Overview of Statistics on Sexual Orientation
According to a 2005 study by the U.S. Center for Disease Control with a very large sample size and good methodology, the percentage of Americans who are homosexual or bisexual as measured by self-identification, lifetime sexual activity, and last year sexual activity, are considerably higher than conservative estimates of closer to 1% or less. The percentage is, however, very sensitive to the definitions used as discussed below. It is also worth recalling that in a nation of more than 300,000,000 people, even a characterization that applies to just 1% of the overall population means that it will apply to more than 3,000,000 people in the United States at some point in their lives.
What percentage of Americans are gay, lesbian or bisexual?
About 1.8% of people in the United States aged 15-44 years old self-identify as exclusively homosexual. About 4% of people are not attacted mostly or exclusively to members of the opposite sex and about 4.1% self-identify as homosexual or bisexual. But, 8.7% have had some same sex sexual activity in their lifetimes and more than 9% do not self-identify as exclusively heterosexual. About 11% are not sexually attracted exclusively to members of the opposite sex. The high end numbers are close to the often criticized, but often quoted, Kinsey report estimate of 10%. Women and men are almost equally likely to self-identify as something other than hetrosexual.
Other studies that predate the legalization of same sex marriage have shown that about 95% of white men and women marry at some point in their lifetime. A significant share of those who never married historically, were probably not heterosexual.
People who remain celibate through the age 40-44 age range are less common by far than people who do not self-identify as heterosexual. Just 1.8% of men and 1.3% have not had opposite sex sexual activity at that point, and a significant share of them (probably half or more) have had same sex sexual activity at that point in their lives.
But, women are more than twice as likely to report some same sex sexual activity in their lifetimes and within the last twelve months. Some of this difference, however, reflects a less restrictive definition of same sex sexual activity in questionaires for women than for men. The survey defines same sex sexual activity for men largely as anal or oral sex. While other kinds of kissing or touching might qualify as same sex sexual activity for some responding women. But, a larger proportion of non-heterosexual women self-describe as bisexual, rather than homosexual.
Many people are bisexual in self-identification or in practice.
Sexually active women who do not have exclusively opposite sex partners are far more likely to be bisexual in practice than sexually active men who do not have exclusively opposite sex partners. Women who do have exclusively same sex partners are about six times more likely to have been monogamous in the last year than men who do have exclusively same sex partners.
The percentage of people who identify as bisexual, are sexually attracted to both men and women, or have had sexual partners who are both of the same and the opposite sex are of the same order of magnitude or larger than the percentage of people who identify as exclusively homosexual or who have exclusively same sex partners. This is something that much of the public discussion and academic literature about sexual orientation (particularly in areas like discrimination, law and politics), particularly among men, does not really reflect.
Incarceration has a surprisingly modest influence on same sex sexual activity for men
The link between having had same sex sexual activity and having been incarcerated is very modest, particularly for black men.
Slightly more than 90% of both men and of women identify as exclusively heterosexual. About 2.3% of men and 1.3% of women identify as exclusively homosexual. About 1.8% of men and 2.8% of women identify as bisexual. Thus, 4.2% of men and 4.1% of women self-identify as either homosexual or bisexual.
About 3.8%-3.9% of both men and women identify as "something else," as self-identification that is particularly common among blacks (7.5% of men and 6.5% of women) and Hispanics (7.3% of men and 6.1% of women) compared to 2.3% of white men and 2.3% of white women.
About 85% of men and women who self-identify as "something else" are sexually attracted entirely or mostly to women (compared to about 99%+ of self-identified heterosexual men and women, 36% of self-described bisexual men and about 53% of self-identified bisxual women), while 8.5% are sexually attracted to men or women equally or mostly to men (compared to about 0.5% of self-identified hetrosexual men, 0.2% of self-identified hetrosexual women, about 63% of self-identified bisexual men and about 43% of self-identified bisexual women). Empirically, "something else" is a label that most often seems to connotate an openness to experimentation without a clear non-hetrosexual self-identification.
Apart from the "something else" category, there are not large racial differences in self-identified sexual orientation.
About 7.8% of men and 14.3% of women are not sexually attracted exclusively to members of the opposite sex. This includes 3.9% of men who are attracted "mostly" to women and 10.2% of women who are attracted "mostly" to men. About 3.9% of men are not attracted mostly or exclusively to women or "don't know." About 4.1% of women are not attracted mostly or exclusively to men or "don't know."
Lifetime same sex sexual activity
About 5.0% of men of all ages and 12.4% of women of all ages, reporting having had same sex sexual activity in their lifetime (in a sample in which 21.9% of both men and of women were virgins). Most of the other samples were restricted to sexually active individuals and fewer than 2% of men and of women never have sex by the time they are in the 40-44 year old age group.
About four out of five men who have had same sex sexual activity in their lifetimes self-identify as homosexual or bisexual, but only about one in three women who have had same sex sexual activity in their lifetimes self-identify as homosexual or bisexual.
Many of the remaining individuals who have had same sex sexual activity in their lifetime self-identify as "something else" other than heterosexual, homosexual or bisexual.
Same sex sexual activity in last twelve months
Men who have had sex with men in the last twelve months are more likely to have had multiple partners in the last year (0.9% more than one man, 1.0% at least one man and one woman) than than to have had one partner (0.7% just one man). Overall 2.6% of men aged 15-44 have had sex with another man in the last twelve months (3.1% off men who were sexually active in the last twelve months had a same sex sexual partner), of whom 38% have had sex with both men and women in the last twelve months; 14.8% of men haven't had sex with anyone in the last twelve months.
Women who have sex only with other women in the last twelve months are much more likely to have had only one partner (1.1%) than two or more same sex partners (0.2%). But, 3.5% women have had sex with both at least one male and one female partner in the last twelve months. Overall, 5.7% of women aged 15-44 have had sex with another woman in the last twelve months (6.6% of women who were sexually active in the last twelve months had a same sex sexual partner), of whom 61% have had sex with both men and women in the last twelve months; 13.9% of women in this age range haven't had sex with anyone in the last twelve months.
Incarceration has little impact on lifetime male same-sex acts
Black men who have sex with other men have very high rates of serious sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) like AIDS and syphillis than other men who have sex with men. One hypothesis to explain this possibility is that black men who have sex with men may involve coerced prison rape situations rather than consenual unincarcerated sex with other men, because they are much more likely to be incarcerated in their lives than other men. The data from the 2005 survey disfavor this otherwise plausible hypothesis
There is very little difference between the percentage of men who have been incarcerated who state that they have had anal sex with other men (4.0%) and those who have not been incacerated who state that have have had anal sex with other men (3.9%), but there is a big difference in the percentage of men who have been incarcerated who have had oral sex with other men (8.2%) and the percentage of men who have not been incarcerated who have had oral sex with other men (5.5%).
The incarceration disparity also isn't attributable to black men in general. Black men are much less likely to have had oral sex with other men (4.4%) than Hispanic men (5.7%) and white men (6.3%) although they are somewhat more likely to have had anal sex with other men (4.4%) compared to Hispanic men (4.0%) or white men (3.7%). The difference between the percentage of black men who have had anal sex with other men and that of men of other ethnicities is too small (almost to the point of not being statistically significant) to make a major contribution to the large differences in STD rates between black men who have sex with men and other men who have sex with men.
The study doesn't rule out the possibility that black men who are homosexual who happen to be incarcerated are much less likely to use protection when having sex than men of other races (with much lower incarceration rates) do when not incarcerated, but doesn't support it either.
About one in twenty to one in twenty-five white and Hispanic men who wouldn't have had oral sex with other men otherwise are pressured into doing so while incarcerated apparently are pressured into oral sex with other men, an experience more common for white men than for Hispanic men. But, incarceration has no statistically significant impacts on reported rates of having had anal sex with another man. Given that men having oral sex with other men is a far less common means of transmitting serious STDs than men having anal sex with other men, this difference isn't too important from a public health perspective.
Statistics on Sex
The same study has some other interesting statistics on heterosexual sex.
Divorce and anal sex
Divorced men (53.7% v 38.4%) and women (45.2% v. 32.2%) are significantly more likely than married men or women (or men or women in the oldest cohort from 40-44 years old, 39.9% for men and 33.8% for women) to have ever had anal sex. This is not merely a statistical artifact of divorced men and women being older, on average, than married men and women.
Lifetime partners by race, sex and military veteran status.
Black men are much more likely to report fifteen or more lifetime sexual partners (34%) than white men (22%), Hispanic men (18%), white women (10%), black women (9%), or Hispanic women (5%). Men who are military veterans report significantly more lifetime sexual partners than men who are non-military veterans (45% report fifteen or more in a lifetime v. 22% for non-veterans). About 8.4% of military veterans are black, which is a bit less than the percentage of all men in the U.S. who are black, so a history of military service does not explain the ethnic disparity. There is a strong regional disparity in military service for white men (Southerners are much more likely to serve), so regional disparities may be explained by this factor.
Men have twice as many reported lifetime sexual partners on average (8) as women (4).
Statistics on men and women who act in legal porn films
Porn actors and actresses are on average typical of the general population in race and height and breast size, are less likely to be blonde than you would guess (although almost a third are dyed blond), and are much closer to healthy weights than the general population. "43% of porn stars have a body piercing (13% more than average) and 45.5% have at least one piece of body art—9.5% more than average."
In the United States 2%-6% of the adult population has naturally red hair (I suspect closer to the low end than the high end) and about 5% of American adults are naturally blond. About half of American women dye their hair.
The average female porn actress starts at age 22 and quit on average after three years, the average male porn actor starts at age 24 and quits on average after four years. ("The average age of a MILF in porn is thirty-three. 20% of the ‘MILFs’ were 20–25 years old, 7% were over 40, and 4% were over 50. . . . the average age of a first time mother in America . . . was 25 years old[.]") A median female porn actress is in about three films; about 10%-30% act in just one.
Porn actresses engage in uncommon sex acts more often than members of the general population, but not nearly as much more often as one might expect (e.g. female porn actresses are only about twice as likely to have anal sex on film as women in general are to have anal sex; the biggest disparity between real life and porn actress experiences is in the frequency with which porn actresses simultaneously engage in sexual activity with more than one partner, which 39% or more do).
Female porn actresses have far fewer on screen partners than male porn stars: "the ten most prolific male performers, on average, have slept on-screen with 1,013 different women each (45 a year for an average career length of 22.4 years). Whereas the ten most prolific women on average have slept with 148 different men (8 a year for an average career length of 17.7 years)."
The number of sexual partners that female porn actresses have on film is far less than the number of sexual partners that a typical street prostitute is reported to have in news media stories, even in the cases of the female porn actresses with the most partners.
Porn actresses make up less than 1 in 10,000 American women. About 90% of legal porn films are made "in California’s San Fernando Valley" (basically the county north of Hollywood in Southern California). Women are paid about three times as much per film as men and make up about 70% of the total number of porn actors and actresses.