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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, June 3, 2016 - Volume 44 Issue 23
Huge shift in sexual attitudes from the '90s, new study reports
Number who have same-sex encounters doubles
Section One
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Huge shift in sexual attitudes from the '90s, new study reports
Number who have same-sex encounters doubles

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

The number of Americans who have had same-sex sexual encounters has doubled since 1990, and the number who say there's nothing wrong with that has almost quadrupled in the same time period.

Those are the findings of a new study by the National Opinion Research Center (NORC) at the University of Chicago. Titled Changes in American Adults' Reported Same-Sex Sexual Experiences and Attitudes, 1973-2014, the report was published June 1 in the journal Archives of Sexual Behavior.

For the study, a team of researchers from three American universities analyzed the prevalence of men who have sex with men and women who have sex with women, as well as the acceptance of such behavior nationally, from 1972 to 2014.

The change they noticed was dramatic. For example, the percentage of adults who believed that same-sex activity was 'not wrong at all' went from 11% in 1973 to 13% in 1990 and to 49% in 2014.

The change in attitudes toward Gay sex went hand in hand with a change in sexual behavior.

According to the report, 'the number of US 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.'

'That's what I found surprising,' study co-author Jean Twenge of San Diego State University told the Washington Post. 'When we looked more closely at the change, it was mostly due to people having sex with partners of both genders.'

The increase in Bisexual behavior shows up among both men and women, the study found, with women showing a greater increase in same-sex encounters than men.

The percentage of men who have had sex with at least one man increased from 4.5% to 8.2% between 1990 and 2014. The number of women reporting at least one female sexual partner increased from 3.6% to 8.7% of the population during the same period.

Changes in sexual attitudes are also generational, the study found, but all generations changed their sexual attitudes over time.

'Millennials are markedly more accepting of same-sex behavior than Gen Xers were at the same age - but then, so are most adults,' co-author Ryne Sherman of Florida Atlantic University told the Washington Post. 'The change is primarily one of time period, where all adults shifted in their attitudes.'

According to Twenge, changes in sexual attitudes and behavior may reflect a larger cultural shift toward individualism.

'Individualism says basically that you do what you want to do and let other people do what they want to do,' she explained. 'People are more willing to accept behaviors they have no wish to engage in. There's more of a sense of, you know, I need to do what's right for me.'

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