A new exploratory, qualitative study published in the Journal of Bisexuality has investigated how pansexuality is currently being discussed on the internet.
Pansexuality is an identity that describes individuals who are able to be attracted to any person regardless of their gender or biological sex. However, pansexuality does not mean being attracted to everyone.
PsyPost interviewed the study’s corresponding author, Christopher K. Belous of the Mercer University School of Medicine. Read his explanation of the research below:
PsyPost: Why were you interested in this topic?
Belous: This is a very underrepresented topic in the field of sexology and sexual identity studies. I had done research on identity formation in the past, and find the process fascinating. Pansexuality is becoming increasingly more visible and so my co-researcher and I wanted to see how people were talking about it online. So many people use the internet to gather information and research for insight that it seemed important to start there.
What should the average person take away from your study?
The average person, should they read this article, would hopefully take away the ‘normalcy’ of the pansexual identity. Being identified as something other than heterosexual, gay, lesbian, or bisexual is not weird, abnormal or inappropriate. Identities other than those in the mainstream are quite acceptable. In addition, I would hope that someone would gain a better understanding of what it means to be pansexual, how “popular” the identity is, and that there are many people who identify as such. We were hoping that if someone were to read this, they would get more comfortable understanding and decreasing cultural or social bias toward those who do not identify in the mainstream quad-chotomy (heterosexual, gay, lesbian, bisexual).
Are there any major caveats? What questions still need to be addressed?
Absolutely – this was a study conducted with convenience posts in online formats. The posts and pages that we analyzed were written in a non-academic, non-peer-reviewed process. This in no way invalidates the statements made by the authors, but does limit the generalizability of the study. The major strength that helped with this was the fact that so many posts and authors had the same things to say; leading to a sense of saturation. I think there are a lot of questions that still need to be discussed – and they are things my colleagues and I are currently investigating.
Specifically, we are looking to tease out and spend more time understanding the experience of pansexually identified individuals, what pansexual relationships look like, and the overall social impact of the identity itself. As mentioned in the paper, pansexuality is related to a non-identity label, such as “queer” – a reclaimed word of the gay community at large. This, as well, could use investigation. Of particular interest that arose as part of this study, was how pansexuality is different from bisexuality; this is our current study under investigation with results expected shortly.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
Most of my research is in the field of sexology, and specifically sex therapy and sexuality with LGBTQ+ people. This article is hopefully just the start of many more to come, and hopefully much more enlightening discussions around the topic of pansexuality.
The study, “What’s in a Name? Exploring Pansexuality Online“, was also co-authored by Melissa L. Bauman.