Nearly 50% are open to same-sex experiences

Outside the box: Miley Cyrus, Harry Styles and Janelle Monae have all refused to label their sexuality.

Is everyone a little bit gay? A new poll has found that four in 10 people are open to a same-sex experience. The number rises among young people. Is sexuality more fluid than we think?

It is almost a year since Harry Styles stood on stage and said the words that inspired a thousand headlines, “Well, we’re all a little bit gay, aren’t we?”

A new YouGov poll suggests that people are starting to agree with him. Only 53% of adults in the UK said they would “absolutely not” have a same-sex experience with the right person. A quarter said it was unlikely but “not impossible”; 10% said, “Maybe if they really liked them”, and 4% said, “Yes.”

Harry Styles is not the only celebrity to suggest that sexuality is fluid. In February, Miley Cyrus told Vanity Fair magazine, “People fall in love with people, not gender […]. It has nothing to do with sexuality.”

Janelle Monae said in an interview for Them magazine, “For me, sexuality […] is a journey. It’s not a destination.”

The idea of being either “homosexual” or “heterosexual” is relatively new. The words simply did not exist in English until late Victorian times.

In 1948, a researcher named Alfred Kinsey came up with a seven-point scale to describe sexuality. The number zero meant “exclusively heterosexual”, while six meant “exclusively homosexual”.

He found that almost half of the American men he interviewed had “reacted sexually” to both men and women.

Born this way?

Is everyone a little bit gay? Drawing a line between “straight” and “not straight” allows LGBT people to ask for more rights and acceptance. And yet more and more people do not feel like they fit neatly into boxes. Many now say that you love who you love, regardless of gender.

On the other hand, plenty of people still say that they were born gay or straight and would not ever consider the opposite. Can we really tell them they are wrong? Besides, labels are useful for understanding your own sexuality and finding a community. We should not just abandon them.

You Decide

  1. Is everyone a little bit gay?

Activities

  1. Write definitions of the following five words: “straight”, “gay”, “bisexual”, “sexuality”, “gender”.

Some People Say...

“The only queer people are those who don't love anybody.”

Rita Mae Brown, US writer, activist and feminist

What do you think?

Q & A

What do we know?
Humans are not the only species to have same-sex experiences. Penguins, Japanese macaque monkeys, Laysan albatrosses, bonobos, bottlenose dolphins — have all been found to display homosexual behaviour.
What do we not know?
Why homosexual tendencies exist, in humans or animals. After all, they do not make much sense from a purely evolutionary view point since gay sex does not produce children. Like laughter, it remains a mystery — but is no less valid.

Word Watch

YouGov
Conducted for The Times. Despite four in 10 people being open to same-sex experiences, 86% of people taking the poll identified as straight, with 5% gay or lesbian, and 4% bisexual.
Victorian
The English word “homosexual” is generally traced back to 1892, in a translation of a study on sexuality by Richard von Krafft-Ebing. The word “heterosexual” came later.
Alfred Kinsey
US scientist who began researching human sexuality in the 1930s. His two books on male and female sexuality were published in 1948 and 1953.

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