The pill and… sexual orientation?

by | May 13, 2020 | General Wellness, Relationships, The Pill | 12 comments

So, I have been contacted by a handful of readers now who have told me that going on or off the pill seems to have impacted their sexual preferences. And it’s not just in a “my pill seems to have impacted the qualities I desire in my male partners” kind of way. It’s in a “I identified as a lesbian for a decade while I was on the pill, but now that I am off it, I am no longer attracted to women, but attracted to men.” And I have also heard the opposite. In these cases, the emails read something along the lines of “I identified as a lesbian until I went on the pill, but after going on it, I developed attraction to men”.

My mind is blown. Yet, it probably shouldn’t be. [Yet, it still f***ing is!].

I say that my mind shouldn’t be blown because…well, it shouldn’t be. Decades of research has found that women’s sex hormones impact their attraction to specific members of one sex. Why shouldn’t it also impact their attraction between the sexes? Which seems really wild, but maybe it isn’t. And if we are to take seriously the idea that gender isn’t as binary as biological sex, it really isn’t wild at all. It just goes to demonstrate that sex hormones are intimately involved in attraction and – for some women – the hormonal changes initiated by the birth control pill can nudge their preferences in ways that are more noticeable than they are for others.

The other thing that this got me thinking about was the phenomenon of mid-life sexual orientation changes. This is the thing where women who were previously only involved in relationships with men (or women), once they are in their 40s or thereabouts, start getting involved in relationships with women (or men). In other words, the gender of their preferred partners changes. I think that there is a tendency to assume that this sort of thing happens mostly in response to cultural pressures. For example, if we know a woman who was previously only involved with men who started dating women later in life, there is a tendency to assume that she was probably interested in dating women all along, but didn’t feel safe coming out as a lesbian until she was older. And there is good reason to believe that, for a lot of women, this is exactly what goes on. People who fall outside the cisgendered, heterosexual mold are still routinely discriminated against and, for many, coming out can be scary and even dangerous. But given that the hormonal changes initiated by the pill may have the ability to nudge some women’s sexual preferences this way and that, it also seems possible that mid-life changes in women’s partner choices might also occur because of mid-life changes in sexual preferences. That is, it seems pretty plausible that the mid-life hormonal changes that women experience as fertility begins to decline could nudge women’s partner preferences in ways that – for some women – produce changes in the sex of their preferred partners.

All of this is utterly fascinating to me. It raises so many interesting questions about women’s sexual psychology, attraction, and even the whole notion of the self. A person’s self – which is our perceptions about who we are – is believed to be relatively stable. But given that hormonal changes may change our self in important ways, this view of the self could actually be a totally gendered assumption that applies less to women than it does to men. That is, the idea that each of us is a relatively fixed person (and that to be otherwise is pathological or deviant in some way) may be an assumption that was created based only on the experiences of men, whose hormones change less across the lifespan. For women, it may be the norm for the self to constantly evolve. We may have many different selves instead of just one self.

I would love to hear your own thoughts on any of this. Do you know anyone who has experienced changes in sexual preferences on the pill? Has your notion of self changed in response to hormonal changes? Are our views about the self male-centric?

Xoxo. Stay healthy and be well.


  1. I started birth control about 7 months ago and since then i’ve noticed strange things. All of a sudden all the men i’m finding attractive are gay. I’ll scroll on my phone or see a guy in a movie and think “ooh he’s really hot” then i’ll stalk his account or look him up and he turns out to be very gay. I had a crush for months that i could not tell the sexuality of. I’ve never had this problem before lol. It’s gotta be the birth control right?

  2. I am 20 years old and identified my whole life as straight. Six months ago I started taking birth control pills and until recently it was fine. But in the last two months everything changed. I started feeling attraction towards the same sex and I suffered from hormonal imbalance. Now I started taking a different kind of birth control pills and everything (even the same sex attraction) is fading away. So yes, I believe that birth control changes your sexual attraction.

  3. I finally feel validated! Thank you. I’m a straight female aged 43 years old. But at the age of 23 , when I went on the birth control patch (which releases up to 60% more estrogen than the pill) I started having sexual fantasies about women. They weren’t strong and didn’t happen often, but I still found it strange. I’ve always been heavily attracted to men and I’m pretty feminine. When I became pregnant in my early 30’s , the female only fantasies exploded. I wanted nothing to do with my husband and became addicted to lesbian porn! I’ve never talked to anyone about this. The feelings died down after but have never completely gone away. However, to help with my menstrual migraines (which also started with the patch), I went on seasonale , a continuous oral birth control, a few years ago. The lesbian fantasies exploded again, along with acne. So to me there is no question in my mind, birth control DOES mess with our sexual orientation. The weird thing is I’m not attracted to women in real life, just fantasies. I don’t get it. Maybe I should see a therapist about it. I was a perfectly happy healthy women until the age of 23. Over the next 3 years I developed migraines, chronic constipation, sexual feeling towards the same sex, anxiety, and chronic insomnia, most of which I still deal with today. I also ended a 4 year relationship because my feelings for him suddenly changed and I couldnt understand why. I spent 12 years on and off various birth controls, never understanding I was nothing more than a voluntary Guinea pig to big pharma 🙁 kinda depressing.
    Looking forward to reading your book.

  4. This is fascinating info. I stumbled upon this while researching about my teen daughters newly diagnosed condition of PCOS and a pituitary growth that is shooting out high levels of androgens and prolactin. Now that she has gone on birth control her personality and preferences are completely reverting back to femininity and away from androgynous styles. Her hair growth is reduced, her voice has gotten higher again, and she now is starting to view boys as dating partners rather than wanting to act like or style herself as one. This is all fascinating in how hormones control all these physical and mental changes.

  5. It’s been a while since this article was written, but I just have to add my two cents!
    I found this page because I couldn’t shake the nagging suspicion that the pill had severely altered my sense of self in terms of gender expression and also my sexual orientation, and I took to the Internet to see whether this was a known phenomenon. Seems like it is something that some women experience, but hasn’t been looked at scientifically, or at least, not enough. Which doesn’t surprise me, since it is a “women’s problem”.
    Looking back on my childhood and teens, I now realise that I was on my way to becoming the genderqueer bisexual I identify as now. I felt most comfortable with short hair and baggy androgynous clothing, if it hadn’t been for the bullying, which also robbed me of my self-esteem and further helped to push me in the closet later on. I had experimented with girls, and my best friend used to say (jokingly) that I am probably a guy in a girl’s body. We had no concept of being transgender or anything like that yet.
    Then I started taking the pill and got progressively more feminine. Dated guys, grew my hair out, felt good in dresses and anything that would make me look “softer”.
    Then I got married, stopped taking the pill – but it took two years for the hormones to wear off. I couldn’t get pregnant for two years, ovulation kits couldn’t detect any ovulation. By the end of those two years, as my hormones reached their natural level, I slowly started to dress more masculine again and experimented with the thought of maybe being a bit genderqueer. Just as I was contemplating to cut my hair short again, I got pregnant.
    And the pregnancy hormones hit hard. I felt all feminine again. Totally happy with the way things were.
    My son was born when I was 33, breastfeeding haltet my period for another two years after giving birth (that seems to be the time my hormones take to stabilise), but now that my son is 3 and I am 36, I feel like my true self again for the first time since I was 18. And that is genderqueer and bisexual, with a preference for masculine women. I thought I was absolutely cis and straight for such a long time. I think this phenomenon needs to be looked at and studied, it needs to be known. I am in a bit of a pickle now with my husband and child. I don’t think I want to break up the family, we both love our son dearly, and we get along well. But that’s about it, there is very little sexual satisfaction in this relationship, especially for me, and my husband doesn’t like my androgynous look at all. It’s like we actually are good room-mates, bringing up a child together.
    Sorry for the rant!

  6. I just found this article after having a conversation with my best friend about this. I identified as a Bisexual woman most of my life, I started taking the pill as a teen as my menstruations as they were very intense. I stopped contraception during the global pandemic and noticed that I am not attracted to guys at all anymore. Just the idea or the smell of them makes me question how I could ever had been with one. I’m not even sure I really liked guys before but all I can say is that being with one wasn’t making me shiver. I wasn’t rebuked by the idea. I have spent most of my adult life in relationships with guys and I’ve been on the pill for almost 15 years. As I’m reflecting on this it is clear today that I also disliked intimacy with guys when I was a young teen before taking the pill, and that I enjoyed kissing girls ALOT “for practice” back then. I wish I never had to take the pill, it would have helped me understand myself way sooner.

  7. I just listened to your interview on the Modern Wisdom podcast and had a very similar experience to yours once coming off the pill.

    I felt much more in my body and more myself. I also noticed my sex drive increase and my orgasms became much more satisfying too.

    I have always exclusively dated women, but while on the pill noticed that I would occasionally find men attractive. Now that I’ve been off of it, I haven’t had those inclinations.

    Anyways, figured I’d include my personal experience too. I agree it is all very fascinating.

  8. I’ve always identified as bi (prefer women), but after being on birth control for a few weeks, I found myself slowly losing interest in men. The longer I’m on birth control, the little attraction I feel toward men. Not only BD changed the way I feel about men, but it also made me feel disgusted by their scent, and body.

  9. Thank you so much for writing this! I fully believe the pill influences my sexual orientation. When I was on the pill I identified 100% as straight and never noticed any attraction to women. As soon as a month after going off the pill I started to notice I was becoming attracted to women and this attraction has increased in the years of being off the pill to where I now identify as bi. In fact, I’m rarely attracted to men anymore like I used to be. I 1000% believe it’s hormonal and that the pill had a strong influence on me. I wish this was talked about more, thank you for bringing it up!

  10. I am currently reading your book on How The Pill Changes Everything. It absolutely blows my mind how many things birth control effects!! Two weeks ago, I came off my birth control pill (after 8 years!) and so this book is enlightening me on what changes might be coming, to my sense of self.
    I do have an inquiry regarding this post, however. I was told by my doctor that after 5ish years on the pill, I might see changes in how it effects me. This isn’t because of the pill, but because the body reacts differently to the pill over time. Kind of like building up a tolerance so it’s effects might be altered because the tolerance is, higher?
    I noticed quite a few changes after the 5/6 year mark of being on birth control. Although this can be chalked up to an abundance of other things like, especially because I’m only in my mid 20s (and my brain wasn’t fully developed). But the biggest observation I had after 6 years on the pill…. Is that I started having feelings for a female (while I’ve identified as being straight my entire life… or so I thought). Can this be because of the waning effects from birth control, or something else?
    It seems, now that I’m off the pill, I have a lot to learn and process about who I am, and what I like, in almost everything in my life.. But your book has definitely opened my eyes to accept that changes might be coming. It’s hard to compare who I was before the pill to during, as going on the pill at 18 has clouded my notion of who I “am” as I matured and developed mentally into an adult.
    Nevertheless, your research is absolutely fundamental and key for the future of women. Thank you for the continuing unhindered insight!!

  11. I am currently waiting for your book to arrive. I have been searching for biological answers recently and I am fascinated by what I have heard about your book so far and your research. I have been in a relationship for 17 years and I am in my mid thirties. Since having my third child I have struggled with depression/anxiety/stress which I think is made worse by my hormones. I currently find PMS very challenging ( I never remember experiencing PMS before as I spent 8 or 9 years on the pill then had pregnancy and lactation until now- my husband had a vasectomy which I did not really want). So I am artificial hormone free but I am struggling and so considering taking hormonal contraception to balance out my head. I have low attraction to my husband and wonder if I am someone who has experienced this change in attraction.
    I also have just read your post and feel like I have changed significantly since having my children and I frequently say that I feel like a completely different person and that I do not recognise who I use to be. Fascinating subject. I do hope you keep up this very important research. I don’t believe we give enough credit or importance to our hormonal changes.

    • My Sincerest apologies for just now responding to this. Believe it or not, I am just now seeing this… I am still figuring out word press…. Oh, technology.

      Anyway, i am sorry to hear about your struggles. These sorts of mid-30s changes are so common and almost never talked about. It’s criminal. PMS and PMDD can be effectively treated by the pill. There is a lot of research that supports the idea that the pill is often therapeutic for women with pre-menstrual dysphoria. If you want to go hormone-free, you may consider naturopathic treatments for boosting GABAergic activity in your brain (this is the current beloved mechanism behind PMS). I have some ideas about how to do this in my blog post “All hail progesterone”. Best of luck to you! Be well <3


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