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Sex Differences and Sexual Orientation Differences in Personality: Findings from the BBC Internet Survey

Abstract

Analyzing a large international data set generated by a BBC Internet survey, I examined sex differences and sexual orientation differences in six personality traits: extraversion, agreeableness, neuroticism, disagreeable assertiveness, masculine versus feminine occupational preferences (MF-Occ), and self-ascribed masculinity-femininity (Self-MF). Consistent with previous research, sex differences and sexual orientation differences were largest for MF-Occ and for Self-MF. In general, heterosexual-homosexual differences mirrored sex differences in personality, with gay men shifted in female-typical and lesbians in male-typical directions. Bisexual men scored intermediate between heterosexual and gay men on MF-Occ; however, they were slightly more feminine than gay men on Self-MF. Bisexual women scored intermediate between heterosexual women and lesbians on both MF-Occ and Self-MF. Sex differences and sexual orientation differences in MF-Occ, Self-MF, and other personality traits were consistent across five nations/world regions (the UK, USA, Canada, Australia/New Zealand, and Western Europe), thereby suggesting a biological component to these differences.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    Because of missing and excluded data for various personality measures, sample sizes varied for men and women and for sexual orientation groups within each sex. As noted before, there were about half as many participants with Self-MF scores as there were participants with other personality scores because of a technical problem with the data submission process in the final module of the BBC survey. For personality traits other that Self-MF, the range of sample sizes for the comparisons listed in Table 2 was as follows: 108,651–117,648 men, 87,765–97,123 women, 94,247–101,781 heterosexual men, 74,135–82,171 heterosexual women, 5,416–5,880 gay men, 2,287–2,522 lesbian women, 4,370–4,786 bisexual men, and 5,752–6,508 bisexual women. For Self-MF sample sizes were as follows: 56,496 men, 50,291 women, 48,968 heterosexual men, 42,994 heterosexual women, 2,977 gay men, 1,283 lesbian women, 2,190 bisexual men, and 3,068 bisexual women. Sample sizes for men in total and women in total were larger than the combined sample sizes of sexual orientation subgroups because some participants were eliminated from the sexual orientation subgroups because of inconsistent responses to sexual orientation questions and others were eliminated because they did not respond to sexual orientation questions.

  2. 2.

    I deal more explicitly with national differences in mean levels of personality in R. A. Lippa (2007).

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Correspondence to Richard A. Lippa.

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Lippa, R.A. Sex Differences and Sexual Orientation Differences in Personality: Findings from the BBC Internet Survey. Arch Sex Behav 37, 173–187 (2008). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10508-007-9267-z

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Keywords

  • Sexual orientation
  • Sex differences
  • Personality
  • Masculinity–femininity
  • Cross-cultural research