A Nuanced Perspective of Sexual Orientation and its Relationship with Well-being: Differentiating Sexual and Non-sexual Attractions in Heterosexual and Sexual Minority Women and Men
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Research has demonstrated that violating the norm of heterosexuality by endorsing a sexual minority identity is associated with poorer psychological well-being. Such studies have failed to take into account the multifaceted nature of sexual orientation, looking primarily at identity, and failing to examine other components, namely same-sex attractions. The present study examined same-sex and other-sex sexual and non-sexual (emotional, romantic) attractions in an Internet sample of 532 adults (n = 244 heterosexual, n = 288 sexual minority). Findings established preliminary support for a measure of sexual and non-sexual attractions, and demonstrate that sexual and non-sexual attractions can be differentiated in heterosexual, gay, and lesbian individuals. The prediction that women would endorse greater emotional attraction than men was supported. The prediction that greater same-sex attractions, particularly sexual, would be associated with poorer well-being was partially supported, with greater same-sex sexual attraction associated with greater loneliness. Contrary to predictions, same-sex attractions were not associated with poorer well-being for men more so than for women. Results from this study highlight the importance of assessing same-sex and other-sex sexual and non-sexual attractions in men and women of different sexual orientations, and provide further support that people experience attractions contradictory to their sexual orientation identity. Further, not all aspects of same-sex sexual orientation (i.e., same-sex attractions) are related to poorer well-being.