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Same-Sex Intimacy More Common In Women: CDC Report

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There is an increasing number of men and women who claim to be bisexuals, a new report by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says. Specifically, women are three times more likely to claim same-sex intimacy than men.

Information about bisexuality worldwide has increased through the years and people today can easily brand themselves as gay, homosexual or bisexual. In the report by National Health Statistics Reports of the CDC, the authors wanted to provide the national estimates of sexual behavior, sexual orientation and sexual attraction among men and women aged 18 to 44 years old in the United States.

Out of more than 9,000 respondents interviewed for the survey, 5.5 percent of women and 2 percent of men reported themselves as bisexual. An estimated 17.4 percent of women claimed they had same-sex contact in their lifetime compared to just 6.2 percent of men. This new data was compared with the previous 2006-2010 survey wherein only 14.2 percent of women claimed to have same-sex contact.

"It's certainly not a new idea that women and men may be attracted to more than gender," said Debby Herbenick, an associate professor at Indiana University and author of the book "Sex Made Easy," who was not involved in the study, said.

"But that doesn't mean it's an easy orientation to adopt. Women and men who self-identify as bisexual experience stigma not just from heterosexuals but also homosexuals," she added.

With just three quarters (75.9 percent) of women saying they're attracted only to men, it shows that more women are now sexually fluid as they brand themselves bisexuals or homosexuals. On the other hand, 88.6 percent of men say they're attracted only to women.

"I've never seen that figure below 90 percent," said Ritch Savin-Williams, a professor of developmental psychology at Cornell University.

"There's a progression away from straightness, if you will," he added. Even if the numbers are still small, it sheds light in the way men and women show the willingness to use the label.

"I never take this as a change in actual sexuality. I always think of it as reflecting permission - that women now have greater permission to say they have some sexual attraction to other women," he said.

Savin-Williams praised the CDC for the extensive survey that shows how Americans are becoming more comfortable with their sexuality. The CDC was also commended for not asking just about how the participants identify themselves but also their degree of attraction to the two sexes.

Other interesting facts were collected: 11 percent of married women report having had some same-sex sexual intimacy while the number was rather small for men with only 4 percent. In terms of ethnicity, White, Black or African-American women were similar with their answers but Hispanic or Latina women were not likely to report having same-sex contact.

The data, collected between 2011 and 2013, reports that the risk of certain diseases like Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) and Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) infections is rampant in high-risk populations like men who have sex with men (MSM) and those who practice risky sexual behaviors.

CDC estimates that about 19 million new cases of STIs occur among Americans every year and 50,000 people are diagnosed with HIV every year. More than one million Americans are currently living with HIV.

Certain studies on STIs or HIV often use different measures to identify populations in the United States who are at risk, including measures of sexual behavior, attraction and orientation. These common measures may cause variation in the estimates of the risk for such diseases.

"Further information on the relationships among sexual behavior, sexual attraction, and sexual orientation may help to identify populations at risk of STIs or HIV in the U.S. and to better target health-related programs and interventions aimed at reducing these risks," the authors wrote [PDF] in the report.

Photo: Sarah Reid | Flickr

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