New research gives that bisexuality among women won't just go away after some time. The study, which followed 79 non-heterosexual women for a decade, found that bisexual women continue to be attracted to both sexes for a long time.
"Being bisexual is a distinct orientation, not a temporary stage", is what lead author says Lisa Diamond, an associate professor of psychology and gender studies at the University of Utah, offers. The article will be documented in the January issue of Developmental Psychology, a journal of the American Psychological Association.
Diamond carried out face-to-face interviews around New York State in 1995, when the women (who identified themselves as lesbian, bisexual or unlabeled, but not heterosexual) were ages 18-25. She then corresponded with them by phone every two years.
"These findings are therefore more consistent with the model of bisexuality as a stable identity than a transitional stage," the study states.
Diamond feels that most women "possess the capacity to experience sexual desires for both sexes, under the right circumstances."
Diamond found that bisexual women were more likely than lesbians to switch between describing themselves as bisexual and unlabeled, rather than to identify themselves as lesbian or heterosexual.
"If it was a phase, it should have burnt out," Diamond believes. "They might have a change in identity and relationships, but that pattern of non-exclusive desire is still there, even among those who have married. It debunks the notion of it being a phase."
Sociologist Paula Rust of East Brunswick, N.J., has conducted quantitative research on bisexuality She says Diamond's study is important as the only long-term look at women's bisexuality to date.
"What she's doing is an in-depth study of people's lives. For qualitative research, that's a pretty good number", she says.
Other limitations noted in the study are dependence on a small, exclusively female and disproportionately white and middle-class sample.
New attention is given to young women today and their interest in experimenting with their own sexual identity. Rust says this is because the young are more open about sexuality and are more tolerant.
"I think young women are feeling a little bit freer. If they have anything other than purely heterosexual feelings, they are more free to think about it ... and question their identity", says Rust
According to Diamond, heterosexual women may "experiment with same-sex desires and behaviors, but if they really are predominantly heterosexual, they may enjoy experimentation but may not change their sexuality."
The study also dismisses the stereotype that bisexual women are not able to commit to monogamous relationships because they're always thinking about desire for the other gender.
Denise Penn, a clinical social worker who serves on the board of the American Institute of Bisexuality, based in San Diego, says there has not been enough research on these questions:
"Women's sexuality in general has taken a back seat in terms of research overall", says Denise.