The Experience and Meaning of Same-Sex Sexuality Among Heterosexually Identified Men and Women: An Analytic Review

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The components of sexual orientation, including but not limited to sexual desires, attractions, behaviors, and identities, are generally assumed to align in predictable ways. However, ample research from sociology and other social and behavioral science disciplines shows that for many people, these components do not align as expected. In this article, we focus on individuals who identify as heterosexual and experience same‐sex sexual desires, attractions, and/or behaviors. First, we briefly review the available quantitative data on the prevalence of such experiences and use data from one high‐quality national survey—the National Survey of Family Growth (NSFG)—to show that self‐identified heterosexuals account for as much as one‐half of the same‐sex sexuality that is reported. Then, we turn to recent qualitative literature and draw attention to the contexts within which heterosexually identified men and women experience same‐sex sexuality, how they make sense of these experiences, and the interpretive strategies they use to reconcile their same‐sex sexuality with their heterosexual identities and their gendered presentations of self. Finally, we conclude by discussing the significance of this research and pointing to several paths forward for sociologists and other researchers.


Sociology and Corrections

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Sociology Compass