According to new research being presented to the American Sociological Association this week, women who are seen as more attractive and are “initially successful in partnering with men” early in life are more likely to report being 100 percent heterosexual and will likely never explore a different sexual identity. On the other hand, women whose romantic opportunities with men are limited due to conventional beauty norms will likely seek other sexual identities in their lives.
Dr. Elizabeth Aura McClintock of the University of Notre Dame performed the study by tracking “5,018 women and 4,191 men as they moved from adolescence to young adulthood.” The study investigated education, beauty, and young motherhood as they affected and impacted women’s sexuality. The results show that women tend to be more sexually fluid based on outside influences:
“Women have a greater probability than men of being attracted to both men and women, which gives them greater flexibility in partner choice,” said McClintock. “Having flexible sexual attractions may grant greater importance to contextual and experiential factors when it comes to sexual identity.”
The men in the study, however, were more rigid in their sexuality, and physical attractiveness reportedly had no impact on their sexual fluidity. The study also revealed that “higher levels of education were associated with a lower likelihood of identifying as ‘100 percent heterosexual.’”
McClintock insisted, however, that her research is not meant to make heterosexual relationships seem more valid than same-sex relationships, as she says sexuality — like beauty — is a social construct. She continued:
“And I do not think that women are strategically selecting an advantageous sexual identity or that they can ‘choose’ whether they find men, women, or both sexually attractive. Rather, social context and romantic experience might influence how they perceive and label their sexual identity.”
While women add sexual fluidity to the list of things they can do well, the depressing part stands: Beauty norms in our culture dictate and influence behavior more than we can even see.