Straight Identity and Same-Sex Desire: Conservatism, Homophobia, and Straight Culture

Tony J. Silva*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


This paper uses the 2013-2015 NSFG, a representative US-based dataset of individuals 15-44, to explore predictors of straight identification among all women and men and among subsets with substantial same-sex activity and/or attraction. After controlling for attractions and sexual practices, homophobia predicted straight identification in all groups. Among both groups of women, one femininity attitude and motherhood also predicted straight identification. One attitude reflecting alignment with normative masculinity significantly predicted straight identification among men with substantial same-sex activity and/or attraction. This paper also uses two waves of Add Health, a representative survey of young adults, to examine change to sexual identity over six years. Results show that among individuals who changed sexual identities between waves, heightened religiosity and political conservatism across waves were associated with increased odds of changing to a straight identity for women, but not for men. This suggests but does not prove a directional association between attitudes and identification for some individuals. Latent class analyses also found distinct groups of straight-identified men and women with substantial same-sex activity and/or attraction, indicating that it is a heterogeneous population in terms of attitudes, including homophobia. This suggests that straight identification is due partly to embeddedness in straight culture and enjoyment of straight privilege, not simply homophobia. While impossible to determine causality, the results show that straight identification is strongly related to non-sexual social factors, including religiosity and attitudes about sexuality and gender, in addition to attractions and sexual practices. The results also suggest that homophobia is related to identity formation for women, as well as men, but that there is substantial within-group variation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1067-1094
Number of pages28
JournalSocial Forces
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 1 2019


  • Femininity
  • Gender
  • Heterosexuality
  • Masculinity
  • Sexual Fluidity
  • Sexuality

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • History
  • Anthropology
  • Sociology and Political Science


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