Book World: 'Sexual Fluidity'
Tuesday, April 15, 2008; 3:00 PM
"Setting out to prove the theory that, for some women, love is truly blind where gender is concerned, Diamond presents her evidence in a fascinating, anecdotal fashion -- by tracking over the span of a decade the relationships of nearly 100 women who at one point or another had experienced "same-sex attractions." The women move from men to women and back again (or vice-versa), their sexual identity as changeable as their desires. Additionally, she delves into the brain science behind lust, love and infatuation, revealing that what draws women toward a particular partner is as much a function of biology as it is anything else. To her credit, Diamond avoids scripting her arguments in obtuse academese. With her compassionate, understated approach, she has stepped up the business of gender research."
Lisa Diamond, author and psychology professor, was online Tuesday, April 15 to discuss her new book, "Sexual Fluidity," which was reviewed in Book World.
Diamond's book explores the changing nature of sexual identity and desire, as experienced by many women in America. She is an associate professor of psychology and gender studies at the University of Utah.
Join Book World Live each Tuesday at 3 p.m. ET for a discussion based on a story or review in each Sunday's Book World section.
A transcript follows.
Lisa Diamond: Hello everyone, this is Lisa Diamond. I have enjoyed reading the questions that have been posted so far, and I very much look forward to this interchange! I will do my best to respond as quickly and as completely as I can.
Arlington, Va.: I went to a college where it was a stereotype that women "experimented" with same sex relationships as students but dated/married only men after graduation (and certainly have some examples I could think of!). Did your research support this at all - is it an unfair stereotype or does it really happen a lot?
Lisa Diamond: I think that the interpretation of those experiences as "experimental" can be a bit patronizing, but I think that the basic phenomenon, of women acting on same-sex attractions in the relatively safe environment of college, but then returning to heterosexual patterns afterward, is definitely something that happens (how common is it? I don't think anybody really knows for sure). I think that it's a good example of fluidity -- the environment of college, and especially women's opportunities to form intense bonds with other women, allows them the opportunity to act upon their capacity for fluidity. But it doesn't necessarily mean that they will continue to do so indefinitely. Some of the women in my study adopted exclusively heterosexual patterns after college, others continued to pursue same-sex behavior. So it's impossible to predict one thing or the other.
Washington, D.C.: Is the actress Anne Heche a good or bad example of the kind of thing you write about in your book?
Lisa Diamond: I actually mention Anne Heche on the very first page of my book! I do think that she is an excellent example of sexual fluidity. She fell in love with Ellen DeGeneres, having never before had any sort of same-sex experience. She broke up with Ellen, and now she's married to a man. But in her autobiography, she does not disavow her previous feelings for Ellen, she doesn't describe it as a phase, or something crazy, she simply states quite forthrightly that she absolutely fell in love with Ellen. So I would interpret her as someone who is predominantly heterosexual, but who had a large enough capacity for fluidity that it allowed her to respond erotically to a particular woman. Many of the women in my research study had similar types of experiences. Sometimes it was heterosexual women falling in love with women, and sometimes it was actually lesbian women falling in love with men!
Washington, D.C.: I had gay friends as far back as early high school because they were usually funny and eager to get out of the neighborhood and do things. In college they always described these kinds of fluid feelings, but I never experienced any of it. I have always been on one lane of the double yellow line and never crossed into oncoming traffic.
Lisa Diamond: I think that's an important point -- although I think that women have a greater capacity for fluidity than men, not every woman will be fluid, and some might show the capacity for fluidity at all. I think that fluidity is something that varies quite a bit from woman to woman (and man to man). Some of the women in my study had highly stable and "non-fluid" patterns of attraction over time, whereas others have very fluid experiences. So in the same way that individuals show a lot of variation in personality and other dimensions, I think fluidity is yet another trait that can be extremely high for one woman, and extremely low for another.
Washington, D.C.: I am very interested in reading your book due to my personal experience. I have dated mostly men but my first serious relationship, which started at age 20 and lasted for two years, was with another woman. She was the first, and so far, the only woman with whom I became involved. I never viewed that experience as a "phase" because, although I love being with men, every once in a while there have been other women who attracted me. How is my experience, and I presume those of the women in your book, different, or not, from being bisexual?
Lisa Diamond: That is a great question, and in fact one of the participants in my study, who I discuss at some length in my book, had an experience that sounds just like yours. I think the main difference between that sort of experience and bisexuality is that individuals who describe themselves as bisexual tend to have more consistent patterns of attraction to both genders. Your experience sounds more similar to a phenomenon that I describe as "being attracted to the person, not the gender." In other words, someone might have a generally stable pattern of attractions for men or for women, but they might also have the capacity to respond strongly to someone on an emotional and intellectual and interpersonal basis - that sort of general psychological bond can, in these cases, "spill over" into eroticism. Often times, when this happens, individuals will report that they aren't necessarily even paying attention to the other person's gender, they are simply drawn to that person as a person. I think that in many ways, this seems like an entirely different form of sexual orientation. In other words, some people are attracted to the opposite sex, some people are attracted to the same sex, and some people have the capacity to respond to folks regardless of their sex. I should also note, however, that some bisexually-identified individuals WOULD call that sort of experience "bisexual." The truth is that there is no single definition of bisexuality, and it is a topic (and a definition) that is hotly debated among sexuality researchers as well as bisexually-identified individuals themselves.
Philadelphia, Pa.: I am wondering if you tended to find many similarities or many divergencies, and if you found divergencies, did you also see any relationships between result divergencies and the prior assumptions. For instance, do women with prior single sex experiences all have particular long term tendencies in how they ultimately form long term relationships? If they did not have similar tendencies, were there any prior explanations, i.e. women with more prior same sex experiences tended more towards one result while women with fewer prior same sex experiences tended towards different types of long term relationships?
Lisa Diamond: One of the things that was perplexing -- but also exciting -- about my research was that I did not generally see consistent patterns over time. Sometimes respondents that had early same-sex experiences would "end up" showing more heterosexual patterns as time went on. In other cases, exactly the opposite would occur. That's why, toward the end of the book, I argue that female same-sex sexuality is a "dynamic system," meaning that it is a highly fluid and situationally responsive system, which can often undergo abrupt changes depending on the circumstances. In many cases, it is difficult -- if not impossible -- to predict its long-term course based upon initial experiences. I'm convinced that there is no point in a woman's life at which you can look at her past and current behavior and say "okay, I know for sure what type of attractions and relationships she's going to have for the rest of her life."
Washington, D.C.: What do you think of the brain scan studies? My understanding is that -- according to brain scans -- straight men are honestly only attracted to women and gay men are only attracted to men. There's almost no indications of bisexuality. However, for women, regardless of how they identify, they're generally attracted to pictures of both men and women.
Lisa Diamond: The studies that you are referring to (and I discuss these in the book) are not actually brain scans, they're actually studies of genital response. One thing that is important to keep in mind when interpreting the findings is that for both men and women, there were often discrepancies between individuals' physiological arousal responses and their subjective feelings of arousal. So in terms of men, these studies did find that men who identified as bisexual tended to show genital responses to erotic pictures that "leaned" in either a same-sex or opposite-sex direction. But what I find fascinating about those studies is that these men FELT that their erotic interest was more evenly split. So what is the "true" measure of erotic interest? What you feel psychologically, or what your body is doing? It might seem that the body is it "truer" measure, but there's actually no evidence on which to make that claim. And this is particularly relevant for understanding female sexuality because women have long shown rather large differences between their psychological experiences of arousal and their physiological responses. So I do think that those studies point to fascinating differences between female and male sexuality (and certainly, they suggest more fluid and bisexual patterns of erotic response in women than in men) but I do not think that erotic response can be "boiled down" to degrees of blood flow to the genitals (which is what those physiological measures assess).
Albany, New York: I probably should read your book, but is it your primary thesis that sexual orientation is more fluid for women than men -- more women are likely to be involved with both genders at some point than men are? Do you have any explanation for why this might be true?
Lisa Diamond: Yes, that's one of my primary arguments. But it's not necessarily that more women than men are likely to be involved with both genders, it has more to do with the fact that women have a greater capacity to respond erotically, under certain circumstances and to particular individuals -- in ways that might be directly inconsistent with their sexual orientation (i.e., lesbian women periodically becoming attracted to men, and heterosexual women periodically becoming attracted to women). So at any one point in time, they might not -- in fact -- be attracted to both genders, but they have more of a capacity for fluid attractions over the life course. In the book I talk in more detail about the different reasons why this might be true. Certainly, differences in the way that women and men are socialized with regard to their sexuality play a role. But I also speculate that there may actually be some biological bases for these differences, having to do with the neurobiological circuitry for the evolved social behavioral "programs" for emotional bonding, caregiving, and sexuality.
Anonymous: Ms. Diamond,
Good afternoon. My question is "Do you think it is much easier for "Sexual Fluidity" to be experienced by females because of easier social acceptance and also because there are more females living the older one gets?"
Lisa Diamond: I'm not sure about whether it matters that as individuals age, there are relatively more women, but I do think that the broader social acceptability of same-sex intimacy for women than for men contributes to the greater prevalence of fluidity among women. For example, it's perfectly socially acceptable for two female best friends to hug one another, tell one another that they love one another, etc., but in our society such behavior among men friends would be considered indicative of same-sex sexuality.
North Carolina: I would like to know what Ms. Diamond thinks about this situation. I am married, for almost 3 decades, to a man who is my best friend, partner, and the love of my life. The problem is that I have very little sexual desire towards him. I married him hoping that it would change because we have a very abiding once in a lifetime love for each other. He is aware of my feelings, and I wish that I could somehow 'get' that desire. It is not a totally sexless marriage, but I feel that both of us are somehow being cheated. What do you think I can do, if anything? Thank you.
Lisa Diamond: First, let me say right away that I am not a clinical psychologist, and so I really cannot comment with any sort of expertise on individuals' specific situations, or give advice. I can do my best to provide my own perspective, based on my research, but please do not construe this as any sort of recommendation or advice. That said, I have encountered many individuals -- both men and women -- who report similar circumstances. As far as I know, it is difficult for folks to actively "direct" their desires in a particular direction. My own research suggests that some individuals in your situation sometimes end up experiencing spontaneous changes in their desires over time, but usually it is somewhat unpredictable.
New York, N.Y.: Did you research brain responses and chemical releases and how women interpret love and lust? I ask because the release of endorphins is very pleasurable to many and often we see that the key to many activities is getting endorphins released, either be it through sex, exercise, etc. Also, parts of the brain react favorable to both pain and pleasure, so sex and the pain of exercising can both register similarly mentally. If I am correct on these, how does the brain and how it operates, and how it releases chemicals into the body, play in how women handle love, lust, romance, etc?
Lisa Diamond: I have not done any brain research myself, but in the book I talk about some of the existing research on some of the neurochemicals that appear to be involved with both sexuality and emotional attachment (for example, the neurohormone oxytocin). I absolutely think that some of the neurobiological interconnections between the brain systems for attachment, caregiving, and sexuality may be related to the fluidity between love and desire that many women experience. But a lot of this is speculative at the current time, and much more research is needed.
Philadelphia, Pa.: I believe people can have deep attachments to others, the kind where they would give their life for the other person, and it need not be a sexual relationship and it could be about someone of the same sex and the person can be a heterosexual. Extreme examples of this would be family members or as seen among soldiers in combat. It is possible that love and lust can be two totally separate equations of relationships, and sometimes they exist together, and sometimes they do not, and is it fair to conclude that the most stable relationships are the ones where both love and lust exist? Or am I missing something important here?
Lisa Diamond: I absolutely agree with you, and in my book I make the argument that our culture has really equated attachment and sexuality, when they are totally different systems. Certainly, they overlap, and most people want to form a long-term relationship with someone to whom they are strongly emotionally bonded and also sexually attractive. But there are plenty of cases in which individuals have emotional attachments that "look" like romantic love, yet without sexual desires. As for whether it is more stable for love and lust to "coexist," I actually don't think that there is any research suggesting whether that is definitely the case. There are certainly plenty of cases of marriages in which the sexual part of the relationship declines significantly over time, but the emotional bond remains quite intense. For some people, that would be unacceptable. Other people would think that it was fine. I think that it depends on how important sexuality is to each particular person in the relationship.
Tenleytown, D.C.: Where did you find the women you write about in the book?
Lisa Diamond: I talk about this in more detail in the book. Basically, I bought a beat-up Toyota Corolla and drove all around New York State, visiting gay-lesbian-bisexual youth groups, Pride parades, local universities, and I made it clear that I was studying women with same-sex attractions (regardless of whether they openly identified as lesbian or bisexual) between the ages of 16 and 23. So I got a pretty good mix of individuals from different backgrounds, and from different regions within the state (I did not sample from the most heavily populated locations, like New York City).
Jacksonville, Florida: What measure has sexual fluidity today contributed to the decadence of morality as well as our cultural values?
Lisa Diamond: I'm having a little trouble interpreting this question, due to the way that it is phrased
Virginia: I haven't read your book yet, but it's always seemed to me that men are more aroused by visuals while women are more aroused by emotions. Assuming this is true, it seems that it would naturally lead to there being more bisexual women and few bisexual men. (Statistically speaking.)
Am I on the right track here? Is there more to it than that?
Lisa Diamond: I think that the distinction you posit between "visuals" and "emotions" might actually be a little misleading. Certainly, a number of recent studies have found that women are actually a lot MORE aroused by visual sexual stimuli than sex researchers have long assumed. We have to remember that women are certainly socialized to think of their own sexuality differently than are men, and are generally socialized to believe that it is more "acceptable" for them to feel strong sexual desires if those desires are experienced in an emotional context. So although women might often report that they are more aroused by emotions, the evidence suggests that women -- just like men -- are also aroused by visuals. But the issue of gender differences in bisexuality is also a relevant and interesting one. Regardless of whether it has anything to do with being aroused by visual sexual stimuli, versus emotions, certainly a number of representative studies (I talk about this in more detail in the book) suggest that a greater number of women than men experience bisexual patterns of attraction.
Warren, Ohio: How does the biology of sex fluidity (i.e. intersexuality) intersect with the biology of sexuality according to your work?
Lisa Diamond: Fabulous question! I don't spend too much time discussing cases of intersexuality (or, using the technical term, disorders of sexual differentiation) in the book, since it is such a huge and complicated topic in its own right, but I do bring up a few relevant examples I think that one fascinating line of inquiry (which links the two) is the degree to which ANY sort of categorical model of sexuality -- whether manifested in our physical genitalia or our psychological desires -- really provides us with a complete picture of the human experience. Certainly, the many different forms of intersex show us that there are lots of ways that conventional categories can break down. But one thing that is interesting, if you consider all of the different forms of intersexuality, is the fact that they do not always "line up" with patterns of sexual desire in ways that seem to fit our expectations. To take just one example, girls who are born with congenital adrenal hyperplasia (CAH), who were exposed to abnormally high levels of androgens in the womb, and who are born with somewhat "masculinized" genitalia (despite being completely genetically female) are overwhelmingly likely to identify as heterosexual in adulthood, although they have higher rates of same-sex attractions, compared to the general population. In other cases of intersex, there's no discernible link to patterns of attraction. So this is one of those absolutely fascinating lines of inquiry that I look forward to following over time.
Watertown, Mass.: Did the findings of your research surprise you or were they what you expected? And what kind of reaction have you had from colleagues?
Lisa Diamond: I certainly did not expect to find the degree of variability that I ended up finding. I had an idea that women might be more variable than men -- that was part of why I started the whole study to begin with, because I was frustrated with the fairly reductionistic portrait of sexual identity development that was out there in the published literature (most of it based on men). But I suppose I expected that a lot of the initial variability would sort of stabilize over time. I was pretty startled to find that at each assessment, every two years, women continued to show these fascinating transitions in their experiences and in the way that they interpreted them. But of course, that's what made the study fascinating, and motivated me to keep it going. As for reactions from colleagues, I have generally had very positive responses. Of course, scientific colleagues always alert you to the weaknesses in your research, and that is as it should be. When I first began publishing my results, journal reviewers pointed out (rightly) that this was a relatively small sample of individuals, and that it was impossible to know how representative they were of the overall population. But over time, other researchers working in other domains have published findings that are consistent with my own (in terms of greater fluidity in women) and now, it has become much more widely accepted among sex researchers that there is, in fact, a pretty big sex difference here, and one that deserves attention. Over the years, I was actually more worried about how fellow members of the lesbian-gay-bisexual community would respond to my research, and whether they would be concerned that my findings appear to support anti-gay claims that "sexuality can change" as a result of anti-homosexual therapy (which my research does not, in fact, suggest to be the case). So I have taken pains to be very clear about what my findings do and do not suggest. And I have been happy to find that the lesbian-gay-bisexual community has been very supportive of my research, and particularly supportive of the fact that it gives a greater voice to women, who have long been underrepresented in research of this nature.
Columbia, S.C.: Great discussion and a great book! What do you see as the two or three most important research issues to address in the near future?
Lisa Diamond: One big question is -- just how fluid ARE men? In my book I make the claim that women are more fluid than men, and I believe this to be the case, but I also believe that we do not have nearly enough information to know just how fluid men might be, as well. Many times, when I give talks about my research, men frequently come up to me afterward and say "you know, I think that there is a lot more variability among men than most people think ." So I keep hoping that someone will take up the challenge and start a longitudinal study of men! I think another huge area for future research concerns the neurobiological underpinnings of the sexuality and attachment systems more generally. I talk a little bit about some of this in the book, and about some of the exciting new research on neurochemicals such as oxytocin, which is a hormone that is involved in the sexuality system AND the attachment system AND the caregiving system. But most of what we know about oxytocin is based on animal research, and we need much more detailed understanding of how it functions in humans. I think that this can provide some clues as to the physiological mechanisms through which sexual fluidity might operate, which is a huge question. Finally, I'm fascinated by individual differences in fluidity. As I mentioned in one of my other responses, it is clear that not all women are fluid to the same degree. Some women experience their sexuality as very stable, others do not. Why? Is it akin to a personality difference? Does it have to do with early social experiences? Is it temperamental? Is it the environment? Some combination of both? That is something that I am actively investigating by collecting ever more detailed information from my study respondents. Maybe in another 10 years, I will have an answer!
Washington, D.C.: What is your take on the Kinsey Scale and do you think it is an accurate reflection on how fluid a woman's sexuality is?
washingtonpost.com: Kinsey's Heterosexual-Homosexual Rating Scale (The Kinsey Institute)
Lisa Diamond: The Kinsey scale certainly made important strides in putting forth a continuous model of sexuality (in which your attractions could vary along a continuum from same-sex sexuality to opposite-sex sexuality, instead of being "all gay" or "all straight"). But as I point out in the book, it's pretty depressing to see that many sex researchers administer the Kinsey scale to their respondents, but proceed to turn all of that rich continuous data right back into categories, for example designating everybody in the 0-1 range "heterosexual," everyone in the 2-4 range "bisexual," and everyone in the 5-6 range "homosexual." Well then, if you're just going to chop it back into categories, what is the point of the scale to begin with? My other gripe is that some folks will ask respondents to fill out the scale several different times, for example once with regard to their behavior, once with regard to their attractions, once with regard to their identification, and maybe also with respect to their fantasies, et cetera et cetera. So you can end up with a whole bunch of different Kinsey scale numbers, representing different dimensions of your sexuality. That is certainly appropriate, since we know that all those dimensions don't necessarily line up in the same way. But rather than presenting all of that information, in all of its wonderful complexity, a lot of researchers simply take the average of all those numbers! What on earth does THAT number mean? So philosophically, I think the Kinsey scale is a great tool, but I have often been disappointed in the way that it has been applied. Our society as a whole -- both sex researchers as well as the community at large -- have a real hard time giving up on categorical models of sexuality, no matter how much evidence we have that they don't do a very good job representing the true diversity and variability of sexuality.
Seattle, Wash: Has bisexuality increased for women over the past few years? Or is it just an increased awareness in the media?
Lisa Diamond: Great question, but impossible to answer for sure. I think that both things might be true. There is definitely more awareness in the media, and it is certainly possible that as a result of that awareness, a greater number of individuals are discovering their capacity for bisexuality at earlier ages than they would have otherwise.
Richmond, Va.: Is it that women have a greater capacity for fluidity than men, or that culture supports it in women more than in men?
Lisa Diamond: I think that both are true -- certainly there is greater cultural permission for women to have strong same-sex attachments, but I also think that there is an intrinsic sex difference ( I make the case for this in much more detail in the book). When you combine the two, you end up with quite a large difference! I am certainly someone that straddles the nature-nurture divide. I think that it is impossible to really understand differences between women and men without paying attention to socio-cultural factors AND biological factors, in their constant interaction with one another.
New York, N.Y.: Are there dangers that the chemicals released during pain and pleasure that create emotional attachments can lead people to be more receptive to abusive relationships, and if so, does there appear to be any difference between abusive heterosexual relationships and abusive lesbian relationships? Alternatively, do you see this in loving relationships, such as BDSM relationships, and if so, were there differences between BDSM heterosexual relationships and BDSM lesbian relationships?
Lisa Diamond: Fascinating question, and one that I admit I do not know all that much about. Certainly we know that the neurobiological system that underlies the formation of emotional attachments is a relatively automatic one, and that especially in children, it permits young children to become strongly emotionally attached to their caregivers, even if their caregivers are abusive. From the perspective of evolution, it's more dangerous to have nobody taking care of you at all, than to have a caregiver who takes care of your basic needs, but is also abusive. So it's very common to find that, for example, very young children will protest mightily if social service agencies attempt to separate them from abusive caregivers. It might seem crazy that the children would be so strongly attached to people who hurt them, but that's the way the brain system operates. It is likely that the very same dynamics are responsible for the fact that in adult relationships, the simple experience of being abused does not "turn off" your emotional attachment to the abusive partner. That's what makes these cases so difficult, in terms of developing effective interventions. I'm not sure that whether it has anything to do with the "chemicals released during pain and pleasure," as you note in your question, although that's certainly an interesting question. In terms of abusive heterosexual relationships and abusive lesbian relationships, the research generally suggests more similarities than differences (that goes for gay male couples, as well). As for differences between BDSM heterosexual and BDSM lesbian relationships, that's a topic that I have really seen no empirical research on, but a fascinating issue!
Washington, D.C.: Sorry, science geek here, but do you have plans to follow up with your respondents in the future?
Lisa Diamond: Geeks welcome! Yes I do plan to keep following them, in fact I am just beginning the 12-year follow-up assessment now (I'm sending each one of them a copy of the book, hoping that it will keep up their motivation to be patient with my persistent questions). I plan to follow them indefinitely. Their stories get more and more interesting over time. Maybe my next book will be the 20-year data.
Burke, Va.: Good afternoon. As a follow-up to my original question:"Do you think it is much easier for "Sexual Fluidity" to be experienced by females because of easier social acceptance and also because there are more females living the older one gets?"
The age reference I made is as the older the population gets men die faster so with the lack of available males and given that some females want to continue sexual activities/relationships I am inferring that some females would rather pursue a fluid type of relationship with other females because of availability and sometimes even viability; do you think that is true?
Lisa Diamond: yes, that's what I thought you were getting at. It is certainly interesting, and there are definitely cases that you read about in which older women will move in with one another and take care of one another after each of their respective husbands have died. In some cases, I'm sure that those are just platonic friendships, but I also think it is fully possible that some of them have an erotic element as well, born out of their intense closeness. Of course, our society does not like to think about older people as having sexual desires at all, which is one obstacle to really seriously considering those sorts of things.
re: generally attracted to pictures of both men and women.: Attracted to, or turned on by?
Lisa Diamond: A great point, because there are not very good operational definitions of just what it means to be "attracted to" something, versus "aroused" or "turned on" etc. In my book, I spend a fair amount of time talking about the difficulty of interpreting different individuals' reports of "attraction." When I asked my own respondents to describe what "attraction" felt like to them, I got an amazing diversity of responses. Some women said that being "attracted" meant being genitally excited, others said that "attraction" was a psychological and intellectual closeness, others said that "attraction" was simply a vague feeling of wanting to be near another person. So that makes it really difficult to interpret the findings of a lot of sexuality studies. Sex researchers tend to ask individuals about their "attractions" without specifying exactly what they mean. Some studies suggest that men tend to have more consistent definitions of "attraction" than women. Most men, when asked about attraction, think of it as being a concrete feeling of sexual excitement and arousal. But for women, you get a much wider range...... As for responses to visual sexual stimuli, studies have found that if you want to produce a strong genital response of sexual arousal and women( i.e., increased blood flow to the genitals, which is typically accompanied by vaginal lubrication) the fastest and most reliable way to do so is to show them pictures of people having sex (women respond more strongly to pictures of sexual activity than to simple pictures of nude individuals).
Washington, D.C.: Science geek again, but have you considered looking at women in other parts of the life cycle?
Lisa Diamond: I definitely have my hands full with this one study, but one of the reasons that I'm so excited about continuing to follow women over time is that I get to observe those "lifecycle" transitions as they occur. For example, during the most recent wave of assessments, tons of women were either having babies or trying to get pregnant, etc., so it was really interesting to observe how women were making sense of their transitions in sexual experiences and identities in concert with changes in their attitudes toward children, and their experiences raising their children. For example, one thing that always made me laugh was that when interviewing women who had recently had children, I would ask them about their patterns of sexual attraction, and some of them would say "sexual attraction? I can barely even remember sexual attraction. I would love to feel ANY sexual attraction at this point...."
Lisa Diamond: I want to thank everybody who participated in this discussion -- these were great questions, and I'm glad to know that there are individuals who find these topics as interesting as I do.
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