Our Sexual Preferences Can Change Well Into Adulthood (New Study)

Most people are fairly open-minded about sexuality these days (which is brilliant, and as it should be). In this age of pansexuality, tolerance towards different sexual preferences and sexuality has become better, much better than it was even a few years ago.

But the labels we currently use are not quite as straight forward and fit-for-purpose as we might think. 

According to an extensive new study (involving 12,000 participants), the way different people interact sexually doesn’t always fit strict labels like straight, gay, and bisexual and can change. 

The research, published in the Journal of Sex Research, found that whether someone will be attracted to a person of the same or the opposite sex (or even both) sometimes changes, and this can happen throughout their 20s. 

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Who we find attractive can change

As one of the lead researchers (Christine Kaestle, Ph.D., a professor of developmental health at Virginia Tech) said, “sexual orientation involves many aspects of life, such as who we feel attracted to, who we have sex with, and how we self-identify. Until recently, researchers have tended to focus on just one of these aspects, or dimensions, to measure and categorize people. However, that may oversimplify the situation.”

This would be the case for someone who considers themselves heterosexual but might also have a history with partners of their same sex.

Related video: What is sexual fluidity?

Nine labels instead of three?

As the study found, the current three labels we have for describing sexuality is sometimes not enough as they do not take into account how some people’s sexual orientation varies over time.

Based on those findings, these are the nine labels that described the varying nature of sexuality more accurately (four for men, five for women), including the percentage of participants that identified with these classifications.


  1. straight (87%)
  2. mostly straight or bi (3.8%)
  3. emerging gay (2.4%)
  4. minimal sexual expression (6.5%)


  1. straight (73.8%)
  2. mostly straight discontinuous (10.1%)
  3. emerging bi (7.5%)
  4. emerging lesbian (1.5%)
  5. minimal sexual expression (7%)

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It’s ok to not fit the labels

Sexual preferences are not quite as simple as we might think.

Sexuality is a spectrum, rather than a black and white absolute measure, as we are finding out.

Not everyone fits into the established categories of straight, bi and gay and that’s ok. And in case you are one of these people, stop stressing – it’s ok if you do not fit one of the three established categories.

RelatedHow To Deal With Negative Thoughts: The Definitive Guide

Keep your mind open

This is still an area that we are learning more about, so it is important to have an open mind, as we are just scratching the surface of how sexuality develops and evolves over time.

What are your thoughts on the matter?

How do you feel about the current labels?

We always welcome constructive feedback and opinions. Any sort of hate speech, though, is not – we have a zero tolerance policy for that. Please be mindful of others, and keep it civil.

Let’s each do our part to make the world a better place 🙂

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