Today’s Americans More Accepting Than Ever of Same-Sex Relationships

Dominique Cappronnier via Flickr Creative Commons // CC BY-ND
Dominique Cappronnier via Flickr Creative Commons // CC BY-ND / Dominique Cappronnier via Flickr Creative Commons // CC BY-ND

Good news for equality: A large survey of American adults found that tolerance is on the rise. Researchers published a summary of the survey findings in the journal Archives of Sexual Behavior.

Since 1973, the General Social Survey has been kind of like a thermometer for American attitudes and beliefs. Survey respondents are asked about their thoughts and feelings on a broad range of topics, from our criminal justice system and legalizing marijuana to racism and social equality. The survey’s most recent iteration, sent out in 2014, brought responses from more than 30,000 adults.

Those adults are not the adults of the '70s, or even the '90s—at least not when it comes to same-sex relationships. For years and years, American attitudes about same-sex relations didn’t really change. In 1973, just 11 percent of adults agreed that "sexual relations between two adults of the same sex [are] not wrong at all." In 1990, that number was only up to 13 percent. Yet something big has happened since then. As of 2014, 49 percent of all adults and 63 percent of Millennials were OK with same-sex relations.

And we’re not just more OK with same-sex experiences—we’re also having more of them, or at least we’re saying that we are. In 1990, 4.5 percent of men reported having sex with another man at least once. By 2014, that percentage had nearly doubled. Women’s self-reported same-sex experiences rose even faster, from 3.6 to 8.7 percent. Bisexual behavior is also on the rise, at 7.7 percent, up from 3.1.

Now, all these results are self-reported. Is it possible that it’s just become more acceptable to talk about having same-sex experiences? Absolutely. But that’s progress, too.

Lead author Jean Twenge is a psychologist at San Diego State University and the author of two controversial books about Millennials: Generation Me and The Narcissism Epidemic. "These large shifts in both attitudes and behavior occurred over just 25 years, suggesting rapid cultural change," Twenge said in a press statement. 

Those rapid cultural changes are the result of a number of factors, Twenge said, but she believes that it boils down to an increased interest in individuality and equality. "Without the strict social rules common in the past,” Twenge said, “Americans now feel more free to have sexual experiences they desire."