September 16, 2005

86 or 90% heterosexual.

Here's a report on the results of a big survey by the National Center for Health Statistics. There's a lot to pick over and comment on, but I was especially interested in this:
Among men 18 to 44, 90 percent said they thought of themselves as heterosexual, 2 percent as homosexual, 2 percent as bisexual and 4 percent as "something else," findings similar to those in 1992.

Among women, 86 percent said they were attracted to only men and 10 percent "mostly to males." In the 1992 survey, only 3 percent said they were "mostly" attracted to males.
Wait, that's a hilarious misprint in the last sentence! Guys, are you in trouble!

But that wasn't what caught my eye. I think it's interesting that the proportion of those saying they felt hetereosexual was so low: 90% for men and 86% for women. It's especially interesting in light of the low number who feel homosexual or bisexual. (Why isn't the bisexual number for women in the article?) What is this "something else" category, anyway? Are these the people who feel nothing? Or are they homosexuals or bisexuals who just don't want to think of themselves that way?


leeontheroad said...

Strictly speaking, the results provide baseline data we can't properly interpret; the NYT article tells us:

"the 2002 version was the first to include both sexes, and to move beyond fertility and child-bearing into broader questions of sexual behavior and sexual orientation."

Further, it's notable that the "self-labeling" data and the self-reported behavioral data don't match up.

We can venture a hypothesis from the above that folks don't necessarily agree on (that is, answered based on the same) definitions of "heterosexual," "homosexual," "bisexual," or "other," perhaps taking into account factors other than specific sexual experience.

Gerry said...

I would imagine that the "something else" category is primarily comprised of three types of people:

1) asexuals-- people who as you said feel nothing, and

2) linguistically challenged-- people who did not know what some or all of the words meant and didn't want to guess wrong or ask what they meant.

3) goofballs-- in any survey, there will be a small percentage of people who decide to give as screwed up answers as they can.

nypundit said...

After reading that, I keep having the song "Ping Triangle" by Weezer running through my head.

Tristram said...

Hmm, maybe the other refers to ...ahemm... species preference?

Meade said...

4) Oralsexuals. Virgins in their own minds who have never had "sex" but have given or received oral whatchamacallit, which places them, also in their own minds, beyond categorizing - pan, poly, omni-whatevers.

AMB said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
AMB said...

How about...

wait for it...


Sean E said...

Doing the math (90+4+2+2)I'm a little curious about the 2% of men who apparently felt that "something else" wasn't a broad enough category for them.

Gerry said...

Sean-- rounding would likely account for the rest of the percentage points. Sometimes you'll see the total add up to more than 100% for the same reason.

Menlo Bob said...

The movement awkwardly known as the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgendered Community should now want to add 'Something Else'. LGBTSE

Kathy Herrmann said...

This quote from the article caught my attention...

14 percent of the women aged 18 to 29 reported at least one homosexual experience, more than twice the proportion for young men.

That seems high relative to typical percentages bandied about of gays in the population. I'm wondering if some of the women included practicing kissing (with another girl during adolescence) as a homosexual experience. If so, then the number relative to men might make more sense.

knoxgirl said...

Already anticipating demands for "Something Else" restrooms.

SteveR said...

"Something Else" reminds me of George Costanza's predescessor as hand model who became obsessed with his own equipment to the exclusion of others.

knoxgirl: that's funny

Bruce Hayden said...


I have heard of women getting drunk and finding themselves in bed the next morning with another woman. That this has come out more than once may be an indication that it happens more for women than for men.

One reason may be that men seem to be much more possessive of their personal space. I see women hugging all the time, esp. when out at bars, clubs, etc. But this is much rarer, IMHO, for men.

I guess what I am saying is that most guys I know react negatively when another guy touches them - at least in any way that might end up inapprorpiate. Women don't seem to react to personal intrusion near as much, and thus, could potentially more likely end up in bed with another woman accidently than a man could with another man.

Of course, this is from the point of a guy - so take it for what it is (or isn't) worth.

vbspurs said...

To paraphrase a real-estate dictum:

"Penetration, Penetration, Penetration"

There is no middle ground in male homosexuality -- it's not some 'Girls Gone Wild' moment. A man having sex with another man is da business.

Men also compare how masculine they are, or not, relative to how they perceive weakness (read, femininity).

Sexuality is not just about showing a bit of leg (to quote Democratic strategists) for men. It's much more universally-enforced ideas of power, strength and guts, all of which are tied to masculinity.

Conversely, as a woman, I just don't feel pressured to be more 'feminine'.

Maybe, who knows, the Something Elsers do.


leeontheroad said...

oberservation: "practice" and "accidents" as attempts to explain data that hasn't been made reliable by repetition smack of mere denial. The data equally support the conclusion that a segment of the population engages knowingly and actively in same sex behavior but doesn't categorize the behavior or associated attractions or emotions according to dictionary definitions of sexual orientation.

The same thing is happening in surveys when 18-29 year olds self-report race and ethnicity; that is, a greater proportion of folks choose "other" to define race or ethnicity than was true 20 years ago. This may or may not be a sign that more people *are* of a racial group not accurately represented by the usual categories. In a case I know, a respondent chose "other" because her mother is Korean, and her father is African-American. From the same survery, a respondent chose "other" because she didn't like the labels.

Decklin Foster said...

Menlo Bob: Actually, one frequently sees "LGBTQ", with the "Q" standing for "Questioning". Which category could certainly account for a portion of the data.

Of course, no comment on this topic would be complete without a link to this episode of Dinosaur Comics.

Joan said...

How do surveys like this take into account that people change their minds about sexual orientation? I cracked up when the article mentioned "LUG" -- Lesbian Until Graduation -- but I knew several, and I've known young men who experimented with homosexual or bisexual activity while in a very liberal college environment, only to abandon it later. I suppose the survey tries to make up for that by the "accidental" encounter stats, but it doesn't take into account that sometimes, sexual orientation is situation dependent, and people's situations change.

Gene C Evans said...

"One thing that surprised me is that we expected, based on anecdotal evidence, that girls might be more likely to give oral sex and boys more likely to receive it, but we didn't find that at all," said Dr. Jennifer Manlove, of Child Trends, which, like Ms. Brown's group, released an analysis of the data, "There's more gender equality than we expected."

Yes, it is reassuring to know that political correctness is not being ignored in the bedroom. Sex is to important to leave up to the participants.

I wonder what percentage Dr. Manlove falls in?


vbspurs said...

LUG" -- Lesbian Until Graduation


I've known young men who experimented with homosexual or bisexual activity while in a very liberal college environment, only to abandon it later.

Again, in certain circles in Britain, this is very common, and not just because it's a high-stratified culture, with separations of sexes unknown or lessened in the US.

We've had such notable politicians as Tory Party ex-darling, Michael Portillo, confess he had gay experiences whilst at University, and of course, a wealth of writers like Robert Graves & Evelyn Waugh were avowedly homosexual for the early periods of their life -- only to marry happily, and father children later (Waugh had something like 8 children!).

For those of you (all 3 of you) who read my Roberts blogpost during Plaidgate, you'll remember that I went to an all-girl boarding school for 10 years.

One of the upperclasswomen who tortured little girls' existences then, because she was the most voracious lesbian I've ever been sad enough to me, I later later met, many years after we had both left school.

She was pushing her pram, was wearing a flouncy dress, and had makeup on.

Listen, for some people it's never ever "a stage", it's even grotesque to suggest that...but then, for some other people (I'd say the vast majority of "Others/Something Elsers" at least), it really is a stage.

To engage in homosexual behaviour once in your life, is one thing. To lead an actively homosexual/bisexual life, is quite a different kettle of fish.


Reclaiming Natural Masculinity said...

Sexual orientation is a hoax.

Almost all men have a sexual thing for other men.

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Reclaiming Natural Masculinity said...

Only 5% are heterosexual.

Only 5% are homosexual.

The rest are in the middle.