156.2 How many heterosexuals, homosexuals and bisexuals are there in the U.S.?

Wednesday, August 1, 2012: 2:45 PM
Faculty of Economics, TBA
Oral Presentation
Dudley POSTON , Texas A&M University
Yuting CHANG , Texas A&M University
Much of the social science literature on sexuality and sexual orientation conceptualizes and measures the phenomena of heterosexuality, homosexuality and bisexuality using two basic perspectives or approaches, namely, essentialism and social constructionism. Founded in biology, the essentialist view states that there is an essential characteristic that identifies one’s sexuality and is present in all persons with that sexuality. Hence, for instance, homosexual individuals are thought to be distinct and separate from heterosexual individuals, who are different from bisexual persons. This common characteristic, or essence, is thought to be based in biology or psychology, and is a fundamental drive or trait that establishes a person’s inclusion into a sexuality category. The social constructionist view of sexuality counters and critiques the essentialist perspective. It argues against the notion of binary categories, that is, that one either is or is not a homosexual (or heterosexual or bisexual) individual. Instead, this approach argues for a continuum with varying degrees of sexuality. Social constructionists point out that homosexual (and heterosexual and bisexual) prevalence rates and visibility vary across time and settings, and that the concepts, definitions, and practices are often not the same across context and cultures. In this paper we use sexuality data from the 2006-08 National Survey of Family Growth; we specify three different dimensions of sexuality, namely, sexual behavior in the last 12 months, sexual self-identification, and sexual preference. We examine the consistency in the dimensions for heterosexual persons, homosexual persons, and bisexual persons. And we show how the counts of heterosexuals, homosexuals and bisexuals in the U.S. in 2006-08 vary tremendously depending on the definitions used. We discuss some of the implications of the findings of our research for demographic analyses of sexuality.