A sweeping study of sexual behavior has found men and women are either having many more sexual encounters with the same sex than before or are just more comfortable reporting the activity.
Researchers at Widener, Florida Atlantic, and San Diego State universities queried nearly 34,000 people for the study, which has been conducted annually since 1973. Participants weren't asked questions about same-sex experiences until 1989, but the percentage of people copping to queer love has doubled since then.
In 1990, only 3.6 percent of women and 4.5 percent of men said they had had at least one same-sex sexual partner; the percentage would rise to 8.7 percent and 8.2 percent, respectively, by 2014. Those numbers include both people who exclusively have same-sex relations and those who had sex with both men and women. Bisexual behavior among men and women more than doubled over the past two decades, from 3.1 percent in the early '90s to 7.7 percent two years ago. The proportion of people who had only same-sex experiences remained relatively low during the time period, with 1.7 percent of men and 0.9 percent of women describing themselves in 2014 as exclusively gay or lesbian.
The study also looked at the sexual practices among age groups. Between 2010 and 2014, only 7.5 percent of people born before World War II said they had gay sex, and the percentage was the same for millennials. More baby boomers and members of Generation X reported such encounters, 8.2 percent and 9 percent, respectively. Looking at women specifically, both millennial and Gen X women had high percentages reporting same-sex sex, with 12 percent and 11 percent, respectively.
“Lesbian sexual experience is highest when women are young, suggesting that today’s ‘hook-up culture’ may fuel same-sex experimentation among women,” researcher Brooke Wells said in a statement. “Female sexual behavior is partly about performing for men, whereas male sexual behavior is often driven by their own desire. This may help explain why we don’t see this same pattern for gay sexual experiences.”
There was much variation among regions, with 4.5 percent of men in Eastern states reporting gay sex, 7.1 percent in the West, 9.4 percent in the South, and 10 percent in the Midwest. Among Western women, 11.3 percent noted same-sex experiences, compared to 7.4 percent in the Midwest, 7.9 percent in the East, and 8.3 percent in the South.
The study also looked at attitudes toward the morality of gay sex. While only 13 percent found gay and lesbian behavior acceptable in 1990, the number skyrocketed to 49 percent in 2014.