Everyone knows gay men like casual sex. But lesbians? Lesbians don’t hook up, they u-haul, right? The occasional lesbian may complain that other lesbians don’t do the ‘no strings attached’ thing, but it doesn’t seem like we’re getting a lesbian Grindr any time soon.
The invisibility of lesbian casual sex is not just a pop culture thing. Academic research on uncommitted sex among lesbian women is almost nonexistent too. Search PsycINFO (the most extensive psychology research database) for studies on heterosexual or gay male casual sex, and you’ll get about 100 articles for each. Search the same database for research on lesbian casual sex, and you’ll find a total of five such papers.
So are lesbians not at all into casual sex? Or are they similar to heterosexual women in their casual sex interests and experiences?
A recent study published in the Archives of Sexual Behavior provides a (partial) answer. Minna Lyons of Liverpool Hope University and her colleagues recruited 126 hetero and lesbian women (mean age = 27) from various online sources (discussion forums, social networking sites, and university students) for a study on ‘gaydar’. Among other things, participants were asked about three aspects of their orientation toward uncommitted sex (also known as sociosexuality in academic jargon):
- Desire for casual sex. Eg. “How often do you have fantasies about having sex with someone you are not in a committed romantic relationship with?” on a scale of 1 (Never) to 9 (At least once a day).
- Attitudes toward casual sex. Eg. “Sex without love is OK” on a scale of 1 (Strongly disagree) to 9 (Strongly agree).
- Experience with casual sex. Eg. “With how many different partners have you had sexual intercourse on one and only one occasion?” on a scale of 1 (Zero) to 9 (20 or more).
The graph below illustrates the means for the three components of sociosexuality for heterosexual and lesbian women (there were three questions for each component, so the possible range of the scale was from 3 to 27).