Four times as many women report having had a same-sex experience than they did two decades ago. Why?
More women than ever are having same-sex experiences — or at least more women than ever are reporting it.
This week, a long-term British survey found a fourfold increase over the past two decades in women reporting at least one sapphic fling. Self-reported same-sex behavior among men, however, has remained somewhat constant. Now “the proportion of women reporting sexual experience with same-sex partners … exceeds that of men, at least at younger ages,” says the survey. Neither this increase nor the gender difference can be explained by a change in sexual self-identity, according to the study.
This isn’t just a British thing, either. Indiana University sex researcher Debby Herbenick tells me that her U.S. research has yielded similar results: 8 percent of men and 15 percent of women report same-sex sexual behavior in their lifetime. Unfortunately, we Americans don’t have reliable historical data to show how this has changed over time. So, returning to the U.K. finding, which was published in The Lancet: Why the gender difference, and why the increase?
One possible explanation for the gender disparity is that women’s sexuality is more fluid than men’s. Meredith Chivers, a sex researcher at Queen’s University, says, “Women have a greater capacity for gender-fluid sexual expression than men do. This might relate to women’s capacity to become sexually aroused by a broader range of sexual stimuli, including images of women.” Chivers performed now-infamous research finding that women’s genital response to pornography did not depend on the genders of the performers involved, while men’s did. (Women also became genitally aroused while watching bonobo sex — because we’re freaky like that.) When it came to images of intercourse, women’s physical arousal response was pansexual.