Fourfold increase of women with same-sex partners: Lancet study


Research published in the Lancet has revealed how sexual behavior and attitudes in Britain have changed in recent decades. The survey – originally carried out in 1990-1991, repeated in 1999-2001 and then conducted again in 2010-2012 with over 15,000 individuals aged 16-74 years – has shown increasing number of females with same-sex partners. Attitudes to same-sex partners has also changed.

The findings reveal that while the number of men who reported having same-sex partners has changed little – from 3.6% in the first study to 4.8% in the 2010-2012 survey – for women, the figure has increased fourfold. The first survey showed that the percentage of women that reported having same-sex partners was 1.8%. In the 2010-2012 survey, this figure rose to 7.9%.

Professor Kay Wellings of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM, UK), one of the leaders of the study said: “The change in women’s behavior across the three surveys has been remarkable. In some areas of sexual behavior we have seen a narrowing of the gender gap, but in others we have seen women overtaking men in the diversity of their behavior. These trends need to be seen against the backdrop of the profound changes in the position of women in society, the norms governing their lifestyles, and media representations of female sexuality.”

The survey also illustrated changing attitudes in those aged 16-44 years over the past two decades. While previously, fewer than one in four men thought same sex partnerships were ‘not wrong at all’ (22% for male same-sex partnerships and 24% for female), the figure is now approximately half (48% and 52% respectively). In women, the increase has been even greater, from less than one in three women in 1990-91 (28% for male same-sex partnerships and 28% for female) to two in three women today (66% and 66%, respectively).

This seems to indicate that British women are growing both in their acceptance of same-sex relationships and their openness to being with another woman.

Mercer CH, Tanton C, Prah P, Erens B, Sonnenberg P, Clifton S, Macdowall W, Lewis R, Field N, Datta J, Copas AJ, Phelps A, Wellings K, Johnson AM. Changes in sexual attitudes and lifestyles in Britain through the life course and over time: findings from the National Surveys of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles (Natsal). The Lancet, Early Online Publication, 26 November 2013. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(13)62035-8

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