Tag Archives: sexuality

By Karene Booker
Reprinted from Cornell Chronicle, May 8, 2012





Sexual orientation is best represented as a continuum that has two new categories -- "mostly heterosexual" and "mostly gay/lesbian" -- in addition to heterosexual, bisexual or gay/lesbian, according to a new Cornell study.

In a study of 1,676 responses to an online sexuality survey advertised on Facebook, which included questions about sexual orientation identity, sexual attraction and sexual partners, 20 percent of women and 9 percent of men identified themselves as "mostly heterosexual." Researchers say that this finding supports using the more nuanced 5-point scale for depicting sexual orientation.

The findings also suggest that sexual orientation is not just a one-dimensional continuum with preference for opposite sex on one end and for the same sex on the other. It is more accurately conceptualized with two continuums, they say -- one for depicting a person's orientation to the same sex and the other for the opposite sex.

"In other words, having more same-sex sexuality does not necessarily mean having less opposite-sex sexuality," said sexuality expert Ritch Savin-Williams, professor of human development in Cornell's College of Human Ecology, who conducted the study with lead author and graduate student Zhana Vrangalova.

The research is published in the February issue of Archives of Sexual Behavior.

The researchers also found that some people who chose either of the two presumably exclusive sexual orientation identities (heterosexual and gay/lesbian) still reported some non-exclusivity in their attractions and/or behavior. Although the researchers did not use a representative sample of U.S. adults, their findings are similar to other investigations based on national samples, they noted.

"We've known for some time that gays, lesbians and bisexuals face common and unique health challenges, and now emerging evidence indicates that people identifying themselves as mostly heterosexual do as well," Savin-Williams said.

Using more accurate sexual orientation labels in health surveys and research will help us understand the real-world repercussions of sexuality on physical, sexual, mental and social health, he said.

"It is very encouraging to see more and more investigators including these 'in-between' labels in their studies. The next step is to examine these labels in greater depth and understand what they mean to people and how they shape their lives," Vrangalova said.

The research was supported by the Departments of Human Development and of Psychology.

Karene Booker is an extension support specialist in the Department of Human Development.

Ritch Savin WilliamsRich Savin-Williams, director of the Sex & Gender Lab in the Department of Human Development is quoted extensively in this ABC News article about coming out. Although coming out has been shown to have mental health benefits overall, he advises being selective and strategic.

Read more

Last fall, when an 18-year-old Rutgers student killed himself after a live video showing him having intimate relations with another young man was transmitted on the Internet, public attention once again focused on the risk of suicide among gay teenagers.

But Ritch Savin-Williams,  professor of developmental psychology, argues in this January 2011 New York Times article that the evidence for normal gay youth is less well-known because studies that don't find group differences between gay and straight youth are more difficulty to get published. Read more

Savin-Williams is also quoted in a March 2011 New York Times article on controversey over gay-friendly curricula in schools. Read more

Ritch Savin WilliamsDespite the media's dangerous -- and false -- suggestion that a suicide epidemic is striking young gay men who have been bullied, a Cornell sexuality expert believes there has never been a better time to grow up as a sexual minority.

Ritch Savin-Williams, professor of developmental psychology in human development, director of Cornell's Sex and Gender Lab and author of "The New Gay Teenager," spoke with reporters Nov. 9 at an Inside Cornell media luncheon at the ILR Conference Center in Manhattan.

Savin-Williams studies the similarities among sexual-minority youth and all teens, as well as the ways in which sexual-minority adolescents vary among themselves and the sexual development of heterosexual youth.

"All of these young men dying in a short period of time led a lot of people to believe there was a suicide epidemic among gay youth. We don't know that all these youths were gay or that they died because of the bullying. What bothers me most is that these young lives were being portrayed as being extremely problematic, and almost as if all gay youth were about trying to kill themselves or were an unhappy, fragile group of kids." Read the full story