Can social status really influence women's sexuality? | sex and relationships | Hindustan Times
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Can social status really influence women's sexuality?

Being physically attractive and highly educated makes women more likely to identify themselves as being 100% heterosexual, but a new study reveals that social status might play a role in whether or not a woman will veer from heterosexual dating. Read on!

sex and relationships Updated: Apr 13, 2017 20:28 IST
Women are more likely than men to describe themselves as bisexual, whereas men tend to choose one side or another. (Shutterstock photo)
Women are more likely than men to describe themselves as bisexual, whereas men tend to choose one side or another. (Shutterstock photo)

Being physically attractive and highly educated makes women more likely to identify themselves as being 100% heterosexual, but a new study reveals that social status might play a role in whether or not a woman will veer from heterosexual dating.

"Women who are initially successful in partnering with men, as is more traditionally expected, may never explore their attraction to other women," says study author Elizabeth Aura McClintock of the University of Notre Dame in the US. "However, women with the same sexual attractions, but less favorable heterosexual options might have greater opportunity to experiment with same-sex partners."

She adds that women who act on their homosexual desires are more likely to identify themselves as someone who swings both ways.

Working with data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health (Add Health), McClintock traced the love lives of 5,018 women and 4,191 men.

She limited her sample to the first, third and fourth waves of the report, which were defined by the period of time in which they were collected: The first taken from 1994-1995, the third from 2001-2002 and fourth from 2007-2008.

Participants in the first wave averaged 16 years of age, 22 in the third and 28 in the fourth and nobody was asked to identify their sexuality until the third wave.

First, she confirmed existing research that indicates women are more likely than men to describe themselves as bisexual, whereas men tend to choose one side or another.

Changing one's sexual identity over time was three times more likely for women than for men, according to the study.

Physically attractive, highly educated women were more likely than others in the third and fourth waves to report being 100% heterosexual, yet those who had had a child by the third were less likely to describe themselves as such.

This was in line with McClintock's hypothesis that avoiding young motherhood was another aspect of how social status facilitates a hetero-conformist identity.

Women who were not mothers at a young age likely had more ease of honing successful romances, she says.

"Women with some degree of attraction to both males and females might be drawn into heterosexuality if they have favorable options in the heterosexual partner market," says McClintock.

For men, higher education levels meant the likelihood of them identifying themselves as 100% heterosexual was lower, according to the study, and physical beauty could not be linked with men's sexual identity.

Men who became fathers by the third wave were more likely to describe themselves as being 100% heterosexual in the fourth wave.

"Men are less often attracted to both sexes," says McClintock. "Men's sexuality is, in this sense, less flexible. If a man is only attracted to one sex, romantic opportunity would little alter his sexual identity."

The study, which has implications for sexual identity as a social construct, was presented at the 110th Annual Meeting of the American Sociological Association (ASA) taking place August 22-25 in Chicago.