Contexts some really interesting data on sexuality and sexual fluidity of women. Here is one of the more interesting sections:

How Common Is It for Lesbians to Have Sex with Men?

As the graph below (drawing from Tables 1 and 2) shows, depending on the measure used, between two-thirds and four-fifths of lesbians have had sex with a man sometime in their lives. Eighty one percent report having had either oral sex, vaginal intercourse, or anal sex with a man, while 67% report having had a male intercourse partner sometime in their life. By either measure, the proportion of lesbians who have ever had sex with a man is drastically larger that the proportion of heterosexual women who have ever had sex with a woman.

However, if, we restrict our focus to the year before the survey, we get a very different picture. Only 22% of women who identify as lesbian have had sex with a man last year. If these are all women whose behavior is inconsistent with their identity, then it seems a sizable share—over a fifth; it is very different than the under 2% of heterosexual women who had sex with a woman in the last year. However, it is also possible that some sizable share of the 22% may be cases where women changed their identity and behavior in the last year, but identity was consistent with behavior at most all times. The data don’t allow us to tell which it is.

This is less than entirely surprising. Straight is the social default, both due to raw numbers and social norms. It makes a lot of sense that most lesbians would at least start off with guys before determining that it isn’t right for them. Even the 22% makes sense, and not just for people whose sexuality was determined in the past year. Given the low numbers of practicing homosexuals and practicing bisexuals, I would imagine that their “dry spells” can often be longer, and more lonely, and that while sex with a man may be unsatisfying it’s better than nothing. And while finding another lesbian may be difficult for those who live outside liberal hubs and large cities, finding a guy willing to have sex is probably less difficult.

The stats for bisexuals is also interesting, though less so to regular Hit Coffee readers who remember my rants about Goth-Pagan-Bisexuals. Essentially, bisexual women are considerably more likely to have sex with men than women. This makes sense in the context of the above – men being more available, generally speaking – as well as the GPB phenomenon. In a large number of social circles, claiming to be bisexual is a relatively costless affair. Lesbians, on the other hand, are at least ostensibly signalling a lack of interest in sex not only with half of the population, but the half of the population that is more likely to be available and interested.

So, there’s nothing earth-shattering here, but it’s interesting nonetheless. I would be interested in seeing the results for men.

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10 Responses to Sexual Orientation vs Behavior

  1. Burt Likko says:

    Okay, so 81% of self-identified lesbians according to the report have no gold stars by virtue of having had some sort of sex act with a man at some point in their lives. This may not be a particularly interesting number — how many of those lost gold stars are a) experimentation particularly during youthful indeterminacy, b) non-consensual encounters (aka “rape” or “sexual assault”), and c) consensual but unenjoyed (or at least, not particularly enjoyed) encounters with men for the purpose of procreation?

    And, corresponding numbers for men would certainly round out the picture. Nearly all of the gay men I’ve ever met indicate that they have never had any sexual attraction or interest in women at any point in their lives. Only a tiny number report having even so much as experimented with a woman even one time. The guys seem to just know that they’re gay right from the get-go. So anecdotally, my impression is that there’s lots of gold-star gay guys out there, even if only one out of every five lesbians can make the same boast. I’m kind of more curious about whether that anecdata is backed up by at least sorta-statistically-valid numbers.

    • trumwill says:

      Spitballing it (and this is guessing) I would suppose that a non-trivial number of them do have some experience with women (whether really attracted or not because they grew up thinking that sex with girls was what you were supposed to do), but that it’s less than 81% for various reasons (including that lesbians, in addition to the “supposed to”, are less likely to need to initiate to have sex).

      • Glyph says:

        Anecdotally, IIRC Dan Savage claims that many gay guys do try at least once or twice with girls early on, before giving in to the inevitable (he was one of them).

  2. Chris says:

    In Kentucky, man years ago, I had a good friend who was the daughter of a couple of very conservative Evangelical Christians. She had almost married her “high school sweetheart,” also a very conservative Evangelical Christian, straight out of high school, but a few weeks from the wedding, met a woman and fell in love. They dated, moved in together, then moved away from the small Kentucky town where her parents lived to Lexington, where she started studying at a secular (gasp!) community college.

    When I met her, she was very up front about the fact that she’d only dated the high school boy because she was afraid her parents would start to realize she was a lesbian, because she was only attracted to women. When she’d met the woman she was living with, she’d fallen in so much in love that she didn’t care what her parents thought anymore, and she basically ran away.

    However, about a year after I met her, which is maybe a year and a half after they moved to Lexington, things started to fall apart. Two young women trying to go to school (her girlfriend was a UK student, which is how I met them) and make enough money to pay tuition, pay rent, buy food, etc., is going to be tenuous under any circumstances. Small problems can quickly and easily snowball into large-scale disasters, and neither of them had a parental safety net. So they found themselves broke, she dropped out of school to work full time, they almost got evicted, and more, and eventually, and completely understandably, my friend began to panic. She contacted her parents, who made it clear that their support was conditional, with the one condition being that she not be a lesbian. So she reconciled with the high school boy, left her girlfriend (in the lurch, too: she just moved out, and in with the boy), got married, and eventually moved back to Podunk, Kentucky.

    Last I’d heard of them, they got divorced a couple years later and she was on her own again, though I don’t know if she was dating men or women or anyone.

    Point of all of that: I imagine her story is quite common, and that many women who have no interest in men end up dating them, at least at some point, to appease, or please, someone (probably family). I bet that shows up pretty strongly in those numbers.

  3. Lowe says:

    Do homosexuals really have sexual dry spells? I was under the impression that they (including lesbians) had many more sexual partners generally.

    • Mike Hunt Ray Rice says:

      I would imagine some are more attractive than others.

    • Peter says:

      There’s this gay man in his late 30’s, mostly a friend-of-a-friend thing although I’ve met him in person a couple of times, who claims that in the 20 or so years he’s been sexually active he’s had sex with over 5,000 men. Based on what I’ve heard about gay men that’s quite possible.
      Even the most Alpha straight man is going to have a very hard time getting to one-fifth that number with women.

      • Burt Likko says:

        As with heterosexuals, some people are promiscuous and some are not. This fellow sounds extremely promiscuous.

        A great deal depends on what it is that people want out of life. If all you’re looking for from a partner is no-strings-attached, short-term sexual pleasure, that’s on offer, especially if you aren’t real picky about the attractiveness of your short-term partners. If you’re interested in the classic monogamous LTR, that’s on offer too. So are relationships that fall somewhere in between those two lodestar points along the spectrum, e.g., friends-with-benefits and open-dating-but-romantically-committed.

        I am willing to posit that the above paragraph is roughly equally true for gay as well as straight people.

      • Burt Likko says:

        Also, bear in mind that a brag about 5,000 sexual partners in about 20 years means this guy’s pretty much getting sex two days out of every three, each time with a different partner. Possible, I suppose, but maybe we want to take that estimate with a grain of salt even if he lives in a big city with a very active LGBTQ social life. After all, as any child of the 80’s can tell you from having listened to popular music, gay men strike out at the clubs from time to time, and then they go home and mope about it, the same as straight folks do.

        • Mike Hunt Ray Rice says:

          as any child of the 80’s can tell you from having listened to popular music

          You keep using that word, I do not think it means what you think it means.

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