Processes of Sexual Orientation Questioning among Heterosexual Men

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Male heterosexual identity development has received little empirical attention. The current study examines sexual orientation questioning processes of heterosexual-identified men and offers a comparison of these processes with those employed by their sexual-minority counterparts. Participants included 184 male college students (ages 18 to 23, M = 19.6), 149 primarily identified as “exclusively straight or heterosexual” and 35 as sexual minorities. Of exclusively straight respondents, 53 percent (n = 79) and all of the sexual-minority respondents indicated having questioned their sexual orientation. Heterosexual men’s questioning processes included five categories: unelaborated questioning, other-sex exploration, the social context as informants or sites of knowledge, hypothetical thinking and perspective taking, and attraction comparisons between men and women. Several unifying and differentiating themes emerged between sexual orientation groups. Results suggest that conventional notions of a “standardized” heterosexual identity appear simplistic and reveal ways in which men’s identification with a majority heterosexual sexual identity can be purposeful.