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Sexual Fluidity: Understanding Women's Love and Desire

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Is love "blind" when it comes to gender? For women, it just might be. This unsettling and original book offers a radical new understanding of the context-dependent nature of female sexuality. Lisa Diamond argues that for some women, love and desire are not rigidly heterosexual or homosexual but fluid, changing as women move through the stages of life, various social groups Is love "blind" when it comes to gender? For women, it just might be. This unsettling and original book offers a radical new understanding of the context-dependent nature of female sexuality. Lisa Diamond argues that for some women, love and desire are not rigidly heterosexual or homosexual but fluid, changing as women move through the stages of life, various social groups, and, most important, different love relationships. This perspective clashes with traditional views of sexual orientation as a stable and fixed trait. But that view is based on research conducted almost entirely on men. Diamond is the first to study a large group of women over time. She has tracked one-hundred women for more than ten years as they have emerged from adolescence into adulthood. She summarizes their experiences and reviews research ranging from the psychology of love to the biology of sex differences. Sexual Fluidity offers moving first-person accounts of women falling in and out of love with men or women at different times in their lives. For some, gender becomes irrelevant: "I fall in love with the person, not the gender," say some respondents. Sexual Fluidity offers a new understanding of women's sexuality--and of the central importance of love. (20071029)


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Is love "blind" when it comes to gender? For women, it just might be. This unsettling and original book offers a radical new understanding of the context-dependent nature of female sexuality. Lisa Diamond argues that for some women, love and desire are not rigidly heterosexual or homosexual but fluid, changing as women move through the stages of life, various social groups Is love "blind" when it comes to gender? For women, it just might be. This unsettling and original book offers a radical new understanding of the context-dependent nature of female sexuality. Lisa Diamond argues that for some women, love and desire are not rigidly heterosexual or homosexual but fluid, changing as women move through the stages of life, various social groups, and, most important, different love relationships. This perspective clashes with traditional views of sexual orientation as a stable and fixed trait. But that view is based on research conducted almost entirely on men. Diamond is the first to study a large group of women over time. She has tracked one-hundred women for more than ten years as they have emerged from adolescence into adulthood. She summarizes their experiences and reviews research ranging from the psychology of love to the biology of sex differences. Sexual Fluidity offers moving first-person accounts of women falling in and out of love with men or women at different times in their lives. For some, gender becomes irrelevant: "I fall in love with the person, not the gender," say some respondents. Sexual Fluidity offers a new understanding of women's sexuality--and of the central importance of love. (20071029)

30 review for Sexual Fluidity: Understanding Women's Love and Desire

  1. 5 out of 5

    El

    This may be the longest I've gone before writing a review for a book I finished, but it's partly because of this book and partly because of just life. Though right now I have no excuse (other than the fact that I'm at work, but pshaw), so I just need to bite the bullet so this is no longer over my head. The idea behind the book was fine. I expected a lot more from the book itself, however. Diamond's study covered about ten years of research with a core group of women, meeting with them periodical This may be the longest I've gone before writing a review for a book I finished, but it's partly because of this book and partly because of just life. Though right now I have no excuse (other than the fact that I'm at work, but pshaw), so I just need to bite the bullet so this is no longer over my head. The idea behind the book was fine. I expected a lot more from the book itself, however. Diamond's study covered about ten years of research with a core group of women, meeting with them periodically to see how their sexual experiences and feelings have changed over the years. Her proof (for lack of a better word) is essentially that women exhibit a lot more fluidity in their sexual preference than men. Or something. It came up in discussion with a friend a while back that interestingly a lot of the women we've known who were self-proclaimed lesbians at a certain point in their life wound up living with or marrying men, whereas many of the men we've known who were self-proclaimed gay never wound up with a woman. This idea stuck with me, and I figured this book would help explain some of that. And it does, sort of. But I don't feel Diamond had a lot of diversity in her samples. The women she interviewed all were relatively young (late teens to late 20s - I don't recall seeing anyone over the age of 31) and, except for maybe one example that comes to mind, were all white women. Unfortunately this leaves out whole demographics that could add a different set of experiences. As it was, a lot of the stories were relatively similar and I didn't walk away feeling I learned anything new. There was limited information on transgender people, another glaring hole in her study considering the rest of her research focused on the LGandB of LGBTQ acronym. I was angry about this throughout most of the book until she included discussion of transgenders in one chapter, though it wound up maybe being the shortest chapter. I understand transgenders are relatively new as far as open discussion goes, but it's not so new that it should have been overlooked for the purpose of this book. The book as a whole probably could have been half the length considering there was so much repetition both in her explanation of the study and the brief interviews between participants. Again, an interesting idea, but lacking inclusion which I found most problematic. Maybe this 2008 publication is just already too out-of-date by 2016 standards, especially since the majority of the study itself began in the 90s.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Julia

    Fun fact about the author: Lisa is a faculty member in my department, and in addition to being a ridiculously prolific researcher, she is an outstanding baker. (At high altitudes, no less!). This includes everything from whatever her grad students request as their special birthday treat to transgender ginger people before winter break. Back to the book: fantastic. The moral of the story is that for decades, researchers treated a large segment of women as "noise" in their sexuality work: the women Fun fact about the author: Lisa is a faculty member in my department, and in addition to being a ridiculously prolific researcher, she is an outstanding baker. (At high altitudes, no less!). This includes everything from whatever her grad students request as their special birthday treat to transgender ginger people before winter break. Back to the book: fantastic. The moral of the story is that for decades, researchers treated a large segment of women as "noise" in their sexuality work: the women who identified as bisexual, the women who changed their self-identified orientation, the women who identified in a way that didn't match their behavior, etc. They didn't fit in neat boxes. Lisa, through a 10-year+ study of 100 such women, argues that these women don't fit in neat boxes because our boxes are a combination of male-centered theories about sexuality, and reductive notions about what orientation really means. In fact, the better and more sensitive research shows that such women are actually far more "normal" than we ever anticipated, and that female sexuality is quite nuanced, and still not well-understood. One of the things that I think she handles most deftly is the inconvenient fact that more complicated understandings of sexuality generally do not lend themselves to easy advocacy for same-sex civil rights in this intolerant cultural climate. Acknowledging that sexual orientation, especially for women, involves a very complex interplay of genetic and environmental factors that span the entirety of women's lives means we can't necessarily continue to argue with statements like "Lesbians were born that way." But Lisa points out, I think quite rightly so, that failing to do the necessary research to better understand how women develop their sexual identities is, in the end, far worse. Her research is impeccable, and it's a real treat to get to hear the stories of many of the women she has followed, and is continuing to follow. Read if you're in the mood for something equally educational & fascinating.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Danika at The Lesbrary

    This wasn't a perfect book--mostly because of its cissexism--but it was a life-altering book for me. This recontextualizes my entire romantic and sexual history. It was the most affirming thing to read at this point in my life. It's changed the way I think about sexual orientation and identity. If you have ever felt like you don't fit into the traditional models of sexual orientation, I highly, highly recommend this book. This wasn't a perfect book--mostly because of its cissexism--but it was a life-altering book for me. This recontextualizes my entire romantic and sexual history. It was the most affirming thing to read at this point in my life. It's changed the way I think about sexual orientation and identity. If you have ever felt like you don't fit into the traditional models of sexual orientation, I highly, highly recommend this book.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Ms. Online

    EBB, FLOW - Review By Hanne Blank WHAT TO MAKE OF COLLEGE women who are “lesbian until graduation”? Or straight married women who suddenly fall in love with other women? For that matter, what about queeridentified women— Anne Heche, anyone?— who wind up with men? Perhaps they’re really bisexual or “confused” or maybe they were simply repressed or closeted. Alarmists might imagine them victims of predatory dykes and Stockholm syndrome. Or, as University of Utah psychologist Lisa Diamond suggests EBB, FLOW - Review By Hanne Blank WHAT TO MAKE OF COLLEGE women who are “lesbian until graduation”? Or straight married women who suddenly fall in love with other women? For that matter, what about queeridentified women— Anne Heche, anyone?— who wind up with men? Perhaps they’re really bisexual or “confused” or maybe they were simply repressed or closeted. Alarmists might imagine them victims of predatory dykes and Stockholm syndrome. Or, as University of Utah psychologist Lisa Diamond suggests in her captivating, nuanced and rigorous Sexual Fluidity, perhaps these experiences are simply normal. Diamond’s study followed the sexual lives of nearly 100 young women over a 10-year period. As her subjects fell in and out of love and lust with men and women, often regardless of their own sexual orientations, Diamond came to understand female sexuality not as a state of being with eternally fixed parameters but as a continuous dynamic process. The picture that emerged was of female sexuality as a zone of probabilities rather than absolutes, a context-specific, intensely attachment- driven realm whose richness points up the poverty, misogyny and political agendas of static, categorybased models of sexuality. Sexual fluidity, as distinct from bisexuality, is a person’s capacity to “experience variation in their erotic and affectional feelings as they encounter different situations, relationships and life stages,” Diamond writes. Statistically, this capacity exists more frequently in women than men. This is not to say that a woman’s sexual orientation doesn’t matter; in fact Diamond affirms that it is an accurate predictor of her attractions. But it is also common for women, at some point in their lives, to experience some level of attraction to both same-sex and othersex partners. We do not yet know why women should be like this, though Diamond points to likely evolutionary, neurobiological and cultural factors. She found that when fluidity happens, it is typically highly situational and emotional— a matter of the right person at the right time—as well as utterly involuntary. This is volatile, politically risky stuff, and Diamond knows it; her work has already been cited by advocates of “ex-gay” therapy. After all, if sexual attractions are changeable, then they can be intentionally changed, right? Wrong. As Diamond’s research demonstrates, fluidity is not a matter of choice. Indeed, her subjects describe frustration with their inability to control sexual attractions that contradict the identity labels they want to claim. Like puberty, fluidity is thrust upon us. Diamond’s work is vital precisely because sexual fluidity is not a new concept—Freud called his version “polymorphous perversity”— but merely one that is typically dismissed. Nor is it news to women, particularly not to a generation for whom a nonspecific “queer” affiliation, or no affiliation at all, is increasingly common. What is so important is not that this fluidity exists, but that someone has finally paid it systematic attention and found that it is in fact not the exception, but may well be the rule. HANNE BLANK is the author of six books, including Virgin: The Untouched History (Bloomsbury USA).

  5. 4 out of 5

    Sarah

    So many methodological problems with this book I don't even know what to say. If you know anything about setting up a good study, you know this is not a good study and then you feel bad because this woman devoted 10 years to creating a pretty worthless study. Outcomes synthesis: many white, affluent, educated, gay/bi women who fantasized/slept with/were attracted to both sexes in college were still somewhat ambivalent about their sexual preferences/fantasies/partner genders later in life. Ouch. So many methodological problems with this book I don't even know what to say. If you know anything about setting up a good study, you know this is not a good study and then you feel bad because this woman devoted 10 years to creating a pretty worthless study. Outcomes synthesis: many white, affluent, educated, gay/bi women who fantasized/slept with/were attracted to both sexes in college were still somewhat ambivalent about their sexual preferences/fantasies/partner genders later in life. Ouch.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Book Riot Community

    Although I had a few issues with this book–namely the cissexism–I can’t ignore that this was a life-changing read for me. It completely changed how I think about sexual orientation and identity, and it was the most affirming book I could possibly read at this point in my life. It argues that women’s sexuality is characterized by change and fluidity (to different degrees for different people). Diamond demonstrates that our framework for viewing sexuality is fundamentally flawed. It blew my mind. Although I had a few issues with this book–namely the cissexism–I can’t ignore that this was a life-changing read for me. It completely changed how I think about sexual orientation and identity, and it was the most affirming book I could possibly read at this point in my life. It argues that women’s sexuality is characterized by change and fluidity (to different degrees for different people). Diamond demonstrates that our framework for viewing sexuality is fundamentally flawed. It blew my mind. If you’ve ever felt like you didn’t fit in traditional narratives about sexual orientation, pick this one up. It’ll make you realize that you’re far from being alone. –Danika Ellis from The Best Books We Read In July 2016: http://bookriot.com/2016/08/01/riot-r...

  7. 4 out of 5

    DoctorM

    Diamond asks a number of questions: why do women seem to experience more fluidity in their sexual attractions and involvements over their lives than males do--- and what does such fluidity say about the categories (gay, straight, bi) that society seems to insist on? She also raises a number of very intriguing issues: why do we insist that anything that changes or shifts, that can be described as a 'phase', is somehow 'inauthentic' or false? Diamond looks at a ten year (1995-2005) sample of women Diamond asks a number of questions: why do women seem to experience more fluidity in their sexual attractions and involvements over their lives than males do--- and what does such fluidity say about the categories (gay, straight, bi) that society seems to insist on? She also raises a number of very intriguing issues: why do we insist that anything that changes or shifts, that can be described as a 'phase', is somehow 'inauthentic' or false? Diamond looks at a ten year (1995-2005) sample of women (bi, lesbian, hetero, 'unlabelled') and finds that, while each of her respondents has a 'core' attraction to same or other sex partners, individual lives and loves are remarkably variable. She argues that the categories we assign to sexuality are so affected by biology, society, place, time, and individual experience as to be useful only in the very broadest terms. A well-written book that argues that attraction, love, and sex are too individual to be rigidly categorised--- and that we are each of us authentic in the moment, that changing preferences is not about being "confused" or "inauthentic", but about situations and a complex skein of needs and desires. A good book to read when thinking about what it means to construct and insist upon categories.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Cari

    Diamond theory is definitely moving in the right direction. Unfortunately, her presentation of that theory sucks. When presenting a lesser known theory that's just beginning to gain traction, presentation is key. This is not a new theory, despite what the author implies; I've encountered the fluid sexuality idea several times in other reading, although never in such detail. Diamond is moving it forward, not nearly as much as she seems to think she is in the book, but she's got a fairly solid star Diamond theory is definitely moving in the right direction. Unfortunately, her presentation of that theory sucks. When presenting a lesser known theory that's just beginning to gain traction, presentation is key. This is not a new theory, despite what the author implies; I've encountered the fluid sexuality idea several times in other reading, although never in such detail. Diamond is moving it forward, not nearly as much as she seems to think she is in the book, but she's got a fairly solid start. I don't mind that this is a heavy, academic read; considering the analysis, that style fits the subject. What doesn't fit are the opinions of the author, conjecture that takes large leaps away from the given evidence. I read studies like this in order to gain enough information to develop my own opinion; I don't care about or want the writer's. There's a fairly clear bias throughout Sexual Fluidity which made me uneasy: her own long term study has shaky elements, and when citing the work of other psychologists, she has a tendency to present only the details for the side supporting her theory, with very little mention made of other findings. At times it felt as if Diamond was pulling a slight of hand trick. Beyond that she undermines a great theory with tedious, repetitive writing that circles back on itself like a snake eating its own tail. An awful lot of the material felt like it was padding for the book, reworded and represented as a new point in her repertoire. Fail. I found all the issues with Sexual Fluidity very frustrating because, as I said before, I think Diamond is moving the study of sexuality in the right direction. There's definitely something going on within this theory, a core somewhere that just has to be covered. This could have been a fantastic introduction, it could have been so good, and maybe that's why I'm so disappointed with it.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Lady Brainsample

    In some ways this book was very binary focused in a way that comes across as a bit out of date. Most history/discourse I've read discusses that the fact that just as being "bilingual" does not imply that you only know two languages forever and always (merely two or more), "bisexual" does not mean you can't be attracted to NB people (it implies attraction to two or more genders). Just want to throw that out there. Overall, the book was solid, if, as I mentioned, a little out of date since it was p In some ways this book was very binary focused in a way that comes across as a bit out of date. Most history/discourse I've read discusses that the fact that just as being "bilingual" does not imply that you only know two languages forever and always (merely two or more), "bisexual" does not mean you can't be attracted to NB people (it implies attraction to two or more genders). Just want to throw that out there. Overall, the book was solid, if, as I mentioned, a little out of date since it was published in 2008. Like other reviewers noted, it would have been nice to see more research about how fluidity in orientation is manifested in trans people, but based on the time period, I'm not too surprised. I think one of the real strengths of the book was the discussion on how orientation has been studied in the past: most research up to that point had been focused on men, and particularly gay men. The prevailing narrative for men was that orientation was fixed and something you knew at a early age. Turns out that extrapolating that narrative to women was....shockingly....not the case. Though I'm really not surprised that these assumptions have been made. I grew up in an evangelical church where from a young age, I was told that "Men want respect, and women want love" in their romantic relationships. I read recently that it turns out that "study" that churches have been quoting as law for years and years ONLY HAD MEN AS RESPONDENTS. They literally asked a bunch of men the question, then ASSUMED that women would want the opposite thing. In my opinion, the distinction is kinda stupid since I regard respect and love as both necessary and two sides of the same coin. (Sidebar: everyone should read Invisible Women on why it's really horrifying and dangerous that scientific studies overwhelming do not include women in their studies.) Anyway, back to the main topic. The author hypothesized that women were much more fluid, and her research (though she acknowledges that more is needed) has supported the idea. Additionally, women in her research were much less likely to report that their sexuality was something they instinctively "knew" from a young age, which contradicts the idea that women are like men in that regard. The discussion on the studies that have been done on potential biological factors in orientation was very interesting. Like many things in life, the framework most supported by science right now assumes that orientation *can be* influenced by both genetic and environmental factors, but neither are required nor sufficient for explaining orientation in any one person since how they interact is so complicated, one could never get the bottom of how much each is responsible for. I really appreciate how honest the author was about the implications for her research. She has clearly stated that none of her research should be construed as meaning that orientation is a "choice." Changeable does not mean deliberate. She even commented on a few cases where anti-LGBTQ activists have used her research to try to push their own agendas, which has horrified her. Much like in my recent read Merchants of Doubt, it seems that people will always find a way to support their own biases even when scientific evidence does not support them. It's so easy to. On a regular basis, my spouse and I will have some version of the following conversation: Me: "I really don't want to be one of those people who reject stuff that doesn't fall into their preconceived notions about the world - even when that stuff is objectively factual." Then I'll go into whatever latest example is trending in my life - whether it be from a book, the news, or anything else. Spouse: "It's really hard - we're going to have to keep working at it the rest of our lives." The conversation usually ends with us speculating on what hot button issue our kids are going to see us as being painfully out-of-date on. All this to say, this book was very helpful for me, and I'm going to be thinking about it for quite awhile.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Janet Ferguson

    This groundbreaking book and Lisa Diamond's research should be mandatory reading for anyone studying human sexuality or anyone interested in women's sexual orientation and identity. This groundbreaking book and Lisa Diamond's research should be mandatory reading for anyone studying human sexuality or anyone interested in women's sexual orientation and identity.

  11. 4 out of 5

    nil

    I very much appreciated this book as it helped to contextualize some of my own experiences. As a 31 year old woman who only came out as bisexual a year ago (despite same-sex relationships and a fairly strong and consistent attraction to women for many years) it was definitely affirming reading about other women's experiences and the research behind sexual fluidity as conducted by Lisa Diamond. Despite what some other reviewers have said, I did not find the writing style to be overly tedious, and I very much appreciated this book as it helped to contextualize some of my own experiences. As a 31 year old woman who only came out as bisexual a year ago (despite same-sex relationships and a fairly strong and consistent attraction to women for many years) it was definitely affirming reading about other women's experiences and the research behind sexual fluidity as conducted by Lisa Diamond. Despite what some other reviewers have said, I did not find the writing style to be overly tedious, and the book is effectively only 259 pages long (the remainder is references, acknowledgements, and an index) so the length didn't bother me at all either. Overall, I found it to be a quick read and the language was accessible and easy to assimilate. There are some problems with cissexism in this book, transgender individuals only meriting a very brief mention (however the author acknowledges that she was unprepared for this and that studying the intersection of gender identity and sexuality is essential moving forward). I also think that the study itself suffers from sampling bias and a lack of diversity, though the author is fairly honest about the limitations of her own research. That being said, this was published in 2008 after the conclusion of a 10 year study that had to have begun in the 90s. I was a pre-teen/teenager, so my own memories of the politics of the time are hindered by this, but I do recall that the language surrounding the LGBTQIA movement was pretty trans exclusionary in and of itself. The study was being conducted during the Clinton administration and he was the first president to support LGBTQ issues, this is after HRC was going to care facilities and caring for AIDS victims and the public responded in outrage. At the time, there was less focus on the nuance of language and more about the fact that public opinion of Queer issues was SO volatile and SO bad that Don't Ask Don't Tell was considered a victory. The tail end of this study overlaps with the Bush administration and a resurgence in anti-LGBTQ rhetoric. While this is a very incomplete history of the era, I do think that it provides a little bit of context to the book. In my opinion, it was actually pretty groundbreaking to be discussing a focus on women's sexuality at all when looking at past scientific literature regarding sexuality (spoiler alert: it kind of blows). To be approaching women's sexuality from the perspective that same-sex and other-sex attractions are equally valid within the context of women's experiences is really important. Do I think this is a complete work? No. Am I glad it exists? Very much so. Most of all, I hope that this work is continued and will include trans women, trans men that were assigned female at birth, and a much more diverse group of women from different ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds.

  12. 5 out of 5

    M

    Hats off to Lisa Diamond for this book. Even though there's a bit of sampling bias and limitation in her longitudinal study (which could easily be remedied by better grants and more research assistants; no doubt after this book she'll be in a better position to get that), the findings she uncovers are doubtless invaluable to the field of sex research, and will hopefully be taken seriously by the scientific community and laypersons alike. For common readers, the book is very accessible, easy to r Hats off to Lisa Diamond for this book. Even though there's a bit of sampling bias and limitation in her longitudinal study (which could easily be remedied by better grants and more research assistants; no doubt after this book she'll be in a better position to get that), the findings she uncovers are doubtless invaluable to the field of sex research, and will hopefully be taken seriously by the scientific community and laypersons alike. For common readers, the book is very accessible, easy to read, and Diamond is at once an unbiased yet warm narrator, which keeps her more dry explanations from becoming close to boring. A great read for both academics and casual readers alike--I've taken sexuality classes, but read this for pleasure and enjoyed it immensely.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Melinda

    I enjoyed this book when I first read it, but in retrospect, coming from a place in my life where I'm far more aware and critical of compulsory heterosexuality, I find the lack of discussion of social pressures on women to be be "fluid" — i.e, involved with men — to be highly suspect. Diamond's analysis positions itself as rejecting traditional models of sexual orientation and desire, but, ultimately, it reinforces heterosexuality, which falls far from the challenge of social expectations about I enjoyed this book when I first read it, but in retrospect, coming from a place in my life where I'm far more aware and critical of compulsory heterosexuality, I find the lack of discussion of social pressures on women to be be "fluid" — i.e, involved with men — to be highly suspect. Diamond's analysis positions itself as rejecting traditional models of sexual orientation and desire, but, ultimately, it reinforces heterosexuality, which falls far from the challenge of social expectations about women's desire.

  14. 4 out of 5

    DeAnna

    I've been reading quite a few books about polyamory and sexuality, but nothing has seemed more true to my experiences as Lisa Diamond's book, Sexual Fluidity. I've had questions concerning my own sexual orientation my entire life and have never felt normal. Well, which this book didn't result in feeling any normalcy, it does an amazing job of explaining the complex interaction of genetic, environment, situation, chemistry and human connection plays in female sexuality. Now I finally understand t I've been reading quite a few books about polyamory and sexuality, but nothing has seemed more true to my experiences as Lisa Diamond's book, Sexual Fluidity. I've had questions concerning my own sexual orientation my entire life and have never felt normal. Well, which this book didn't result in feeling any normalcy, it does an amazing job of explaining the complex interaction of genetic, environment, situation, chemistry and human connection plays in female sexuality. Now I finally understand that for women, sexuality is always evolving and that probably no one is normal.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Sara

    Even if you're completely, 100% heterosexual (in other words, a staunch "O" on Kinsey's scale), you've probably at least pondered the fluidity of female sexuality. As far as Kinsey's 0 to 6 scale on a continuum from "completely heterosexual" at zero and "completely homosexual" at six, as the word continuum might suggest, most people fall somewhere in between. However, one topic that is rife with debate, tends to have very passionate opinions, and that is most certainly a hot button issue within Even if you're completely, 100% heterosexual (in other words, a staunch "O" on Kinsey's scale), you've probably at least pondered the fluidity of female sexuality. As far as Kinsey's 0 to 6 scale on a continuum from "completely heterosexual" at zero and "completely homosexual" at six, as the word continuum might suggest, most people fall somewhere in between. However, one topic that is rife with debate, tends to have very passionate opinions, and that is most certainly a hot button issue within the female gay/lesbian community is fluid female sexuality. For example, women that declare themselves gay, only to return back to men. Bisexual women are typically not a hot commodity in the lesbian dating world. Females shift their sexual behavior - and may or may not shift their self-identified label - often enough for it to have become a recognized social phenomenon. In fact, at a time and place where it's more acceptable socially for women to have a same-sex relationship (college), many women often "experiment" at this time in their lives, only to "return" to heterosexuality post-graduation, get married, and have kids (these women are colloquially referred to as LUGS - lesbians until graduation). For those who come out much later in life, you have women who were married and in love with their husband, until somewhat later in life something happens to make them ponder their sexuality - often precipitated by an intense female friendship that turns sexual - and leads them to divorce their husbands and consider themselves a lesbian. And on the opposite end of that spectrum, their are lesbians who have lived lesbian-identified lives and engaged in same-sex relationships for decades, who meet a man that they end up marrying - yet they still consider themselves a lesbian. These scenarios are all more common that one might think, as most of us simply view sexuality through three distinct labels. How can these changes in longstanding sexual orientations be explained? This is where Lisa Diamond came in, at least for me. Although I'd consider myself mostly gay, I'd probably have to rate myself as a 5. I've been witness to many of the above situations, heard about women that have made such choices, and I can't count how many other gay women I know whose first love and sexual experience with a woman was with a straight woman, one that never slept with another woman after the fact (Diamond has an explanation for women who fall into this category as well). I've read a few books on sexuality, but so few are actually backed up by research and empirical evidence. Diamond actually conducted a longitudinal study following a large, diverse group of women for over ten years, and asked women not just about how they label themselves, but about their actual sexual behavior as well - too many studies miss a big issue here, as sexual identity and sexual behavior do not often match up. Yet even though this book is backed up by pretty solid research, the author manages to keep it extremely readable and engaging if the topic of female sexuality and fluidity in any way piques your interest. Her sections each have illustrative case studies, and the book is peppered with comments from women on the myriad subjects discussed in the book that really hit the mark. She presents diverging viewpoints, alternate theories, and all in all a very comprehensive look at a very convoluted issue. No other book out there addresses this subject matter as adeptly as Diamond.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Loren Olson

    I am about 1/3 of the way through this book. I chose to read it because I have questioned whether women can more easily move from relationships with women to men and back again. This book's theme is sexual fluidity for women, and it seems to support the idea that women fall in love with a person, regardless of their sex and they are less inclined to fall into fixed categories of gay/straight/other. In my research with men who have been in relationships with women, it is very unusual for men to mo I am about 1/3 of the way through this book. I chose to read it because I have questioned whether women can more easily move from relationships with women to men and back again. This book's theme is sexual fluidity for women, and it seems to support the idea that women fall in love with a person, regardless of their sex and they are less inclined to fall into fixed categories of gay/straight/other. In my research with men who have been in relationships with women, it is very unusual for men to move back and forth to this extent. Typically, men tend to become more "gay" over time. Some have tried to move back into relationships with women, but have most commonly been unsuccessful in doing so. I have also read "Dear John,I Love Jane." I did find that there are many other parallels between men and women who choose to come out in mid-life, but sexual fluidity does not appear to be something they share.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Gayle Pitman

    I wanted to like this book more. I have a profound respect for Lisa Diamond's research, and I think it took incredible courage for her to propose a new theory of sexual identity development - especially since it contradicts the firmly-entrenched "stage theories" of development. The writing style, however, was not particularly engaging, and I found the book to be tedious. Diamond's work has been groundbreaking, but I think the general public could easily lose interest. I also think that, while sh I wanted to like this book more. I have a profound respect for Lisa Diamond's research, and I think it took incredible courage for her to propose a new theory of sexual identity development - especially since it contradicts the firmly-entrenched "stage theories" of development. The writing style, however, was not particularly engaging, and I found the book to be tedious. Diamond's work has been groundbreaking, but I think the general public could easily lose interest. I also think that, while she made a pre-emptive strike against her anti-gay critics by arguing against the notion that sexual orientation is a choice, her argument contained so much scientific jargon that it could be considered to be evasive. I don't think that was her intention, but unfortunately her intentions could be misconstrued.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Mitch

    This one book may well be the most important work on sexuality in general and female psychology in particular I have come across in decades! Newer research will make us all rethink everything we ever assumed we knew about the subject. Diamond is incredibly balanced and compassionate as much as dispassionate about what the data tells. She is a superb researcher and finally accomplishes what I have begging researchers to do: combine the previously warring and normally antithetical theories of esse This one book may well be the most important work on sexuality in general and female psychology in particular I have come across in decades! Newer research will make us all rethink everything we ever assumed we knew about the subject. Diamond is incredibly balanced and compassionate as much as dispassionate about what the data tells. She is a superb researcher and finally accomplishes what I have begging researchers to do: combine the previously warring and normally antithetical theories of essentialism and constructionism into a better, newer synthesis. A must for everyone who has felt or acted upon sexual desire, had Platonic crushes, and still others for whom there is wonder at what all the fuss is about. Bravo Ms. Diamond!

  19. 4 out of 5

    Aubrey

    I thought this book was a good overview of women's sexuality and how it tends more toward the fluid in orientation. As a bisexual, it gave me some understanding of why I feel like my orientation often shifts along the Kinsey scale. I am a fan of the continuum concept. I would have liked more stories from the women surveyed. I felt like Diamond got caught up in theory, statistics and jargon. I wanted more personal experiences. However, I felt like this was good, for what it was. It felt like a PhD I thought this book was a good overview of women's sexuality and how it tends more toward the fluid in orientation. As a bisexual, it gave me some understanding of why I feel like my orientation often shifts along the Kinsey scale. I am a fan of the continuum concept. I would have liked more stories from the women surveyed. I felt like Diamond got caught up in theory, statistics and jargon. I wanted more personal experiences. However, I felt like this was good, for what it was. It felt like a PhD dissertation.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Mary Gottschalk

    It is my experience and my belief that there are many women who, after a failed relationship with a man, have found themselves passionately involved with a woman. What was so remarkable about Lisa Diamond's research was her ability to validate this experience -- a search for and an attraction to a familiar personality profile -- without the necessity of gender labels. A woman to whom this happens once is not "bi-sexual" or "lesbian" ... but based on societal values, she has been "outside the nor It is my experience and my belief that there are many women who, after a failed relationship with a man, have found themselves passionately involved with a woman. What was so remarkable about Lisa Diamond's research was her ability to validate this experience -- a search for and an attraction to a familiar personality profile -- without the necessity of gender labels. A woman to whom this happens once is not "bi-sexual" or "lesbian" ... but based on societal values, she has been "outside the norm." I feel lucky to have found Diamond's book.

  21. 4 out of 5

    AnneJ

    Even though sexual orientation is fairly stable, women in particular possess a certain amount of sexual fluidity. A very important contribution to research on sexualitiy, even though the author is ever so slightly too essentialistfor me.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Morgan Dhu

    Lisa Diamond is an Associate Professor at the University of Utah and a self-identified feminist scientist. Her primary field of research lies in the realm of the psychological and biobehavioral processes underlying intimate relationships and their influence on emotional experience and functioning over the life course. Her book Sexual Fluidity: Understanding Women's Love and Desire discusses her results of some of her research in this area. Diamond begins with an overview of current prevailing as Lisa Diamond is an Associate Professor at the University of Utah and a self-identified feminist scientist. Her primary field of research lies in the realm of the psychological and biobehavioral processes underlying intimate relationships and their influence on emotional experience and functioning over the life course. Her book Sexual Fluidity: Understanding Women's Love and Desire discusses her results of some of her research in this area. Diamond begins with an overview of current prevailing assumptions about love and desire - "that an individual’s sexual predisposition for the same sex or the other sex is an early-developing and stable trait that has a consistent effect on that person’s attractions, fantasies, and romantic feelings over the lifespan." She goes on to note that these assumptions are largely based on male experience because most research into sexuality has been conducted on men and adds that new research (including her own) conducted with women suggests that there is another dimension to sexuality in addition to such elements as identity and orientation, and that this dimension - sexual fluidity - is considerably more marked among women. "Sexual fluidity, quite simply, means situation-dependent flexibility in women’s sexual responsiveness. This flexibility makes it possible for some women to experience desires for either men or women un- der certain circumstances, regardless of their overall sexual orienta- tion. In other words, though women—like men—appear to be born with distinct sexual orientations, these orientations do not provide the last word on their sexual attractions and experiences. Instead, women of all orientations may experience variation in their erotic and affectional feelings as they encounter different situations, relationships, and life stages." Looking at differences in men and women, she posits that the process by which sexual orientation is formed is different in men and women. In discussing the formation of sexual orientation in general, she argues that it arises from a combination of biological and cultural factors - that biology (genetics and other biological factors) create the predisposition for one or another orientation, but that culture plays a significant part in determining whether and how that predisposition is expressed. Introducing the role of sexual fluidity in this process, she argues that "... sexual fluidity should strengthen situationally influenced pathways to female same-sex sexuality, it should correspondingly dilute—but not completely cancel out—the overall evidence for biological contributions to female sexuality. The evidence for biological contributions to male same-sex sexuality, in contrast, should be stronger and more consistent." Is is currently accepted that the various pathways to the development of a same-sex orientation differ in their effects on males and females, and there is often lower correlation between existence of a biological marker and development of a same-sex orientation in women; further, expression of a same-sex orientation also differs in males and females. "For example, whereas many gay men recall childhoods characterized by gender-atypicality, feelings of “differentness,” and early same-sex attractions, fewer les- bian/bisexual women recall such experiences. Women also show greater variability than men in the age at which they first become aware of same-sex attractions, first experience same-sex fantasies, first consciously question their sexuality, first pursue same-sex sexual contact, and first identify as lesbian or bisexual." Diamond is careful to distinguish sexual orientation, sexual identity and sexual fluidity. "Fluidity can be thought of as an additional component of a woman’s sexuality that operates in concert with sexual orientation to influence how her attractions, fantasies, behaviors, and af- fections are experienced and expressed over the life course. Fluidity implies not that women’s desires are endlessly variable but that some women are capable of a wider variety of erotic feelings and experiences than would be predicted on the basis of their self-described sexual orientation alone." In particular, she distinguishes between the influence of sexual fluidity on sexual behaviour and the experiences associated with a bisexual identity: "By now, it should be clear that though the concept of fluidity overlaps with the phenomenon of bisexuality (since fluidity, by definition, makes nonexclusive attractions possible), they are not the same things. Whereas bisexual- ity can be conceived as a consistent pattern of erotic responses to both sexes, manifested in clear-cut sexual attractions to men and women (albeit not necessarily to the same degrees), possessing a potential for nonexclusive attractions (or, as we have seen, finding the “idea” of same-sex contact appealing even if you currently have no same-sex desires) is clearly different." Diamond's own research is, of course, the centerpiece of the book. She discusses in considerable detail her 10 year longitudinal study with women who identified as one of the following: lesbian, bisexual, heterosexual, or "unlabled." In general, the conclusions Diamond draws from her research suggest several distinct differences from the generally assumed theories (i.e., theories based primarily on research among male subjects) of the construction of sexual identity and the patterns of sexual behaviour. Diamond's findings suggest that sexual fluidity in women: 1. results in a greater tendency toward changes in sexual identity 2. leads to increased willingness to acknowledge the potential for future change in their attractions and relationships as they age. 3. leads to a greater prevalence of nonexclusivity - the possibility that they might experience attractions to or relationships with both sexes. 4. implies that early sexual experiences do not predict later ones. Again, it is important to note that Diamond is not equating the potential for change in identity with voluntary or external influences; she points out that change does not imply choice or control. She is careful to show that the findings of her research into sexual fluidity do not suggest or support any of the following interpretations: -that all women/people are bisexual -that there is no such thing as sexual orientation -that sexual orientation is a conscious choice -that sexual orientation can be changed either by personal intention or external influence such as reparative therapy Following several initial chapters devoted to summarising her research and how her theory of sexual fluidity explains the differences between what women experience in terms of sexual identity formation and sexual behavior, and what current theories predict, Diamond goes on to explore her findings and their implications for the study of sexuality, particularly the sexuality of women, in greater depth. I must say that as a woman who has identified as bisexual for most of her adult life, after an adolescent period of identifying as a lesbian, much of what Diamond theorises feels "right" in examining my own identity changes, attractions and sexual experiences. Whether this will be true for other women is a question to be answered by time and further research into women's sexuality.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Grace

    This explains a lot about a lot lol

  24. 5 out of 5

    Bat

    One of those books that fill in vital information you didn't realise you were missing. Made me realise I am more "normal" than previously appreciated: always a good feeling. The in-depth first person narratives are the best. Did get a bit repetitive at times. One of those books that fill in vital information you didn't realise you were missing. Made me realise I am more "normal" than previously appreciated: always a good feeling. The in-depth first person narratives are the best. Did get a bit repetitive at times.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Anita Fajita Pita

    I think this book would have benefited from much more editing. A ten year research project should have afforded plenty of time for organizing, and I can't really come up with any acceptable reason why this book didn't present that research in a clear and engaging way. A lot of this book read like a college essay, and it was very repetitive throughout of a handful of themes that were never clearly tied up neatly at the end of the presentation. I didn't actually even come on here to critique the f I think this book would have benefited from much more editing. A ten year research project should have afforded plenty of time for organizing, and I can't really come up with any acceptable reason why this book didn't present that research in a clear and engaging way. A lot of this book read like a college essay, and it was very repetitive throughout of a handful of themes that were never clearly tied up neatly at the end of the presentation. I didn't actually even come on here to critique the format, but clearly it stuck out like a sore thumb. As for the actual research and ideas, this is what I gathered: Sexuality (in women) is more of a spectrum. Attraction can be emotional or physical, and evidence from this research indicates that (in women) sexuality is likely to shift along the spectrum over time, and through circumstance and experience. This makes sense to me. I think this would make sense to anyone who ever thought about themselves and their sexual attractions for more than two seconds. It's similar to education: the more you know, the more you question. The more you question, the more you know. I think there was an argument here that accepting sexual fluidity first could be a step towards accepting different sexual orientations. Perhaps this is a necessary step for some people, but I'm more of a live and let live kind of person and so I see it as unnecessary. But, I've seen the world we live in so any progress is good progress. I also think I saw in these pages an evolution of acceptance by the participants of their sexual fluidity as natural. Also, the awareness that they were not freaks for their shifting sexual attractions may have made them happy. So perhaps this book is necessary for people who want to know that they aren't "wrong." On that note, let me tell you whoever you are, whatever you're feeling, you are not wrong. You are just you. Now, if we could all just get wrapped around that. The book was easier to read and almost enjoy towards the end when she wrapped her analyses around actual research interviews. It put the information in a personal context that was interesting to read. The first few chapters read like an unending introduction to what we were going to read, and then it wrapped up quickly with two good chapters (as mentioned above with research in context) and a conclusion. I'm not worse off for having read it, but I'm not necessarily better off either. How you'll be, I don't know.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Catia

    Based on the case studies of 100 different womens romantic journeys spanning across 10 years is a solid effort and deserves a few stars for that dedication alone. At first i wasn't sure if Lisa and I were going to see eye to eye. After all, one of the main ideas of this book is that women are naturally more fluid than men. "Nonsense! Men have equal potential too! It's just that homophobia and patriarchal blah, blah runs deep!" i'd throw the book aside. Though I think i was left a little more open m Based on the case studies of 100 different womens romantic journeys spanning across 10 years is a solid effort and deserves a few stars for that dedication alone. At first i wasn't sure if Lisa and I were going to see eye to eye. After all, one of the main ideas of this book is that women are naturally more fluid than men. "Nonsense! Men have equal potential too! It's just that homophobia and patriarchal blah, blah runs deep!" i'd throw the book aside. Though I think i was left a little more open minded to the possibility once she got around to addressing some of the roles oxytocin and other hormones play, yes including womens menstrual cycles. I particularly liked the parts on Proceptivity and Receptivity as that was new for me and that there was a whole chapter dedicated to 'person based attractions' which i could cozy up to and find myself at home in. A star is lost because i would've liked more science but mostly because after constantly battling with the 'are gays born or made' debate i feel like the author let me down a bit. Especially there being a whole chunk at the end stewing over how awful it was that her work was already being misinterpreted and used to fuel anti gay activists personally, I would've liked to see her use this opportunity to (rightly in my opinion) stand up and say "You know what, in the end if two consenting same sex adults did actually CHOOSE to love each other, so what?" It doesn't matter. Why should gay rights only exist on the pretense that people are born that way and can't help it? People should be free to love each other regardless.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Lisa Llamrei

    In traditional studies about sexuality, people (largely women) who reported that their attractions changed over time were excluded because they were considered to be "noise in the data." Lisa Diamond asked an important question: What if, instead of noise in the data, these women are the data? She conducted a ten-year longitudinal study to look at both how women self-identify and how they behave sexually and found that, indeed, sexual fluidity is extremely common among women. There are some shortc In traditional studies about sexuality, people (largely women) who reported that their attractions changed over time were excluded because they were considered to be "noise in the data." Lisa Diamond asked an important question: What if, instead of noise in the data, these women are the data? She conducted a ten-year longitudinal study to look at both how women self-identify and how they behave sexually and found that, indeed, sexual fluidity is extremely common among women. There are some shortcomings in the study. One (acknowledged by Diamond herself) is that the heterosexual control group was selected entirely from women in a college sexuality course, which may mean they are more open to the possibility of same-sex attraction than the general heterosexual population. Also missing were mature women. All of the women in the study were in their late teens to early twenties at the outset, and so no more than early thirties at the end. I would have loved to see the inclusion of peri- and post-menopausal women, women who discovered same-sex attraction later in life. Perhaps these issues will be addressed in a future study. That being said, while resting on a basis of science, the book is not bogged down with scientific jargon, and so is easily accessible to the layperson. I found myself frequently questioning what I thought I knew about sexuality and about "normal". The book is the start of a change in society's understanding of women's sexuality.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Nicole

    I hardly know what to say about this book that won't involve me just completely gushing. Okay, I'll gush: OH MY GOD, THIS BOOK. I felt profoundly validated and reassured by both the responses of the research participants as well as Diamond's analysis of the results. My own experience of sexuality has been ...confusing, to put it mildly, so it was really nice to feel "normally abnormal"! And on a purely "just did a Masters in Linguistics" nerd level, I about peed myself when she brought dynamic s I hardly know what to say about this book that won't involve me just completely gushing. Okay, I'll gush: OH MY GOD, THIS BOOK. I felt profoundly validated and reassured by both the responses of the research participants as well as Diamond's analysis of the results. My own experience of sexuality has been ...confusing, to put it mildly, so it was really nice to feel "normally abnormal"! And on a purely "just did a Masters in Linguistics" nerd level, I about peed myself when she brought dynamic systems/complexity theory into the mix - it makes SO MUCH SENSE and I don't understand why more people aren't using that framework to discuss sexuality! My only criticisms are some terminology issues, which would be easily fixed by the release of a second edition, updated to include more current terminology that has come into use since the book's first publishing in 2008 (I winced a little at every instance of "transgendered"). Also, I feel like the addition of pansexuality to the LGBT+ umbrella and recent discussion from the asexual community on the concept of romantic orientations would be a great boon to her research - particularly because she already discusses them in the book without even having the words for them yet! TL;DR: If you are interested in women's sexuality even a little bit, give this a read. Also, give it as a Christmas gift to every biphobic jerk you know.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Liza

    Lisa Diamond is a psychologist at the University of Utah (yes, Utah) whose research reinforces the need for a paradigm shift in our understanding of sexuality. Diamond launched a longitudinal study in which 100 females (some of whom are trans) were interviewed about their sexual attractions and experiences every few years for 10 years. The result is the book Sexual Fluidity. In this book Diamond profiles some of the women she interviewed and also provides excellent descriptions of the biopsycholo Lisa Diamond is a psychologist at the University of Utah (yes, Utah) whose research reinforces the need for a paradigm shift in our understanding of sexuality. Diamond launched a longitudinal study in which 100 females (some of whom are trans) were interviewed about their sexual attractions and experiences every few years for 10 years. The result is the book Sexual Fluidity. In this book Diamond profiles some of the women she interviewed and also provides excellent descriptions of the biopsychology of sexuality--what is actually going on when someone is attracted to someone else--as well as some history of the shifting sexual "norms" of various eras. Sexual fluidity implies that sexual attractions to people of various genders can shift depending on experience and context, and that this is especially pronounced in females thanks to spikes and valleys of estrogen levels. Diamond somehow manages to walk the fine line of being both sensitive to the controversial issues she covers and scientifically savvy while also managing to produce a completely engaging book. Also, I also have to give Diamond mad props for not oncementioning bonobos in connection to female sexuality, as lesser scientists would surely do.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Erica

    It's wonderful to read a book that authoritatively legitimizes feelings and experiences that, until that point, had not been recognized by most researchers. Like most of the women in this book, my "sexual orientation" was never something I could jam into a neat box. Every few pages I had an "ah ha" moment or was struck by the novelty of Diamond's views on sexuality: the idea that there are multiple pathways to being gay, that women experience same-sex attractions in largely different ways than m It's wonderful to read a book that authoritatively legitimizes feelings and experiences that, until that point, had not been recognized by most researchers. Like most of the women in this book, my "sexual orientation" was never something I could jam into a neat box. Every few pages I had an "ah ha" moment or was struck by the novelty of Diamond's views on sexuality: the idea that there are multiple pathways to being gay, that women experience same-sex attractions in largely different ways than men do. That sexual orientation could include different quantities of biology and circumstance in different people has been used by opponents of marriage equality, for example, to argue that same-sex relationships are not legitimate. Diamond makes a strident argument that non categorical sexuality, especially as it appears in women and most sexual minorities, is ultimately the strongest case for allowing people to "determine their own emotional and sexual lives" there is. After all, if there isn't a clear dividing line between "straight" and "gay", then such rights and recognition benefit everyone. This is a great myth-busting book.

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