September 19th, 2005
New data extracted from the 2002 National Survey of Family Growth (NSFG), on 12,571 interviews with men and women aged 15-44 show some changes in attitudes to sex. For the whole report click here.
Whilst some sexual attitudes and behaviours hadn’t changed much, some differences were more dramatic. Much of the media coverage has focused on the biggest change – in 2002 14% of women reported a sexual encounter with women in the previous year, compared with 4% of women in 1992.
So do these findings mean there’s an epidemic of girl-on-girl action (as much of the media coverage has implied)? Or is there something else going on?
These results could be down to increased awareness of female sexuality, or a reduction in stigma around bisexuality. In the decade between 1992 and 2002 many television shows such as ‘Sex and the City’ and ‘The L Word’ have featured bi or lesbian characters, and no celebrity sex scandal is complete currently without one of the females involved coming out as ‘bi’. So is female bisexuality the new ‘straight’?
Whilst there has been increased coverage, a lot of the admission around female bisexuality has been in relation to male heterosexual desire. Many women are now aware that to keep a guy interested a threesome with another woman could be suggested, or admitting to fancying a woman could add a bit of spice to a relationship.
Scratch beneath the surface and we see that lesbian women still face stigma and harassment (although things are improving). Teens who are gay or bi still describe horrific homophobic bullying, and many of the high-profile bi-curious websites cashing in on this media interest in bi girls are more about taking your money than offering sexual empowerment.
More telling is not the finding that more women admitted a bisexual encounter, it’s that within this research men are still less likely to admit to thinking about or having sexual experiences with other men. Between 1992 and 2002 men were obviously having sex with other men, but are possibly less able to admit it.
Whilst female bisexuality as a media soft-porn creation is the acceptable face of sexual diversity, many men are still unable to admit to feelings for other guys.
Of course our attitudes have changed over the past decade, and it’s great if we’ve become less homophobic and more accepting of sexual diversity. For that to be true we’d also expect to see more women identifying as lesbian rather than admitting to occasional bi experiences, and more men being able to admit to being gay.
Maybe in another 10 years we’ll start to see that too – if men admit to more bi experiences, now that would be news!Tweet