Social Psychology

Eye-tracking study finds sexually fluid women assess other females’ bodies in a manner similar to men

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Women who are flexible in their sexual attraction have gaze patterns that are similar to heterosexual men when viewing a nude female body, according to new research published in Evolutionary Behavioral Sciences.

“While the components of sexual psychology are typically seen as having discrete categories, recent research has begun to suggest that sexual attraction, gender identity, and sexual behavior should be considered on a continuum. This notion has been termed sexual fluidity,” noted the authors of the study, which was led by David R. Widman, a psychology professor at Juniata College.

In the study, 81 undergraduate students viewed images of nude male and female bodies on a computer screen, which was equipped with an eye tracking device. The participants also completed several surveys to assess their sexuality.

In line with previous research, Widman and his colleagues found that women tended to be more sexually fluid than men, meaning women were more likely to report that their sexual attractions, fantasies, and behaviors had fluctuated over time.

The researchers also found that women who reported more fluidity gazed at female’s chest region more than less fluid women.

“The most interesting part of the findings were that women who were fluid in their sexual interests scanned women’s bodies in a similar way to men; they spent more time looking at the breasts of the female stimuli,” Widman told PsyPost.

But why are women more fluid than men on average? Some theories suggest that this is a result of reproductive pressure from men and previous research has found that a considerable proportion of heterosexual men desire women who experience same-sex attractions.

“These attractions may serve to bring other women to a relationship, decrease cuckoldry by giving women an outlet for sexual gratification outside of the pair without risk of pregnancy and decrease possible conflict in households with multiple wives, especially given polygamy was considered much more common in the ancestral condition,” Widman said.

But as with all research, the study is not without some caveats.

“In pilot testing, we found that our men would not gaze long at the breasts, as had been reported by others. However, by pixelating the faces, we found the men did spend time on the breasts. This allowed us to compare the men to the women in the study,” Widman explained.

“As to why the men did not focus much time on the breasts in the non-pixelated condition, we think it was due to the experimenters; they are both attractive young women. We think that they were too polite to stare.”

“We also found that heterosexual women did gaze at men’s sexualized areas as well. This is slightly different from the literature that suggests women spend more time gazing a nude men’s faces. Although the face receives significant attention, the hips and groin received equal attention,” Widman added.

“I attribute this to the pixelation of the male stimuli’s faces for similar reasons as the men not gazing at the breasts of the nude women, political correctness and decorum. However, when we pixelate the faces this allows the attention to move.”

The study, “Gaze Patterns of Sexually Fluid Women and Men at Nude Females and Males“, was authored by David R. Widman, Madeline K. Bennetti, and Rebecca Anglemyer.