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Sexual Fluidity: Understanding Women's Love and Desire Paperback – May 15, 2009

ISBN-13: 978-0674032262 ISBN-10: 0674032268

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press (May 15, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0674032268
  • ISBN-13: 978-0674032262
  • Product Dimensions: 8.1 x 5.4 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.5 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #85,711 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Many women experience a fluid sexual desire that is responsive to a person rather then a specific gender, argues Diamond n this fascinating and certain to be controversial study. Diamond, associate professor of psychology and gender studies at the University of Utah, is best when detailing, with vivid examples, how scientific studies of sexual desire and behavior have focused on the experience of men, for whom the heterosexual/homosexual divide seems mostly fixed. Diamond says traditional labels for sexual desire are inadequate; for some women even bisexual does not truly express the protean nature of their sexuality. Diamond details in accessible and nuanced language her own study of 100 young women (by her own admission not fully representative) over a period of 10 years. She says that she is calling for an expanded understanding of same-sex sexuality that could radically affect both LGBT activists who hold that sexual identity is fixed and antigay groups who believe sexuality is chosen. Sexual fluidity involves a mix of internal and external factors, but is not, Diamond emphasizes, a matter of conscious choice, and she speculates that a younger generation that views sexuality as personal rather than political might embrace this less rigid view. (Feb.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

Sexual Fluidity is the most important book on sexuality in many years. The scholarship is impeccable and the writing lucid. Exploring issues that have political, scientific, and personal ramifications, Diamond answers the tough questions: Do women have a sexual orientation? Do women choose their sexuality? Can a heterosexual woman fall in love with a woman? Can a lesbian fall in love with a man? Are women really sexually changeable? Are men? Diamond challenges both traditionalists and radicals—if you want to understand female sexuality, listen to what women say. (Ritch C. Savin-Williams, author of The New Gay Teenager)

The book raises fundamental questions about women's sexuality. Lisa Diamond's comprehensive analysis of the scientific evidence illuminates the interconnections of love, sex and sexual identity in women's lives. Her analysis of sexual fluidity is both original and compelling. (Anne Peplau, University of California, Los Angeles)

Fascinating and certain to be controversial… Diamond says traditional labels for sexual desire are inadequate; for some women even 'bisexual' does not truly express the protean nature of their sexuality. Diamond details in accessible and nuanced language her own study of 100 young women (by her own admission not 'fully representative') over a period of 10 years. She says that she is 'calling for an expanded understanding of same-sex sexuality' that could radically affect both LGBT activists who hold that sexual identity is fixed and antigay groups who believe sexuality is chosen. (Publishers Weekly 2007-10-29)

Freud once asked: 'What do women want?' He did not really know. In this beautiful and scholarly book, Diamond has attempted to answer his question. In her study of 100 young women growing up in the postmodern era, she has found that what women want is far more complex than was previously thought and cannot easily be answered with a simple theory. This book will be read by students and scholars across the social and biological sciences. It is a gift to be cherished. (Ken Zucker, University of Toronto)

Captivating, nuanced, and rigorous… Diamond's work is vital precisely because sexual fluidity is not a new concept—Freud called his version 'polymorphous perversity'—but merely one that is typically dismissed. Nor is it news to women, particularly not to a generation for whom a nonspecific 'queer' affiliation, or no affiliation at all, is increasingly common. What is so important is not that this fluidity exists, but that someone has finally paid it systematic attention and found that it is in fact not the exception, but may well be the rule. (Hanne Blank Ms. 2008-01-01)

Traditionally, female sexuality has been presumed to work in the same way and by the same rules as male sexual identity, but Diamond argues that for women, sexual identity isn't fixed in the same categories. (Temma Ehrenfeld Psychologies 2008-03-01)

Setting out to prove the theory that, for some women, love is truly blind where gender is concerned, Diamond presents her evidence in a fascinating, anecdotal fashion—by tracking over the span of a decade the relationships of nearly 100 women who at one point or another had experienced 'same-sex attractions.' The women move from men to women and back again (or vice-versa), their sexual identity as changeable as their desires. Additionally, she delves into the brain science behind lust, love and infatuation, revealing that what draws women toward a particular partner is as much a function of biology as it is anything else. To her credit, Diamond avoids scripting her arguments in obtuse academese. With her compassionate, understated approach, she has stepped up the business of gender research. (Lily Burana Washington Post Book World 2008-04-13)

A fascinating read. (Times Higher Education 2008-04-17)

The book has many riveting accounts by women of their own experiences of sexual attraction and distraction… Diamond has written a fascinating book. (Adam Phillips London Review of Books 2008-06-19)

[Diamond] did something unique, following 100 female subjects with same-sex attractions for 10 years… Her book is worth reading. (Sheela Lambert Examiner.com 2009-08-05)

Diamond's study has the potential to lead to more acceptance of variety within sexual orientation. With young women leading the way, everyone will become less fearful of diverse sexual experiences. Sexual Fluidity can take us beyond the divisive language of 'phases' and 'denial' as we speak the truth of our lives to each other. (Ellyn Ruthstrom Women's Review of Books 2009-03-01)

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Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

35 of 35 people found the following review helpful By William McNeill on May 18, 2010
Format: Paperback
Starting in the mid-1990s, Diamond, a professor of Psychology and Gender Studies at the University of Utah, conducted a longitudinal study that tracked sexual attitudes among a cohort of non-heterosexual identified women from their late teens into their early thirties. From this work Diamond concluded that while a model of sexual orientation in which a person is unswervingly straight or gay may be appropriate for men, it is too rigid for women. Over the course of a few years, a typical woman in Diamond's study might move from being attracted to other women to being attracted to men, or vice versa, with the nature of the attraction dependent on an individual's circumstances and partner in ways that often rendered simple straight/lesiban/bisexual categorizations too coarse to be informative. This fluidity is not a matter of dilettantish sexual experimentation or repressed lesbianism in the face of homophobia. (Nor, contrary to the wishes of religious traditionalists, does it mean that sexuality is a conscious lifestyle choice that can be reset by bullying therapy.) Instead, Diamond contends, it is a natural course of many women's development which has been overlooked by both the general public and researchers into human sexuality.

"Sexual Fluidity" mixes a discussion of Diamond's statistical results and anecdotes about the women she studied, along with theoretical taxonomies of female attraction styles and speculation on why women would be more fluid than men. It is academically rigorous but still pitched at a lay audience. It's a credit to her work that you come away wishing that Diamond could broaden her research to older women, straight-identified women, and men. The only shortcoming is that the book only presents quantitative data in prose, which can be difficult to follow.
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37 of 41 people found the following review helpful By tdp on August 5, 2008
Format: Hardcover
This book is a very interesting read for any woman, queer or straight.

The discussion of the to-date research on female sexuality and major premises in sexuality research are a great overview resource for anyone interested in this topic.

Female sexuality and the discussions stemming from Diamond's research are described in an approachable way. Topics stemming out of this book will force queer and straight women to rethink their perception of sexuality and their experiences.

I'd bet this book will stand the test of time and will provide a good resource for female sexuality discussions.
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18 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Paul on July 21, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Dr. Lisa Diamond has a fairly simple thesis: male homosexuality is different from female homosexuality. In short, homosexual males are born not made and the opposite is true for lesbians. There is evidence to support this. The study Diamond refers to is the Blanchard et. al. "fraternal birth order effect" studies which reported that the likelihood of male homosexuality increases when a woman gives birth to successive males. No similar correlation can be found for lesbians.

If lesbians are not formed at birth then it seems likely that they become so later in life. But, as Diamond points out, what often gets a lot of press are the lesbians who become straight later in life: Anne Heche, Holly Near. Diamond has other anecdotal evidence that comes from one rather non-random sample: the students in a women's studies class. Diamond conducted interviews with many women from this class who answered her request to talk with women who are gay or bisexual or any other alternative status.

Diamond does not consider the evolutionary basis of homosexuality until page 223. Even the few scant paragraphs spent on evolution sound off base. Terry Coyne's book "Why Evolution is True" says that evolution is only interested in characteristics that improve the ability to survive and to spread one's genes. So the evolutionary case for homosexuality must improve a group's ability to survive. That case can be made in a better fashion. Obviously, if there are too many males the often tragic competition for females can be reduced if some of the males are matching up themselves. Considering that males are preferentially conceived (Y sperm can swim faster than X sperm) the possibility of too many males is a real possibility.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By L. McClellan on September 18, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I recently came out to my husband that I have been a closeted bisexual for over 30 years. Society prevented me from being myself. This book helped my husband and I embrace who I am. It helped him understand what I am going through.

It is more clinically written. I would like to see a book be written by a bisexual to help society understand we are NOT confused, we are not on the edge of homosexuality. We are honestly bisexual. I love my husband, and VERY attracted to him sexually, but I also am sexually and emotionally attracted to women. We should not be made ashamed or ostracized for what we can not control. I was born this way, I did not choose to be with this way. I am thankful I have an awesome husband, and family who supports me for being me. I hope this book helps others coming to terms with their bisexuality or supporting a loved one who is coming to terms as well.
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