Sexual fluidity is prevalent even in a sexually restrictive country

New research indicates that sexual fluidity in attractions is relatively common in Malaysia. New discoveries appear in the Journal of homosexuality.

A number of studies have looked at changes in sexual desires and identities over time. However, most of this research has been conducted in Western countries with relatively liberal views and laws regarding same-sex relationships. The authors of the new study wanted to see if these findings would hold true in Malaysia, a largely conservative country where same-sex acts are criminalized.

“I am a counseling psychologist by profession and as such have had experience with sexual minority clients in distress, primarily due to a lack of understanding and discrimination within society,” explained the author of the study. John Pintolicensed psychologist and PhD candidate at the University of Malaya.

“My observations of my work and my exposure to sexual minority people have made me curious about the experience of sexual fluidity as it manifests in these people’s lives, and the unique struggles it offers them. I believe that understanding sexual fluidity in the local context can produce more effective ways to educate the public about it and perhaps produce more effective solutions to distress over misunderstanding, discrimination and lack of acceptance.

For their study, the researchers recruited 81 men and 93 women between the ages of 18 and 38 who had experienced same-sex sexual attractions.

To assess sexual fluidity, the researchers asked participants if they had ever experienced a change in their attractions to others. Those who answered yes then indicated the approximate age at which they first felt a change in attraction. They also indicated if they had experienced a change in attraction more than once and if they expected their sexual orientation to change in the future.

Sexual fluidity seemed to be relatively common.

“It should be noted that some of these people adopt an exclusive sexual identity, i.e. gay, lesbian or even heterosexual, although they have experienced some form of change over time,” Pinto said. at PsyPost. “While data with greater statistical power may be needed to draw more conclusive results, sexual fluidity is likely to be a more common experience than believed among sexual minorities in Malaysia. We hope this will help include the narrative of sexual fluidity in conversations about sexual minorities, as we believe it could have an impact on health care, advocacy and policy.

Researchers found that 72% of women indicated that they had experienced a change in attraction to others over time and 64% of men reported sexual fluidity in attractions. Multiple changes in attractions over time were reported by 44% of women and 36% of men. Importantly, these differences between women and men were not statistically significant.

“The study did not replicate the gender differences found in sexual fluidity frequencies in many other studies, where women were more fluid,” Pinto explained. “Nevertheless, it is aligned with other studies that have shown no gender differences. Some suggestions that have been previously offered by other scientists for gender differences that are more commonly seen include the idea that sexuality is more dependent on social construction (and therefore more malleable) in women than in men.

“While most of the reasons for our observations are largely speculative at this time, we believe it is important to question and challenge the extent to which societal and interpersonal factors may influence male sexuality. They seem to play an important role, but probably in a different way for men than for women, but more studies are needed to properly elucidate this.

But the fact that a person’s attractions can change over time should not be taken as evidence in favor of so-called “ex-gay” therapy. Research has consistently shown that practices aimed at changing people’s sexual orientation or gender identity lead to an increased likelihood of adverse mental health effects, including higher levels of depression and suicidal behavior.

“I would also like to emphasize that the occurrence of change should not be confused or co-opted to promote any form of restorative ‘therapies’ that are not evidence-based, as this may cause more harm than good,” explained Pinto. . “Sexuality is complex and develops at the confluence of social, interpersonal and individual factors.

“Any attempt to fully control or alter the manifestations of these processes has proven to cause more harm than good and in some sense violates the rights of the individual by propagating the error that the orientations of minorities are a form of pathology rather than a variation, so it is important that we caution against using our work or any other work on sexual fluidity to make pseudoscientific claims driven by ideological desires rather than facts.

Regarding the limitations of the study, Pinto said that “it is important to view this study as a largely exploratory study. To our knowledge, this is the first study of sexual fluidity in a Malaysian context, and we do not assume that our sample is representative of the population. On the contrary, this study is intended to inspire further work on the subject in the local context.

“It is also important to note that our sample focused on individuals from largely urban areas and unfortunately does not include those with lower socio-economic status and educational attainment due to various difficulties such as expressed in the article,” he added. “The sample also only consists of those who are fairly proficient in the English language, and therefore excludes those who do not speak or understand English. As such, I believe the study should be seen as a first look rather than as a conclusive document. We hope that future studies can reveal more.”

The study, “Sexual Fluidity in a Malay Sample: A Case of the Presence of Enabling Environments in a Restrictive Socio-Cultural and Political Landscape“, John Pinto, Suat Yan Lai and Wah Yun Low.

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