Sexual Fluidity & Emotional Connection

Sexual Fluidity by Lisa Diamond

Sexual Fluidity by Lisa Diamond

Women seem to be more sexually fluid than men. Why?

One reason might involve the way we tie sex and emotional connection together for women.

Not to mention that women are more likely to become deeply connected to same sex friends.


When University of Utah Prof. Lisa Diamond studied sexual minority women (i.e., non-straight), she found that women’s same-sex relationships often grew out of close friendships.

In her book, Sexual Fluidity, she points out that love and desire are separate systems but they come to be associated together. And culturally, that’s more true for women because they are taught that they should feel an emotional connection before becoming sexual.

We assume that sexual desire turns to love. But why not the other way around, she asks? Love has no sexual orientation. So might you love someone and find desire emerging?

Meanwhile oxytocin, a bonding hormone that women have more of, influences arousability and satisfaction. So when emotional bonding increases oxytocin, might it sometimes trigger sexual arousability?

(I’m not sure how gender-specific this process is because she doesn’t make a comparison with men and vasopressin.)

Now consider that our culture says it’s more okay for women to express emotion and to be closely connected. Men must be tough, stoic and independent. And relationship research shows women’s relationships to be more emotionally close and connected.

Put it all together and this could be another reason why women’s sexuality is more fluid.

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About BroadBlogs

I have a Ph.D. from UCLA in sociology (emphasis: gender, social psych). I currently teach sociology and women's studies at Foothill College in Los Altos Hills, CA. I have also lectured at San Jose State. And I have blogged for Feminispire, Ms. Magazine, The Good Men Project and Daily Kos. Also been picked up by The Alternet.

Posted on January 13, 2016, in LGBTQ+, psychology, sex and sexuality, women and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 44 Comments.

  1. I enjoyed reading about oxytocin and how women have higher levels of it. That’s absolutely going to play a role in our attachment to others, but like you pointed out, the way society teaches us that we must have an emotional connection before sex has a huge influence as well. I have fallen in love with one of my best friends before, and from our closeness arose sexual desire. So I think it can work in that order, but obviously also the other way around too. I have been physically attracted to someone and developed feelings for them later on.

  2. I found this blog post to be extremely interesting because I have just broken up with my boyfriend of ten years. We have been together since I was seventeen and I am not sure how I feel about sleeping with someone else. I was the one who instigated the breakup, but I still have an emotional connection to him and cannot fathom having another connection with someone else. I know it may happen one day, but I am not sure when. This blog post resonates with me because I was not sure why I am like this. Why is it “normal” for men to “sleep around,” but women usually find the need to be emotionally connected to their partner to engage sexually. The fact that we are taught that we should behave and react in this way is obvious, but I found the fact that our cortisone levels also affect how we are sexually attracted to another being interesting.

    • I’m glad you found the post helpful in articulating something that you had experienced, in terms of women putting love and sex and emotional connection altogether – so often, anyway!

  3. I believe that woman’s sexual fluidity plays a role in the surplus of bisexual woman compared to men. Because woman are always socially allowed, or encouraged, to express themselves emotionally, it’s normal for them to feel that way about both genders. Men are taught to only express their love and compassion in the presence of a woman. Therefore, males that may develop love connections to same-sexed friends are less likely to act on them.
    Woman definitely seek to find love in their desires. If a woman has a one night stand, without even knowing the man she will look to find emotional connection between them. Because society makes woman feel that love is a prerequisite for their desires, we see them try to “justify” their actions. This school of thought is what encourages slut-shaming. Society must break down years of taboos about the sexual expectations of men and woman so that future generations may live in a world free to be who they are.

  4. I hope this links on Vasopressin is very interesting.


    2. Oxytocin, vasopressin and a tale of two voles

  5. Thank you.. thank you.. for your reply and the links especially about the “Men: Erotic Objects of Women’s Gaze” & “Do Women Objectify Men?”.. I read it and it helped me to clarify my doubts.

    Now I would like to comment about ‘Vasopressin’ since you mentioned it in your post.

    I am 100% sure that Oxytoxin is the only “Love hormone” that God created for both men and women.. Unfortunately it will be difficult for both men and women to feel love toward a stranger at first sight without a long relation..since it take much time for oxytoxin to build up.. May be that is why God created ‘vasopressin’ in men that synergies with testosterone to ‘simulate love’ or to ‘simulate the effects of Oxytoxin’… So that a man can love a women at first sight without knowing her personally or without need for a long relationship.

    Speaking of my experience,.I believe I have the huge amount of vasopressin produced in my body than other men… Because whenever I see an attractive women, instead of feeling an urge to sex, I often feel the urge to buy flowers and gifts for her. And even cuddle her…..Her ‘breast and butts’ have no influence on me at that moment…Yea, and I feel strange, It seems to me that vasopressin reduce my sex drive so that I can only feel emotionally connected to that woman and not sexually.

    But the sad thing is.. I don’t think all men have vasopressin in their brain. Because if they all have, then how some men rape women?..How can they go to a prostitute?…Personally speaking, I cannot go to a prostitute for sex, because if I go, I will fall in love with her and became so addicted to her so that I don’t want any other women…’only her’. Thus I will have no choice but to chose her as my soul mate and marry her.and live happy ever after with her like in a fairy tales

    Yet vasopressin is not so satisfying like Oxytoxin. Though it simulate the effects of oxytoxin to love, it also make men feel lonely, a sence of separateness, depression and suicidal thoughts etc.

    Hope you research more on this ‘simulating cuddle hormone of men’, the Vasopressin.

  6. Thank you for your reply and links. You wrote “When I was quite young I experienced it,”.. I wonder what kind of experience was that… Is it a craving to touch, feel and see like men do.. or it is just an arousal ..similar too what hetero-men feel when they see an erect penis in porn?

  7. Dear Gerogia, In your previous post you said that Women too have breast fetish. So I wonder Is that breast and butt fetish that make women lesbian & bi- sexual OR is that because Women are more beautiful than Men? Hope you reply.Thanks

  8. I have never had this idea of women being more sexually fluid than men cross my mind but I can clearly see why it might be true. Women are more interested in making emotional connections with the people they meet. Making emotional connections with people causes women to feel that special interest in them, leading them to have a sexual desire. I can say that culture has to be part of the reason why women are more sexually fluid than men. Men are expected to not show much emotions with people, especially with other men so I can understand why it is not common with them. I do not know how other cultures are but American culture represents men as tough and emotionless. I feel that men who do have a strong and close relationship with other men might be referred to as being too “feminine” or being mistaken as gay, even if they are not gay. However, I feel that because more people are accepting gays the more this can change.

  9. There was a time not very long ago when men were closer to each other with out homophobia
    It would be interesting to hear your opinion on how patriarchy has changed men’s behavior and relationships with other men

    • Patriarchal people fear gay people because:

      . You can’t have male leadership in the home among lesbians
      . If a man is the leader in a gay household, then the other man is submissive — and you can’t have submissive men
      . How are stereotypes of gay men are that they are very feminine, Blurring gender lines. And you can’t have patriarchy with blurred gender lines, So that is threatening

      So in patriarchy you have a lot of homophobia.

      Now back during the time that you are talking about people aren’t talking about homosexuals very much because everyone is closeted, So it’s not the same threat. But when gays come out of the closet they become a threat to “Real men” and patriarchy, which supports superior Real men.

      With an increased awareness of gays and they’re threat to patriarchy, It’s very important for men to not seen gay.

      So that’s my best guess.

    • The photos in the above link, do they look gay to you?
      Do you think that most people would view them as gay according to the social norms?

  10. Since western culture generally seems to be moving towards greater acceptance of affection between men it will be interesting to see if there’s also a shift towards more sexual fluidity in men. Perhaps the presumption that men are more likely to be one or the other won’t hold up.
    Or maybe I’m being overly optimistic.

  11. I can see how developing an emotional connection can lend itself to attraction for sure. Alison Armstrong who offers coaching on relationships talks about as a woman when u feel an initial pull to a man it’s often good to stay away from him and give the ones where that initial pull isn’t there a chance and to allow the attraction to spread to the chemical from there. That initial pull she says is usually about biology and chemistry and not necessarily a sign of genuine possibility for connection. Getting to know someone can create chemistry on a deeper level so I wonder if that the same to the emotional connection u speak of here.

  12. The mindset of women (as structured by the society) along with an abundant flow of the hormone, oxytocin, might be the reasons of their sexual fluidity…

  13. So fluid sexuality is a cute term for bisexuality

    • In interviews, most sexual minority (non-straight) women changed how they understood themselves over the years, with whichever relationship they were “currently” in having a big influence on how they saw themselves. So a woman might start out seeing herself as lesbian and then fall in love with a man and see herself as bisexual, But later that doesn’t quite fit it because 80-90% of the time she prefers women (most of the women wouldn’t call themselves bisexual unless they were attracted to women less than 75% of the time) and — finally – often end up labeling themselves “unlabeled.” Hmmmm, maybe I’ll write about this sometime.

      • So basically you just pointed that women’s sexual orientation can change and it’s not “born this way”
        Unlike men who 90% are heterosexual,
        most women are “wherever the wind blows?”

      • Well, the women she studied are sexual minority, “non-straight,” women. She said that women have a basic orientation but have some flexibility within it.

        As I wrote over here: Sexual Fluidity, Images & Biology

        Let’s make a distinction between orientation and arousal:

        -Orientation is stable and biologically-based
        -Arousal depends more on society’s ideas of what’s sexy

        The basic orientation is stable, but arousal can be fluid, says Prof. Diamond, allowing women to label themselves in fluid ways over time: lesbian, bisexual, unlabled. I think that what she means by saying that orientation is stable is that the fluidity falls within a limited range.

      • “Well, the women she studied are sexual minority, “non-straight,” women.”

        I thought that this study about fluid sexuality was about heterosexual females thus the belief that most females are bisexual.

      • This particular study was on sexual minority women.

      • That brings another question.
        Women rarely approach men and since this study was about non-straight women that means that these women not only wouldn’t approach men but they would even avoid them and wouldn’t reciprocate any interest by the men.
        In order for women to release bonding hormones and feel attraction to someone they would need to spend enough time with them and escalate any interest.
        How could possibly a non-straight woman bother spending time with a man in the first place?

      • Just like women have close friendships with other women, a non-straight woman can still have close friendships with men. Otherwise, I don’t know what might be going on. I don’t have enough data.

        I’ll answer your other question later because I have to get going right now — that will take more time.

  14. Perhaps because women are conditioned to be closer. I think culture is part of the reason of that, compared to how men relate to each other. How it started and where it came from, I don’t know. But it didn’t always start that way. It’s interesting because in some cultures, european cultures, men are closer to each other than in america or such countries and it can seem weird even though they are straight.

    For example, I believe in Italy or Greece, strasight men could be holding hands or something, and some a kiss on the cheek or even lip or something. I remember hearing that. That might be italy. I mean the scene from the godfather, obviously it wasn’t sexual, but you know what I’m talking about. And like if one read’s from the bible or plays and ancient texts, the wordinng and how some men refer to each other is kind of close, or much more than how our culture would talk to other men. But on the same token, I don’t know if that causes the line crossed for men, because there still is that visual aspect which I think would negate an attraction for most straight men.

    Like I said, interesting that the visual doesn’t negate it for women toward women. You can say its because women are sexualized, but it seems to negate it for gay men. I mean gay men are more in touch with their feminine side. I mean this as in compared to straight men. Because yes, there are tons of gay men who don’t act or seem feminine or just as “masculine:” as straight men. But gay men are more into their femine side or flamboyant, as a result, can bond and be close with each other and if you see women who have gay male friends. How gay men are very close bonding with their women friends, Just the communication, talking, even can seem “flirty” with each other, though the gay man has not attraction to women and his women friends. But yet with all this “closeness”, it doesn’t cause a gay man to be sexually fluid and be able to have desire even with this emotional connection with his female friends. And I’m think like for men in general, it must have to because of the visual, physical negating any attraction he could feel because of “emotion”.

    • Yes, you can see higher levels of the emotional closeness among men in some cultures outside our own.

      But typically in patriarchal cultures– Which is most of the world these days–Women are allowed to be more emotionally close than men. That may be because (and I will write about this later) more warrior cultures tend to be more patriarchal, and Warrior cultures encourage men to be nonemotional and stoic — which helps with killing. And then those traits become ingrained in the male gender role and psyche.

      Now ancient Greece took an interesting turn. Warrior cultures also value men above women, because a higher level of muscle mass, and no need to bear and nurse babies, means you choose men to be the warriors. Ancient Greece valued men over women so much that men were seen as having sex with a higher order of human being if they had sex with men, encouraging more homosexual behavior. Some guys just couldn’t get into it, though, like Plato, who said he loved men, but “not in that way.” So that’s where the term platonic love came from.

      And yes, biology other than oxytocin/vasopressin seems likely to have effects — like the steadily high male sex drive, when you look at the difference between women and gay men and visual triggers. See: Sexual Fluidity, Images & Biology

  15. Interesting info, specially the greater composition of oxytocin in women. In the scheme of things, it would appear the woman invariably plays stabilising role in a relationship, providing the emotional ground to hold relationship anchor. A factor corroborated by the body chemistry as discussed here.

  16. That sounds plausible. How much of it is cultural and how much conditioned it’s hard to really separate. I do think men’s friendships can be as intimate, I mean it was not uncommon in certain cultures for men to have good friends who were also lovers, but for obvious reason this has been discouraged in certain places in different times.

    • I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s much more — or entirely — nurture rather than nature. I wish she had talk to more about how vasopressin works for men. But for sure, our culture allows and encourages more emotional expression and connection for women.

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