Published: November 23, 2021

Campbell, A. (2021). Following a straight path? The social locations and sexual identity trajectories of emerging adult women. Journal of Sociology, 14407833211049596.


Alice Campbell


The sexual identities of today’s young women are more fluid and less consistently heterosexual than those of their predecessors – a trend that can be attributed to shifts in the socio-cultural context over time. However, this cannot explain within-cohort differences in women’s identity trajectories. In this article, I draw from critical heterosexuality studies and test how young women’s social locations are associated with their propensities to change towards or away from claiming a straight identity. Consistent with expectations, I find that women who occupy a position on the sexual landscape characterised by lower levels of heteronormativity, or who indicate a willingness to break with heteronormative expectations in the future, are more likely to change away from claiming a straight identity over time. My findings suggest that heteronormative ideology continues to structure women’s lives to degrees that vary according to their social locations.