, M. (2001). Differences in sexual risk behavior between college students with same-sex and opposite-sex experience: Results from a national survey. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 30, 575–589.
England, P., Shafer, E. F., & Fogarty, A. C. K. (2008). Hooking up and forming romantic relationships on today’s college campuses. In M. S. Kimmel & A. Aronson (Eds.), The gendered society reader 3 (pp. 531–547). New York: Oxford University Press.
Ford, C. L., Whetten, K., Hall, S., Kaufman, J., & Thrasher, A. (2007). Black sexuality, social construction, and research targeting “The down low” (“The DL”). Annals of Epidemiology, 17, 209–216.
Goode, E., & Haber, L. (1997). Sexual correlates of homosexual experience: An exploratory study of college women. Journal of Sex Research, 13, 12–21.
Hagenaars, J. A., & Halman, L. C. (1989). Searching for ideal types: The potentialities of latent class analysis. European Sociological Review, 5, 81–96.
Hamilton, L. (2007). Trading on heterosexuality: College women’s gender strategies and homophobia. Gender & Society, 21, 145–172.
Hightow, L. B., Leone, P., Macdonald, P., McCoy, S., Sampson, L. A., & Kaplan, A. H. (2006). Men who have sex with men and women: A unique risk group for HIV transmission on North Carolina college campuses. Sexually Transmitted Diseases, 33, 585–593.
Hoburg, R., Konik, J., Williams, M., & Crawford, M. (2004). Bisexuality among self-identified heterosexual college students. Journal of Bisexuality, 4(1–2), 25–36.
Horowitz, J. L., & Newcomb, M. D. (2002). A multidimensional approach to homosexual identity. Journal of Homosexuality, 42, 1–19.
Hutchins, L., & Kaahumanu, L. (1991). Bi any other name: Bisexual people speak out. Boston: Alyson Press.
Israel, T., & Mohr, J. J. (2004). Attitudes toward bisexual women and men: Current research, future directions. Journal of Bisexuality, 4(1–2), 117–134.
Kashubeck-West, S., & Szymanski, D. M. (2008). Risky sexual behavior in gay and bisexual men: Internalized heterosexism, sensation seeking, and substance use. The Counseling Psychologist, 36, 595–614.
Kaufman, J. M., & Johnson, C. (2004). Stigmatized individuals and the process of identity. Sociological Quarterly, 45, 807–833.
Kimmel, M. S. (2008). Guyland: The perilous world where boys become men. New York: Harper.
Kimmel, M., & Plante, R. F. (2002). The gender of desire: The sexual fantasies of women and men. Advances in Gender Research, 6, 55–77.
King, J. L. (2004). On the down low: A journey into the lives of “straight” black men who sleep with men. New York: Broadway Books.
Koblin, B. A., Torian, L. V., Guilin, V., Ren, L., MacKellar, D. A., & Valleroy, L. A. (2000). High prevalence of HIV infection among young gay men who have sex with men in New York City. AIDS, 14, 1793–1800.
Kuperberg, A., & Padgett, J. E. (2015). Dating and hooking up in college: Meeting contexts, sex, and variation by gender, partner’s gender, and class standing. Journal of Sex Research, 52, 517–531.
Kuperberg, A., & Padgett, J. E. (2016). The role of culture in explaining college students’ selection into hookups, dates, and long-term romantic relationships. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 33, 1070–1096.
Kuperberg, A., & Padgett, J. E. (2017). Partner meeting contexts and risky behavior in college students’ other-sex and same-sex hookups. Journal of Sex Research, 54, 52–55.
Lanza, S. T., Dziak, J. J., Huang, L., Wagner, A. T., & Collins, L. M. (2015). LCA Stata plugin users’ guide (version 1.2). University Park, PA: The Methodology Center, Penn State. Retrieved from https://methodology.psu.edu/.
Laughlin, S. (2016). Gen Z goes beyond gender binaries in new innovation group data. J. Walter Thompson Intelligence. Retrieved from https://www.jwtintelligence.com/2016/03/gen-z-goes-beyond-gender-binaries-in-new-innovation-group-data/.
LCA Stata Plugin (Version 1.2) [Software]. (2015). University Park: The Methodology Center, Penn State. Retrieved from https://methodology.psu.edu/.
Lindley, L., Nicholson, T., Kerby, M., & Lu, N. (2003). HIV/STI associated risk behaviors among self-identified lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender college students in the United States. AIDS Education and Prevention, 15, 413–429.
Ochs, R. (2007). What’s in a name? Why women embrace or resist bisexual identity. In B. A. Firestein (Ed.), Becoming visible: Counseling bisexuals across the lifespan (pp. 72–86). New York: Columbia University Press.
Ochs, R., & Deihl, M. (1992). Moving beyond binary thinking. In W. J. Blumenfeld (Ed.), Homophobia: How we all pay the price (pp. 67–75). Boston: Beacon.
Peplau, L. A., & Finegrhut, A. W. (2007). The close relationships of lesbians and gay men. Annual Review of Psychology, 58, 405–424.
Peterson, T. L., & Gerrity, D. A. (2006). Internalized homophobia, lesbian identity development, and self-esteem in undergraduate women. Journal of Homosexuality, 50, 49–75.
Phillips, L. (2005). Deconstructing “down low” discourse: The politics of sexuality, gender, race, AIDS, and anxiety. Journal of African American Studies, 9, 3–15.
Reiber, C., & Garcia, J. R. (2010). Hooking up: Gender differences, evolution, and pluralistic ignorance. Evolutionary Psychology, 8, 390–404.
Rhodes, S. D., DiClemente, R. J., Cecil, H., Hergenrather, K. C., & Yee, L. J. (2002). Risk among men who have sex with men in the United States: A comparison of an interest sample and a conventional outreach sample. AIDS Education and Prevention, 14, 141–150.
Rosario, M., Schrimshaw, E. W., Hunter, J., & Braun, L. (2006). Sexual identity development among gay, lesbians, and bisexual youths: Consistency and change over time. Journal of Sex Research, 43, 46–58.
Ross, M. W., Essien, E. J., Wiliams, M. L., & Fernandez-Esquer, M. E. (2003). Concordence between sexual behavior and sexual identity in street outreach samples of four racial ethnic groups. Sexually Transmitted Diseases, 30, 110–113.
Rowen, C. J., & Malcolm, J. P. (2002). Correlates of internalized homophobia and homosexual identity formation in a sample of gay men. Journal of Homosexuality, 43, 77–92.
Rupp, L. J., Taylor, V., Regev-Messalem, S., Fogarty, A. C. K., & England, P. (2013). Queer women in the hookup scene: Beyond the closet? Gender & Society, 28, 212–235.
Rust, P. C. (1992). The politics of sexual identity: Sexual attraction and behavior among lesbian and bisexual women. Social Problems, 39, 366–386.
Sanday, P. R. (2007). Fraternity gang rape: Sex, brotherhood and privilege on campus. New York: New York University Press.
Savin-Williams, R. C., & Ream, G. L. (2007). Prevalence and stability of sexual orientation components during adolescence and young adulthood. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 36, 385–394.
Seidman, S., Meeks, C., & Traschen, F. (1999). Beyond the closet? The changing social meaning of homosexuality in the United States. Sexualities, 2, 9–34.
Silva, T. (2017). Bud-sex: Constructing normative masculinity among rural straight men that have sex with men. Gender & Sexuality, 31, 51–73.
Simon, W., & Gagnon, J. H. (1986). Sexual scripts: Permanence and change. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 15, 97–120.
Simon, W., & Gagnon, J. H. (2003). Sexual scripts: Origins, influences, and changes. Qualitative Sociology, 26, 491–497.
Sophie, J. (1986). A critical examination of stage theories of lesbian identity formation. Journal of Homosexuality, 12, 39–51.
Szymanski, D. M., Kashubeck-West, S., & Meyer, J. (2008). Internalized heterosexism: Measurement, psychological correlates, and research directions. The Counseling Psychologist, 36, 525–574.
Taylor, B. (1999). “Coming out” as a life transition: Homosexual identity formation and its implications for health care practice. Journal of Advanced Nursing, 30, 520–525.
Tein, J. Y., Coxe, S., & Cham, H. (2013). Statistical power to detect the correct number of classes in latent profile analysis. Structural Equation Modeling: A Multidisciplinary Journal, 20, 640–657.
Wade, L. (2017). American hookup: The new culture of sex on campus. New York: W.W. Norton & Co.
Walker, A. (2014a). “Our little secret”: How publicly heterosexual women make meaning from their “undercover” same-sex sexual experiences. Journal of Bisexuality, 14, 194–208.
Walker, A. (2014b). “I’m not a lesbian; I’m just a freak”: A pilot study of the experiences of women in assumed-monogamous other-sex unions seeking secret same-sex encounters online, their negotiation of sexual desire, and meaning-making of sexual identity. Sexuality and Culture, 18, 911–935.
Ward, J. (2015). Not gay: Sex between straight white men. New York: New York University Press.
Yost, M. R., & Thomas, G. D. (2012). Gender and binegativity: Men and women’s attitudes toward male and female bisexuals. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 41(3), 691–702.
Young, R. M., & Meyer, I. H. (2005). The trouble with MSM and WSW: Erasure of the sexual-minority person in the public health discourse. American Journal of Public Health, 95, 1144–1149.
Zivony, A., & Lobel, T. (2014). The invisible stereotypes of bisexual men. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 43, 1165–1176.
The authors thank Joseph Padgett, R. James Leister, Lonnie McLendon, Rachel Madsen, and Stephanie Pruitt for their research assistance on this project, as well as Sara Crawley and Joseph Padgett for their helpful advice. This project was funded by a University of North Carolina at Greensboro New Faculty Research Grant and a New Faculty Summer Excellence Award Grant, as administered by the Office of Sponsored Programs. An earlier version of this paper was presented at the Southern Sociological Society Conference, Charlotte, NC, 2014.
About this article
Cite this article
Kuperberg, A., Walker, A.M. Heterosexual College Students Who Hookup with Same-Sex Partners. Arch Sex Behav 47, 1387–1403 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10508-018-1194-7
- Same-sex sexual behavior
- Sexual identity
- Internalized heterosexism