Friday, August 17, 2007

Gay men have the most sex partners, right? Actually, they come in a distant third. Using General Social Survey data, I calculated the mean number of sex partners in the past year for people 18-30. (It's not precisely the mean since the highest estimates were assigned lower numbers--dumb, I know, but I didn't design the damn thing). Here are the results:

Mean number of sex partners in the past year

Bisexual men 4.50
Bisexual women 3.83
Gay men 2.54
Straight men 1.93
Lesbians 1.45
Straight women 1.43

By far, guys who swing both ways have the most partners, and I'm amazed that women of any stripe beat gay men. On the other hand, I'm not surpised to see lesbians (and straight women, of course) on the low end. Overall, the numbers might be lower than you would expect for young people. My thinking is that we get a distorted view of the frequency and prevalence of this kind of behavior from the media. Life isn't as wild as depicted on the screen.

If we look at those on the extreme end, the promiscuous gay man appears:

Percent with 11-100 sex partners last year

Gay men 9.3
Bisexual men 7.1
Bisexual women 2.9
Straight men 2.2
Straight women 0.3
Lesbians 0.0

Evidently, there is a small group of homosexual guys who conform to the stereotype of many, many partners, but this does not appear to be the norm. It's unheard of for a lesbian to act that way (showing once again that lesbians are not like gay men), and rare for a straight woman--the 0.3 percent might be prostitutes. Oh, come to think of it, some of those gay and bisexual men might do it for money too.


  1. Anonymous11:42 AM

    "Gay men have the most sex partners, right? Actually, they come in a distant third."

    Don't worry, Ron, when it comes to sex, gay men always seem to get their's in the end.

  2. old pete: Hey, that's not nice to make them the butt of the joke.

  3. I'm pretty sure there are no bona fide bisexual men, so these are probably a subset of gay guys.

    Bisexual women really exist, and they tend to be the pornstar type -- really wild, exhibitionist, experimental, etc. Slutty, you might say. So that's not a huge surprise either.

  4. Anonymous11:32 PM


    Do bisexual women really exist? I always thought that their existance was a fantasy of heterosexual men and that they really did not exist.

  5. Anonymous12:18 AM

    Michael Bailey seems to think it's just "Gay, straight or lying" and women don't really have a sexuality, but he's a psychologist and what do they know.

  6. In the GSS data, bisexuals always have the most problems.

  7. Anonymous11:42 AM

    I once shared an apartment with a bisexual woman. She was very much the type agnostic described. I know this is just an anecdote, but even a single example proves they aren't totally "a fantasy of heterosexual men."

  8. Anonymous10:47 AM

    Based on anecdotal evidence, I think that the vast majority of people (at least in the U.S.) are quite non-sexual. I think that Hollywood and the media give the impression that we are out of control sexually liciteous in a manner that does not reflect any reality that most of us experience in our personal lives.

  9. Anonymous2:31 PM

    Was the survey limited to single people? If not, many of the straight respondents were married - possibly not a majority, given the 18-30 age range, but certainly a significant minority. The effect on sex-partner count should be obvious, as most married people have the same number of sex partners each year, namely one.

    Single straight men and women in this age range probably have mean numbers greater than 1.93 and 1.43.

  10. Anonymous1:43 PM

    male bisexuality is something of a trope. if a guy can get hard looking at another man, he's gay. the fact that he may have slept with a woman or two does not make him bisexual. i'd be interested to see partner breakdown by gender for the bis.

  11. Anonymous10:47 PM

    I believe a study was done that showed that self reporting bisexual men had erotic responses in their brain patterns for men, but not for women. They may merely be opportunistic or experimental gays.

  12. Anonymous5:26 AM

    I believe Michael Bailey found that 75 percent of self-reported bisexual men had a gay-style sexual response, and 25 percent a straight-style response. Still, pace various posters here, it makes sense to call such people bisexuals, so long as we stipulate that we're talking about behaviour, not fundamentally orientatation.

  13. Anonymous6:58 PM

    Hiya, who knows if anyone is interested in this old post, but here goes:

    I'm a bisexual male. The problem with studies on bisexual men is that they focus solely on one instance of one kind of attraction: visual attraction. Other things, like the sense of touch, play a strong role in sexual attraction and can change a person's desires.

    Also, my orientation seems to waffle alot. One day I might be "straight" and have an encounter with a woman (or a fantasy), and the next I might be into men. It's like when I exhaust one sexuality the other surges into play.


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