Sexual arousal differs greatly for men and women. (Photo: Stocksy)
Women, you may not be as straight as you think you are — according to a new study from The UK’s University of Essex, at least. A team of researchers, led by Dr. Gerulf Rieger, monitored 345 women as they watched videos of naked men and women, testing for responses such as pupil dilation and direct genital arousal. Women who identified as lesbian showed strong physical responses to the women in the videos, and no real reaction to the men. Those who identified as heterosexual, however, were found to respond strongly to both men and women, prompting study authors to say that when it comes to a physical response, women are either lesbian or bisexual, rarely straight.
As surprising as this may sound, some of this is old news, Rieger says. Past studies have found that arousal is far more complicated for women than for men, he explains. Researchers already knew that women tend to have physical responses to all genders, whereas men respond to one sex — women, for straight men, and men, for gay men (the exception being bisexual men, who are physically attracted to both). “We have found this in the past, but what we have overlooked is that this is really only true for straight women,“ Rieger tells Yahoo Health. Lesbians, on the other hand, were more like men in that they only showed signs of arousal when watching other women.
Riegler and his team looked for other connections between lesbians and men, but were surprised to find few connections between masculinity as it applied to arousal, and masculine character traits. “Some of these lesbians are very masculine, but we didn’t confirm [the connection], we didn’t see that. It just adds to complication,” Riegler says.
So what if you’re a straight woman and have no emotional interest in the opposite sex? That’s absolutely normal, says Riegler. “It means that for a lot of women, what’s going on in their mind is disconnected from what’s going on in the lower body. If you tell me you’re straight, I won’t discredit that — I’m sure you are.”
Previous studies have shown that women are more sexually fluid than men, as Yahoo Health has previously reported. In one study, participants were asked to identify their sexuality, as well as whether they had ever been attracted to a member of the same sex or had experienced same-sex sexual activity. Women were found to be three times more likely to change how they labeled their sexuality between their early and late 20s and more likely to say they were bisexual than men.
Women’s arousal and sexuality, Rieger says, is far more complex than men’s (no kidding) and this study only backs that up.