Straight girls like guys, lesbian girls like girls, and bi girls like both. Don’t they? Well, female sexuality isn’t quite as simple as that, according to a new study.
For lesbians, sexuality is indeed pretty straightforward: girls are hot, guys are not. And of course, bisexual women fancy both sexes. It’s with the heterosexual women that things get complicated. Because even if they’re into men when it comes to relationships, most women who say they’re straight can also get turned on by other women.
How do we know? A group of US researchers who study women’s physical arousal checked it out for us. They showed 345 women porn movies in various flavours and tested how sexually aroused they became. The researchers measured this in two different ways: by looking deeply into the women’s eyes… and by looking deeply into a more obvious part of their body.
To be precise, with some of the women the researchers recorded the dilation of their pupils, which is one way to see if someone is getting turned on. Meanwhile, they got the other women to insert a little probe into their vaginas to measure their genital arousal. The women then watched videos of people having sex or masturbating. They saw either two guys or two girls getting it on, or one person masturbating.
The women who signed up for the study first had to say what their sexual orientation was. There was no shortage of possibilities: they could choose from no fewer than seven different options, from straight to lesbian and everything in between.
One of the things the researchers were interested to know was whether the women’s sexual orientations matched their physical arousal. It turned out that for straight women, it didn’t. Heterosexual women got turned on when they watched videos of both men and women, the researchers found. Lesbians, on the other hand, only got physically aroused by women – clips of men did nothing for most of them.
It seems that lesbians have more in common with men when it comes to physical arousal. Most guys are only turned on by the sex they’re attracted to – other men for gay guys, women for straight guys.
So, these straight women who are turned on by women… doesn’t that make them just… bisexual? And why would they stick to male partners only if they actually get turned on by both sexes? Well, physical arousal is one thing and sexual orientation is another – at least, that was the case for many of the women in this study.
For them, what makes a potential partner attractive could have less to do with whether that person is a man or woman. Instead, sexual orientation might be related to social and cultural factors. Things like the kinds of relationships a woman has had, or her religion or education, could influence who she’s attracted to and which sexual orientation she identifies with.
Let’s not forget, the findings of the study are averages. There were also straight women who got more aroused by women or by men, and lesbians who did get turned on by watching videos of both sexes. One thing is clear, anyway: both women and men vary a whole lot when it comes to sexuality, and this is definitely true for physical arousal.
Source: Sexual Arousal and Masculinity-Femininity of Women, 2015, Gerulf Rieger, Ritch C Savin-Williams, Meredith L. Chivers, J. Michael Bailey
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