Who Counts as Sexually Fluid? Comparing Four Different Types of Sexual Fluidity in Women

Abstract

Previous research has examined the phenomenon of “sexual fluidity,” but there is no current consensus on the specific meaning and operationalization of this construct. The present study used a sample of 76 women with diverse sexual orientations to compare four different types of sexual fluidity: (1) fluidity as overall erotic responsiveness to one’s less-preferred gender, (2) fluidity as situational variability in erotic responsiveness to one’s less-preferred gender, (3) fluidity as discrepancy between the gender patterning of sexual attractions and the gender patterning of sexual partnering, and (4) fluidity as instability in day-to-day attractions over time. We examined how these four types of fluidity relate to one another and to other features of women’s sexual profiles (bisexual vs. exclusive patterns of attraction, sex drive, interest in uncommitted sex, age of sexual debut, and lifetime number of sexual partners). The four types of fluidity were not correlated with one another (with the exception of the first and fourth), and each showed a unique pattern of association with other features of women’s sexual profiles. The only type of fluidity associated with bisexuality was overall erotic responsiveness to the less-preferred gender. The findings demonstrate that future research on sexual fluidity should distinguish between its different forms.

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Acknowledgements

This research was supported by grants from the Gay and Lesbian Medical Association and the American Institute of Bisexuality, awarded to the first author. We gratefully acknowledge the insights of the anonymous reviewer whose critique challenged and altered our conceptual and analytical framework in indispensable ways.

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Correspondence to Lisa M. Diamond.

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This study was approved by the Institutional Review Board at the home institution of the first author. Informed consent was obtained by all participants, and all procedures were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Declaration of Helsinki and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

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Diamond, L.M., Alley, J., Dickenson, J. et al. Who Counts as Sexually Fluid? Comparing Four Different Types of Sexual Fluidity in Women. Arch Sex Behav 49, 2389–2403 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10508-019-01565-1

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Keywords

  • Bisexuality
  • Sexual orientation
  • Sexual fluidity
  • Individual differences
  • Women