Gender Similarities and Differences in Casual Sex Acceptance Among Lesbian Women and Gay Men

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Popular wisdom and scientific evidence suggest women desire and engage in casual sex less frequently than men; however, theories of gender differences in sexuality are often formulated in light of heterosexual relations. Less is understood about sexual behavior among lesbian and gay people, or individuals in which there is arguably less motivation to pursue sex for reproductive purposes and fewer expectations for people to behave in gender-typical ways. Drawing from scripts theory and pleasure theory, in two studies (N1 =  465; N2 =  487) we examined lesbian and gay people’s acceptance of casual sex. We asked participants who had been propositioned for casual sex whether they accepted the offer and to rate their perceptions of the proposer’s sexual capabilities and sexual orientation. They also reported on their awareness of stigma surrounding casual sex. We found a gender difference in acceptance: Gay men were more likely than lesbian women to have accepted a casual sex offer from other gay/lesbian people, and this difference was mediated by participants’ stigma awareness. We also found the proposer’s sexual orientation played a role in people’s acceptance. Lesbian women and gay men were equally likely to accept offers from bisexual proposers but expressed different acceptance rates with “straight-but-curious” proposers, which was mediated by expected pleasure. We discuss dynamics within lesbian and gay communities and implications for studying theories of sexual behavior and gender differences beyond heterosexual contexts.


This article was originally published in Archives of Sexual Behavior, volume 50, in 2021.

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