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RESEARCH ARTICLE

Sexual identity, sexual attraction and sexual experience: the Second Australian Study of Health and Relationships

Juliet Richters A J , Dennis Altman B , Paul B. Badcock C D , Anthony M. A. Smith C I , Richard O. de Visser E , Andrew E. Grulich F , Chris Rissel G and Judy M. Simpson F
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

A School of Public Health and Community Medicine, UNSW Australia, Sydney, NSW 2052, Australia.

B Office of the Vice-Chancellor, La Trobe University, Bundoora, Vic. 3086, Australia.

C Australian Research Centre in Sex, Health and Society, La Trobe University, 215 Franklin Street, Melbourne, Vic. 3000, Australia.

D Centre for Youth Mental Health, University of Melbourne, Orygen Youth Health Research Centre, 35 Poplar Road, Parkville, Vic. 3052, Australia.

E School of Psychology, Pevensey 1, University of Sussex, Falmer BN1 9QH, UK.

F The Kirby Institute, Wallace Wurth Building, UNSW Australia, Sydney, NSW 2052, Australia.

G Sydney School of Public Health, Charles Perkins Centre (D17), University of Sydney, Sydney, NSW 2006, Australia.

H HSydney School of Public Health, Edward Ford Building (A27), University of Sydney, Sydney, NSW 2006, Australia.

I Deceased.

J Corresponding author. Email: j.richters@unsw.edu.au

Sexual Health 11(5) 451-460 https://doi.org/10.1071/SH14117
Submitted: 18 June 2014  Accepted: 23 August 2014   Published: 7 November 2014

Abstract

Background: Behavioural and other aspects of sexuality are not always consistent. This study describes the prevalence and overlap of same-sex and other-sex attraction and experience and of different sexual identities in Australia. Methods: Computer-assisted telephone interviews were completed by a representative sample of 20 094 men and women aged 16–69 years recruited by landline and mobile phone random-digit dialling with a response rate (participation rate among eligible people) of 66.2%. Respondents were asked about their sexual identity (‘Do you think of yourself as’ heterosexual/straight, homosexual/gay, bisexual, etc.) and the sex of people with whom they had ever had sexual contact and to whom they had felt sexually attracted. Results: Men and women had different patterns of sexual identity. Although the majority of people identified as heterosexual (97% men, 96% women), women were more likely than men to identify as bisexual. Women were less likely than men to report exclusively other-sex or same-sex attraction and experience; 9% of men and 19% of women had some history of same-sex attraction and/or experience. Sexual attraction and experience did not necessarily correspond. Homosexual/gay identity was more common among men with tertiary education and living in cities and less common among men with blue-collar jobs. Many gay men (53%) and lesbians (76%) had some experience with an other-sex partner. More women identified as lesbian or bisexual than in 2001–02. Similarly, more women reported same-sex experience and same-sex attraction. Conclusion: In Australia, men are more likely than women to report exclusive same-sex attraction and experience, although women are more likely than men to report any non-heterosexual identity, experience and attraction. Whether this is a feature of the plasticity of female sexuality or due to lesser stigma than for men is unknown.

Additional keywords: asexuality, bisexuality, heterosexuality, homosexuality, same-sex attraction, sexual behaviour, sexual orientation.


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