Dr. Rieger, from the Department of Psychology at the University of Essex, collected data on 345 women. These participants had their biological responses – things such as pupil dilation – monitored while they viewed videos of naked women and men (this study omits any mentions of nonbinary, transgender, or intersex people and does not gauge women’s attraction to those groups). Based on Reiger’s methods and analysis, it was determined that 82% of the women were aroused by the bodies of both men and women. For the women in the study who identified themselves as straight, 74% “were strongly sexually aroused” by women as well as men. Unsurprisingly, lesbian identified women were far more aroused by women than by men.
While Rieger’s study was particularly interested in sexual orientation, and more specifically bisexuality, bisexual women were either not included, or the results were not reported regarding their sexual interests, leading some to note that this is yet another example of bisexual erasure. Conversely, however, Dr. Reiger has concluded based on his research that, “Even though the majority of women identify as straight, our research clearly demonstrates that when it comes to what turns them on, they are bisexual or gay, but never straight.”
Dr. Reiger’s contention that women are only bisexual or lesbian is particularly odd, given that in earlier research done using similar methods he had determined that men are not bisexual – they are either gay or straight. That thinking is often condemned by bisexual advocates who feel that they are often dismissed, ignored, or told that they don’t exist.
Similarly, it seems premature to declare to all straight identified women that they are lying to themselves and others about their orientation. Not only is further research certainly needed, but questions of sexual orientation are not as simple finding a particular person’s body attractive. It is also presumptuous that one can “scientifically” declare such a personal identity. Even while there is mounting evidence that sexual orientation may be biologically based, people still get to choose their own labels and decide who they have sexual relationships with. If a woman is aroused by naked women, she can still be straight and have sexual and romantic relationships with men.
Gwen is a writer who has an education degree, a social work background, an extensive knowledge of vegetables, and a devotion to queer revolutionary politics. She lives deep in the woods of Maine with two dogs, a magnificent partner, and an ever-growing collection of plants.