Sexual identity, sexual attraction and sexual experience: The Second Australian Study of Health and Relationships

Juliet Richters, Dennis Altman, Paul B. Badcock, Anthony M.A. Smith, Richard O. De Visser, Andrew E. Grulich, Chris Rissel, Judy M. Simpson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

88 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Behavioural and other aspects of sexuality are not always consistent. This study describes the prevalence and overlap of same-sex and other-sex attraction and experience and of different sexual identities in Australia. Methods: Computer-assisted telephone interviews were completed by a representative sample of 20 094 men and women aged 16-69 years recruited by landline and mobile phone random-digit dialling with a response rate (participation rate among eligible people) of 66.2%. Respondents were asked about their sexual identity ('Do you think of yourself as' heterosexual/straight, homosexual/gay, bisexual, etc.) and the sex of people with whom they had ever had sexual contact and to whom they had felt sexually attracted. Results: Men and women had different patterns of sexual identity. Although the majority of people identified as heterosexual (97% men, 96% women), women were more likely than men to identify as bisexual. Women were less likely than men to report exclusively other-sex or same-sex attraction and experience; 9% of men and 19% of women had some history of same-sex attraction and/or experience. Sexual attraction and experience did not necessarily correspond. Homosexual/gay identity was more common among men with tertiary education and living in cities and less common among men with blue-collar jobs. Many gay men (53%) and lesbians (76%) had some experience with an other-sex partner. More women identified as lesbian or bisexual than in 2001-02. Similarly, more women reported same-sex experience and same-sex attraction. Conclusion: In Australia, men are more likely than women to report exclusive same-sex attraction and experience, although women are more likely than men to report any non-heterosexual identity, experience and attraction. Whether this is a feature of the plasticity of female sexuality or due to lesser stigma than for men is unknown.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)451-460
Number of pages10
JournalSexual Health
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 7 Nov 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • Asexuality
  • Bisexuality
  • Heterosexuality
  • Homosexuality
  • Same-sex attraction
  • Sexual behaviour
  • Sexual orientation


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