It’s an exciting time to be confused. Differences in sexuality have never been more explored or celebrated as they are in 2018. Straight, gay, pansexual, asexual, transexual, hetero-flexible, bisexual – the endless list of sexual identities suggests that society is moving quickly in an ever more inclusive direction. An interesting by-product of this new age of acceptance and self-discovery is the revisiting of the concept that nobody is completely straight or gay.
The Kinsey scale was invented as far back as the 1940’s by American biologist and sexologist Alfred Kinsey, also called ‘the father of the sexual revolution’. The scale was created in order to demonstrate that a person’s sexuality doesn’t fit into two fixed categories: homosexual or heterosexual.
Kinsey believed that sexuality was a fluid concept and has the capacity to change over time. This concept has been reinforced in recent years by in-depth studies into the human sexual-psyche and has gained momentum with recent, more sexually liberal generations.
A study from 2015 published on YouGov.co.uk asked people to plot themselves on the Kinsey scale, which ranges from 0 (exclusively heterosexual) to 6 (exclusively homosexual). The study produced fascinating results with 23% of British people identifying as something other than 100% heterosexual, a figure that rises to 49% among 18-24-year-olds, almost 1 in 2.
With each generation the number of people identifying as ‘not 100% straight’ increased, suggesting that as society becomes more accepting of identities that fall outside the concepts of ‘social normality’, people are becoming more able to realise and accept their true sexual identity.
Another study from 2016 examined same-sex experiences in Americans between 1990 and 2014. The study found that not only had people’s acceptance of same-sex relationships quadrupled during the 24 year period, but amazingly, that same-sex sexual activity had roughly doubled for both women and men. The increase in same-sex partners was larger for women than for men, consistent, the theory argues, with the erotic plasticity theory.
The erotic plasticity theory describes the extent to which one’s sexuality can be influenced by social factors. The female erotic plasticity theory argues that women’s erotic plasticity is higher than men, therefore their sex drives are more socially flexible and responsive to factors such as religion, culture and education. Men, the theory argues, remain more rigid after puberty but can still be susceptible to these factors.
It is commonly more accepted that a woman will have relationships with other women but she may not be gay herself, arguably due to the male sexual penchant for ‘girl on girl’ action – which is another topic in itself. There is also a much more relaxed use of language when it comes to female sexuality, and how women refer to other women.
According to Ritch C. Savin-Williams, professor of Human Development and author of Mostly Straight: Sexual Fluidity Among Men, society still makes it difficult for men to identify with any variation other than 100% straight.
Savin-Williams believes that a more accurate description of most men would be ‘mostly straight.’ ‘Men have gotten so much cultural crap put on them that even if a man does have some sexual attraction to guys, they would never say it’ he says.
Savin-Williams argues that ‘more men than you think identify as mostly straight’ and that ‘when given the option to identify as mostly straight, approximately 5 to 10 percent of men do so.’ This percentage is, he goes on to argue, ‘higher than the percentage of men who self-identify as gay or bisexual combined.’O
On Monday, Channel 4 aired their first episode from their new ‘Genderquake’ series, which will be ‘exploring the debate covering issues ranging from feminism, gender privilege, and sexual violence to gender fluidity and gender identity’, and asking the question; ‘Should any of us be defined by our bits in the first place?’
The programmes will include ‘Random Acts: The Lady That Dances’, a collaboration with ballet dancer Sophie Rebecca and spoken word artist Ash Palmisciano in a performance exploring the theme of transition, and a programme by outspoken UK female comedians Riot Girls, who explore issues surrounding gender through a hidden-camera prank show.
Historically, the social stigma attached to any sort of homoeroticism meant men, and a to a certain extent women, completely disregard an important side of their personality. However, with increased tolerance and publicity of diverse gender and sexual expression, especially among millennials, these previously repressed sexual identity is now embraced and celebrated.
There is still a long way to go before many of these sexual identities are accepted without question or controversy but as Ritch C. Savin-Williams says; ‘They’re not closeted gays who over time gravitate toward same-sex encounters. They’re mostly straight.’
Ritch C. Savin-Williams book Mostly Straight: Sexual Fluidity Among Men, is available from £19.90 on Amazon here.
Channel 4’s Genderquake Season begins Monday 7th May, find out more here.