Variation in Sexual Identification Among Behaviorally Bisexual Women in the Midwestern United States: Challenging the Established Methods for Collecting Data on Sexual Identity and Orientation

Aleta Baldwin, Vanessa R. Schick, Brian Dodge, Barbara van der Pol, Debby Herbenick, Stephanie A. Sanders, J. Fortenberry

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

11 Scopus citations


Collecting information on sexual identity is critical to ensuring the visibility of minority populations who face stigmatization and discrimination related to sexual identities. However, it is challenging to capture the nuances of sexual identity with traditional survey research methods. Using a mixed-methods approach, we gathered data on the sexual identities of 80 behaviorally bisexual women in the Midwestern United States through an online survey. When provided different types of measures (e.g., open ended and fixed response) and different contexts in which to identify (e.g., private and public), participants varied in how they reported their sexual identities. Qualitative analysis of participant narratives around identity change finds partitioning and ranking of attraction is a key component in understanding behaviorally bisexual women’s identities. We further identify a division regarding the desired outcomes of identity development processes. Given the multiple ways in which participants identified depending upon the type of measure and the context specified, and the variation in identification over time, results support reconsidering the capability of typical measures and methods used in survey research to capture sexual identity information. Additionally, findings highlight the utility of including multiple, context-specific measures of sexual identities in future research.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-12
Number of pages12
JournalArchives of Sexual Behavior
StateAccepted/In press - Aug 3 2016



  • Bisexual women
  • Bisexuality
  • Identities
  • Sexual identity
  • Sexual orientation
  • Women who have sex with women

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Psychology(all)

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