Lately, a new kind of sisterly love seems to be in the air. In the past few years, Sex and the City’s Cynthia Nixon left a boyfriend after a decade and a half and started dating a woman (and talked openly about it) …
… The new buzz phrase coming out of contemporary studies is “sexual fluidity.”
“People always ask me if this research means everyone is bisexual. No, it doesn’t,” says Lisa Diamond, Ph.D, associate professor of psychology and gender studies at the University of Utah and author of the 2008 book “Sexual Fluidity: Understanding Women’s Love and Desire.”
“Fluidity represents a capacity to respond erotically in unexpected ways due to particular situations or relationships. It doesn’t appear to be something a woman can control.”
Furthermore, studies indicate that it’s more prevalent in women than in men, according to Bonnie Zylbergold, assistant editor of American Sexuality, an online magazine.
In a 2004 landmark study at Northwestern University, the results were eye-opening. During the experiment, the female subjects became sexually aroused when they viewed heterosexual as well as lesbian erotic films. This was true for both gay and straight women.
Among the male subjects, however, the straight men were turned on only by erotic films with women, the gay ones by those with men.
“We found that women’s sexual desire is less rigidly directed toward a particular sex, as compared with men’s, and it’s more changeable over time,” says the study’s senior researcher, J. Michael Bailey, Ph.D. “These findings likely represent a fundamental difference between men’s and women’s brains.”
This idea, that the libido can wander back and forth between genders, Diamond admits, may be threatening and confusing to those with conventional beliefs about sexual orientation.
But when the women she’s interviewed explain their feelings, it doesn’t sound so wild. Many of them say, for example, they are attracted to the person, and not the gender — moved by traits like kindness, intelligence, and humor, which could apply to a man or a woman.
Most of all, they long for an emotional connection. And if that comes by way of a female instead of a male, the thrill may override whatever heterosexual orientation they had. Oprah.com: Meet women who are making the switch. (full text).