The End of Heteronormativity?


In a recent study by YouGov, 1 in 2 young people say that they are not 100% heterosexual.

It would appear that the years of ‘heteronormativity‘ are over, or at least, according to a study undertaken earlier this month. In the survey conducted by YouGov, participants were asked to plot themselves on a ‘sexuality scale’. On doing so, 23% of British people chose something other than 100% heterosexual- a surprising figure, that dramatically rises to 46% among 18-24 year olds. It would seem that the younger generation are far more accepting of the notion of sexual orientation as a fluidity rather than a regimented decision between two distinct poles.

Alfred Kinsey created this ‘sexuality scale’ or, The Kinsey Scale, in 1940 in order to place individuals on a wide spectrum of sexual dispositions. This scale ranges from exclusively heterosexual at 0, all the way through to exclusively homosexual at 6. YouGov asked respondents to simply place themselves on the scale, with this, the responses from the young adult population were particularly striking.

46% of young respondents claimed to be 100% heterosexual, 6% of young adults placed themselves as 100% homosexual, and the other 52% of participants aged 18-24 placed themselves somewhere in the middle. Therefore 52% of young people would be classed by Kinsey to be bisexual in varying degrees. The results seem to relay that today’s young people have a more relaxed approach to their sexuality than previous generations. They perceive sexual orientation to be a kaleidoscope of desires and hedonistic impulses, not an objective twofold option. It appears that young people are not alone, and that all generations are slowly accepting societies’ shifting grasp of sexuality. This is obvious in the implementation of recent legislation recognising and supporting the rights of LGBT people. Just two years ago, the UK government implemented the Marriage (Same Sex Couples Act) Act, 2013, a move that was shadowed by The United States in June of this year. Being able to live as ones true self with a partner of the same sex is now a constitutional right. Therefore, it is not surprising that the generation that lives through this radical change of perception are resultantly more open-minded in their own approach to sexual orientation.

This stance is reiterated by Alice Hearing, a student studying history at the University of Southampton,

‘I completely agree that sexuality is a scale, there are kinds of males I’m attracted to, and there are kinds of women I could imagine myself liking a lot. Perhaps I’m attracted to a larger number of types of men than women because of society’s objective stand towards sexuality…maybe that’s why I’ve never pursued a girl’.

In one question, participants were asked, theoretically, that if the right person came along, could they conceivably be attracted to, have a sexual encounter with, or be in a relationship with someone of the same sex. 48% of respondents aged 18-24 said that this would not be an impossible situation. Significantly, level 1s (where you allow for the possibility of homosexual feeling and experience) were at least 35% more likely to say they could envision this situation occurring in comparison to those who placed themselves as level 0s. This presents a stark difference in mindset between those identifying as 100% heterosexual and those consigning themselves next to them on the scale.

Sian Duncan, a psychology student at the University of Leicester reiterates this;

‘Growing up with an assumed heterosexual identity, it wasn’t until recently that I began to listen to my own instincts above a societal expectation- I myself would not identify as exclusively heterosexual, sexual exploration is more accessible in the 21st century, and there is no greater time to explore than in your most liberated and independent years.’

Despite the significant results of the younger participants, this study does not reveal that half the UK population is bisexual. Overall, 89% of respondents described themselves as heterosexual. These results do highlight, however, a reformation in our attitude towards sexuality. Maybe now is the time when we stop finding it so incessantly necessary to label our sexuality. Perhaps as a society and as a generation, we should be open to the idea of ‘sexual fluidity’- the notion that sexual orientation needn’t be categorised into two separate entities. Sexual identity should be perceived on a continuum allowing for greater freedom, flexibility and ultimately, acceptance.


Features Editor 2015-2016 and a third year English student. Feminist, Perfectionist and avid adventurer. When I'm not writing I can be found in the Surge Radio studio presenting my show, 'The World According to Ellie' or drinking copious amounts of coffee. I adore history, theatre and reading.

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