Monday, January 11, 2016

Straight or Gay? New Data on Sexual Orientation from the National Survey of Family Growth

It's not easy to collect data on sexual orientation, sexual attraction, or sexual experience. Many Americans are understandably hesitant to reveal details about their personal lives to government interviewers. But ask respondents to put on headphones, listen to a series of questions, and enter answers directly into a laptop computer (a method knows as "audio computer-assisted self-interviewing," or ACASI) and data begin to emerge. The National Survey of Family Growth used ACASI when it surveyed the nation's 18-to-44-year-olds about their sexuality. Here are the results...
  • Sexual attraction: 4% of men and 6% of women say they are attracted equally to both sexes, mostly or only to the same sex, or refused to answer.
  • Sexual orientation: 5% of men and 8% of women identify themselves as gay, lesbian, bisexual, or refuse to answer.
  • Same-sex sexual contact: 6% of men and 17% of women say they have had same-sex sexual contact.
Why are women so much more likely than men to report same-sex sexual contact? Most likely because men and women are asked different questions. Women are asked whether they have ever given or received oral sex from another female. If they answer no, then they are asked whether they have ever had any sexual experience of any kind with another female, boosting the figure to 17 percent. Men are asked whether they have ever given or received oral or anal sex from another male. They are not asked the additional question about sexual experience of any kind. Thus, the smaller 6 percent.

Source: National Center for Health Statistics, Sexual Behavior, Sexual Attraction, and Sexual Orientation Among Adults Aged 18-44 in the United States: Data from the 2011-2013 National Survey of Family Growth

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