Changes in American Adults’ Reported Same-Sex Sexual Experiences and Attitudes, 1973–2014
- 2.6k Downloads
We examined change over time in the reported prevalence of men having sex with men and women having sex with women and acceptance of those behaviors in the nationally representative General Social Survey of U.S. adults (n’s = 28,161–33,728, ages 18–96 years), 1972–2014. The number of U.S. adults who had at least one same-sex partner since age 18 doubled between the early 1990s and early 2010s (from 3.6 to 8.7 % for women and from 4.5 to 8.2 % for men). Bisexual behavior (having sex with both male and female partners) increased from 3.1 to 7.7 %, accounting for much of the rise, with little consistent change in those having sex exclusively with same-sex partners. The increase in same-sex partners was larger for women than for men, consistent with erotic plasticity theory. Attitudes toward same-sex sexual behavior also became substantially more accepting, d = .75, between the early 1970s and early 2010s. By 2014, 49 % of American adults believed that same-sex sexual activity was “not wrong at all,” up from 11 % in 1973 and 13 % in 1990. Controlling for acceptance reduced, but did not eliminate, the increase in same-sex behavior over time. Mixed effects (hierarchical linear modeling) analyses separating age, time period, and cohort showed that the trends were primarily due to time period. Increases in same-sex sexual behavior were largest in the South and Midwest and among Whites, were mostly absent among Blacks, and were smaller among the religious. Overall, same-sex sexual behavior has become both more common (or at least more commonly reported) and more accepted.
KeywordsGay Lesbian Bisexual Same-sex Sexual partners Homosexuality Birth cohort Time period
- Chandra, A., Copen, C., & Mosher, W. (2013). Sexual behavior, sexual attraction, and sexual identity in the United States: Data from the 2006–2010 National Survey of Family Growth. In A. K. Baumle (Ed.), International handbook on the demography of sexuality (Vol. 5, pp. 45–66). Amsterdam: Springer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Gallup. (2015). Record-high 60% support same-sex marriage. http://www.gallup.com/poll/183272/record-high-americans-support-sex-marriage.aspx.
- Hatzenbuehler, M. L., Dovidio, J. F., Nolen-Hoeksema, S., & Phills, C. E. (2009). An implicit measure of anti-gay attitudes: Prospective associations with emotion regulation strategies and psychological distress. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 45, 1316–1320.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
- Huebner, D. M., Kegeles, S. M., Rebchook, G. M., Peterson, J. L., Neilands, T. B., Johnson, W. D., & Eke, A. N. (2014). Social oppression, psychological vulnerability, and unprotected intercourse among young Black men who have sex with men. Health Psychology, 33, 1568–1578.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
- Kurth, A. E., Martin, D. P., Golden, M. R., Weiss, N. S., Heagerty, P. J., Spielberg, F., & Holmes, K. K. (2004). A comparison between audio computer-assisted self-interviews and clinician interviews for obtaining the sexual history. Sexually Transmitted Diseases, 31, 719–726.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
- Laumann, E. O., Gagnon, J. H., Michael, R. T., & Michaels, S. (1994). The social organization of sexuality: Sexual practices in the United States. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
- Levy, M. E., Wilton, L., Phillips, G., Glick, S. N., Kuo, I., Brewer, R. A., & Magnus, M. (2014). Understanding structural barriers to accessing HIV testing and prevention services among Black men who have sex with men (BMSM) in the United States. AIDS and Behavior, 18, 972–996.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
- Millett, G. A., Peterson, J. L., Flores, S. A., Hart, T. A., Jeffries, W. L., 4th, Wilson, P. A., & Remis, R. S. (2012). Comparisons of disparities and risks of HIV infection in black and other men who have sex with men in Canada, UK, and USA: A meta-analysis. Lancet, 380, 341–348.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
- Smith, T. W. (1992). A methodological analysis of the sexual behavior questions on the General Social Surveys. Journal of Official Statistics, 8, 309–325.Google Scholar
- Smith, T. W., Hout, M., & Marsden, P. V. (2015). General Social Survey, 1972–2014 [Cumulative File]. ICPSR34802-v1. Storrs, CT: Roper Center for Public Opinion Research, University of Connecticut/Ann Arbor, MI: Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research [distributors], 2013-09-11.Google Scholar
- Twenge, J. M. (2014). Generation Me: Why today’s young Americans are more confident, assertive, entitled—and more miserable than ever before (2nd ed.). New York: Atria Books.Google Scholar