How Many Girls Want Girl-on-Girl Action?: A Sophisticated Statistical Analysis

New analysis was presented yesterday by the National Longitudinal Lesbian Family Study regarding same-sex sexual activity amongst 17-year-olds. The NLLFS was comparing their numbers to numbers obtained from The U.S. National Survey of Family Growth to figure out if lesbian parents inspire their children to engage in excess homosexual romps, as the anti-gays so vehemently believe. Unsurprisingly enough, there was no significant difference in same-sex activity between the daughters of gay parents and the daughters of straight parents.

However, another tidbit mentioned in their research brief was an overlooked statistic from the National Survey of Family Growth report — that in addition to a significant drop in heterosexual sexual activity between the NSFG’s 6th cycle (2002) and 7th cycle (2006-2008) for 17-year-old girls (63% vs. 46%), there has been a massive increase in same-sex activity — 5% in 2002 compared to 11% in 2006-2008.

We can only imagine that number is higher now, as over the last three years more and more women have been exposed to Shane, the internet, and this flowchart.

well i guess we may as well become lesbians now

There aren’t any numbers on the sexual identity of seventeen year olds specifically from the NSFG, but they do tell us that amongst 18-19-year-old females, 1.9% identify as gay and 5.8% as bisexual. So clearly the correlation between “making out with girls” and “dating girls” is as weak as it’s ever been.

Which brings me to another study we wrote about in October regarding the percentage of straight girls who wanted to fingerbang and/or cuddle and/or fantasize about other women. Namely, we’d like to talk about how most of what we said turns out to be total baloney!

nice one, autostraddle

In October, we told you about the new study from Boise State University which allegedly indicated that 60% of heterosexual women were attracted to other women. Despite the fact that we all know this to be true because straight girls are like, obsessed with us, the way that data was presented by our sources, which included The Advocate and The Huffington Post, was both titillating and super-problematic. Many of you questioned the 60% number as being suspiciously high. Without access to the study on which those articles were based, we just had to take their word for it, and we shouldn’t have.

Luckily, intrepid reader Alice used her University Status to nab me a copy of that study, and so now I’m delighted to share a less problematic analysis of that survey with you!

For starters, the purpose of the survey wasn’t to figure out how many girls wanted to make out with girls, unfortunately. (Because shouldn’t EVERY survey be about that?) The researchers state the study’s purpose like this:

“This study assesses and describes sexual orientation questioning processes of heterosexual-identified women and offers a comparison of these processes with those employed by their sexual-minority counterparts.”

The sample — 333 female undergraduate psychology students at a “Northern California Public University” who elected to participate in the survey as part of a course assignment — was not intended to replicate or represent the population at large. The study was evaluating/comparing narratives, not counting people.

So, Morgan and Thompson split the sample size into three groups: heterosexual women who had questioned their orientation (n=154), heterosexuals who hadn’t questioned their orientation (n=74) and “sexual minority women” (n=105). So basically what we’re dealing with here is probably UC-Berkeley, let’s be real, and the sample is 33% queer, so already we’re not looking at a highly abnormal sample of American women.

The 60% number, then, is merely part of the description of Morgan and Thompson’s study group’s demographics. Using that number to draw numerical conclusions about the rest of the population would  be the equivalent of saying that the fact that 14% of her study group identified as Asian-American means 14% of American Women are Asian-American.

Within the group of heterosexual “questioning” women,  Morgan and Thompson found that 60% said they’d participated in “light same-sex kissing,” 43% had “made out” with another woman and 4% had given oral sex to another women. But that’s not really the point.

Part of what made those numbers seem so suspect was their significant variance from the authoritative analysis made by The National Survey of Family Growth, which found 83.3% of all women (of all orientations) between 18-44 reported being attracted exclusively to the opposite sex (therefore 16.7% report at least some same-sex attraction). 77% of 20-24 year old women are exclusively attracted to the opposite sex and 82.4% of 19-year olds are.

So, basically, the real number of heterosexual women between the ages of 18-44 who did not select “only attracted to men” as their sexual attraction is about 11%. And the number of ALL women of all orientations between 18-44 who report having some same-sex sexual contact is 12.5%.

Furthermore, 9.3% of ALL women aged 15-44 reported having oral sex with female partners, including 7% of 15-19 year-olds and 11.2% of 20-24 year-olds.

What’s also especially interesting is that ultimately, over twice as many women as men report having had any same-sex sexual contact in their lifetime (12.5% via 5.2%). Also, nearly three times as many women as men reported any same-sex partners in the past 12 months (11.7% compared with 4.3%)

The National Survey of Family Growth also found that 1.1% of 18-44 yr old women identify as lesbian and 3.5% of 18-44 yr old women identify as bisexual. Of the bisexual women surveyed, only 35% said they were more attracted to men than women and 62% either preferred women or felt equally attracted to both. [If y'all manage to create a flame war out of that statistic, I'm going to put a curse on all of you.]

The Williams Institute evaluated  eleven recent US and international surveys that ask sexual orientation or gender identity questions to come up with their numbers: 3.5% of adults in the US identify as lesbian, gay or bisexual; this equals about 9 million LGBT people in America. These are the numbers they got from each survey:

Obviously there’s a lot of theories about why more females report same-sex activity than men — among them the fact that girl-on-girl action is far more socially acceptable (and even encouraged) (though also, I hate saying that, because it’s not “girl-on-girl action” that’s more socially acceptable, it’s “straight girl-on-girl action” or “traditionally attractive in a feminine way girl-on-girl action.”), that female friendships are super-special and intimate, that lots of people like to say that male bisexuality doesn’t exist even though it does, and that women are just really lovely to look at and touch. Also, a woman might be more apt to “experiment” with something she might end up not enjoying than a man because a woman does not need to get an erection in order to do so.

difficult to resist

So what conclusions can we draw from all of these numbers that are swirling around in your head? Probably something like : 17 out of every 100 girls are curious about making out with you, 11 out of every 100 girls are interested in making out with you and 4 out of every 100 will want to date you. Happy hunting!

Avatar of Riese

Riese is the CEO, CFO and Editor-in-Chief of Autostraddle.com as well as an award-winning writer, blogger, fictionist, copywriter, video-maker and aspiring cyber-performance artist who grew up in Michigan, lost her mind in New York City, and now lives in The Bay Area. Her work has appeared in nine books including "The Bigger the Better The Tighter The Sweater: 21 Funny Women on Beauty, Body Image & Other Hazards Of Being Female," magazines including Marie Claire and Curve, and all over the web including Nerve, Bitch, Emily Books and Jezebel. She had a very popular personal blog once upon a time, and then she recapped The L Word, and then she had the idea to make this place, and now here we all are!

Riese has written 1677 articles for us.

34 Comments

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    Thanks for writing this, Riese. I feel like this is part of what makes autostraddle great. I am not sure I’ve seen many (if any) news organizations, websites, blogs or otherwise that put as much effort as you all do into making sure you get the story right.

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    Riese, thank you for doing all of that math for us! And thank you for digging deeper when the original story presented by other sources seemed “off.” As Chaos said above, I love that Autostraddle always tries hard to give us accurate information. That’s some journalistic integrity.

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    4 out of 100 doesnt sound like good odds at all! (that seems like terrible grammer, apologies!) Regardless of what statistics and surveys say, it always seems like such a small lesbian world to me, everyone knows everyone else, and there’s a serious lack of people to date etc….but im hoping it’s not the same in other countries with bigger populations…..a girl can dream anyways! And I do apologise, this is probably way off the point, I just wanted to voice my frustrations at the lack of eligible women is all.

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      Let’s not forget that there is a difference between what people will admit to on a survey, what they might admit to their friends, and what they might admit to themselves, given that we still live in a homophobic world. These kind of numbers might be different in a hundred years.

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        True, haha, mnogamy for the win!….and another good thing about being a gay lady is that there are other countries with their own scenes in case the one where you live is a bit small or what have you….that’s what’s keeping me optimistic anyways! :) And that is True b, but alas how things may be in 100 years time will do the current lesbians no good unfortunately. But yes you’re totally right, surveys are flawed for lots of reasons, especially ones that ask whether or not people are gay, as many would be too embarrassed or afraid to tell the truth id imagine. As ive said to myself and others many times before….Sure it’ll be grand! :-D

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    “17 out of every 100 girls are curious about making out with you, 11 out of every 100 girls are interested in making out with you and 4 out of every 100 will want to date you. Happy hunting!”
    Lol best part. But this whole article is eye opening. Thanks for doing the math! It probably would have taken me forever to do that even though i just finished a statistics class so maybe not. This is exactly why i love Autostraddle. So informative and helpful!

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    thank you, autostraddle; I only wish that academics who do evolutionary psychology were this careful with the conclusions one can draw from surveys of American undergraduates.

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    I live in California and have had better odds than 4 out of 100. Maybe it’s a distorted view based on where I live but I’ve been under the impression that the straightest a woman can get is bisexual. Lol San Francisco spoiled me.

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    Well, well, well, ladies, I will say that life isn’t about giving up, its about if you give up in yourself, as I for say will tell you that Im 19, but I get more attention and alot more girls hitting on me than you think, I am a player and I know this, but for you girls that want to date its a matter of how you talk to them and who you would talk too…thats all:)
    Keep positive and let life play its part!!:D

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