An estimated 20% to 33% of heterosexual-identified college women have kissed another woman at a party as a form of “same-sex performativity.” But a new study into the motivations of this behavior has provided interesting insights into it may help young women form their sexuality.
The study, published in the journal Personal Relationships, examined 282 predominantly white undergraduate heterosexual women between the ages of 19 to 41 years old.
Survey data included questions about sexual orientation and gender identity for the first time, granting researchers an unprecedented trove of information.
Researchers asked which women had previously engaged in same-sex performativity by kissing another woman. Those who had were asked how often and how positively or negatively they felt about the experience. Additionally, they were asked about their political affiliations, self-esteem, sorority membership, and their self-perceived masculinity or femininity. They also completed measures on sexuality and heterosexuality, Psy Post reported. These questions and measures were all conducted online.
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The motivations behind these women’s same-sex performativity fell into one of three categories, researchers found.
About 13% were deemed “sexually motivated,” that is, motivated by sexual desire, a desire to experiment, and an attraction to women despite identifying as heterosexual. These women were most likely to evaluate their experiences positively.
About 33% were deemed “other motivated” by a desire to shock others, attract male attention, or conform to social pressure. These women were more likely to be sorority members.
About 54% were “ambiguously motivated” to kiss another woman because of alcohol or a sense of fun. These women were most likely to evaluate their experiences negatively and to express a desire not to repeat them.
Lead researcher Samantha Stevens said that it’s notable that such same-sex performativity seems to be a common behavior among young women. She said her study’s results indicate same-sex kissing “can be a beneficial experience and a safe way to explore sexuality for some women…. during a critical period of women’s psychological, social, and sexual development.”
However, Stevens also said that more detailed questions could help future researchers better understand the motivations behind such behavior and their potential positive and negative ramifications for the women involved.
In 2018, a researcher asked 14,630 college students from 22 different U.S. colleges about their recent hookup experiences: 5% of the experiences were with a member of the same sex, and of those students, 25% of the women identified as heterosexual.
The heteroflexible hookups in that study fell into one of six categories: either the people had genuine gay/bi attraction, were drunk and curious, weren’t actually that into gay sex once they tried it, dabbled in “performative bisexuality” just to get a little social attention, or wanted to be gayer but felt held back by their conservative and religious guilt. The latter two groups consisted mostly of women.