Straight but not Narrow; Within-Gender Variation in the Gender-Specificity of Women's Sexual Response
Chivers, Meredith L.
Bouchard, Katrina L.
Timmers, Amanda D.
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Gender differences in the specificity of sexual response have been a primary focus in sexual psychophysiology research, however, within-gender variability suggests sexual orientation moderates category-specific responding among women; only heterosexual women show gender-nonspecific genital responses to sexual stimuli depicting men and women. But heterosexually-identified or “straight” women are heterogeneous in their sexual attractions and include women who are exclusively androphilic (sexually attracted to men) and women who are predominantly androphilic with concurrent gynephilia (sexually attracted to women). It is therefore unclear if gender-nonspecific responding is found in both exclusively and predominantly androphilic women. The current studies investigated within-gender variability in the gender-specificity of women’s sexual response. Two samples of women reporting concurrent andro/gynephilia viewed (Study 1, n = 29) or listened (Study 2, n = 30) to erotic stimuli varying by gender of sexual partner depicted while their genital and subjective sexual responses were assessed. Data were combined with larger datasets of predominantly gyne- and androphilic women (total N = 78 for both studies). In both studies, women reporting any degree of gynephilia, including those who self-identified as heterosexual, showed significantly greater genital response to female stimuli, similar to predominantly gynephilic women; gender-nonspecific genital response was observed for exclusively androphilic women only. Subjective sexual arousal patterns were more variable with respect to sexual attractions, likely reflecting stimulus intensity effects. Heterosexually-identified women are therefore not a homogenous group with respect to sexual responses to gender cues. Implications for within-gender variation in women’s sexual orientation and sexual responses are discussed.