Lots Of Straight Girls Wanna Have Lesbian Sex, Yet Another Study Shows

As any lesbian who’s been repeatedly asked to serve as a human chemistry set for a straight woman seeking her first lesbian sexual experience can tell you, “not being gay” and “wanting gay sex” are hardly exclusive qualities. There’s even an entire book about it — Jen Sincero’s 2005 The Straight Girl’s Guide To Sleeping with Chicks, which tells straight women that ladysex “allows us to break free of heterosexual roles and expectations and explore sex in a whole new way.” Furthermore, women in general are just jaw-droppingly hot and basically irresistible, which’s why it’ll surprise nobody to hear that a lot of ladies out there are curious about scissoring with another lady.

The latest news on this topic comes from a University of Montreal study on sexual fantasies, which found that “even though many people may identify as straight, that doesn’t stop them from thinking about the same gender.” 36.9% of the 718 women surveyed had fantasized about doing the horizontal mambo with another lady. Of all the people self-selected for this survey, 85.1% identified as heterosexual and 3.6% as “definitely homosexual.” There’s no breakdown provided for how many respondents of each gender identify as hetero, but if that 85.1% percentage is consistent across genders, that means 108 of the 718 women identified as gay, bisexual, pansexual, fluid, questioning or otherwise “not straight.” With 264 out of 718 women having same-sex fantasies, that means a little over half of the women with same-sex fantasies are straight.

This is hardly the first time we’ve reported on this phenomenon — or that the numbers we’re reporting on aren’t transparently ripe for analysis. In 2011, a Boise State University study of 484 female college students made headlines when it found, according to The LGBTQ Weekly, that “60 percent were attracted to other women, 50 percent had same-sex fantasies and 45 percent had kissed another women.”

However, a closer look at the study those numbers were pulled from, which aimed to analyze the “process of sexual orientation questioning among heterosexual women,” provides a more complicated picture than reported by the media. First of all, of the 484 women studied, only 228 indicated “exclusively straight/heterosexual” as their strongest identifying marker and were therefore included in the ensuing statistics. The study found of those 228 self-identified “exclusively heterosexual” participants, 67% had thought about or questioned their sexual orientation, which included “the recognition and consideration of alternative sexual orientation identifications.” Of the “heterosexual questioning” women, 60% reported having engaged in light same-sex kissing (as opposed to 42% of heterosexual non-questioning women), 43% had “made out” with another female (opposed to 17% of HNQ women) and 4% had given oral sex to another women (opposed to 1% of HNQ women). Still — those are some really high numbers!

Some other interesting numbers:

  • This year, Pornhub’s data team found that the type of porn women watch most often is “lesbian,” followed by “Gay (male).” Furthermore, “despite ranking as the 6th most popular category for males, [the “lesbian” porn category is] still 132% more likely to be perused by the ladies.” The three most common searches women make are “lesbian,” “threesome” and “squirt” videos.
  • In 2010, OKCupid found that amongst its users, 1 in 3 straight women had hooked up with another woman, and of those who haven’t, 1 in 4 would like to.

Historically, it seems that all these women who want to sleep with Shane can’t always seal the deal. A 2006-2008 study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found only 13% of all women had participated in same-sex behavior — and that includes the lesbians, bisexuals and queers. Across the pond, the 2013 University of College London’s National Survey of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles surveyed 15,000 adults and found 16% of women have had a same-sex experience (8% had a same-sex experience involving genital contact), up from 10% in 2001 and 4% in 1991. In “More Is Lesbian,” William Saletan at Slate magazine cited that survey’s numbers as “higher than [he could] recall in any national survey” despite the fact that “the rate of lesbian self-identification hasn’t changed.” Outside of the 44-54 age group, there wasn’t a leap in bisexual self-identification either. “Even if you attribute most of it to changes in candor or interpretation,” Saletan wrote, “the willingness of so many women to admit to same-sex activity represents a big cultural shift.” The age breakdown was interesting, too:

When asked whether they’ve had any sexual experience or contact with another female, only 3 percent of women aged 65–74 say yes. That number rises to 7 percent among women aged 55–64, 9 percent among women aged 45–54, 12 percent among women 35–44, 18 percent among women 25–34, and 19 percent among women 16–24. If the prevalence of lesbian sex were constant and evenly reported, you’d expect it to increase with age, based on the accumulation of experience. Instead, the trend runs sharply the other way. Apparently, in later cohorts, it’s more common, more honestly reported, or both.

In 2010, Eva Wiseman on The Guardian postulated that an increase in lesbian visibility outside of mainstream pornography was engendering an increase in heterosexual women’s lesbian desires, arguing that “…as [lesbians] fade from the masturbatory male dream, their exoticism paled by the proof of proper, grown-up ladies who rarely have the look of someone yearning for the touch of a boy with back acne, lesbians are appearing more and more in the fantasies (occasionally sexy, more often domestic) of straight women. Their glamour has shifted. Women have reclaimed the lesbian. Instead of the one-note “And I’ll just watch” fantasies of yesterday’s men, or the icky, over-sexy imitations in pop videos, women are imagining the lingering, complex bliss of both them and their lover enjoying the same TV programmes.”

The thing about LGBTQ culture is that so many things have changed so quickly over the last decade that it’s impossible to nail down one or even five top factors contributing to this change. Aside from the obvious shifts in our social and political climate, there’s also been a dramatic increase in the portrayal of lesbian sex and sexuality in popular media. We may not like all those portrayals or deem them accurate or representative, but they exist: the 15-minute lesbian sex scene in Blue is the Warmest Colorthe numerous hookups between Litchfield inmates on Orange is the New Blackthe super-queer sex on Transparent or the hot couplings on shows like Lost GirlThere is now a shape and a form to these fantasies that weren’t quite so accessible before.

In conclusion, there is a 36% chance that the straight girl you fantasize about is also fantasizing about you! (Full disclosure: I took statistics pass/fail.)

Riese is a Jewish lesbian and the 37-year-old CEO, CFO and Editor-in-Chief of Autostraddle.com as well as an award-winning writer, blogger, fictionist, copywriter, video-maker, low-key power lesbian and aspiring cyber-performance artist who grew up in Michigan, lost her mind in New York and then headed West. 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 Nylon, Queerty, 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! In 2016, she was nominated for a GLAAD Award for Outstanding Digital Journalism. Follow her on twitter and instagram.

Riese has written 2594 articles for us.

50 Comments

  1. Back when I identified as straight (I now identify as lesbian) and was constantly fantasizing about women, I would tell myself, “All straight women are actually really attracted to other women.” I used to consider this thought an example of my closeted self-delusion, but maybe I was unwittingly at least kind of onto something?

    • Yes! Before I realized I was a lesbian I seriously thought all women were attracted to other women and secretly found men repulsive. Seems ridiculous but I was kind of shocked to learn that some women enjoyed looking at and having sex with naked men.

  2. 🙂 thank you for this article. This is interesting and it’s nice to have all the stats in the same place.

    My one quibble is with the pornhub data, which was done on self-reported female registered users of pornhub. If you’ve ever seen the actual demographics of a subscription porn site, I don’t have to tell you that a good number of those are not actually female. So it’s more a study about “porn preferences of users who, for whatever reason, call themselves female on a porn site.” So it says something, just…not what it looks like it’s saying.

    Totally unrelated, but put me also in the camp of “people who used to say ‘dont all straight women want to sleep with other women?’ before I came out.” /headdesks

    • “I don’t have to tell you that a good number of those are not actually female.”

      That’s the first time of I’ve heard of such a thing! If you don’t mind me asking, how exactly did you come to find the “actual demographics” of “subscription porn sites?” Also, do have any idea as to why man who subscribe to these sights would claim to be women?

      • Well I don’t know what the real stats are, but I can say that as an AFAB person I always say I’m “male” looking for “female” because I don’t like the results given when I say I’m “female” looking for “female” (because I hate most lesbian porn). I’m sure I’m not the only person who does that.

  3. Ha! Very relevant: just last night my [“straight”] best friend was “bragging” that she’s slept with more women than me. She teased that I’m “not a very good lesbian” (whatever that’s supposed to mean), but I argued that it’s really that she’s not as straight as she claims…

  4. I wish I could be more pleased for HNQ women about their increased freedom to enjoy relative sexual fluidity. However, as someone who has been used for purposes of sexual “tourism” and really hurt by it, I find myself more angry than anything else.
    I’m proud of my queer identity and don’t like people adopting it because it’s “cool” or makes them a more “credible feminist”. Come back to me when your relationship with your parents is ruined, you’ve developed a fear of intimacy and all the people you want to date see you as a disposable experiment and tell me how f*cking cool it is.

    • I understand the feelings (some of my straight female peers just love kissing me in night clubs, it get old), but maybe these women who currently identify as straight might also end up identifying as bi or queer later on in life?

      I’m saying this because as a teenager I checked both the boxes for “Straight” and “Fantasied about other women” on I can’t remember which survey.

      Being used sucks big time, I’m sorry it happened to you. Your feelings are supah valid. However yeah, maybe some of these women are queer-in-the-making, so let’s not forger how many of us used to identify as straight.

        • The fantasy of being sexually pleasured rather than being a tool of pleasure?

          Lesbians know what they’re doing, straight men pile drive and go to sleep/ or have to be begged to do a sex act that doesn’t directly involve their Johnson dichotomy thing.
          I say dichotomy thing cause humans aren’t factory standard beings. We’re chock full of variety.

          But yeah, fantasy of a person that knows what they’re doing and can’t “get off” without the other partner’s active participation is probably it.

          I gather this from some of the uh….results? Of explaining lady sex to straight girls back in high school.

  5. This… is the story of my life lol it’s like every straight girl I meet nowadays wants to sleep with me (as I am the only non straight non butch they meet) and have had a few friends drunkingly mention it. It gets old fast.

    Doesn’t surprise me. But they all have the fantasy or want to do it (then chicken out) or they do it but no homo! yet I can’t fault anyone for having sexual and romantic interests that don’t line up. Everyone has their thing.

    I’d love to know how much of this is cultural and how much of it is just innate.

    Also, took me a good second to realize that “36.9% of the 718 women surveyed had fantasized about doing the horizontal mambo with another lady.” was not quoted lol I was like that’s odd, the study is using such colloquial language. Go U of M! One of my schools 🙂 They seem to release quite a few sexual studies.

    • “I’d love to know how much of this is cultural and how much of it is just innate.”

      I recall a study which showed that lesbian fantasies are connected to androgen exposition in utero, but I doubt that’s the case of most of women from this latest study. I personally think that “innate fantasies” are the ones that get you off.
      It could be complicated sometimes to tell the difference, since even I fantasized about sex with men. Only not exactly about men, but rather about me being desired by men, but eventually I was detaching myself and in the end I fantasized about woman having sex and I focused on her.

      Kinda complicated, but I suspect it would still be counted as “heterosexual fantasies”.

    • Can you elaborate on that? I don’t know much about PornHub and am a bit nervous to google it..I’m using my grandfather’s computer and really don’t want it popping up in his search history.

  6. I’ve read that Jen Sincero book. I saw it at friends house and years later bought it on kindle. She identifies as not straight and had the book for the straight women at swingers parties.

  7. This is amazing… So amazing. Next time I’m waiting in line in a cute café and I spot a girl staring at me from another table, instead of immediately wondering if I’ve got toilet paper stuck under my shoe, I’ll defo go “full swag on” and blink “Gay4U” in morse code.

  8. This article really made me think (I do that ocassionally) about being a young person in the days without the internetz and the wonderful joy of actually seeing women kiss on TV. I don’t recall fantasizing about kissing women, but looking back I was instinctively drawn to women – hot teachers, best friends, and I devoured films with my favourite actresses in them without realising why.

    The first time I saw women kissing on screen was on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. When my Mum came in and said it was disgusting I remember defending it by saying ‘oh, but one of them used to be a man.’

    I often wonder what my life would have been like if I was a teenager now. I definitely think that I would have come out way before I was 22.

    • This is me so much! Like, as a kid, I drooled over Xena, had obsessions where I wouldn’t stop talking about certain actresses, singers, really liked certain actresses faces and had certain girls I was desperate to be friends with and I even asked my parents if women could have babies together and as I got older, I still obsessed over female celebrities but but because I never had fantasies or anything and I didn’t want to kiss anyone let alone have sex, I thought I was asexual. I didn’t realise I might not be straight until I got to university.

    • My family never really watched Deep Space Nine while I was growing up. It must have just been casually on the TV one day, and I saw that kiss. It was the first time I saw two women kissing too! I haven’t seen that kiss since I was 9 years old, because, until this very moment, I couldn’t remember the TV show on which it happened. I only remembered the kiss. I’ve wondered about it for years.

      You have just answered a major question for me about a defining moment of my childhood! And now, thanks to YouTube, I can re-watch that kiss for the first time in 19 years.

      Thank you!

      • You’re very welcome! I’ve watched that kiss many times since and I don’t think about the circumstances around it anymore, just the fact that they are two ladies getting it on. There have been many, many ladies locking lips on my screen since then, some are hotter, but that particular one will always mean something.

  9. The problem with fantasies is that it could mean different thing for different people. Very likely some people counted as sexual fantasies a mere wonder “how would that be”, even if they couldn’t come on those fantasies.

    I know a woman who struggled with her orientation for a long time. She said that she fantasized about men, but always to climax she had to turn the dude into chick in the end. She no longer bothers to fantasize about men when she finally accepted herself.

    I suspect that with increasing acceptance for homosexuality, some people may fantasize about it not necessarily because it’s what really turns them on, but more because of curiosity. And with the media message that all women are bisexual and all men either 100% straight or gay no wonder more women than men (although only 36% vs 20% according to that study) have such curiosity, but it’s not necessarily reflection of “real” sexuality (BTW, I remember results of the study on pheromones – straight women turned out to be more “exclusive” in that one than gay men).

    • I have never fantasied about a man. Even when I very much wanted to be straight. I never outgrew finding boys disgusting. It blows my mind that straight women are fantasizing about women. How is this possible? Do they understand what a sexual fantasy is?

      • Idk, I think everyone’s experience before coming out/reaching self-acceptance is different. For me, I was never repulsed by men – it was more like neutral/not stimulating lol. So even though being with men never felt right or exciting for me, since I didn’t feel a strong sense of disgust or feel repelled, it took me a long while to realize that sexual attraction isn’t supposed to be “neutral” and that what I was experiencing/feeling was not the norm for “straight” women. Not to say that the women in the survey are not straight – it is their choice how they self-define. I don’t know if this makes sense – just my somewhat rambling processing of my experience 🙂

  10. This is so interesting and could mean so many things. Like, are these women just into the fantasy because it’s taboo or taboo-on-the-rise? Are these women bisexual heteroromantics? Or are they just in denial of their total homo-ness? I mean, it’s certainly a mix, but it’s still fun to try to parse out..

  11. My best friend is a self-identified straight woman who has hooked up with women. She says she still IDs as straight because she a) is primarily interested in men and is married to a man, and b) doesn’t think she could ever go down on a woman. Like, that’s her criteria.

    Personally, I feel like if you have any level of legitimate interest in the same sex/gender (i.e. you would/have actually engaged in any sexual act with them), you aren’t totally straight. But IDing as straight is obviously easier and everyone gets to pick their own labels, so.

    • Late reply but I just saw this article. I think I get where your friend is coming from. I privately identified as “straight-ish” for a long time, because I knew that I was primarily interested in men but sometimes had crushes on women. I just wasn’t sure if I would actually want to hook up with a woman. Fast-forward to me meeting a girl who I liked so much that my stomach hurt. The relationship didn’t last, but I guess I’m now identifying as bisexual. I still find it confusing though, as femme girls don’t do anything for me. But find me a pretty soft-butch girl…

  12. I’m on the fence about what to think of this.

    On one hand, I think it illustrates the sexual fluidity of human beings.

    On the other hand, I am wary of appropriation. I don’t want being “a little gay” (but only a little!) to become the next “trend.”* This kind of thing focuses on only the cute, socially-acceptable stuff you see on TV shows like Glee or Faking It, and minimizes the harsh realities that a lot of LGBTQ people still face. Some of us grew up being told it was a disgusting sin. It wasn’t a cute trend. But maybe I’m a little bitter.

    Then again, I do think it makes sense biologically that sexual orientation exists on a spectrum, and that people are fluid.

    I don’t know. I’m actually the opposite of a lot of people on this thread, in that I knew I WASN’T interested in men before I acknowledged I WAS interested in women. For a while, I identified as asexual, because any attraction toward women was simply not a viable option.

    *I am not referring to people who are bisexual in this paragraph, obviously. I am referring to straight people who experiment simply because they think it sounds like a fun or trendy thing to do. Not that there’s anything wrong with that per se, but it shouldn’t be done in a way that takes advantage of members of the LGBTQ community.

    • Sexual fluidity means something completely different than you think. Here are quotes from the book “Sexual Fluidity: Understanding Women’s Love and Desire” of sex researcher Lisa M. Diamond, who coined that term and theory, drawing conclusions from her longitudinal research on a group of sexual minority women, which shows that sexual orientation (understood as strictly sexual preferences) is solid:

      “If we examine correlations between women’s initial percentages of same-sex attraction (in 1995) and the size of their subsequent changes, we find a strikingly consistent pattern: the more same-sex attractions a woman reported in 1995 (and, in fact, throughout the rest of the study as well), the less her attractions changed over time, in either direction. Thus women who reported predominant or near-exclusive attractions to women in 1995 tended to remain pretty much the same. The women with more nonexclusive attractions—those who identified as bisexual or unlabeled—underwent the most sizeable shifts.”

      “If we use these changes in attractions to make inferences about changes in sexual orientation, we must conclude that there is not much evidence for change in orientation. The small shifts experienced by lesbians nonetheless kept them in the lesbian range, and even the sizeable shifts experienced by unlabeled and bisexual women kept them in the bisexual range: they almost never jumped to near-exclusive same-sex attractions or plummeted down to nearexclusive other-sex attractions. Note, in particular, that the women who had reidentified as heterosexual by 2005 did not undergo much change either: they had always reported less frequent samesex attractions than the rest of the sample; they simply came to label and interpret these feelings differently over time.”

      What’s important to note is a fact that by “lesbians” she meant here women who identified as lesbians, not any objective definition of lesbian (majority of lesbian identified women in her study were always also sexually attracted to men, they just had preference for women).

      That’s important, since the only women who didn’t have “fluidity potential” were women who were sexually attracted exclusively to women from the beginning:

      “The only group of women who showed extreme stability in their identity labels over time were the women who basically described themselves as being 100 percent attracted to women from the very beginning. They showed almost no identity change. So it was very clearly connected to this understanding of your own capacity for different types of attractions and behaviors over time.”

    • Probably the stupidest article ever written by the most ignorant author and most likely a feminist. Some off the comments here make me want to vomit…yea Rachel, you think you smell better than guys when you have piss and blood coming out that nasty stink hole. Also, thinking Pornhub being used for collecting valid data is a joke….really…when I know guys out there have made fake usernames pretending to be female, anyone can make a fake profile. No doubt the media portrays a lot of gay shit out there…thats you have stupid broads thinking thats the norm! Gimme a break…in our culture breasts are portrayed as being “sexy”, while as in other cultures men could give a rats ass about a womens breasts…why, because they live in the jungle and their not influenced by media! Glad I’ve dated girls that have absolutely no interest in other girls, so I know their out there. Guys, if you have a girl thats has lesbo tendencacies, dump that slut and find yourself a real woman! I’m going to go puke now…

  13. Well, there is an orientation spectrum map which shows only about 10 percent of people are actually completely straight and 10 percent of people are actually completely gay. Everyone else in between ranges within the spectrum. This makes the most sense. Google it sometime.

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