Copyright 2008 by the American Psychological Association 0012-1649/08/$12.00 DOI: 10.1037/0012-16188.8.131.52
Female Bisexuality From Adolescence to Adulthood: Results From a 10-Year Longitudinal Study Lisa M. Diamond
University of Utah
Debates persist over whether bisexuality is a temporary stage of denial or transition, a stable “3rd type” of sexual orientation, or a heightened capacity for sexual fluidity. The present study uses 5 waves of longitudinal data collected from 79 lesbian, bisexual, and “unlabeled” women to evaluate these models. Both the “3rd orientation” and “fluidity” models had support, but the “transitional stage” model did not. Over 10 years, 2/3 of women changed the identity labels they had claimed at the beginning of the study, and 1/3 changed labels 2 or more times. Yet, contrary to the “transitional stage” model, more women adopted bisexual/unlabeled identities than relinquished these identities; few bisexual/unlabeled women ended up identifying as lesbian or heterosexual. Overall, the most commonly adopted identity was “unlabeled.” Bisexual/unlabeled women had stable overall distributions of same-sex/other-sex attractions but greater absolute fluctuations in attractions from assessment to assessment than lesbians. All women reported declines in their ratio of same-sex to other-sex behavior over time. These findings demonstrate that the distinction between lesbianism and bisexuality is a matter of degree rather than kind. Keywords: bisexuality, sexual orientation, psychosexual development, longitudinal study
Although basic research on sexual orientation has made significant strides over the past 20 years, one area that remains woefully underinvestigated is bisexuality. Simply defining bisexuality remains problematic. Most researchers and laypeople view bisexuality as a pattern of erotic responsiveness to both sexes (Rust, 2002), yet even this broad conceptualization leaves many questions unanswered: Does any fleeting instance of same-sex attraction or fantasy “count,” or must bisexuals experience regular, strong, and sustained attractions to both sexes? What about individuals who claim that although they do not currently experience attractions to both sexes, they have the potential to do so? For example, in their random, representative study of American adults, Laumann, Gagnon, Michael, and Michaels (1994) reported that a greater number of women found same-sex contact “appealing” than indicated being attracted to women. Are they bisexual? Neither researchers nor gay/lesbian/bisexual individuals agree on the answers to such questions. As a result, many studies of same-sex sexuality have specifically excluded bisexually identified individuals over the years for the sake of conceptual and methodological clarity (Rust, 2000b). Between 1975 and 1985, only 3% of the journal articles published on same-sex sexuality specifically included the word bisexual or bisexuality in the title, abstract, or subject headings. Between 1985 and 1995, this figure increased to 16%, reflecting the emerging acknowledgment of bisexuality as a legitimate sexual identity. In the past 10 years, however, that percentage has climbed only 3 more percentage
I acknowledge the participation and assistance of the recruitment sites. Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Lisa M. Diamond, Department of Psychology, University of Utah, 380 South 1530 East, Room 502, Salt Lake City, UT 84112-0251. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org 5
points, demonstrating that the empirical underrepresentation of bisexuality persists. This is somewhat ironic, given that studies using representative samples increasingly indicate that bisexual patterns of sexual attraction and behavior are more common than previously thought, and they are actually more common than exclusive same-sex sexuality among women (Garofalo, Wolf, Wissow, Woods, & Goodman, 1999; Kirk, Bailey, Dunne, &...