Sex

Why Some Straight People Might Have Gay Sex

Six types of self-identified straight people engage in various sexual hookups.

Posted Nov 04, 2018

Philtweir [Public domain], from Wikimedia Commons
Source: Philtweir [Public domain], from Wikimedia Commons

In terms of pure numbers, we know that the vast majority of those who have gay sex identify as straight — and this is true for both women and men. I’ve written about some of these women and men who, if given a choice on questionnaires, identify as mostly straight rather than exclusively straight (Savin-Williams, 2017). In addition, some men, especially in rural areas, have “bud-sex” or “dude-sex” for a variety of reasons.

But this is only part of the story, as Kuperberg and Walker recently discovered. Using a large sample of college students (N > 24,000), they specifically focused on those who reported that they are straight, and yet their last sexual experience was with a same-sex person. Their goal in assessing the reasons for this non-straight behavior among heterosexual women and men was to explore sex experimentation, performative bisexuality (that is, engaging in social hookups to attract opposite-sex others), and fraternity or sorority parties or hazing rituals. Were participants drunk or high? Were they heterosexist or homophobic? Were they politically or religiously conservative or liberal? Were they sexually assaulted?

They found six types of straight individuals whose last sexual encounter was with a same-sex other.

1. Wanting More

These individuals tended to engage in gay sex in private encounters, with some appearing to be in early phases of “coming out” as not straight. They were sexually and politically liberal, enjoyed the experience, and wanted more such encounters, especially with the same person. Some engaged in penetrative vaginal or anal sex with a same-sex peer and many reported previous same-sex encounters.

2. Drunk and Curious

By contrast, young adults in this type were having their first same-sex hookup, usually in the context of binge-drinking. They considered themselves to be politically liberal (especially in terms of premarital and consensual sex) and did not know their sexual partner. Unlike the first group, they didn’t particularly enjoy the experience and had little intention of repeating it.

3. Little Enjoyment

These individuals were the least likely to enjoy the sexual encounter. Most were frequently inebriated during their hookups. Sex rarely went beyond kissing and groping, and most knew their partner. There were few individuals in this type.

4. Maybe for Show

Only women were in this type, many of whom were college freshmen at a public social event (a party). They were binge-drinking and had no prior same-sex experience. Sex usually consisted of kissing and groping breasts or buttocks. Few were interested in future such encounters — though they did enjoy the experience. All described themselves as politically liberal and not religious.

5. Loved It, But Religious

These were mostly women who enjoyed the same-sex hookup, but were also very religious. Though they loved the sexual experience and wanted to have a future relationship with the person, they had mixed attitudes toward homosexuality and premarital sex. Most were freshmen, were not drinking at the time, had no prior same-sex experience, and were religious.

6. Just Not Who I Can Be

This class consisted of a small group of men who tended to be high in heterosexism and were the most likely to say religion informed their views about sexuality. Hence, they believed that homosexual relations were almost always wrong and described their politics as conservative. They seldom enjoyed the hookup and did not want to pursue a future relationship with their partner.

My Take

Because only four sexual orientation options were given to students — heterosexual, bisexual, homosexual, and don’t know — perhaps many of these individuals were misplaced in the straight category. My guess is that in reality many are mostly straight, queer, pansexual, or fluid and selected “heterosexual,” because it was merely the closest to how they view themselves.

Clearly, many young adults undergo considerable sexual fluctuations or question their sexuality during this time. Very likely, the "Wanting More" type are likely to identify as "not straight" sometime in the future. It is unfortunate that the survey did not give them more options or present sexuality as a continuum rather than as categorical (I believe the authors would agree with me on this; they used pre-existing datasets). My heart goes out to these individuals, but I believe they’ll do fine.

A more difficult future will likely befall the "Loved It, But Religious" as they face considerable angst while they negotiate their sexuality with their religious beliefs. My biggest fear, however, is the future behavior of men in the "Just Not Who I Can Be" group. Are these the men who will become vigilantes with anti-gay rhetoric, and who will use either their conservative religious or political beliefs to justify their behavior?

I do not believe that this need be their future. If we lived in a culture in which having some degree of same-sex sexuality did not imply that you thus had to be the “dreaded” lesbian, gay, or bisexual, it would be easier for individuals who struggle or can’t decide their sexuality to be true to their authentic self.  Would this help them to curb their animosity toward homosexuality and let them accept their same-sex sexuality without feeling stigmatized? Maybe we could put to rest our cultural cravings for sexual identity labels — for everyone’s benefit.

And, let’s not forget those who simply engage in same-sex activities because they want to, because they enjoy them, and because they are meaningless statements about their sexuality. They too should be appreciated.

Facebook Image Credit: Svitlana Sokolova/Shutterstock

References

Kuperberg, A., & Walker, A. M. (2018). Heterosexual college students who hookup with same-sex partners. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 47, 1387-1403. doi: 10.1007/s10508-018-1194-7

Savin-Williams, R. C. (2017). Mostly straight: Sexual fluidity among men. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.