When many consider sexuality, they see it as a set of fixed categories — that we are all straight, gay or bisexual, with nothing inbetween. However, Prof. Ritch Savin-Williams’ research has found that this is not so accurate.
Savin-Williams, professor emeritus in development psychology, has found young men increasingly admitting that these categories are too strict. Many young men identify as mostly straight, meaning that while they are straight, they acknowledge that they have some sexual desire or attraction to other men.
Savin-Williams added he “wouldn’t be surprised if hundreds of guys on the Cornell campus were ‘mostly straight,’” and he believes that acknowledging this fluidity of sexuality would “only add to their lives.”
But because this is a less-known category or conception of sexuality, Savin-Williams said it can remain concealed.
“We don’t have ‘mostly straight’ symbols and marches, so it’s a somewhat hidden identity.” Savin-Williams said. “Guys could just go their whole life, living a typical heterosexual lifestyle. And they may be perfectly happy. But they may always have this feeling they don’t understand, ‘why can’t I stop thinking about this guy, even if I know I’m attracted to women?’”
After speaking with young men about their experiences, most of whom were Cornell students, Savin-Williams wrote the book, Mostly Straight: Sexual Fluidity Among Men, published on Nov. 13 and featured subsequently in Time Magazine on Thursday.
“For a long time, we have understood women as being mostly straight or sexually fluid,” Savin-Williams told The Sun. “We let women explore and be fluid over time and context and didn’t think it was unusual or surprising. But we didn’t allow the same freedom for guys.”
For Savin-Williams, the belief that men and women are different in their sexual curiosity is one of the greatest misconceptions about sexualty today.
The evidence suggests, he wrote in Time, that more young men describe themselves as “mostly straight” than identify as either bisexual or gay combined.
“Men also don’t necessarily see themselves in these identity boxes. They like this idea of a spectrum,” Savin-WIlliams said. “And we shouldn’t assume that if a young man has even a small degree of same-sex attraction that he is making a full switch to gay or bisexual.”
Savin-Williams said his biggest surprise in compiling research and speaking with young males was their “openness to a variety of sexualities” — even acknowledging these feelings themselves — and willingness to discuss the topic.
However, when Savin-Williams asked these young men if they have told people that they are “mostly straight,” most of them said no.
This is far less of a matter of embarrassment, Savin-Williams said, but mainly because it is not a recognized term so they do not think people would understand what they mean.
While there are LGBTQ communities and agendas, he feels it may not make sense to include “mostly straight” men in these groups, nor may they want to be.
Savin-Williams is director of the Sex and Gender Lab. He has published eight books on adolescent development and is a licensed clinical psychologist specializing in issues concerning sexual-minority young adults.
Savin-Williams’ work has also been cited in many national news publications and his work has earned him prestigious awards and recognition, many of which come from the Association for Psychological Science.