Researchers published findings from the largest nationally representative study of sexual and sexual-health behaviors ever conducted. Called the National Survey of Sexual Health and Behavior (NSSHB), it is one of the most comprehensive studies on sexuality in almost two decades and documents the sexual experiences and condom-use behaviors of 5,865 adolescents and adults ages 14 to 94. It was conducted by my colleagues Dr. Michael Reece, Dr. Debby Herbenick, Dr. Brian Dodge, and their colleagues at Indiana University. Initial findings from the survey, presented in nine separate research articles, were published on Oct. 1 in a special issue of The Journal of Sexual Medicine.

Readers of the Sexual Continuum blog may be most interested in the findings about same-sex behavior and sexual orientation. I created the graph below, which shows the percentage of individuals who identified as gay, lesbian, or bisexual by age and gender. As shown, 3.3% of males between the ages of 14 and 17 identified as gay or bisexual, whereas 8.4% of girls in the same age group identified as bisexual. The numbers increased with age for men and decreased with age for women. Similar to many previous studies, more women identified as bisexual than lesbian, whereas more men identified as gay than bisexual. Some have suggested this indicates that sexual orientation is different in men and women, as reviewed in one of my previous blog posts.

In terms of same-sex behavior, among men ages 18 to 59, 4.8% to 8.4% reported having received oral sex from another man in the previous year. In terms of receptive anal sex (i.e. "bottoming"), 10.8% of 20-24 year old males reported the behavior at some point in their lifetime. The percentage was slightly lower for older men.

Among women, fewer than 5% of women in most age groups reported having received oral sex in the past year from a female partner, with the exception of the 8.5% of women ages 20-24 who reported having performed oral sex on a woman in the past year. The numbers were relatively similar in terms of giving oral sex to another women (e.g. 2 - 9% for ages 16 - 49).

The papers in the special issue provide detailed information on sexual behavior and health in women, men, young and older individuals, and racial and ethnic minorities. The authors promise future papers focused on the gay, lesbian, and bisexual participants. Additional information about the study and the published papers are available for free at www.nationalsexstudy.indiana.edu.

Dr. Mustanski is the Director of the IMPACT LGBT Health and Development Program at the University of Illinois at Chicago. You can follow the Sexual Continuum blog by becoming a fan on Facebook.

Photo credit: twodolla available with creative commons license.

Be sure to read the following responses to this post by our bloggers:

Why Does Sex Hurt for 1 in 3 Women? is a reply by Debby Herbenick Ph.D., M.P.H.

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