I was not surprised to read recently that women enjoy looking at naked female bodies just as much as male ones, a study suggests. Talking over the years with my female friends I was given to understand that they too are attracted to look at the female form, and some admit to a sensual frisson whenever this occurs. Experts have now found that while the attention of red-blooded males is drawn to images of women, their female counterparts were more flexible.
Some experts say this is because women are innately more ‘fluid’ than men when it comes to their sexuality. Another theory is that women have lower sex drives, meaning they are not as immediately excited by seeing a naked man. Women also feel the need to look at female bodies so they can compare them with their own.
For the experiment, psychologists at Cardiff University showed 57 men and women a series of sexy images and asked how attractive they found the people in them. The volunteers then sat in front of a computer screen and watched as the same pictures flashed by in pairs – one female and one male. The images stayed on the screen for just one fifth of a second, less time than it takes to blink – before one was replaced with a faint dot. The more quickly the participants spotted the dot, the more attention they were thought to have been paying to the proceeding picture.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the male volunteers noticed the dots that followed the pictures of female bodies most quickly, suggesting they found these more appealing. However, the women’s attention was equally drawn to both the male and female images. This was the case even though, when asked, the women said they preferred pictures of the men.
In a second, similar experiment a different group of women actually responded more quickly to female images than male ones. The pictures flashed up so briefly that it is unlikely they were making a conscious decision about what to look at, the study said. This suggests women who consider themselves heterosexual are more fluid when it comes to sexuality than men. Some experts claim this trait evolved to reduce tension among co-wives in early polygamous marriages.
The findings come as bisexual women are gaining more visibility in the media with growing numbers of female celebrities discussing their same-sex relationships. Hollywood star Angelina Jolie – who is now divorcing actor Brad Pitt – dated Japanese- American model Jenny Shimizu. Mother of six, Miss Jolie once said that in different circumstances she would probably have married Jenny. Supermodel Cara Delevingne has spoken out about dating musician Annie Clark, while actress Amber Heard had a long-term relationship with a female photographer, Tanya van Ree before her ill-fated marriage to film star Johnny Depp.
The Cardiff psychologists’ results are echoed in recent research from the US which found that women are more likely to describe themselves as bisexual than men. The poll of more than 9,000 young adults found that women were also more likely than men to choose the label ‘mostly heterosexual’. The participants were questioned on their sexuality three times around the ages of 16, 22 and 28. Women were more inclined to change their mind about their preferences over this time. But men tended to describe themselves confidently as ‘100 percent heterosexual or 100 per cent homosexual.’
Researcher Elizabeth McClintock, from the University of Notre Dame in Indiana, said the ‘male erotization of same sex female relationships allows women to experiment – for instance by kissing other women at parties – without being stigmatised.’ Her analysis also showed that attractive women were more likely to think of themselves as purely attracted to men. However, a separate study, from the University of Essex last year, went as far as suggesting women are never 100 per cent heterosexual.
This last study is perhaps nearer to the mark today. Sexuality seems no longer to have any set boundaries. Sex and money have become the motivating factor in our so-called ‘liberated society’ which demands too much and cares very little about anything else.
Are we, I ask, happier?