Saturday, October 15, 2005

My Take on the Much Talked About Sex Survey:

Let me finally say something about the much talked about recent sex survey done by the The National Center for Health Statistics. I think it in some way confirms the controversial theories about which I have blogged:

1) that Kinsey was right asserting that sexuality (like race, height, intelligence, and to some extent, handedness) exists on a continuum and 2) that the size of the "gay or bi box" on the one hand and the "normal" box on the other depends on how we measure these categories. Some highlights:

Same-sex activity

Three percent of males 15-44 years of age have had oral or anal sex with another male in the last 12 months (1.8 million). Four percent of females had a sexual experience with another female in the last 12 months (tables A and B).

The proportion who had same-sex contact in their lifetimes was 6 percent for males and (using a different question) 11 percent for females (figure 5).

About 1 percent of men and 3 percent of women 15-44 years of age have had both male and female sexual partners in the last 12 months (table B).

Sexual orientation

In response to a question that asked, "Do you think of yourself as heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual, or something else?" 90 percent of men 18-44 years of age responded that they think of themselves as heterosexual, 2.3 percent of men answered homosexual, 1.8 percent bisexual, 3.9 percent "something else," and 1.8 percent did not answer the question (figure 8). Percents for women were similar. These findings are similar to data collected in 1992 by Laumann et al.

Sexual attraction

Survey participants were asked if they were sexually attracted to males, to females, or to both. Among men 18-44 years of age, 92 percent said they were attracted "only to females," and 3.9 percent, "mostly" to females. Among women, 86 percent said they were attracted only to males, and 10 percent, "mostly" to males. The percentage attracted "mostly to males" was 3 percent in a survey conducted in 1992, compared with 10 percent in the 2002 NSFG.

Okay so what do we have here? It seems that roughly 3-4% of the population evinces and understands itself as having an exclusively or predominantly homosexual orientation. These are the folks who are on the 3-6 end of Kinsey's scale and (importantly) the folks who are *the* gay community, those who are part of the gay or bi "social group," -- those who frequent the gay bars, buy the gay magazines, visit or live in the gayborhoods, and otherwise have a "gay or bi" consciousness. 2.3% define themselves as homosexual. 1.8% define themselves as "bisexual." Together 4% of the populace understands itself as "gay or bi."

But wait, does that mean that the other 96% has an exclusive or "pure" heterosexual orientation? No, in fact, the data show that less than 90% of the population seems to have a "pure" heterosexual orientation. 8% of males and a full 14% of females admit to having at least *some* sort of attraction or full attraction to the same sex. And 11% of females admit to having same sex behavior in their lives. 3.9 percent of males refused to define themselves as hetero, homo or bi, but rather as "something else," and 1.8 percent did not answer the question.

Let me hazard a guess: Those 3.9% and 1.8% respectively are predominantly heterosexual, incidentally homosexual. In other words, that 5.7% of the population are Kinsey 1s and 2s. They live most of their lives as heterosexuals and more or less feel comfortable with their heterosexual identity and in the past would have probably refused to admit to any kind of same-sex activity or feelings (and as I will note later, because of the antihomosexual social stigma that still exists, no doubt many who claim to be exclusively hetero are still misleading). Perhaps now they are being honest enough to not claim exclusive heterosexuality yet also feel that they don't belong in the "gay or bi" box because they aren't part of the gay or bi social group.

1s and 2s, as a group, seem to be somewhat larger than the gay community of 3-6s. They aren't as "visible" as the gay community of 3-6s because 1) 1s and 2s are fully attracted to the opposite sex in ways they cannot be to the same-sex; 2) in the long run they can only flourish heterosexually (in terms of finding a monogamous soul mate); so 3) they, for most of their lives, live normal heterosexual lifestyles; leading to the conclusion that 4) they are closer to heterosexuals than homosexuals. And they are diffusely spread out in the "normal" community.

So if we understand the "gay or bi" box to be the gay social group of 3-6s, it seems that this group comprises about 4% of the population. If, on the other hand, we take a more "pure" approach and define the gay or bi community to include 1-6s, then at minimum 10% of the population is "gay or bi" (even though most of these "bis" live normal hetero lifestyles for most of their lives).

Personally, I believe that we are underestimating the % of 1s and 2s because of the still existent stigma against homosexuality. I have called this effect, "the masturbation effect." Men of virile years who don't have partners with which to have sex for release (and many who do have partners) masturbate universally. Yet, ask about this in such surveys and a significant % will not be up front. The social stigma against homosexuality, especially male homosexuality, is stronger than the social stigma against masturbation. Thus a male who is for the most part heterosexual in his orientation and is comfortable with his "straight" identity, living a "straight" lifestyle, but who nonetheless has had and has the ability to enjoy homosexual sex, is subject to "the masturbation effect" when it comes to answering surveys on homosexuality. My own guesstimate would be that the 1-6 end of the Kinsey scale probably has between 20% and 1/3 of any given population, most of whom are 1s and 2s.

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