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Prevalence of Bisexuality and Lesbianism in the U.S.

What Percentage of the Population is Bisexual or Lesbian?

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What is the percentage of bisexual or lesbian women in the United States? A new study out of the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and the National Center for Health Statistics (NCFHS) suggests that women who have had a lesbian or bisexual experience is higher than previously thought.

Purpose of Study

The CDC studies the spread of disease, including sexually transmitted diseases in the United States. This report on sexual behavior is intended to provide reliable national estimates on certain types of sexual behavior. They studied men and women age 15-44 on different types of sexual thoughts and behaviors, not just same-sex attraction and activity. The study took place in 2002 with 12,571 in-person interviews.

Unlike some previous studies, respondents were asked questions and recorded their answers on a personal computer that the interviewer could not see. Researchers think respondents may give more honest answers with this method.

Findings of the CDC Sex Study for Lesbians and Bisexual Women

  • 4% of females had a sexual experience with another female in the past 12 months.
  • 11% of women had a same-sex sexual experience in their lifetime. This was much higher than researchers expected. Only 4.1% of women reported oral sex with another woman in a 1992 study. The 2002 study used the term "sexual experience" to be more inclusive.
  • 3% of women have had sex with both males and females in the last 12 months.

    Sexual Orientation and Sexual Activity

    In response to the question, "Do you think of yourself as heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual or something else?":

  • 90% of women said they think of themselves as heterosexual
  • 1.3% of women think of themselves as homosexual
  • 2.8% of women think of themselves as bisexual
  • 3.8% of women think of themselves as "something else."
  • Among women who have had sexual relations with another woman, nearly two-thirds (65%) consider themselves heterosexual.

    The NSFG concedes that further study is needed to determine what exactly "something else" means to these women. They speculate that women may not understand those terms, or prefer some other term to describe their sexual orientation.

    The percentage of men and women who think of themselves as bisexual or homosexual is roughly equal at 4.1%. This represents 2.27 million men and 2.29 million women in the United States.

    Who are Women attracted to?

  • 86% of women said they were attracted to only males
  • 10% said they were attracted to "mostly males"
  • 3.4% of women said they were attracted to only or mostly females, or equally attracted to males and females.

    It is important to note that these studies do not include those 45 years of age or over, those in prison, jails or other institutions, so they are not complete estimates of the total number of people in the United States.

    Read the full CDC report here.

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