I was interested to read the results of a survey by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention which, among other findings, indicated that 11.5 percent of women ages 18 to 44 have had at least one sexual experience with another woman. This is up from the 4 percent reported in a comparable survey a decade ago. Is the increase a problem, and should we worry about it?
Most Western societies have tended to give women greater freedom to express affection and caring between themselves while limiting men to handshakes and the occasional embrace. Sexual orientation -- one's sense about the kind of person with whom one wants to have sex -- is a continuum rather than an either/or choice. Some people are exclusively homosexual, others are exclusively heterosexual, and quite a few folks in the middle are bisexual to some degree, even though they may not practice bisexuality by taking both male and female partners.
This has been a well-established fact since the time of Dr. Alfred Kinsey, who examined sexual behavior in the 1940s and '50s. If you study this phenomenon more closely, however, you realize that, except at the extremes of the continuum, there is a good deal of permeability across the boundaries. Women who are sexually ambivalent in their college years often make a firm choice once college is over.
Data about men are less clear, perhaps because men pay a high social price for revealing bisexual tendencies.
It's important to realize that an individual's sexual orientation -- be it homosexual, bisexual, or heterosexual -- is intrinsic to the organism, and in the end isn't determined by what is considered socially acceptable from one era to the next. Ultimately, a certain amount of experimentation is probably good, and provides a background of experience to draw upon when evaluating one's future relationships, whether with men or with women.