“I Always Feel like Somebody’s Watchin’ Me”: How Social Media Affects our Judgments of Masturbation

BY: Katherine Haus, B.A.

In days of yore, masturbation was thought to cause a broad range of illnesses and afflictions, both mental and physical (Madanikia, Bartholomew & Cytrynbaum, 2013). Popular religions, health practitioners and yarn spinners alike condemned the practice, but as the world continued to turn, researchers gradually found that it indicates normal sexual function, sexual health, and possesses benefits untold (Coleman, 2002). Modern research and medicine frequently confirm this to be true, and a large majority of adult men and women report masturbating (Coleman, 2002).

 
Despite these strides forward, many people report feeling guilt or shame from masturbation, and it is still highly stigmatized within our society. As such, there were no recent studies assessing judgment towards masturbation. In order to do so, myself and a faculty member at the University of Minnesota Duluth (UMD) employed the use of hypothetical vignettes depicting either a man (Jeff) or a woman (Amy) engaging in masturbation (Haus & Thompson, 2018). A total of 525 participants (256 women, 269 men) were recruited to read one of these vignettes, and then complete a Sexuality Judgment Scale (SJS) indicating their perceptions of Jeff or Amy’s sexual history. Participant ratings on the SJS revealed that female participants rated Jeff higher on the SJS than Amy, an indication that men who engage in masturbation are seen as having more extensive sexual histories than women who masturbate. Interestingly, this same trend was not true for male participants.

 

Image result for hiding in sheets

 
Although these results are surprising, it is possible that this judgment may be modeled by media portrayals of masturbation. As masturbation is considered to be an uncomfortable topic by parents, educators and researchers alike, the primary source of learning about masturbation comes from media sources (Kaestle & Allen, 2011). One of these sources is social media, where allegations of sexual misconduct among men in Hollywood are rampant amidst the wake of movements like #MeToo and #TimesUp.

 
These movements are driven by empathy, and are focused on women’s consequences as a result of men’s actions. Other social media campaigns are centered around solidarity among women with slogans like “women supporting women” or “girls supporting girls.” It is possible that the increase in camaraderie among women has also increased the connection that women feel as members of a group, causing them to rate the other members of their in-group with less severity.

 
Although these movements are promoting positive changes geared towards equalizing our society, it is important to recognize all areas of issue caused by misconduct in order to minimize stigma and negative sexual experiences held by both men and women in our society. So next time you find yourself questioning someone’s sexual behavior a little to intensely, just take a step back and think for a moment. Why the hate? Just masturbate.

References

Coleman, E. (2002). Masturbation as a means of achieving sexual health. Journal of Psychology & Human Sexuality, 14, 5-16.

 
Haus, K. R., & Thompson, A. E. (Under Review). Feelin’ Myself: An Examination of the Endorsement of the Sexual Double Standard and the Backlash Effect related to Masturbation.

 
Kaestle, C. E., & Allen, K. R. (2011). The role of masturbation in healthy sexual development: Perceptions of young adults. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 40, 983-994.

 
Madanikia, Y., Bartholomew, K., & Cytrynbaum, J., B. (2013). Depiction of masturbation in North American movies. Canadian Journal of Human Sexuality, 22, 106-115.

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Ridin’ Solo: The Benefits of Masturbation

BY: ASHLEY THOMPSON, PH.D.

Many of us have likely heard the old wives’ tale that masturbation will make you blind and result in hairy palms (particularly among men). Despite what your parents might have told you, I am here to report that research on solo sexual activity actually indicates that masturbation can result in a variety of HEALTHY and BENEFICIAL outcomes.

Although not all occurrences of masturbation result in orgasm, many do. Consequently, research on the benefits of orgasm reveals that the physiological byproduct associated with an orgasm is the release of endorphins into the body, which can help to reduce stress, relieve sexual tension, reduce the likelihood of prostate cancer in men, and improve issues associated with insomnia (Haake et al., 2004; Rao, Aswinidutt, Anil, Dhananjaya, & Hasan, 2009). In fact, there are some studies that have indicated the masturbatory orgasms can even help reduce nasal congestion (Zarrintan, 2008) – sorry Kleenex and Puffs!

Image result for masturbation cartoon

However, not all benefits of masturbation are linked to orgasm, just the experience of sexual arousal can be beneficial. In fact, research suggests that stress/tension reduction can result from sexual arousal ALONE (regardless of orgasm; Murphy, Seckl, Burton, Checkley, & Lightman, 1987).

KEEP IN MIND – there can be too much of a good thing. In fact, is Rirare cases, some people’s masturbation habits may create distress for oneself or one’s relationship. That being said, for the vast majority, masturbation is associated with much more positives than negatives. So, forget what your grandma told you and feel free to have a little fun!

References

Haake, P., Krueger, T. H. C., Goebel, M., Heberling, K., Elsenbruch, S., & Schedlowski, M. (2004). Orgasm-induced redistribution of leucocytes and lymphocytes subsets in males. Neuroimmunomodulation11, 293-298.

Murphy, M. R., Seckl, J. R., Burton, S., Checkley, S. A., & Lightman, S. L. (1987). Changes in oxytocin and vasopressin secretion during sexual activity in men. The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism65, 738-741.

Rao, P. J., Aswinidutt, R., Anil, K., Dhananjaya, S., & Hasan, F. (2009). Sex as a cure for insomnia. Medical hypotheses72, 760-761.

Zarrintan, S. (2008). Ejaculation as a potential treatment of nasal congestion in mature males. Medical hypotheses71, 308.

Make-Up Sex: The Relationship between Conflict and Sexual Behavior

BY: ASHLEY THOMPSON, PH.D.

Although, conflict in relationships may often lead to a decrease in relationship satisfaction and relationship dissolution (breaking-up), it has been discovered that conflict may not be entirely negative. In fact, research reveals that the emotions produced during conflict may lead to feelings of sexual arousal.

Now, I know what you must be thinking: “Wait a minute, you’re telling me that fighting is a good thing? And that getting mad at my partner for sitting in my spot on the couch will lead to good sex?”

Well… in a study published in Personal Relationships, researchers examined the association between relationship conflict and sexual desire among 61 heterosexual couples (Birnbaum, Mikulincer, & Austerlitz, 2013). The study found that, participants (men in particular) currently experiencing relationship conflict reported greater feelings of sexual attraction to their partner than those without conflict.
Image result for relationship conflict
This can be explained by the phenomenon known in psychology as the “misattribution of arousal” where we mislabel our feelings of fear arousal as feelings of romantic arousal. In fact, evidence from a famous study indicated that heterosexual men who had just walked across a dangerous bridge were more likely to romantically pursue a female confederate than were men who walked across a safe bridge (Dutton & Aron, 1974).

With regard to relationship conflict and anger, there appears to be a connection between anger and desire. Moreover, anger during an argument may be misconstrued as sexual arousal or may act as a stimulant that can fuel desire. This may create the behavior we commonly call “make-up sex.” Of course, this has to be consensual and agreed upon by both parties involved. Furthermore, replacing conflict-resolution processes with sex is not always the answer.

That being said, next time your partner is screaming at you for splurging on name brand ketchup–try trying initiating sexual activity, you just might be surprised at the outcome!

References

Birnbaum, G. E., Mikulincer, M., & Austerlitz, M. (2013). A fiery conflict: Attachment orientations and the effects of relational conflict on sexual motivation. Personal Relationships, 20, 294-310.

Dutton, D. G., & Aron, A. P. (1974). Some evidence for heightened sexual attraction under conditions of high anxiety. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology30, 510-517.

All Hallows Hook-Ups

BY: ASHLEY THOMPSON, PH.D.

As we mature, Halloween becomes less and less about dressing-up as an evil demon and more about releasing your inner demon in the bedroom. Although Halloween may not have the most romantic reputation, it can be a great opportunity to mingle with other interested singles. In fact, in a study of over 500 Canadian singles at zoosk.com, over two-thirds of adults view Halloween as a great opportunity to let your guard down, put yourself out there, and meet new people.

So, what is it about Halloween that creates a good environment for singles? One possibility is the inclusion of fantasy and dressing-up. Wearing a costume gives people the opportunity to be whatever they want to be. It is as though, for one night only, you can be a stranger in your home town and take advantage of the anonymity that results.

Image result for halloween making love

But, are other singles interested in those who dress-up more than those who “keep-it-real?” Well, according to the study at zoosk.com, both men and women agree that someone in costume is more attractive than someone who is not dressed up. In fact, about 70% of the men preferred women in sexy costumes (GO FIGURE!), whereas approximately half of the women reported a preference for men donning clever/humourous costumes.

Although, their findings suggest that dressing-up is the preferred way to go, not all Halloween costumes are created equal. For example, coordinated costumes can be a lot of fun, however, nearly half of both men and women view coordinated costumes as an indication that the person is “off the market” or disinterested in hooking-up. Additionally, scary costumes may actually work against you and scare off potential dates, with only about 5-10% of men and women reporting a preference for someone in a spooktacular costume.

So, whether it be this year or next, if you are looking for a good chance to hook-up, Halloween may be your day. Just remember to show a little skin, tell a few jokes, and steer clear of the fake blood and creepy contacts.

“You Did it on Purpose, I Couldn’t Help It:” Differences in How We Explain Infidelity

BY: ASHLEY THOMPSON, PH.D.

Let’s pretend you run across your romantic partner holding someone else’s hand. What are your first thoughts? Do you think to yourself “there must be some explanation for this, maybe they are rehearsing for a play” or do you think “that sketchball is sneaking around behind my back”? Well, as it turns out, the way we interpret and perceive infidelity-related behaviors varies notably depending on the person in question.

lipstick

According to a recent study of mine published in the journal of Basic and Applied Social Psychology (Thompson & O’Sullivan, 2017)people interpret the intentions of their romantic partner’s indiscretions very differently from the ways with which they interpret their own. This tendency to judge and interpret other’s behavior differently from or own is referred to as the actor-observer bias (Jones & Nisbett, 1972). In essence, social psychologists describe the actor-observer bias as the tendency to excuse our own negative behavior by attributing it to all sorts of circumstantial reasons, while explaining the negative behavior of others using stable dispositions (i.e., personality characteristics). For example, when explaining poor test performance, people are likely to attribute the cause of their own poor performance to situational variables (e.g., noisy test environment, a poor teacher/student relationship). On the other hand, people often attribute the negative test performance of others to dispositional variables (e.g., he/she lacks intelligence, he/she did not study enough). 

So, in my recent study, I was interested to see if these same biases applied to people’s attributions for infidelity. In particular, I wanted to know whether adults attributed the cause of their partner’s real-life indiscretions to dispositional variables to a greater extent than their own indiscretions and whether they attributed their own real-life indiscretions to situational variables to a greater extent that their partner’s indiscretions. Turns out that the results from 802 U.S. adults revealed just as I suspected: we are more likely to blame our partner’s infidelity on dispositional factors and our own infidelity on situational factors.

But that was not all, the data also indicated that the difference in how we explain our partner’s infidelity as compared to our own infidelity depended on the type of behavior. Using a 7-point scale (with higher scores indicating greater endorsement of dispositional attributions), adults attributed a partner’s real-life sexual infidelity (e.g., oral intercourse, vaginal intercourse, kissing) to dispositional features to a greater extent (M = 5.17, SD = 2.17) than one’s own real-life infidelity (M = 3.02, SD = 2.17). This same trend was true for technology-related infidelity (e.g., browsing singles website, sending a sexually-explicit text message, masturbating over webcam), with adults attributing a partner’s technology infidelity to disposition features to a greater extent (M = 4.85, SD = 1.87) than one’s own technology infidelity (M = 3.89, SD = 2.17). However, adults’ attributions for emotional (e.g., providing emotional support, sharing secrets, attending a formal event) and solitary infidelity (e.g., viewing pornography, engaging in masturbation alone, finding a celebrity attractive) did not vary between a partner’s or one’s own infidelity.

Inf Chart

So, why do we assume our partner’s infidelity is a result of dispositional characteristics and our own infidelity is a result of situational features? Some argue that this bias is self-serving and that we are motivated to protect our self-esteem by blaming our negative actions on situational variables that are beyond our control (e.g., our infidelity is less damaging if it was a result of intoxication” rather than if it wasa result of our own internal motives). However, this self-serving bias does not apply when judging others. We are less motivated to protect the self-esteem of others and, as a result, we don’t make the same attributions for the behavior of others as we do for ourselves.

Furthermore, why did we only see this actor-observer bias for certain forms of infidelity (primarily sexual and technology)? This may relate to the guilt we experience from engaging in certain forms of infidelity over others. In particular, the more discomfort/guilt produced by a behavior, the more likely one is to justify that behavior (i.e., make situational attributions) (for more information refer to Cognitive Dissonance Theory; Aronson, 1969). In fact, sexual infidelity and technology infidelity are the most extreme forms and likely produced the strongest feelings of discomfort/guilt, resulting in the use of more guilt-reducing strategies (Smith, 1961). Consequently, those who engaged in sexual or technology infidelity were likely to employ more guilt-reducing strategies to a greater extent than were those who may have engaged in more benign behaviors, such as solitary infidelity. Furthermore, because people are unlikely to experience discomfort or guilt as a result of a partner’s infidelity, they are less likely to justify a partner’s infidelity behavior by making external attributions as they would their own. Thus, the actor-observer bias demonstrated in this research likely stems from the need to justify one’s own infidelity but not a partner’s.

References

Aronson, E. (1969). The theory of cognitive dissonance: A current perspective. Advances in Experimental Social Psychology, 4, 1-34.

Jones, E. E., & Nisbett, R. E. (1987). The actor and the observer: Divergent perceptions of the causes of behavior. In E. E. Jones, D. E. Kanouse, H. H. Kelley, R. E. Nisbett, S. Valins, & B. Weiner (Eds.), Attribution: Perceiving the causes of behavior (pp. 79-94). Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.

Smith, E. E. (1961). The power of dissonance techniques to change attitudes. Public Opinion Quarterly, 25, 626-639. doi: 10.1086/267058

Thompson A. E., & O’Sullivan L. F. (2017). Understanding differences in judgments of infidelity: An application of Attribution Theory. Basic and Applied Social Psychology. Advance online publication. doi:10.1080/01973533.2017.1350578

 

Getting to Know Aunt Flow: The Psychology of Sexual Behavior during Menstruation

BY: ASHLEY THOMPSON, PH.D.

I heard a great joke this week: Jokes about PMS aren’t funny. Period.

[He, he, he! Giggle. Giggle.]

After hearing this joke, I started thinking about sex and periods. Depending on the group of women surveyed and the way the question is asked, research has found that somewhere between 3 percent and 30 percent of women have had sexual intercourse while menstruating.

In the U.S., the average age of menarche (the first time a girl gets her period) is just under 13. The average age of menopause is just over 50. That means that the average woman spends close to four decades bleeding, five out of every 28 days. That’s a whole lot of time!

So what happens to women’s sex lives during their period?

American researchers, Devon Hensel, Dennis Fortenberry, and Donald Orr (2004), sought to answer this question by tracking a group of 191 sexually active women between the ages of 14 and 21 for nine months. They asked them to fill out daily surveys and indicate whether they were menstruating and/or sexual intercourse that day. According to these diaries, although 11 percent of young adult women had sex at least once while they had their period, this was less than the percentage who reported having sex during times of no menstruation. In fact, the participants indicated engaging in sexual intercourse 4.5 percent of the days that they had their period as compared to 13.2 percent of days when they did not. This a bit worrisome because a substantial proportion of women report finding sex while menstruating physically pleasurable. In fact, results from a qualitative study revealed that many women feel more turned on and more physically responsive during their period and that having sex on their period makes them feel accepted, validated, and loved by their partner (Fahs, 2011).

Image result for menstruation sex

So, since we know sex can lead to all sort of benefits, what factors make it more likely that a woman will have sex on her period?

In a follow-up study, Hensel, Fortenberry, and Orr (2007) found that adolescent women who had sex on their period were more likely to report having engaged in sex more recently, experience with sex on their period in the past, and report higher sexual interest overall. Essentially, the higher the sex drive, the more likely a woman is to have experienced a variety of sexual behaviors (even sex during menstruation), HUGE SHOCKER!

However, one interesting finding that emerged (but not so surprising), was that women who indicated feeling supported by their partner were more likely to report having sexual intercourse during menstruation as compared to those receiving less support. Apparently, the key to engaging in more non-traditional forms sexual behavior (or non-conventional times for sexual behavior) depends greatly on the quality of the relationship. This is consistent with research in other areas, which reveals that close and supportive relationships (as compared to distant and less-supportive relationships) are more likely to lead to positive outcomes when engaging in a range of sexual behaviors (e.g., feelings of intimacy after anal sex; Reynolds, Fisher, & Rogala, 2015).

So what do you do if you are interested in experimenting with sex during menstruation?

If you are worried about things getting messy I have two magic words for you: SHOWER SEX. Prefer dry land? Throw a towel down on the bed. Worried that your partner will not be interested? That is possible, but you never actually know until you ask! So go for it, you never truly know your preferences until you try.

Digital Dating: The Influence of Technology on Romance

 

BY: ASHLEY THOMPSON, PH.D.

In the past few decades, we have been inundated with advancements in technology and tools used for communication. For example, Twitter®, Facebook®, YouTube®, and Snapchat® are just a few of the many computer-mediated tools that have been developed recently to assist our interactions with others. Despite the growth in technology making us more interconnected than ever, many people have started to wonder if this computer-mediated connectivity comes at a cost (particularly for romantic relationships).

To investigate the outcomes associated with the use of technology for communication in romantic relationships, Dr. Andrea Boyle and Dr.  Lucia O’Sullivan conducted a study surveying 359 young adults about their participation in computer-mediated and face-to-face communication with their romantic partner (2016). Their results indicated that the time spent communicating with their partner through computer-mediated tools was less than the time spent communicating face-to-face. This is good news because many studies have supported the benefits of interacting face-to-face in comparison to interactions occurring over computers/smartphones (e.g., voice inflation, physical contact, body language; Attrill & Jalil, 2011; Mallen, Day, & Green, 2003; Ramirez Jr. & Broneck, 2009).

Image result for smartphone love

Despite the greater proportion of time spent communicating face-to-face, the results of Boyle and O’Sullivan’s study (2016) also revealed that computer-mediated communication also had value in romantic relationships. In particular, those who shared a wider range of topics about themselves through digital technologies reported greater intimacy and higher relationship quality as compared to those who disclosed fewer things or negative things.

In sum, although face-to-face communication has many benefits, it appears as though there is also a place for computer-mediated communication in romantic relationships. In particular, if looking to share positive and beneficial messages with a partner, communication via technology seems to be a great avenue. However, when serious conversations need to take place or when hoping to get serious with a partner during times of distress, perhaps face-to-face interactions are ideal.

References

Attrill, A., & Jalil, R. (2011). Revealing only the superficial me: Exploring categorical self-disclosure online. Computers in Human Behavior, 27, 1634-1642.

Boyle, A., & O’Sullivan, L. F. (2016).  Staying connected: Technology use, computer-mediated communication and relationship outcomes among college students. Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking, 19, 299-307.

Mallen, M. J., Day, S. X., & Green, M. A. (2003). Online versus face-to-face conversation: An examination of relational and discourse variables. Psychotherapy: Theory, Research, Practice, Training, 40, 155-163.

Ramirez Jr, A., & Broneck, K. (2009). IM me’: Instant messaging as relational maintenance and everyday communication. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 26, 291-314.

 

Are Men Really From Mars?

BY: ASHLEY THOMPSON, PH.D.

It has been ingrained in us since birth that men look for sex and find love and women look for love and find sex. For example, take every romantic comedy/romance novel ever written, women are often portrayed as the romantic saps whereas men are testosterone-filled and often sexually motivated. Research on attitudes toward sexuality and relationships supports this idea. For example, studies suggest that men report a stronger desire for casual sex, more permissive attitudes toward sexuality, and more sexually-oriented expectations for relationships as compared to women (Clark & Hatfield, 1989; Petersen & Hyde, 2010; Schmitt, Couden, & Baker, 2001).

Despite these well-supported gender differences, most of the research has relied on self-report surveys, which measure explicit attitudes/preferences. These explicit measures are not very reliable because people can easily fake or enhance their responses to make themselves look better. One way to get around some of these concerns is to assess implicit attitudes. Implicit attitudes are attitudes that exist just below awareness. They are the attitudes that people hold that they are not necessarily aware of. Thus, because these attitudes are subconscious, people are unable to fake or distort their responses.

The most common way to capture these implicit attitudes is to use a computer test called the Implicit Association Test (IAT). In a study of mine conducted at the University of New Brunswick (UNB), myself and a colleague did just that. In particular, we were able to use the IAT to assess people implicit attitudes toward sex and romance (Thompson & O’Sullivan, 2012). By showing 182 UNB students, 68 men and 114 women, images of couples engaged in various sexual activities as well as images associated with romance, the IAT revealed that BOTH men and women displayed an implicit preference for romance as compared to sex. This indicates that men AND women preferred images portraying romance over those portraying sex.

Image result for gender differences love

Although these results may come as quite a shock, it is not completely unheard of in academia. In fact, some studies have indicated that men may be just as romantic as women if not MORE. Specifically, the latest findings by psychologist Marissa Harrison (2011), from Pennsylvania State University in the US, determined that men fall in love quicker and take longer to fall out of love when compared to women. In fact, it was found that men were three times more likely to declare their love before women when involved in a heterosexual relationship.

So, as it pertains to BOTH men and women, it appears as though Robert Frost was on to something: “Love is the irresistible desire to be irresistibly desired.”

References:

Clark, R. D., & Hatfield, E. (1989). Gender differences in receptivity to sexual offers. Journal of Psychology & Human Sexuality, 2, 39-55.

Harrison, M. A., & Shortall, J. C. (2011). Women and men in love: who really feels it and says it first?. The Journal of Social Psychology, 151, 727-736.

Petersen, J. L., & Hyde, J. S. (2010). A meta-analytic review of research on gender differences in sexuality, 1993–2007. Psychological Bulletin, 136, 21–38.

Schmitt, D. P., Couden, A., & Baker, M. (2001). The effects of sex and temporal context on feelings of romantic desire: An experimental evaluation of sexual strategies theory. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 27, 833-847.

Thompson, A. E., & O’Sullivan, L. F. (2012). Gender differences in associations of sexual and romantic stimuli: do young men really prefer sex over romance?. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 41, 949-957.

Setting the Record Straight: Four Sex Myths Debunked

BY: ASHLEY THOMPSON, PH.D.

I think we can all agree that sex is on our minds everyday (19 times per day for men and 10 times per day for women; Fisher, Moore, & Pittenger, 2012). However, truth be told, many of the ideas we have about sex that we accept as fact are actually miscommunications or myths.  As a sexuality researcher and instructor, I feel that it is my responsibility to set the record straight regarding many prominent sex myths.

Here are four sex myths debunked using scientific evidence:

First Myth: Men have higher sex drives than women

WRONG! Research suggests that there are NO gender differences in sexual desire. For example, Davies, Katz, &  Jackson (1999) found that men and women reported roughly similar levels of sexual desire. Moreover, several studies have indicated that differences in sexual desire are more related to overall relationship satisfaction than to gender.

Second Myth: Size matters

ABSOLUTELY NOT! Although we have all heard the phrase “bigger is better” more times than we can count, turns out the size of a man’s member is not related to his sexual prowess (Štulhofer, 2006).  In fact, if anything, some studies suggest that girth may be more related to sexual satisfaction than length.

SEX-MYTH-9-The-average-penis-is-eight-inches.

Third Myth: Only men have wet dreams

INCORRECT! Nocturnal Emissions (i.e., wet dreams) are fairly common among both men and women. Although they are more common among men (particularly young men), many women (40%) report having experienced nocturnal emissions, or vaginal wetness (Kinsey, 1948; 1953).

Fourth Myth: Oral sex is safer than intercourse or anal sex

FALSE! Although you can’t get pregnant via oral sex, there is still an exchange of fluids, which are used as a means by which diseases travel. These diseases can enter your body through sores/cuts in your lips, mouth, and throat (Hyde, Delamater, & Byers, 2012). In fact, chlamydia, human papillomavirus (HPV), gonorrhea, herpes, hepatitis and more can be transmitted via oral sex.

TRENDSexuals: I Kissed a Girl and I Liked It

BY: ASHLEY THOMPSON, PH.D.

Humans do not represent two discrete populations, heterosexual and homosexual. “The world is not to be divided into sheep and goats. Not all things are black nor all things white. It is a fundamental of taxonomy that nature rarely deals with discrete categories. Only the human mind invents categories and tries to force facts into separated pigeon-holes. The living world is a continuum in each and every one of its aspects. The sooner we learn this concerning human sexual behaviour, the sooner we shall reach a sound understanding of the realities of sex.”

-Alfred Kinsey

Historically, bisexuality (as well as other terms used to define sexual fluidity; e.g., pansexual) has been viewed as disgraceful, degrading, and unrespectable. People who were sexually attracted to both sexes were thought to be “just experimenting” and would soon fall into one category or another (heterosexual or homosexual). However, bisexuality is more than just “trial and error,” it is the ability to see past the sexual organs of others in order to appreciate and sustain romantic relationships with both men and women.

Despite the history of negative attitudes toward bisexuality, a recent shift has made bisexuality (specifically among women) trendy. What is accountable for this shift you ask? Well, it is becoming more and more commonplace for women (specifically adolescents and young adults) to hook-up with other women to gain the attention of men. Particularly, these young women are not necessarily interested in actually dating another woman, they just use bisexuality to seek male attention.

Although this shift may be a positive indication of the change in people’s attitudes toward bisexuality, particularly the increased acceptance of bisexuality among the younger demographic, bisexual expression remains a tricky topic. Young adults who have actually struggled to overcome the different challenges associated with non-heterosexuality may find it annoying that other women are adopting their label to attract attention.

Additionally, “trendy bisexual women” (also known as “party bi”) may express feelings of open-mindedness because of their attempt to “test out the waters” sexually with other women. Their drunken “exotic experiment” becomes a bragging point to illustrate their spirit and acceptance of others. I do not mean to discourage sexual experimentation, if done for the right reasons. Sexual exploration is commendable, but selfishly motivated exploration is not. Using bisexual experimentation as a means to attract male attention perpetuates the idea that those who do not identify with pure heterosexuality are merely confused.

It is important to note, that these trendy bisexuals only appear among women and the negative attitudes still surround bisexual men. Furthermore, I want to make myself clear when I say exploring your sexuality is healthy, but when done for the right reasons. Trendy bisexuals may spread the wrong message and “true bisexuals” may take offense to those using bisexuality as a means.