How higher education plays into sexual identity

Researchers say education could affect social expectations

The more educated a woman is, the more likely she is to identify as heterosexual, while men with higher levels of education are less likely to say they are "100%” heterosexual, according to a new study from the University of Notre Dame.

For the study, author Elizabeth Aura McClintock, an assistant professor of sociology, analyzed data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health (Add Health), which tracked 5,018 women and 4,191 men from 1994 to 2008. The average age of participants at the start of the study was 16; at the end it was 28.

McClintock found that women overall are more likely than men to change their sexual identity or identify as bisexual, while men are more likely to report as "100%" heterosexual or homosexual. She also notes that these identities are influenced by the “general social expectation of heterosexuality.” 

Interviewers also rated participants' physical attractiveness as part of the Add Health study. The more physically attractive and educated females were more likely than less attractive females to say they were "100% heterosexual." This may be because they have more options among "'better' men," says McClintock.

Women with fewer male options may be more likely to explore same-sex relationships, she says. Context determines whether a woman's more fluid sexual nature emerges or not, says McClintock (Scutti, Medical Daily, 8/25).

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