Why Women Become More Bisexual As They Age, According To Science

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Why Women Become More Bisexual As They Age

Like most women, I have no shame in admitting that I find other females attractive. I have even admitted to being open to bisexual experimentation.

For women, it's perfectly acceptable to be a little bi-curious. And, according to research, it's the norm.

A 2019 study in the Journal of Sex Research revealed that women's sexual preferences tend to be a gray area where women become more sexually fluid as they get older.

Our sexuality is a major part of our identity. Christine Kaestle is a professor of developmental health at Virginia Tech and the leader of the study. "Sexual orientation involves many aspects of life, such as who we feel attracted to, who we have sex with, and how we self-identify," she said.

Kaestle found that one in six women are "located in the middle of the sexuality spectrum and to be bisexual."

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In fact, researchers at Boise State University found that in a group of heterosexual women, 60 percent were physically interested in other women, where 45 percent made out with a woman in the past, and 50 percent had fantasies about the same sex.

I fall into that 60 percent. 

Sometimes when I catch myself staring at a beautiful woman in the grocery store I wonder about my own sexuality. I'm not supposed to like girls! (At least according to some people in society.)

Would I date a woman? I'm not sure, but I am attracted to the beauty of other women — and they're so much easier to understand psychologically than men. 

We girls form deep relationships through friendships, which some say are the basis of love. 

And, personally, I believe that emotional connections and physical attraction are linked. For instance, guys tend to get cuter in our eyes if they're genuinely nice.

"Women are encouraged to be emotionally close to each other," psychology professor Elizabeth Morgan said. "That provides an opportunity for intimacy and romantic feelings to develop."

From talking about personal issues for hours to calling each other "lovers," women's friendships are often barely distinguishable from romantic relationships.

When heterosexual women hook up with other women, their relationships are based on an emotional connection. Lisa Diamond from the University of Utah believes that it only takes the right person to convince a woman to enter into a relationship with someone of the same sex. 

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Does that make women bisexual?

Not exactly. "You can still be heterosexual and have interests, experiences or fantasies with the same sex," says Morgan. 

And Kaestle adds, "At the same time, as more people pair up in longer-term committed relationships as young adulthood progresses, this could lead to fewer identities and attractions being expressed that do not match the sex of the long-term partner, leading to a kind of [bisexual] invisibility."

In addition, sexuality gets more, not less, fluid with time — yet more proof that experimentation isn't just for when you are in college.

In a study conducted by Diamond, the older a woman was, the more likely she was to describe her sexual preference as "unlabeled." 

"We have this idea that sexuality gets clearer and more defined as time goes on," says Diamond. "We consider that a sign of maturity to figure out who you are. I've seen it's really the opposite." 

What role does the media play in sexual orientation?

Of course, the media plays a role in girl-on-girl attraction, only fueling the fire of our confusion. Not only have pop stars like Lady Gaga made bisexuality mainstream, but women can't help but ogle beautiful women — they are everywhere we turn.

According to Neuroscientist Ogi Ogas, Ph.D. analyzed billions of web information including web searches, erotic websites, and e-books, and found that women are just as likely to search for "pictures of Ryan Gosling" as "pictures of Jessica Alba." How about that?

"Women in the media are often sexualized and women constantly get the message that appearance should be important to them, so they're used to viewing women in a sexualized way," says Morgan.

I wonder how much of the attraction to other women is based on appearance and messages from the media, and how much of it is authentic and genuine. Should we even try to distinguish between the two?

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Jessica Cruel is the Senior Editor of Beauty & Style at SELF Magazine.

Editor's Note: This article was originally posted in March 2015 and was updated with the latest information.