“Mostly Straight: Sexual Fluidity among Men” by Ritch Savin-Williams— Upending Assumptions

Savin-Williams, Ritch C. “Mostly Straight: Sexual Fluidity among Men”, Harvard University Press, 2017.

Upending Assumptions

Amos Lassen

Most of us assume that sexuality is fixed and by this I mean that a person is either you’re straight, gay, or bisexual. However, an increasing number of young men today say that those categories are too rigid and too restrictive. They are, they insist, “mostly straight.” I understand this to mean that they are straight yet they feel a slight but enduring romantic or sexual desire for men. Granted, this is hard to understand. What does it mean for a man to be to “mostly” straight? Ritch Savin-Williams explains this through the stories of young men who consider themselves to be mostly straight or sexually fluid. As we read about their lives, we see a radically new way of understanding sexual and romantic development that totally changes what we thought we knew about men.

Today there are more mostly straight young men than there are gay and bisexual young men combined. Through the use of cutting-edge research, Savin-Williams explores the personal stories of forty young men to help us understand the biological and psychological factors that led them to be mostly straight and the cultural forces that are changing the sexual bind that many boys and young men experience. We see how lives have been influenced by their “drop of gayness,” from their earliest sexual memories and crushes to their sexual behavior as teenagers and their relationships as young adults. We see how these young men are creating a new personal identity that confuses both traditional ideas and conventional scientific opinion.

For too long, men who consider themselves ‘mostly straight’ have been invisible and misunderstood. The experiences that we read about here challenge assumptions about sexual identity and orientation.

Savin-Williams gives us a nuanced and substantive look at an often-overlooked group. He makes a forceful case that both the general public and the scientific community need “to recognize the existence and experiences of mostly straight men.” The book is based around first person narratives that defy gender stereotypes, and are supported by new science on male sexual fluidity. We challenge the status quo of sexual identities and attractions and consider the possibility of a more flexible and less categorical, sexuality.

As he conducted interviews with hundreds of young men, Savin-Williams discovered what he considers should be a distinct sexual orientation and that between two to four per cent of men will say they’re “mostly straight” if you give them that option. Furthermore, he thinks that this is just the beginning in that there are many more who aren’t so forthcoming. The hetero-patriarchal society in which we live tips the odds most of the time, but it very occasionally oppresses society. If heterosexuality is the standard of conformity then expressing or even acknowledging other desires is made extremely difficult. Below is the book’s table of contents:


  • Preface
  • The Sexual Neverlands
  • Straight But Not Narrow
  • Dillon
  • Sexual and Romantic Spectrums
  • Romantic Orientation
  • Sexual and Romantic Fluidity
  • It Is Who I Am
  • Straight, But Not Totally Straight
  • Demetri
  • Ricky
  • Chris
  • Progressive Mostly Straight
  • It’s About the Sex
  • Five Young Men
  • Ryan
  • Kyle
  • It’s About the Romance
  • Two Romantic Young Men
  • Jay
  • It’s About the Sex and the Romance
  • Joel
  • Chandler
  • Do Mostly Straight Youth Exist?
  • Dillon Returns
  • Developmental Trajectories
  • If You Believe You Are Mostly Straight
  • Escaping The Sexual Neverlands
  • Appendix A: Methods
  • Appendix B: Mostly Straight Science
  • Notes
  • Acknowledgments


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