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Poll: Half of British youth aren’t “exclusively” heterosexual

A marcher at London Pride 2015.
A marcher at London Pride 2015.
(Rob Stothard/Getty Images)

Most people are used to thinking of sexual demographics as pretty clear: The overwhelming majority of people are straight, and small minorities identify as, for example, gay or bi. But some new data, from a YouGov UK poll released on August 15, suggests the picture could be a little more complicated.

The YouGov poll asked respondents in the United Kingdom to rate themselves on the Kinsey scale, a system developed by famous sex researcher Alfred Kinsey for rating sexuality. On the scale, zero means "exclusively heterosexual," 6 means "exclusively homosexual," while 3 means equally attracted to both sexes.

Twenty-three percent of Brits identified as somewhere from 1 to 6; that is, as something other than exclusively heterosexual. But the results get really interesting when you sort by age. About half of British youth from 18 to 24 identified as within that 1 to 6 range on the Kinsey scale:

british youth bisexual

(YouGov)

What's interesting is that of the respondents who scored themselves as something other than 0 ("exclusively heterosexual"), most of them did not pick 6 ("exclusively homosexual") but rather selected something in between. Indeed, 1 and 2 were among the most popular responses. That seems like a pretty significant rebuke to our cultural norm of classifying people as categorically "straight" or "gay."

It's difficult to say based on this poll alone precisely what it means about sexual identification among Brits and how it's changing, but the prevalence of mid-range answers among younger respondents is fascinating, and raises questions about the degree to which the respondents might self-identify as bisexual.

To a lot of people, bisexuality means being equally attracted to men and women. But that's wrong: A growing body of research, surveyed by the New York Times last year, suggests that bisexuality isn't that simple. People can generally be more attracted to men than to women, or vice versa, but still authentically attracted to both. Or they can be sexually attracted to both men and women, but only capable of forming lasting romantic relationships with one of the two.

All of those are different types of bisexuality. YouGov's poll, as well as some other research, suggests that these different bi identities might be more common, or at least more complex, than how we treat them.

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