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  • Nic F. Anderson

Australian Study: Straight People May Not Be As Straight As They Think They Are

University of Sydney study published findings that people’s sexual orientation may fluctuate over time after being exposed to different theories about sexual orientation and sexual fluidity*.

The study, “Exposure to continuous or fluid theories of sexual orientation leads some heterosexuals to embrace less‑exclusive heterosexual orientations,” was published in the peer-reviewed journal Nature’s Scientific Reports.

The study found that “significant number of heterosexual people report being less exclusive in their sexual orientation as well as more willing to have same-sex experiences after reading one of two two-paged informational articles,” according to a press release.

The first informational article the study used was about the varying degrees of sexual attraction towards different genders and how people call fall anywhere on that spectrum. The other article explained that sexual orientation can change overtime.

The sample of 460 participants (232 women and 228 men) self-identified as straight prior to completing the online panel study, according to the University of Sydney. After reading the first article, the participants were compared to a control group and approximately 28 percent reported they were more likely to identity as non-exclusively heterosexual and 19 percent reported they were more likely to be willing to engage in same-sex sexual activities.

“Overall, the rate of ‘non-exclusive heterosexuality’ more than quadrupled after this activity. Similar, albeit weaker, effects were found when people read that sexual orientation is better characterized as fluid rather than stable throughout life,” the University of Sydney press release said.

Dr James Morandini, one of the main authors of the study, said: “Did we change people’s sexual orientation via our interventions? Surely not. I think our study may have changed how people interpreted their underlying sexual feelings. This means two people with identical sexual orientations could describe their sexual orientation quite differently, depending on whether they have been exposed to fluid or continuous ways of understanding sexuality.”

Associate Professor from the University of Sydney School of Psychology and the senior author for the study, Ilan Dar-Nimrod, said “This is not that surprising given that ‘non-exclusive heterosexuals’ (as opposed to bisexual, gay or lesbian individuals), although being the biggest same-sex attracted group, are not well captured in our society’s representations and even vernacular…Given the social value that our society attach to these labels, however, such a shift may have far-reaching implications. It also suggests that certain level of same-sex sexual attraction may be much more common than previously estimated.”

(Editor’s note: the .PDF file of the study is attached at the end of this story for your convenience)

*Context: Sexual fluidity refers to the flexibility of someone’s sexual preferences.

Exposure to continuous or fluid theories of sexual orientation leads some heterosexuals to
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