Sara's Reviews > Sexual Fluidity: Understanding Women's Love and Desire

Sexual Fluidity by Lisa Diamond
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's review
Apr 03, 2009

it was amazing
bookshelves: own-it
Read from January 01 to February 06, 2010

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.
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11/22/2009 page 171
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