More Brits Than Ever Are In Between on the Kinsey Scale, New Survey Shows

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In poll results published Sunday by YouGov, a full 49% of 18-24 year olds identified as something other than exclusively heterosexual. The online poll asked 1632 adults in Great Britain to identify themselves on the seven-point Kinsey scale. Among respondents of all ages, 72% identified as a 0 (heterosexual), 4% identified as a 6 (homosexual), and 23% identified somewhere in between. Breaking the data down by age group, however, shows a very interesting trend.

According to the report:

With each generation, people see their sexuality as less fixed in stone. The results for 18-24 year-olds are particularly striking, as 43% place themselves in the non-binary area between 1 and 5 and 52% place themselves at one end or the other. … People of all generations now accept the idea that sexual orientation exists along a continuum rather than a binary choice – overall 60% of heterosexuals support this idea, and 73% of homosexuals. 28% of heterosexuals believe that ‘there is no middle ground – you are either heterosexual or you are not’.

This report is largely in line with existing research, including the 2013 British Social Attitudes survey showing growing acceptance of same-sex relationships in the UK, and the 2014 HRC report showing that 40% of US LGBT youth are non-monosexual.

Bristish adults were asked to place themselves on the Kinsey scale, ranging from 0 to 6. 1 in 2 young people not 100% heterosexual.

Interestingly, when asked to label their sexuality, only 2% of all respondents self-identified as bisexual. This remained relatively steady across all age groups, increasing to 4% identification for those 25-39, and down to 1% for those 60+. Comparatively, 89% identified as heterosexual, 6% gay or lesbian, 3% prefer not to say, and 1% other. Even accounting for those listing themselves as “other” and “prefer not to say,” this leaves ~15% of respondents who presumably call themselves straight yet experience some level of same-sex attraction. And in even further proof that straight chicks want to make out with you, a surprising 35% of hetero-identified people responded with a “definitely,” “maybe,” or “very unlikely, but not impossible” when directly asked “If the right person came along at the right time, do you think it is conceivable that you could have a sexual experience with a person of the same sex?”

While collecting solid data about LGBT populations is always a difficult task, it seems telling to me that there’s such a large divide between the number of apparent bisexuals (the 23% plotting themselves as Kinsey 1-5’s) versus the number of people actively laying claim to the label (again, a mere 2%). Kinsey himself never used the word “bisexual” in relation to his work, because he felt it “implied a biological origin of bisexuality rather than a psychic one.” I doubt this is the motivating factor for many survey respondents in 2015.

One possible reason for the disparity is that people experiencing attraction to multiple genders don’t feel comfortable using the label until they’ve had sexual encounters with both same and different sex partners. However, 17% of respondents (20% of females and 14% of males) reported a sexual experience with a person of the same sex. Different-sex experiences were not reported on, but whatever the number, it still leaves a sizeable gap. Are the 1’s and 5’s not counting themselves because they don’t feel bisexual enough? The 2’s and 4’s? Unfortunately we don’t have enough data to say.

Bristish adults were asked to place themselves on the Kinsey scale, ranging from 0 to 6. 1 in 2 young people not 100% heterosexual.

Certainly, coming out as bisexual poses unique challenges, and if someone feels more comfortable with an alternate label, they should have the individual agency to do what’s right for them. I personally use different labels in different contexts, as do many others. But there’s power in naming things as they are, and sometimes I wonder what impact avoidance of the term “bisexual” has. For example, would bisexual women have better mental health if more people identified as bi and there was a larger, more visible community? Would the allotment of resources change if all those Kinsey 2-5’s were counted up? What happens if we don’t do anything? I don’t have the answers, but apparently, there are more us than ever. I hope we figure some of it out soon.

Laura Mandanas is a Filipina American living in Boston. By day, she works as an industrial engineer. By night, she is beautiful and terrible as the morn, treacherous as the seas, stronger than the foundations of the Earth. All shall love her and despair. Follow her: @LauraMWrites.

Laura has written 211 articles for us.

29 Comments

  1. Bisexuals must unite…I’m always feeling like I don’t belong to either the lesbian crowd or the straight crowd, but it’s always great when I find other bi people to hang out with, it’s the most fun for me. Or that’s just how I feel :3

  2. Oh wow, this is interesting. Possibly I’ll mention this next time I run into someone from high school and have the I’m-not-totally-straight-but-don’t-worry-about-it conversation.

  3. Well, this is annoying, as it means routinely blaming straight people for all the world’s ills will only be accurate half the time!

    Back to pinning it on the patriarchy I guess. Actually, that would make a great game at a feminist birthday party: Pin the Problem on the Patriarchy

  4. This is really interesting research! Its also cool to realise that my self selected friends group are not just super queer because they play rugby. IT’S A GENERATIONAL THING. Or maybe its because it rains so much everyone just super likes the rainbows?

  5. I suspect what confounds clear interpretations of the data is that, for survey responders, the term ‘bisexual’ is not equivalent to ‘not 1’ and ‘not6’. When the word ‘bisexual’ is used as a category or label it takes on popular notions of attraction to male and female gender (probably equally in many minds) – as opposed to, for example, attracted to a person rather than a gender (or any of the numerous scope and sequences that bisexuality can take on).
    Whereas placing oneself on a scale of attraction to others (2-5) may seem like a better fit when the respondent considers who they find attractive / datable, e.g., ‘mostly men, but that new woman in R & D is drop dead gorgeous’.
    I’m guessing it’s a problem with what the term ‘bisexual’ means in many people’s minds (a category error). It’s a bit like swearing I wouldn’t wear pink – but I do have a couple of really lovely reddish salmony coloured shirts.
    I for one have never dated a male, but I wouldn’t rule it out … because, well, anything is possible I suppose. Does that make me bisexual? I don’t know, nor do I mind. At least the survey data can be interpreted as a sign more people are realizing that a) it’s complicated, b) people should be free to love any other consenting adult they wish to.

    • I definitely think that’s true. And also sexual fluidity, probably? Like 10 years ago I would have called myself a 1. Now I’d place myself at a 5. Being on the edges makes me feel weird about where I fit, and what words I should be using.

  6. I have very conflicted feelings about this study. First I feel like, that’s great! There’s so many bi-people who are comfortable noting their not-straightness in some way, I’m not alone! But then, also, I kinda enjoyed being a little odd and special? So maybe I don’t want 49% of Britain in my camp with me, that’s a little cramped. But then, wait, they don’t actually identify as being bi, or anything other than monosexual or even straight (queer, pan, anything?) and then i’m frustrated again with the whole lot of them!

    Uh, but really, I’m glad that a whole new generation of people are willing to consider their lives in a new and more open way, and in a way that’s likely to lead to a better place for all of us to live in. That’s the one I’m going with.

  7. Well, I definitely believe that bi people who lean towards the opposite binary gender are still bi and absolutely still deserve to be included, but I’m not sure if all the people who identified themselves as Kinsey 1s would really be same-sex attracted in any meaningful way? Some people use “Kinsey 1” to mean that they’ve experienced same-sex attraction, just nowhere near as much as the opposite-sex attraction they’ve experienced, but some people use it to mean that they’re hypothetically open to going through with it if they ever did experience same-sex attraction.

    There’s probably some of each in the group of self-identified Kinsey 1s, and either way, it’s definitely a sign of progress! When people with small amounts of same-sex attraction feel comfortable admitting it instead of hiding it, that’s awesome! When straight people treat the possibility of experiencing same-sex attraction as something that may well happen and wouldn’t be a big deal, that’s awesome! But saying that a thought-about-it-and-would-theoretically-be-okay-with-it is the same as an actually-experiences-same-sex-attraction is a little bit disingenuous.

    However, counting everybody but the 1s*, you still get 27% not-straight for that age group, which is a pretty big thing, compared to the usual estimates of around ten percent. There’s definitely more of us than you’d think, and when a society reduces the stigma of same-sex attraction, you’ll get a lot more people admitting it, and understanding that their feelings fall into that realm.

    *I think the 1s who actually experience same-sex attraction should be counted, but there’s no way to tell what percentage of the identified-1s are in that group.

  8. If bisexuals are taking ofur my country, does that mean one day soon people will stop being baffled by me / acting like dating men and women are mewtually exclusive? I feel like there should be a slang term fur bisexual British people…bisexukal?

  9. I was about to comment that a small but real number of people who identify as asexual probably picked a middle range on the Kinsey scale for lack of a better option. But then I looked at the full poll results linked off of the YouGov article and saw that the pollsters did give an option of “no sexuality” in addition to 0-6 and “don’t know.” I’m disappointed, but not surprised, that the creators of the YouGov piece and visuals entirely ignored that 1% of respondents who chose “no sexuality.”

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