Heteroflexible pride flag
Heteroflexible pride flag

Heteroflexibility is a form of a sexual orientation or situational sexual behavior characterized by minimal homosexual activity in an otherwise primarily heterosexual orientation, which may or may not distinguish it from bisexuality. It has been characterized as "mostly straight".[1] Although sometimes equated with bi-curiosity to describe a broad continuum of sexual orientation between heterosexuality and bisexuality,[2] other authors distinguish heteroflexibility as lacking the "wish to experiment with ... sexuality" implied by the bi-curious label.[3] The corresponding situation in which homosexual activity predominates has also been described, termed homoflexibility.[4]


National surveys in the U.S. and Canada show that 3 to 4 percent of male teenagers, when given the choice to select a term that best describes their sexual feelings, desires, and behaviors, opt for "mostly" or "predominantly" heterosexual. With "100% heterosexual" being the largest assumed identity, "mostly-heterosexual" was the first runner up in self-identification.[5] Of the 160 men interviewed for a study in 2008 and 2009, nearly one in eight reported same-sex attractions, fantasies, and crushes. The majority had these feelings since high school; a few others developed them more recently. And in a national sample of young men whose average age was 22, the "mostly straight" proportion increased when they completed the same survey six years later. An even higher percentage of post-high-school young-adult men in the U.S. and in a handful of other countries (including New Zealand and Norway) make the same choice.[6][better source needed]

An analytical review article looking at the experiences and meanings of same-sex sexual encounters among men and women who identify as heterosexual found that a large portion of same-sex encounters occur among those who identify as heterosexual. The prevalence of same-sex sexuality among heterosexually identifying men and women is not universal. 13.6% of women and 4.6% of men reported attraction to members of the same sex, while 12.6% of women and 2.8% of men have at some point had a same-sex sexual encounter. Findings from the National Survey of Family Growth data from 2011-2015 revealed another insight into how much same sex attraction and behavior can be accounted for by heterosexually identifying people. They found that 61.9% of women and 59% of men with currently reported same-sex attractions identified as heterosexual. Similarly, 65.2% of women and 43.4% of men who have engaged in same-sex sexual encounters identify as heterosexual.[7]

Research and views

As of 2010, most studies of heteroflexibility have focused on young men and women, especially white women in the college environment.[8] Research suggesting the influence of prenatal androgen exposure on female sexual identity places heteroflexibility on a continuum with bisexuality and lesbianism.[9] Other studies have focused on social origins for the behavior, such as the shifting media presentation of bisexuality or the "socialization of the male interloper fantasy" in which a man is invited into a lesbian relationship as a third partner.[10][11][12]

Unlike "bisexual until graduation" and similar pejoratives, heteroflexibility is typically considered to have a positive connotation, and is often a self-applied label, although use of the term as a pop-culture slur has been attested.[13]

Social scientists Hoy and London point out that some men who have occasional sex with other men nevertheless identify as heterosexual. They may feel that occasional sex with men is a result of female unavailability, or that their same-sex attraction is infrequent enough to not affect their identity. They may claim that while they feel romantically, physically, and emotionally attracted to women, their attraction to men is purely sexual, lacking any emotional attraction. A heteroflexible management strategy for these men is to interpret their sexual practices with women to be more important than their sexual encounters with men. They may also see themselves as masculine, while associating a same-sex-attracted identity with femininity. Some of the men and women who experience same sex encounters while identifying as heterosexual do so to avoid the negative social consequences that come with identifying as a member of the LGBT community.[7][14]


  1. ^ Thompson, E.M.; Morgan, E.M. (2008). ""Mostly straight" young women: Variations in sexual behavior and identity development". Developmental Psychology. 44 (1): 15–21. doi:10.1037/0012-1649.44.1.15. PMID 18194001. S2CID 14336659.
  2. ^ Frank, Katherine (2008). "'Not Gay, but Not Homophobic': Male Sexuality and Homophobia in the 'Lifestyle'". Sexualities. 11 (4): 435–454. doi:10.1177/1363460708091743. S2CID 143060180.
  3. ^ Smorag, Pascale (14 May 2008). "From Closet Talk to PC Terminology : Gay Speech and the Politics of Visibility". Transatlantica (1). doi:10.4000/transatlantica.3503. Retrieved 21 October 2010.
  4. ^ Keppel, Bobbi (2006). "Affirmative Psychotherapy with Older Bisexual Women and Men". Journal of Bisexuality. 6 (1–2): 85–104. doi:10.1300/J159v06n01_06. S2CID 144035431.
  5. ^ Savin-Williams, Ritch C.; Joyner, Kara; Rieger, Gerulf (Feb 2012). "Prevalence and Stability of Self-Reported Sexual Orientation Identity During Young Adulthood". Archives of Sexual Behavior. 41 (1): 103–110. doi:10.1007/s10508-012-9913-y. ISSN 0004-0002. PMID 22302504. S2CID 43225099.
  6. ^ "Mostly Straight, Most of the Time". goodmenproject. 2010-11-03. Retrieved 2011-01-30.
  7. ^ a b Hoy, Aaron; London, Andrew S. (July 2018). "The experience and meaning of same-sex sexuality among heterosexually identified men and women: An analytic review". Sociology Compass. 12 (7): e12596. doi:10.1111/soc4.12596.
  8. ^ Ambrose, Emily (2009). "Heteroflexibility: Bending the Existing Label Triangle". Colorado State University Journal of Student Affairs (43): 69–75.
  9. ^ Ciumas, C.; Hirschberg, A. Lindén; Savic, I. (2008). "High Fetal Testosterone and Sexually Dimorphic Cerebral Networks in Females". Cerebral Cortex. 19 (5): 1167–1174. doi:10.1093/cercor/bhn160. PMID 18854582.
  10. ^ Diamond, L.M. (2005). ""I'm straight, but I kissed a girl": The trouble with American media representations of female-female sexuality". Feminism & Psychology. 15 (1): 104–110. doi:10.1177/0959353505049712. S2CID 144573562.
  11. ^ Siegel, Karolynn; Schrimshaw, Eric W.; Lekas, Helen-Maria; Parsons, Jeffrey T. (2008). "Sexual Behaviors of Non-gay Identified Non-disclosing Men Who Have Sex with Men and Women". Archives of Sexual Behavior. 37 (5): 720–735. doi:10.1007/s10508-008-9357-6. PMID 18506616. S2CID 207089340.
  12. ^ Hubbard, Phil (2008). "Here, There, Everywhere: The Ubiquitous Geographies of Heternormativity". Geography Compass. 2 (3): 640–658. doi:10.1111/j.1749-8198.2008.00096.x.
  13. ^ Zaylía, Jessica Leigh (2009). "Toward a Newer Theory of Sexuality: Terms, Titles and the Bitter Taste of Bisexuality". Journal of Bisexuality. 9 (2): 109–123. doi:10.1080/15299710902881467.
  14. ^ Bargueño, Miguel Ángel (26 August 2015). "Por qué hombres 'hetero' tienen sexo con otros hombres". EL PAÍS. Retrieved 2021-08-10.

Further reading