Author Topic: Does sexual orientation change over time  (Read 1603 times)

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Offline Dr M

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Does sexual orientation change over time
« on: July 22, 2010, 12:41:45 PM »
An interesting article today's Guardian: http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2010/jul/22/late-blooming-lesbians-women-sexuality

The short of it: the article claims that there is evidence that sexual orientation may change over time.  In particular, it claims that it is not as uncommon as one might think that women who have been in long and healthy heterosexual relationships discover a new attraction to women later in life.  The article makes the point that this is not about discovering that one has been a lesbian all along, but that one's sexual orientation actually changes.

Of course, this isn't a science article, and I am certainly not any kind of expert on these topics, so I need other people to supply me with the appropriate number of grains of salt with which to take it.  I find that the article raises some interesting questions (at least if one ignores the last part of it, where the article degenerates into some kind of anecdote-based self-help-style pop-psychology), but I'm not sure what to think of the answers.

The central question is though: does sexual orientation change over time?  And if so to what extent is that influenced by social factors?

Offline Skulker

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Re: Does sexual orientation change over time
« Reply #1 on: July 22, 2010, 12:52:06 PM »
My GF (she's Bi) and I have had this discussion and we have come to agree that sexual orientation is more of a continuum. Movement along this line during ones life would therefore not seem too surprising.
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Offline Anders

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Re: Does sexual orientation change over time
« Reply #2 on: July 22, 2010, 12:58:01 PM »
But there are also sudden flips: men in their thirties who have always been hetero who suddenly become homo. Repression or sudden change?
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Re: Does sexual orientation change over time
« Reply #3 on: July 22, 2010, 01:08:39 PM »
I would suggest that sudden flips are more indicative of repression than anything else. You do hear a lot of stories of people who have repressed their urges for many years and finally cannot continue anymore.
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Offline Iron Chef - Skeptic

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Re: Does sexual orientation change over time
« Reply #4 on: July 22, 2010, 02:29:36 PM »
I was always under the impression that sexual preference was very much a continuum, influenced by many things including genetics, environment, and hormones.  That last one in the list does change, especially in women I've been told, both over short and long periods of time. 
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Offline whitedevilbrewing

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Re: Does sexual orientation change over time
« Reply #5 on: July 22, 2010, 02:32:47 PM »
You also have to consider sexual identity vs. sexual orientation.  When you see a sudden shift in identity, that may not be because of a shift in orientation.  It's easier now to be a homosexual identified person, so...

Offline cerveauxfrits

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Re: Does sexual orientation change over time
« Reply #6 on: July 22, 2010, 02:47:24 PM »
I would suggest that sudden flips are more indicative of repression than anything else.

Agreed, though I don't think it implies that the person has been repressing their sexuality all along.  It could be that a person committed to a long-term relationship during a period where they were strongly attracted to one sex, and then over time that level of attraction diminished and they became more attracted to the other sex.  But over that period they may remain faithful to the partner, in which case that change in preference wouldn't have much opportunity for overt expression unless there were a break-up.

As far as the idea that one's tendency to prefer one sex over the other can change, I don't find that to be remotely surprising.  It's happened to me, and it's pretty uncontroversial among most my queer friends, many of whom are fellow flip-floppers.

I've noticed that the older generation isn't as comfortable with the idea, but they came of age in an era where there was immensely more social baggage associated with who you boink, and bisexuality wasn't really even accepted among the gay community.  That perhaps created an environment where people who do have a more fluid relationship with their sexuality would have been under pressure to suppress that ambiguity above and beyond the hostility toward same-sex sex.

Offline rmcbride

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Re: Does sexual orientation change over time
« Reply #7 on: July 22, 2010, 02:54:25 PM »
If we are all biologically bi-sexual what is the meaning of this study?  Wouldn't it all be about how we self identify?
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Offline Dionysus

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Re: Does sexual orientation change over time
« Reply #8 on: July 22, 2010, 03:01:32 PM »
If we are all biologically bi-sexual what is the meaning of this study?  Wouldn't it all be about how we self identify?

A false "if". Sexual orientation can be influenced by genes one way or the other, however other factors come into play. It can be argued that we emerge from the womb as gay, straight, or bisexual.
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Offline rmcbride

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Re: Does sexual orientation change over time
« Reply #9 on: July 22, 2010, 03:45:14 PM »
If we are all biologically bi-sexual what is the meaning of this study?  Wouldn't it all be about how we self identify?

A false "if". Sexual orientation can be influenced by genes one way or the other, however other factors come into play. It can be argued that we emerge from the womb as gay, straight, or bisexual.

The most current language that I'm aware of talks about predisposition toward one tendency or another.  I'm guessing that we make our choices based on culture. 
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Offline Hubbub

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Re: Does sexual orientation change over time
« Reply #10 on: July 22, 2010, 07:22:28 PM »
I remember Tila Tequila was very offended when one of her reality-show suitors dismissed bi-sexuality as just a phase.

... which bears only tangential relevance to this topic.

Offline spiney

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Re: Does sexual orientation change over time
« Reply #11 on: July 23, 2010, 06:03:28 AM »
I know several men who've changed orientation, both directions  ........

....... human sexuality is complicated, there's more to it than "just hormones" !

Offline Anders

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Re: Does sexual orientation change over time
« Reply #12 on: July 23, 2010, 06:42:02 AM »
I remember Tila Tequila was very offended when one of her reality-show suitors dismissed bi-sexuality as just a phase.

... which bears only tangential relevance to this topic.

If it's any consolation, I get just as offended when one of my bisexual friends inform that everyone is "really" bisexual. Thanks for telling me I just haven't met a "real man".
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Offline Dr M

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Re: Does sexual orientation change over time
« Reply #13 on: July 23, 2010, 08:13:34 AM »
I remember Tila Tequila was very offended when one of her reality-show suitors dismissed bi-sexuality as just a phase.

... which bears only tangential relevance to this topic.

If it's any consolation, I get just as offended when one of my bisexual friends inform that everyone is "really" bisexual. Thanks for telling me I just haven't met a "real man".

The problem with both kinds of remarks is that they fail to recognise that sexual orientation should probably be seen as a continuum (as others have pointed out in this thread).  While the first remark erroneously implies that bisexuality is a transition between the only two "real" possibilities, the second implies that everyone is in fact situated at the centre of the continuum.

However, the common opinion seems to be that we are (to a great extent anyway) born with a certain sexual orientation -- some position on the continuum -- that is more or less fixed.  The question raised by the Guardian article is whether later-in-life changes in sexuality represent an actually shifted position on the continuum, or simply a new expression of the same position.

I find the question interesting because either answer has implications.  If there is a true change, then we must ask ourselves why it occurs, and it implies that the common picture of a fixed sexual orientation is not accurate.  If it is a change in how the same sexual orientation is expressed, then it would seem that strict heterosexuality is not as dominant as we are lead to believe (at least in females).

Offline spiney

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Re: Does sexual orientation change over time
« Reply #14 on: July 23, 2010, 08:24:26 AM »
It was Freud's View that we're all "polymorphous perverts". If so, then sexual attraction isn't really "a continuum", it's more "multi-faceted".

 

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