Monthly Archives: August 2015

How many bi/gay people in the UK have never had a same sex partner?

Yougov have released a survey suggesting that nearly half of young people identify as having some bi/gay tendency. The survey also reports that as age increases, that tendency declines, yet even amongst people aged over 40 it is somewhere between 11 and 19%.

I got involved in a silly twitter argument where I was accused of biphobia for expressing some disbelief about this survey and for suggesting that people might not be entirely truthful about their sexual preferences as these numbers were inconsistent with reports of the number of people who have had at least one same sex partner in the UK. I was told that you can still be bi/gay without having had a same sex partner and it was bigoted of me to say otherwise.

Now, it’s entirely possible I am biphobic and unaware of it, but my intent was not to suggest that sexuality was determined by what one does with ones genitals and to whom one does it.

It is possible to quantify the level of people who have a bi/gay tendency and who haven’t acted on it, and this has been done by the National Survey of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles (NATSAL), a survey that has taken place every decade since 1990.

Using the datasets from 2000 (the 2010 data is not yet published) researchers found that ~8% of men and ~11% of women have some level of attraction to the same sex (Table 4.1).

natsal
Men on the left, women on the right.

Moreover, this survey also gathered data for the number of homosexual experiences respondents have had in their life to date. Using the very broad totals to include any experience, including those with no genital contact, they found that 8.4% of men and 9.7% of women have had at least one homosexual experience over their lifetime.

When compared to the data for same sex attraction, this suggests that MORE men have had a homosexual experience than are attracted to men (0.3% of the population) while fewer women have than are attracted to women (2% of the population).

However you choose to interpret this data, there are clearly not huge percentages of the population who have some same sex attraction and who have never acted upon this*.

Therefore, something is probably very wrong with the Yougov data. Either the survey methodology, sample size or the honesty of respondents.

*In fact, the data tells us that some men will sleep with people they have no sexual attraction to, while some women will not sleep with people they have a sexual attraction to.