Researchers reported Wednesday that same-sex sexual activity roughly doubled in the U.S. between 1990 and 2014 — or at least people's willingness to report a gay or lesbian sexual experience — and that acceptance of same-sex relationships has quadrupled. The study, published in the journal Archives of Sexual Behavior, draws on the General Social Survey (GSS), a broad national survey or U.S. adults conducted since 1972. The biggest jump in same-sex experiences was among white people and Americans in the South and Midwest.
In 1990, the study found, 4.5 percent of men and 3.6 percent of women reported having at least one gay or lesbian sexual experience, and by 2014 that had risen to 8.2 percent for men and 8.7 percent for women. The rise was due almost entirely to bisexual behavior — the slice of people who reported having both male and female sexual partners rose from 3.1 percent of Americans to 7.7 percent, while the percentage of people who only had sex with their own sex was basically flat. Among millennials (those 18 to 29), 7.5 percent of males reported a gay sexual experience in the most recent survey, while 12.2 percent of women reported a lesbian sexual experience.
The acceptance of same-sex relationships, meanwhile, has jumped sharply and relatively quickly. In 1973, the number of adults who agreed that "sexual relations between two adults of the same sex" is "not wrong at all" was 11 percent; in 1990, it had risen to 13 percent; and in 2014, tolerance of same-sex activity had risen to 49 percent, and 63 percent among millennials. Jean Tenge, a San Diego State University psychology professor and co-author of the study, linked the findings to a rise in "individualism," which she defined to The Washington Post as "basically that you do what you want to do and let other people do what they want to do.... People are more willing to accept behaviors they have no wish to engage in. There's more of a sense of, you know, I need to do what's right for me."
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