Not Straight and Not Straightforward: the Relationships Between Sexual Orientation, Sociosexuality, and Dark Triad Traits in Women

Abstract

Two studies examined the connection between women’s sexual orientation, their sociosexuality (i.e. willingness, attitudes, and desires associated with uncommitted sexual behaviour), and Dark Triad traits (Machiavellianism, narcissism, and psychopathy). Both studies found that moderately bisexual women reported less-restricted sociosexuality, as well as higher levels of Dark Triad traits––particularly psychopathy. In both studies, sexual orientation differences in Dark Triad traits were mediated by sociosexuality. Study 2 confirmed that the relationship between women’s sexual orientation and sociosexuality is curvilinear, with moderately bisexual women (i.e. Kinsey 1–2) reporting heightened sociosexuality compared to other groups. These results are consistent with the conclusion that moderate levels of female bisexuality may be a by-product of selection for traits that result in less restricted sociosexuality. At either end of the orientation continuum, women who report exclusive or near-exclusive homosexuality or heterosexuality report more restricted sociosexuality and lower Dark Triad scores, compared to women nearer to the middle of the continuum. As such, the aetiology of moderate bisexuality in women may be distinct from the aetiology of exclusive or near-exclusive homosexuality in women.

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Fig. 1
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Notes

  1. 1.

    Unlike women, sociosexuality does not differ across men’s sexual orientation groups (e.g. Schmitt 2007; Howard and Perilloux 2016). Considering sex differences in the distribution of sexual orientations and the lack of male sexual orientation differences in sociosexuality, it is theoretically inappropriate to assume that the bio-developmental foundations of bisexuality or homosexuality are the same in men and women (e.g. Diamond 2013; Bailey 2009; Bailey et al. 2016; LeVay, 2016). For these reasons, the focus of the present study is women.

  2. 2.

    While ANOVA is robust to differences in group size, we have reported the more conservative Brown-Forsythe statistic for omnibus comparisons throughout the manuscript when Levene’s test revealed violations of the assumption of homogeneity of variance (Field 2013).

  3. 3.

    Jonason et al. (2009) evaluated the mediating role of DT traits on sex differences in sociosexuality. We would argue that sociosexuality should be tested as the true mediator, given that it is a more general omnibus indicator of sexual strategy, of which DT traits are only one component.

  4. 4.

    Although only scores on the composite Dark Triad are reported here for the sake of brevity, an identical pattern of results were found when mediation models instead tested for total psychopathy or Machiavellianism score (groups did not differ on narcissism).

  5. 5.

    For specific group comparisons using ANOVA vs. ANCOVA, please contact the corresponding author.

  6. 6.

    Somewhat-ambiphilic women (Kinsey 2) differed from predominantly/exclusively homosexual women (Kinsey 5 and 6) in composite SOI at p = .047 in the follow-up comparison. Given the modest sample size in both groups, this difference and associated effect size (reported in Fig. 2) should be interpreted cautiously.

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Acknowledgements

Scott W. Semenyna and Charlene F. Belu are funded by Joseph-Armand Bombardier Canada Graduate Scholarships (Doctoral) from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) of Canada.

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Semenyna, S.W., Belu, C.F., Vasey, P.L. et al. Not Straight and Not Straightforward: the Relationships Between Sexual Orientation, Sociosexuality, and Dark Triad Traits in Women. Evolutionary Psychological Science 4, 24–37 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s40806-017-0111-y

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Keywords

  • Female sexual orientation
  • Sociosexuality
  • Dark triad
  • Bisexuality
  • Female gynephilia