If anything, women’s arousal toward one gender trends female. For heterosexual women who report no same-sex attraction, Chivers has found that images of men and women are equally arousing. For women with even the slightest same-sex attraction, the gender balance tips and they become progressively more aroused by women than men. “For women, there seems to be more gray area, and more potential for same-sex attraction,” says Chivers.
Internet behavior—a way of looking at what we do when no one is watching—supports the idea that women’s sexuality has many shades of gray.
Ogi Ogas, Ph.D., a computational neuroscientist and co-author of “A Billion Wicked Thoughts,” analyzed more than a billion web searches, half a billion search histories and millions of erotic websites and e-books. He found that women were most interested in erotic stories (like fan fiction or romance novels) and that their gender preferences varied, without any clear pattern. Ogas explains that a woman is just as likely to search for “sexy pictures of Jake Gyllenhaal” one moment and “sexy pictures of Keira Knightley” the next.
Of course, that may have more to do with self-comparison (is my stomach as flat as Keira’s?) than sexual arousal. “Women in the media are often sexualized and women constantly get the message that appearance should be important to them, so they’re used to viewing women in a sexualized way,” says Morgan. She points out that women often find other women attractive, but sometimes struggle to figure out whether they’re actually interested in women or simply used to sizing up women’s beauty.
All these shades of gray leave a bit of confusion about what ‘heterosexual’ actually means. Students often come to Morgan saying, “I had a fantasy or a dream about someone of the same sex. Does that mean I’m gay?” Not necessarily, she says. “You can still be heterosexual and have interests, experiences or fantasies with the same sex.”
Essentially, ‘heterosexual,’ 'bisexual,' or 'lesbian' are just labels we choose, usually representing our dominant preference. What those labels actually represent for each individual comes in every color of the rainbow.
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